GROUND INTO THE AGE OF TRUMP
by Chris R. Morgan
Though my eligibility as a voter, by this November, will be four presidential elections old, I got the sense of the futility of voting very early on; no later, I think, than the very first election in which I was able to participate. I’ve heard many hosannas sung to the civic virtue of democratic participation, but this does not feel very much like that. There is a hollowness I feel whenever I go to the nearby geriatric hospital to discharge my civic duty, and there is a shame whenever I leave having discharged it. To be perfectly frank, the energy exerted and the meaning attained don’t seem very far removed from that which one gets from mining the internet’s vast wealth of pornography. In the end, one’s humanity is reduced with each new encounter, rendering the spirit alarmingly emaciated. Some might balk at this; they might accuse me of melodramatic sour grapes; what do I expect when I keep putting my support behind office seekers who cannot win? Fair, I suppose, only for the last two elections my choices were candidates whose defeat was as plain as day, but I do not fret over such criticism. My despondency over voting, aside from its odd practical mechanics which renders any vote in my home state superfluous, was something I could not give figure to, at least until the unraveling of this very profound election season.
My despondency is actually twofold when I think about it. First it arose out of not knowing quite what I wanted out of a president. This, I think, might be very common, and it lends to the minor controversies we hear every now and then about voting age. Should we let 18-year-olds vote for an office they are not eligible to seek until they are 35? Hillary Clinton is doubtless ruminating on this in her solitary moments on the trail, bemoaning that she has to pander to the very people she would send overseas in a heartbeat to fight God knows who. No matter, though. Even as what I knew I wanted in a chief executive came gradually into form as I matured, the despondency was resolute. I could simply not find the candidate who could meet what I thought was required. I could only figure this out, however, once that had changed. The resolution of my despondency, in other words, is finally dissolute, and the solvent is Donald Trump.
Surely we have heard much about Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and reality television host who is pleading with the American people to become their president. If the many polls he has made us aware of are any indication, the American people are responding in kind. Though nary a vote has been cast, Mr. Trump’s frontrunner status seems all but confirmed, and so his road to accepting the nomination in Cleveland this summer will doubtless be devoid of potholes or stupefied wildlife. Though many people are falling over themselves to obstruct that road, I personally can only wish him a safe and easy journey, to Cleveland and beyond.
I suppose that this will come as a shock to the people who know my character, but be assured that this is integral to my commitment.
After several years of the usual confusion and prevarication so infuriatingly typical among the young, I’ve settled into a way of life that sees me greeting every day with a determination fixed exclusively on accelerating my own decadence. To put that in more technical terms, I am what they call an “aesthete jerk.” My life is lived for maximum enjoyment, any purpose that lies outside of that is highly alien. Most paeans to utilitarianism read like jokes that forget they require a punchline and so continuously loop at the setup. This principle propels every aspect of my life, not least of all my work as a writer. This was by no means my “calling,” no sense of destiny informs my choices. Quite frankly, I’m a bit confused as to why my parents thought it fit to have wrought me at all, though it is my great fortune that it was they who wrought me and not some malcontents who would otherwise enable my temperament towards far more nefarious ends, but I digress.
It should come as no surprise, then, that this would extend into what can roughly be approximated as my work ethic, assuming having none to speak of falls somewhere within the realm of the ethical. This is not to say that I haven’t worked very hard in my life, even to the point of serious overtaxing. But I can’t think of anything more distasteful to endure. Indeed, I’ve made it a point to never convey to employers that I consciously enjoyed the work they were paying me to do. I’m not sure what obligates me to give them my happiness in addition to my effort, but it is the highest order of perversity in an age already fraught with it.
If it seems like these attributes I’ve admitted have the smallest possible relation to the character of Donald Trump’s campaign (if not also Trump himself), Trump detractor and supporter alike would be equally correct. But that is also the point.
If voter apathy is as widespread as some claim, I can only lay it at the columns of the institutions that have been teaching it to us for countless generations. That there is only one way to vote—for the candidate whose policy platform seems the most sensible to execute—is the highest order of nonsense. This is especially true in America’s current governmental state, in which the executive office emits hard policies like the earth emits worms, taken up by the mother bureaucrats and regurgitated to us hatchlings. Civic virtue in this light seems so monumental a waste of time and energy that staying put and doing actual work not only seems more practical but more fulfilling. In truth voting requires much more than compatibility, a generally overrated attribute in most circumstances. Finding a candidate is something more akin to chemistry, but of a very unsettling and nuanced sort. It is about character assessment, not only of the candidate but of yourself, and finding the candidate that is most confident about your character and about how to utilize it. For some this is complementary and agreeable. For others it is simply … not.
Few times in my life have been more wonderful than those in which I have been able to safely ignore Donald Trump. But since his months-long interjection into the national conversation, I’ve come to see both him and my role in the society he wants to govern in ways I may never have before considered. Trump, to be sure, has offered little in the way of coherent policy in carrying out his campaign. As I see them, they are mostly vague but potent generalities geared toward shocking the people into fits of extreme love or extreme fear. If Harry Harlow’s study was expressionism as science, Donald Trump’s campaign is expressionism as politics. His ambition to “build a wall” along the border is no more practically possible than any previous proposal, but where John McCain’s plea for a fence was hollow pandering meant to be forgotten, Trump’s wall assumes power in its underlying metaphor of encasement and dominance. Whatever his actual accomplishments in office, it is certain that he will impose his will to accomplish it with such aggression and blind confidence that popular concession to them, whether enthusiastic or resigned, will be overlooked. This is the logical extent to which the chief executive can carry him or herself in a country of our kind. That Trump relishes this and seems to have the conviction to follow through is admirable.
Some still wonder how my voting for Donald Trump benefits me. It doesn’t. Donald Trump is, as Spy aptly put it, “short-fingered vulgarian;” I, by my own estimation, am a bleeding heart dilettante, if not an outright dandy. The brunt of Trump’s supporters are united by the principle that the good life is earned through the strenuous life, you get back what you pay into it—some, it seems, should pay more than others, but they should pay in any case; I believe that that is ludicrous. Trump wants, moreover, to Make America Great Again; I don’t even mind if America is adequate. By the estimation of most Americans, my whole biography is a rap sheet of one grave and unwholesome offense after another. But where most Americans, and the presidential candidates they get behind, are polite to the point of passive aggressive yielding, the Trump mindset has lost patience with politeness altogether, and in doing so—whether it was intended or not—it has made itself accommodating.
In Trump’s America, there is a place for me. That that place is the grinder does not lessen the point. If his slogan has any substance behind it that is the most optimal contribution I can make towards its realization. In fact I’d submit myself to it somewhat willingly, if only out of curiosity. I am not certain whether President Trump is to be a man of smooth and fast mercy or degrading and slow agony. Whatever the case, I am more certain that he has some awareness of what he is doing, that he is not just an artist of the unforeseen consequence. His conviction has such fury that he will do everything in his power to craft his vision into something wholly sensory, and we are his materials. And it’s fury more than actual greatness that truly goes into Making America Great. But that is the state we are in: voting coldly to wait for a world that won’t show up or throwing ourselves into Trump’s gilded and perpetual machinery to whatever outcome it churns out. It is not a matter of volunteering or conscription, but a matter of acceptance. And in keeping with my entitlement and my privilege, I opt to be first in line.