Notes Toward a Postmodern Trump

Gary M Williams/EFE via ZUMA

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

At a rally today in Ohio, President Trump said that Democrats who didn’t clap at his State of the Union address were treasonous. Over at National Review, Dan McLaughlin comments:

If you watch the actual video, you can see the flippancy here. Trump is plainly not being serious about treason — he’s playing this for laughs, and getting them — and liberals going to DEFCON 1 as if he is yet again proving how little interest they have in distinguishing between tyranny and mere boorishness. The loss of perspective is just wearying to watch at this point.

Fair enough, I guess. But then he launches into what I can only call a postmodern deconstruction of the meaning of Trump. Or, actually, maybe it’s the exact opposite of postmodern. Anyway, here it is:

The real problem here is…that he’s basically openly mocking the idea that words in politics mean anything at all….That’s the subversive, somewhat cleansing but ultimately corrosive part of Trump’s brand of political performance art: he’s talking to people who by and large think that politicians never mean anything they say, and he’s out there telling them, you’re right. We can say anything we want and none of it matters. It’s all a racket. Hey, how ’bout you and I call each other traitors and then punch the clock at the end of the day and get a drink together? Maybe our political class really has earned being treated this way, but every time Trump does it, he makes it harder to rebuild the broken norms he inherited and has treated with such contempt.

This is either brilliant or full of shit. I’m really not sure which.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate