A theory of theories of Trump

JayfromBrooklyn collects some 15 or more theories of the rise of Trump, and concludes the survey somewhat paradoxically:

Populism is about anger, a primordial cry of pain. It’s not logical. People can be simultaneously mad at The Establishment for being too powerful while mocking its impotence. Mad at the Republicans for not fighting Obama and for trying to repeal Obamacare. Mad at being called ignorant and proud of their ignorance. Any attempt to make sense out of it is looking at it the wrong way. It doesn’t make sense.

We are just unlucky enough to witness the perfect mix of events that brought it this far.

The conclusion is paradoxical because at the same time that it disclaims any belief in a singular theory of Trump, it settles on one that would be something like the following: “Populism” is a potential threat to the system at all times, and the odds are that sooner or later the values of various independent variables will just happen to coincide in such a way as to produce a flare-up. According to this theory, sooner or later, there will be Trump or “a Trump.” Yet this theory is nearly the opposite of a theory, since it depicts Trump as merely the random kernel of unpopped corn on which we finally broke a collective tooth, while the difference between Trump and “a Trump” points to an analytical ambiguity. Are we seeking to explain the rise of Donald Trump, this year, or are we seeking to explain the rise of figures like Trump? Are we seeking to explain Trump’s impact on the Republican presidential primary campaign or the effect of Trumpism on the Republican Party, or the vulnerability of the American conservative coalition to Trump in particular, to Trumpism in particular, or to any coherent challenge on that national level? Like Hegel’s cube of salt, the deceptively simple object “Trump” will dissolve in the reflective solution of close analysis into a congeries of “also”‘s. The suspicion remains that a critical investigation of this seemingly random confluence of 15 and more independent processes and events, congealed on the national bathroom floor in the form of a presidential campaign, will tell us much about the state of the system that excreted it; that this Trump thing is an entity that we combined together to invent, even if just by going on about our lives, consuming and being consumed; and that Trump is the crisis of that system concretized. Within normal maximum decision horizons, the two human generations specified by Keynes, financialization of technological dead labor as an answer to the global profit crisis was initially a smashing political-economic success, but the law of diminishing returns is as inexorable as fate, unless the law of diminishing returns is just another name for fate. 30 going on 40 years in, there is only bad money left to put after bad, and the returns appear to have diminished almost to Zero along with interest rates, even-especially for those who rule the numbers. Trump is finance fully self-invacuated, in a full-length gilt mirror, a Medusa transfixed by its own refracted self-admiration; at the same time, he is the return of the annihilated masses, as mass nihilism.

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