Even I would not want to read an article with the above title. If you got this far, though, bear with me a bit. You’re going to love it.
The endless lament for the persistence of Donald Trump as a likely winner of the race for Republican nominee for president is falling into a few convenient categories. It is because the people are angry. It is because the people have been dumbed down. It is because the Republican political strategy created him. It is because there is no viable Republican alternative.
Because I am such a smart guy, I have decided to inform you that all of these are wrong. That might be a bit too strong. They miss the real point. Here is the real point: it is because we made it possible. It’s our fault. Permit me (you knew I would say this) to explain.
There is a critical flaw at the heart of all human consciousness. It is a temptation that needs constant resistance in order to maintain anything like clear thinking. The flaw is that we are constantly tempted to replace reality with our image of reality. You can put that in several ways, the most common of which is that we tend to see things the way we like to see them. We always interpret the world from our own point of view.
I can prove it to you. Did you ever drive through a red light? You probably did, but you are probably insisting that you never did. I’m a lawyer. I’ve deposed, let’s say, a hundred people who got into an accident involving an intersection with stop and go lights. Ninety-nine of them insisted that they did not go through a red light. Slightly less than half of them were wrong. Were they lying? Probably not. But, if they did go through a red light, they wouldn’t know it anyway. Why? Because, in ordinary circumstance, people go through red lights because they aren’t looking at the light. They don’t do it deliberately. They don’t just say, “Oh, the hell with lights. I’ll just take my chances running through it.” No, they just weren’t paying attention. And, since they weren’t paying attention, they couldn’t possibly have a clue as to whether they went through a red light. So, sitting there in their banged-up car, they say to themselves, “I don’t go through red lights. So, I must have seen that I had the green light.” In other words, they replace reality with what they would like to see as reality.
We do this all the time, and it leads to big problems. We create an ideal, say, the American ideal. To represent it, we make a flag. Then, gradually, we start honoring the flag at the expense of the ideal. We worship God. To do so, we make an image of God, or we build a religious organization to help us worship God. Then, gradually, we find ourselves worshipping the image or the religious organization rather than the God it was meant to serve. You get the general idea. We replace reality with the image we created of it. We’ll call that eidetic displacement. Nice name, huh?
So, now, we create a community to serve our principles of freedom, creativity, security, prosperity for all. We create a political system to serve those principles. Then, gradually, we find ourselves serving the political system rather than the ideals and principles it was created to serve. So what if Trump would bomb the hell out of innocent people? So what if he would drag millions of people out of their homes? So what if we would tear parents away from their children? So what if he would torture people? So what if he condones and encourages violence at his campaigns? He is for America! America! Love it or leave it! America! Right or wrong!
So, we made Trump. If we had kept our ideals before us at all times, Donald Trump would have been laughed off the first stage he ever set foot on. If we had insisted on the real American ideals as the standard for judging candidates, Donald Trump would likely never have even contemplated running. We didn’t do that. We forsook reality for images, and into that world of images walked the world’s most plastic character.
So don’t blame the economy or world politics or even the wretched Republican policy of saying no to anything the president wished to do. Those, while factors, are not the core explanation for the apotheosis of a con man. The real explanation is: us.