I Get It, Now

I finally get it.

For months I’ve seen variations of this argument. Trump voters want respect! Trump voters want to be treated with dignity!

So they cherish respect and dignity. And they’re voting for … Donald Trump?

At first I was sincerely baffled. It’s not just that Trump lacks dignity in the specific sense prescribed by the punditocracy–that he mouths the wrong platitudes, or gives muddled interviews, or neglects pro-forma rituals of running ads and mounting a convention–that he is, in the favored phrasing, “unpresidential.”

No, Trump lacks dignity in the most ordinary sense. The definition of dignity is quite simple. Having dignity means treating others with dignity. That’s something Trump just doesn’t do.

But now I see that dignity isn’t the right word for what drives Trump supporters. Nor is anger. Nor is resentment.

The “Trumpkins want respect” argument only makes sense if you interpret it this way: Trump supporters used to want respect, but now they’ve given up. They think respect is just an Oleanna swindle. A dodge. A big fat lie.

There was a time when they might have appreciated a little respect. But we all missed the window. We didn’t listen. We sneered and jeered and hemmed and hawed, pretended like everything was OK. Now it’s too late, buddy. We blew it.

Of course Trump has no dignity. Of course he has no respect. That’s why they’re voting for him, because he’s a loudmouthed obnoxious jerk, and you know what, he’s gonna win anyway. They’re gonna put this undignified, undisciplined, vulgar, utterly disrespectful man in office. And what will respect count for then? Huh? What will character count for? What will “presidential bearing” count for?

Nothing, that’s what. These highfalutin notions’ll be exposed as what they are. Hypocritical figments. Snooty double-standards. Empty ciphers. Yeah, that’s right: Bullshit.

“You think dignity is so important? Well, here. Trump has none of your precious dignity. And he’s winning, winning, winning, all the way to the Oval Office. Suck it!”

You can swap in a lot of other words. Merit. Decency. Tolerance. Knowledge. Humility. Caution. Patience. Evenhandedness. Heck, even morals.

Every virtue that undergirds an invidious distinction. Every value associated with the liberal elite.

“You upper-class types and your so-called morals. Well, wait’ll Trump is up there, running the show! You wimps and phonies will be fleeing for cover–bleating about your morals all the way.”

That’s not exactly anger, that sentiment. I’d call it spite.

Spite: I don’t care if I get hurt, so long as you get hurt even worse.

Spite: I can’t enjoy something, so no one should get to enjoy it.

Spite: I want what you have–but only for the satisfaction of smashing it in front of your face.

Spite: If you think I’m a bad person, then to hell with being a good person.

Spite, I’ve come to think, is the curse of the lower classes. No, let me broaden that. Spite is the curse of the unsuccessful. Spite leads lonely guys to slander all women as whores. Spite makes a lonely woman dismiss all men as abusers. Spite is the addiction of struggling artists who mock all successful artists as phonies. Spite warps the pride of the poor.

Spite is worse than sour grapes, the urge to disparage what we can’t have. Spite is poison grapes.

I think back to childhood, when I was often mocked for my out-of-style clothes. Who cares about stylish clothes, I thought? Snobs, that’s who.

Eventually, I gave in. I bought the stylish clothes. Overpriced jeans, celebrity-endorsed sneakers. It worked. Sort of. I wasn’t popular, but I was less unpopular.

So the game really was that simple. Wear cheap sneakers, you’re a loser. Wear expensive sneakers, you’re OK.

Really, people, I thought? I mean, really?

I wanted nothing more than to rip up those fancy clothes and force them down the other kids’ throats.

Spite. And only spite could lead someone to think Donald Trump would make an acceptable president.

Tear it up! Burn it down! Break, smash, stomp, spit, destroy!

Then you’ll all be sorry!

But who ends up suffering more, in the end?

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