Paranoid Republidents for Trump
… The paranoid style, Hofstadter argued, is always with us. What determines its political salience is its appeal to people who feel “dispossessed” — who believe that “America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it.”
This is the key to Trump’s success, and he knows it. The most powerful part of his acceptance speech was directed squarely at “the forgotten men and women of our country” — “people who work hard but no longer have a voice.” For those people, Trump had two powerful messages: “I AM YOUR VOICE” and “I’M WITH YOU,” the latter an inspired retort to Clinton’s faintly smug campaign slogan, “I’m with her.”
At the heart of the paranoid style there is always nostalgia. In Hofstadter’s day, people looked back to before World War I. In our time, they yearn for the era before Vietnam. (Trump’s hairstyle itself is an allusion to “Happy Days.’’) Watch Douglas MacArthur’s keynote in 1952 or Barry Goldwater’s acceptance speech in 1964 to see just why Trump’s speech resonated.
Yet there is a difference. In those days, the paranoid style appealed to the Republican Party faithful. The convention floor went nuts for MacArthur and Goldwater. Last week in Cleveland was different because — as was obvious in and around the convention center — Trump is fundamentally a foreign body in the Grand Old Party. As one young Republican explained to me, he is really an independent candidate who seized the nomination by mobilizing voters who had been drifting away during the Bush era. That is why regular convention attendees referred disdainfully to Trump supporters as “Republidents.”
Trump’s insurgency against the elite continues to confound political experts, who are themselves members of the elite. Undeterred by all that has happened in the past year, they continue to underestimate his chances in November. They have failed to understand the power of the paranoid style. If Trump can inspire and energize not only Republicans but also Republidents — independent voters who choose him over Clinton — he could surprise us all again.
Despise him all you like, but Donald Trump could yet be the first Republident President. And no, I’m not just being paranoid.