Donald Trump has managed to bring together all the nastier aspects of many citizens of the United States: nativism, misogyny and racism, and to corral their incipient resentments for a program that is all about himself. He is a genius – an evil genius.
After four days in Comanche territory, winding through the lonely roads of rural Pennsylvania, with its endless forests and abandoned log houses, with almost as many posters displaying Trump’s orange head as there are multi-colored autumn leaves, it is a relief to find myself on a four lane highway and to see on the horizon, instead of more trees and more mountains, the grey skyscrapers of the city of Pittsburgh in Democratic territory.
With the exception of one sage whom I met in the town of Punxsutawney, my travelling companion Lenny, we only spoke to men and women, young and old, whose brains Donald Trump had eaten away.
I needed some therapy after being traumatized, perhaps for life, after listening to Trump speak for an hour and 25 minutes on Monday during some kind of satanic act, or coronaviral orgy, attended by 15,000 deluded people. I arrive in Pittsburgh, to the comforting noise and claustrophobia of the big city, and I speak with Sidney Blumenthal.
Blumenthal, 71, Bill Clinton’s White House advisor and Hillary Clinton confidant, is currently writing a five-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. I needed someone to help me organize what I have seen and heard and breathed and to have some assurance that my rejection of Trump and the people who vote for him and consider him worthy of being president of the United States, is justified, and not a sign of insanity.
“Yes, they are Fascists,” Blumenthal tells me. “The cult of the leader. There has always been a reservoir of dark impulses in our country, nativism, racism, misogyny and Trump has cornered them all.”
I suggest to him that the motivation behind Trump’s attraction, like with the Nazis, is resentment. “It’s the key factor,” Blumenthal nods. “Trump is someone who has been resentful all his life. He knows in the depths of his being that he owes his fortune solely and exclusively to his father. He knows that he has failed in his businesses, has been an inept and criminal businessman, who has been ostracized by the elites of New York, his hometown, and is taken for a fool. He is a sociopath whose implausible political success is due solely to his ability to channel and to personalize the resentments of his followers.”
Hillary Clinton, Blumenthal acknowledges, turned out in a way to be his ideal rival in the 2016 election. “She represents a classic story of the American dream. From rather humble origins, she studies at Yale and succeeds, becoming Secretary of State based on her intelligence and hard work. She is everything that Trump is not. She is everything that those who vote for him, envy, resent and fear. Joseph Biden, on the other hand, is a white older man, recognizable and comforting in style for people anchored in a nostalgic ideal of what America should be. I am confident that he will defeat Trump.”
Blumenthal is among those who think, however, that this will not be the end of the story, that the drama will really begin after the elections.
“Trump cannot win this election. But he will do everything possible through the courts and his political allies in power in Congress and in the states to question the legitimacy of the result. We will enter unknown territory in the history of this country. We could face the most serious crisis since the Civil War. He is willing to risk anything to avoid the humiliation of defeat and the fear that, once presidential immunity is lost, he himself will be prosecuted for crimes that could take him to jail.”
“Trump will be willing to do everything he can to sabotage the democratic system in order to save himself. He has managed to avoid the most serious consequences of his criminal activities, the bankruptcies of his companies, his tax fraud, his corruption and all his failures. Now he faces the great crisis of his life. ”
He is so desperate, that, even though I have already voted, I received an email today from DonaldJTrump.com in which he writes, ‘John, Welcome to the most important political movement of all time… There has never been more at stake.. I need your support. Slow Joe and fake Kamala are hell-bent on destroying our nation.'”
“Deciphering the real meaning of the message is not difficult. ‘Destroy our nation’ is code for ‘destroy me, Donald Trump’; what is at stake is his future. It is not about the most important political movement in the history of mankind, but about his history, his life.”
“What is extraordinary, what is brilliant in its own way, is that he has succeeded in attracting so many millions of citizens of such an advanced (or at least prosperous) country to his cause, an absolutely personal cause in which the only thing that counts is his ego, his money and his freedom. He tells us, he added in the email he sent me (or his people sent me, to be more precise), that we must vote for him to prevent the United States from “never being a socialist country.”
Absurd. Biden, pillar of the Washington establishment, a centrist par excellence, a socialist! Mauricio Macri (the former businessman president of Argentina) is more likely to convert to the socialism of the Peronists.
It is, after all, an epic deception. Trump has no political program. He appeals to a vaguely defined resentment and nothing more, but that was enough to win him 63 million votes in 2016, and who knows if it will be enough again next Tuesday. Blumenthal predicts the biggest crisis in 150 years if Biden wins, a euphemism for political violence. It may be, but as my friend Lenny – my personal therapist, my Sancho Panza, as he describes himself – reminded me, there is also the possibility of violence if Trump wins.
“Trump has corroded our political system, our nation,” he tells me. “It is as if he has put acid in our drinking water. He has contaminated us all. He is not aware of it, he is not capable of reflecting, he really does not know what he is doing but you have to admit it: he is a genius. An evil genius.” He is indeed.
John Carlin writes regular columns for La Vanguardia (Spain) and Clarín, (Argentina). This column appeared in Clarín on 31 October 2020, and is translated by Kieran Tapsell.