Why Liberal Elites Hate Donald Trump
American liberal elites hate Donald Trump. When Trump announced his candidacy, the response from the elites was nothing but contempt and derision. As time passed, the tone turned into one of disgust and loathing. His victory made liberals furious. They organized a wave of protests under the slogans “Not My President!” and “Resist!” that rolled all over the country. The rhetoric became increasingly more shrill and vitriolic. Even time did not heal this hatred. If anything, it has become even more intense and the language more violent. The vehemence of the attacks against Trump is definitely uncommon for American politics. One cannot but wonder, why is this so? What sustains this attitude?
There is undoubtedly something visceral about the feelings that the liberal elites display towards Donald Trump. They see Trump as more than just a despicable human being. In their representations he emerges as someone who has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Whatever Trump does, no matter what policies he pursues, the liberal elites still condemn his actions. They portray Trump as some kind of devil, a demon, an enemy of the human race—in a word, someone who is quintessentially evil. There is only one word that can describe this representation—demonization.
One can define demonization as a denial to someone or something any moral ambivalence and ambiguity. It is obvious from this definition that demonization is not an objective representation of reality—reality is complex and cannot be reduced to one particular property. Demonization, just like its counterpart idealization, represents a subjective and biased view of reality. It is not a product of objective and impartial analysis, but rather the expression of inner constructs and subjective desires.
The rhetoric used in relation to Trump by the liberal elites is very intolerant. They call Trump a racist, an idiot, a fascist, a purveyor of hate, and even worse. No means are off limits as long as they can remove Trump from office through impeachment, or even imprisonment.
There is another interesting aspect in the attitudes of the liberal elites toward Trump. Although Trump is the main focus of liberal attacks, there is another enemy that looms behind Trump. This enemy is those who voted for and elected Donald Trump. Although references to these people—or as the liberal call them “deplorables”—are not as frequent as their references to Trump, nevertheless the “deplorables” occupy a prominent place in the liberal rhetoric. Liberals created a complex composite profile to describe members of this group. They are poor and generally have little education. They are crude and uncultured. They tend to be religious, anti-gay, misogynist, vehemently nationalistic, and are opposed to minorities, particularly blacks and Hispanics. They are those who have lost in the race for progress; they have few skills that they can use in adapting to modern conditions. Like Trump, these people are evil. In some way, they are even more dangerous than Trump. While Trump is only one individual and will eventually leave the scene, the “deplorables” are in millions and they have nowhere to go; they will continue to be around long after Trump is gone.
In examining these attitudes, one is inevitably drawn to one question: Why would members of liberal elites have such feelings about Donald Trump and his supporters? One also wonders, what is the source that sustains hatred for such a long time?
As has been pointed out earlier, the attitude of the liberal elites toward both Trump and his supporters is not objective. There are, for example, many people among Trump supporters who are educated and have skills. They include lawyers, teachers, engineers, accountants, and other types of professionals. They also include minorities, LGBTQ, and women. Quite a few of them support progressive causes that the liberal elites advocate. In a word, it is a very diverse group, and the way they are represented is certainly not objective. If this representation is not objective, it can only be subjective; that is, it reflects inner tensions and fears widespread among the liberals. This representation and the attitudes it reflects must be the result of the way the liberal elites interpret reality, rather than the way this reality actually is. It is due to the prism the liberals use in interpreting reality. So, what is this prism through which the liberal elites view reality?
A close analysis shows that this prism is multidimensional. From the very inception of liberal ideology, it has been and continues to be preoccupied with the individual, as well as individual rights and freedoms. These values are central to the liberal social and political practice. Another important dimension of modern liberal ideology is its commitment to progress and, specifically, to economic growth. This dimension became particularly important in the years following WWII when American liberals had to chart the course that America was to pursue in the world that needed America to lead it out of the war-time devastation, as well as the confusion and instability caused by the collapse of colonial empires. The mission formulated by the American internationalists included individualism, human rights and freedoms, and social progress propelled by economic growth. Individualism and growth were the two main pillars upon which the entire edifice of the post-war order was to rest. The two concepts were intimately interrelated: rights and freedoms were to foster economic growth, and economic expansion was to create conditions in which rights and freedoms would flourish. They were supposed to work together and they did, at least for some time.
By the middle of the 1970s a cloud cast its dark shadow over the prospects for unfettered growth envisioned by the post-war planners. The problem was not simply that American and Western economy began to experience slower pace of growth; the problem was that the entire New Deal approach to economic development based on Keynesian economics began to look increasingly inadequate and had to be abandoned. It was replaced by a return to a more traditional market approach that envisaged a significant reduction in government intervention in the economy and increased reliance on private initiative.
The new approach that was dubbed Reaganomics failed to solve the problem of growth. It produced several economic debacles and eventually settled into the rut of unspectacular rates of growth. The failure of Reaganomics led to the rise of new-liberalism—a new doctrine that became particularly popular in the last decade of the 20th and the first decade of the 21st century. The new ideology combined a market approach with government intervention. According to the new perspective, the government and business leaders were to cooperate in promoting markets globally. Again, as in the case of Reaganomics, after some initial successes neoliberal policies presided over some major economic disasters, the most notable of which was the financial crisis of 2008. But perhaps the most disappointing part of the neoliberal failure was not these debacles but the fact that the rates of growth again returned to such that barely kept the economy afloat—a miserly 1% to 2% a year.
This failure has caused the progressive elites to start rethinking their course. This time it is not some partial revision of the previous doctrine. The progressive elites today articulate a totally different vision. They increasingly advocate a perspective that does not emphasize grown. It is based on a conviction that we live in a finite world with finite resources. The planet on which we live has a finite size and its capacity to carry the growing weight of our civilization is rapidly deteriorating. Our economic development and patterns of consumption are gradually ruining our environment and depleting resources. The current course of the evolution of our civilization is unsustainable and will only lead to the disappearance of the human race. As a result, the progressives advocate limited growth and even de-growth, reducing production and consumption, and putting a cap on population increases around the world.
There is no doubt that such policies cannot be popular, particularly among those whose life conditions today are inadequate and who look forward to benefiting from further growth. Even with some redistribution of wealth that progressives advocate, the gap between the rich and the poor is likely to grow, as those who work in very productive high-tech industries will undoubtedly draw a larger share of economic wealth. Money will flow where productivity is.
Given these expectations, the policies proposed by the progressives are likely to have serious social and political implications, as we can see, for example, in the wave of protest that has led to the election of Donald Trump. There are strong populist trends and currents in many other countries as well. If the policies and the approach advocated by the progressives are enacted, they are likely to produce increased social alienation, anomie, malaise, and consequently, political and social instability. The growing discontent may likely require a more stringent control by the government in an effort to enforce social peace. And such control will necessarily involve infringements on individual rights and freedoms that are central to liberal ideology. The liberal elites are not unaware of this possibility. As David Adler shows in his recent op-ed for the New York Times entitled “Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists,” it is the moderates, not radicals, who threaten democracy today.
As one can see, the worldview of liberal progressives today is contradictory. It is beset by a paradox: on one hand, the advocacy of rights and freedoms of the individual and, on the other hand, the need for curtailing the same rights and freedoms that the liberals deem as inevitable.
A paradoxical view of reality creates confusion, making the interpretation of reality very difficult if not, indeed, impossible. There is nothing that frightens us more than that which we do not know and understand. When we confront reality that is unfamiliar or confusing, we experience fear.
The symbolic violence we witness is in the attitudes of the liberal elites toward President Trump and his supporters is due to the fear they experience when confronted with reality they cannot understand. Since they do not understand the root causes of this fear—their own confusion—and since they lack a critical view that would allow them to understand the internal origin of the fear they feel, their instinctive impulse is to find something or someone—the enemy—that inspires this fear in them. They need to find the enemy to explain their fear; they need a scapegoat. In other words, they project this internally generated fear on the outside, on their social, cultural, and political “other”—those who support Donald Trump. That is why no matter what Donald Trump does the liberal elites will still condemn him because in their view, his actions will always bear the mark of their own internal fear. Even the removal of Donald Trump is not going to end this fear because this removal will do nothing to the internal mechanism that generates it. Sigmund Freud once perceptively remarked about the Bolsheviks: “When they kill all the capitalists, what are they going to do?” Years later when the Stalinist purges began the full import of Freud’s insight became clear.
It is hard to tell what it will take to solve the current political crisis in America. The liberal elites are certainly not the only group responsible for the current state of affairs. They do not have a monopoly on demonization. One can discern a similar mechanism at work among the supporters of Donald Trump. In all fairness President Trump could certainly do a lot more to inspire more respect, if not admiration. However, that does not detract from the fact that the liberal elites need to work on their problems. Will the liberal progressives understand the true source of their fear and hatred of Donald Trump and his supporters? Will they turn away from their rhetoric and start working on constructive solutions to problems we face? At this point, one cannot tell. All one can say, though, is that it is never too early or too late to open your eyes to reality and start searching for answers instead of compounding problems.