It has taken me forever to try to figure out why Trump’s hyperbolic bluster, outright lies, and paranoiac screeching has any effectiveness at all – and it’s not simply that the media find it fascinating.
The fact is, Trump is saying exactly what his core followers would say in the same situation. They would want to order people about; they would want to threaten and bully; they want to belittle people noticeably different from themselves. They want to “grab her by the pussy;” they want to laugh at the disabled; they want to threaten nuclear war. They want to gloat over perceived enemies after every little victory, and to blame others for every failure.
The key to understanding Trump’s behavior since entering the White House is that he is always playing to these core followers. He has nothing to say to Merkel; it is more important to his followers that he say something about her. By now he must know that bullying doesn’t work with Congress – even his Republicans; but that doesn’t matter, it’s the appearance of bullying that delights his core following. He mocks the press because they have not fallen in line and glamorized him as he thinks they ought to – and that thrills his core following, who believe him glamorous as they could never be.
The real problem with Trump’s rhetoric is – Trump’s voters (or at least what I am calling his core followers, his true believers). They represent about a third of the electorate, and they have no contact with any reality science can study, any logic one might wish to use in argument, and evidence not promised in conspiracy theories that will never be brought out in public (because of course non-existent; but that doesn’t matter to them, because they ‘believe’ in it, that’s all the validation they need).
That’s the problem. A third of the electorate unreachable by any reasonable discourse or fact or evidence. A personality cult verging on a religion.
It has been often said, without an informed an electorate, democracy is unsustainable. Well, America is at least a third underwater now; and unfortunately, they’re the ones who elected the captain of the boat.