By Colleen O'Connor
From the Las Vegas escalator announcement to the Wisconsin Primary, the “self-important” class never saw Donald Trump coming.
So befuddled are they still, that they now search for scapegoats. Blame it on the “low information voter,” the “angry white male,” the poor polling firms, the “left behind and uneducated,” or the “the blue collar working class.” Anyone but themselves.
They didn’t cause the Trump phenomenon and they haven’t lost control of “the narrative.” Just watch the “spin” every news organization (be it Fox, MSNBC, CNN, CBS) puts forward championing the corporate interests that funds their programs.
Surprise! Trump is now that funder — drawing massive Nielsen television ratings, Twitter storms, and huge voter turnouts for the Republicans. He skips a debate and the debate is cancelled. How could this happen?
Even Nate Silver of the New York Times blog 538 (who didn’t see it coming) recently trotted out the obvious: There is a “larger pattern” at play, he writes. “Trump has been able to disrupt the news pretty much any time he wants, whether by being newsworthy, offensive, salacious or entertaining. The media has almost always played along.”
So, how did “Dilbert and A Dead Genius” understand Trump’s ascendancy when almost no one else did?
Simple. They understood the obvious.
Millions of voters applaud some portions of Trump’s spiel because it speaks to their pain. Look at the primary results. Then ask yourself and your own circle of people:
- Want to say “Merry Christmas” again?
- Want to stop jobs going abroad?
- Think minorities get special treatment?
- Can’t find work?
- Tired of bailouts for banks?
- Know that the border leaks?
- Hate rising rents, gas prices, etc.?
- Hate politicians?
- Believe the system is rigged?
- Can’t stand position papers?
- Fear terrorists?
- Want to make American great again?
Any “yes” answers = Votes for Trump.
The list is endless, but real. “Anger in American” has replaced “Morning in America” as the 2016 Presidential campaign theme.
Some in the press get that part and list the many obvious reasons why. And that anger will not go away anytime soon.
Still, how exactly did the creator of the Dilbert (Scott Adams) see Trump capturing that anger? For the same reason his comic strip character is so popular.
According to his creator, Dilbert is “about this huge part of people’s lives that [remains] invisible to the rest of the world and about suffering in a hundred different ways.”
He continues, “And isn’t that essentially, in turn, what Trump is doing? He is acknowledging the suffering of some and then appealing emotionally to that.”
Adding a short-hand history to his thesis and using the teacher’s white board to illustrate it, Dilbert’s creator lists Trump’s perfectly-timed strengths in the column marked 2016.
Calling Trump “a master persuader, he predicts—“A Trump win by a landslide.”
Why? Because people are “suffering in a hundred different ways.” And Trump plays those emotional chords like a maestro. He understands psychology.
Okay, but how did the “Dead Genius” explain Trump’s rise and where did she place the blame?
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the death of Virginia Woolf, the British literary genius, the BBC released a rare audio. Titled, “Words Fail Me,” Woolf answers the question, “Where then are we to lay the blame?
“Not on our professors; not on our reviewers; not on our writers; but on words. It is words that are to blame. They are the wildest, freest, most irresponsible, most unteachable of all things.”
“If you want proof of this, consider how often in moments of emotion when we most need words we find none.”
“But words do not live in dictionaries; they live in the mind.”
“They are highly democratic, too; they believe that one word is as good as another; uneducated words are as good as educated words, uncultivated words as cultivated words, there are no ranks or titles in their society.”
So, “Dilbert and the Dead Genius” agree. “Words” and “emotions” are to blame for the rise of Trump. As is everyone who has misused either for their own gain.
Colleen O’Connor is a retired college history professor.
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