Storyteller Susan Klein tells a wonderful fairytale in which the prince must guess what all women most earnestly desire. It continues for some time, and she keeps you guessing to the very end. (Spoiler alert: to make my point here, I will need to reveal the secret — but not just yet.)
The guesses that male listeners make are usually far off the mark, and some are transparently egotistical when they venture into romantic fantasies. Men have “implicit bias” that blinds them, me included. They can’t see what’s missing that is so much to be desired from a woman’s point of view because they do not experience such a lack as men.
Yet when the reveal in the story comes, it’s a forehead slapper. Listeners say, “Of course!” and “Why couldn’t I see that?” The wonderful art of Susan’s telling of the story leaves a lasting impression, and possibly an awakening.
Lately I have been thinking that something similar is going on with Trumpists and the rest of us. What is it that Trump’s followers most earnestly desire? What can’t we get about them?
I’m not thinking about political opportunists, those who exploit that earnest desire. I’m thinking about the rank-and-file follower. The men and women who buy into conspiracy theories, whose outrage is always just under the surface, who are angry and see Trump as a tarnished knight, a tough guy who speaks their mind.
In Susan’s tale, what women most earnestly desire is “agency.” They want to make their own choices and not be owned or told. Women have long been identified as “the weaker sex” and subordinated to men. They fought for two generations to get the vote and continue to fight for equality and justice in civic, employment, and domestic life.
Could Trumpists be fearful of losing their agency? Do they believe they have already lost some precious agency to the “elite” liberal class, to overreaching government, to rising minorities, immigrants, coastal progressives, the deep state, and Antifa? That’s certainly what the manipulators are plugging. Is Trumpism about the loss of agency?
How do we assure Trumpists that their agency isn’t diminished if others gail agency. How did most men come to recognize that a woman’s newly won agency does not diminish their own? On the contrary, both men and women benefit.