We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor, and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.
—C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
I was out last night with my friend Elliott who made a great point. When you look at culture, of course Donald Trump is someone people gravitate to. He is right.
Over the last forty-eight hours, leftists outraged that Donald Trump might refuse to concede the election have rushed to re-write the history of 2000 to mitigate Al Gore doing the same. They selectively forget that Al Gore only wanted four counties in Florida recounted. When a media consortium had the entire state recounted, it turned out George W. Bush still won.
Some have even claimed George Bush went to court and used as proof that the case was styled Bush v. Gore. Gore was actually the plaintiff and the people saying that are ignorant of how federal court case names take shape.
Hillary Clinton and others have, for years, screamed “selected not elected” while challenging the legitimacy of the process and are now outraged that a fellow Democrat — and a Clinton donor no less — does the same as the Republican nominee for President.
They should look in the mirror. The selective revision of facts to claim Bush stole the election is both a lie and deeply engrained within leftwing orthodoxy. Of course a people willing to believe that a boy can suddenly become a girl are open to believe the most amazing things contrary to fact and reality.
It is not just that, though, and this is the point my friend Elliott was getting at.
Look at our culture.
How many years did NBC build up Donald Trump as a reality star while knowing what type of person he was? They made Donald Trump a bigger celebrity and rode his coat tails to fortune and profit. They were perfectly happy to turn a blind eye to him as long as he profited them. Even this year, in the primaries, news organizations chose to ignore the skeletons in Trump’s closet and the audacity of his positions because he generated ratings in profits so long as the particular networks did not challenge him.
And why did people in general gravitate to Trump?
It is not just a sense of betrayal from the GOP. That is the easy answer. You can blame dog whistles or broken promises, but the foundational answer is staring us in the face. Who are the heroes of modern American culture?
Tony Soprano from the Sopranos. Walter White from Breaking Bad. Francis Underwood from House of Cards. Dexter Morgan from Dexter. Don Draper from Mad Men. Nucky Thompson from Boardwalk Empire. Nick Brody from Homeland. Dr. House from House. Omar Little from the Wire. Ray Donovan from Ray Donovan. Vic Mackey from The Shield. This goes back to Andy Sipowicz from NYPD Blue and before. Hollywood used to have the occasional anti-hero, but the anti-hero has become the star.
Dexter is the serial killer protagonist of his show. Tony Soprano is the mobster we root for. Walter White could be us. Here is how the Hollywood Reporter describes Steve Buscemi’s character Nucky Thompson from Boardwalk Empire:
Steve Buscemi has fueled Jersey City on graft, girls and booze in the HBO hit. His Nucky Thompson has been generous to those he loves, but can be violent and must decide how far he is willing to go, exploring the notion that one can’t be “half a gangster” throughout the series.
Or here is Bryan Cranston describing Walter Walter:
For Cranston, Walt “broke bad” in the show’s first episode.
“It was very subtle, but that’s when he decided to become someone that he’s not in order to gain financially,” Cranston said. “He made the Faustian deal at that point and everything else was a slippery slope.”
Hollywood Reporter has one of many lists of popular anti-heroes. These are the people Hollywood props up in culture and who shape culture through popular conversation. Sure, in cases like White or Morgan or Little or (just wait a season or two) Underwood, they meet their end as their sins catch up with them. Trump’s defeat on November 8 will be the high water mark of his undoing too. It will be down hill from there. Just wait. But along the way, people root for the anti-hero. They ignore the fall. They think they can play the game better and root for the anti-hero they think does.
Is it any wonder a reality TV star could rise up in a culture that promotes these sorts of anti-heroes? Is it any wonder people could give him a pass for boasting of grabbing women’s genitals?
The left likes to believe kids can learn to be violent from video games, but ignores culture can descend to its basest self when that is what it sees reflecting back from television screens.
Donald Trump is not just the product of an outraged Republican base angry at the broken promises of its leaders. Trump is the product of a culture that has routinely celebrated the deviant as the hero and the disdainful as the righteous.
Republicans, this year, are justifying Trump’s behavior by claiming Democrats did it first. From the left giving Bill Clinton a pass to treat women abusively because he advanced their agenda to re-writing history to claim the 2000 election was stolen, yes the Democrats did do all those things.
But the GOP’s response should not be to say “they started it.” The response should be to rise above it. But let’s not tut-tut a people who refuse to rise above it when those who descend beneath it routinely win Hollywood awards.