In the novel, Night Watch, by Sergei Lukyanenko, we meet Anton Gorodetsky, an agent for the Light, the powers of good who patrol the streets of Moscow during the darkness to combat the forces of Dark. Lukyanenko spends a lot of time describing a concept of a balance of power between good and evil. In the novel, a motley collection of magicians, shape-shifters, werewolves, and vampires on both sides of the line between good and evil try to maintain and preserve that balance in keeping with an ancient treaty between the forces of Light and Dark. The main character, Anton, is a magician in the titular Night Watch, responsible for keeping the forces of evil at bay through the long, cold Moscow nights. Despite the treaty that demands balance, each side consistently searches for loopholes that will allow them to gain an upper hand against the other. When the strength of one side threatens to shift the balance of power, an unknown, magical and omnipotent force creates a powerful character on the other side called a “mirror” designed to shift the balance of power back to the center.
If you’re a Democrat, you probably think that Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are like the guardians of the Night Watch, responsible for keeping the forces of evil at bay. In your version of this story, Donald Trump and his “basket of deplorables,” the red hat wearing, flag waving, bible thumping, big truck driving, MAGA crowd would be the evil characters, the Others who seek to do harm and create chaos. And, if you’re a Republican, you likely think that Trump is like the leader of the Night Watch, a good, pious man whose sole mission is to fight the evil ambitions of AOC, Crazy Nancy, Hidin’ Joe Biden, Pocahontas, and the rest of the lazy, capricious, “Do Nothin’ Democrats” who want nothing more than to undermine your proud democracy, give everybody everything for free, and thrust us all into a Socialist state.
When Barack Obama beat John McCain in the presidential election of 2008, for many Republicans, this was their worst nightmare. In their view, Obama was a black man with unknown, uncertain qualities who very well might erode the foundation of everything they stood for. He was a Muslim who would seek to bring down Christianity and in fact, his birth country and eligibility to even run for the presidency was in serious doubt. He was weak, and not only wouldn’t stand up to terrorism, he likely secretly sympathized with their cause. All of this in addition to the fact that he was a liberal Democrat who planned to take away their guns, open the borders to foreigners who would seek to change the official language of America from English to Spanish, or maybe Arabic, install free abortion clinics next to the Chick-Fil-A on every other corner, and remove God from their currency and Jesus from their hearts. From the perspective of many Republicans, it’s maybe not a surprise that Obama was considered to be the anti-Christ.
Donald Trump was, if not the first, then definitely one of the most prominent and vocal proponents of the “Birther” movement that sought to question the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate and his eligibility for the office. Trump was quickly elevated to hero status to the masses of Republicans centered in the south, the bible belt foundationalists who not only created and enforced “Blue Laws,” but fervently believed in the moral righteousness of their purpose.
As Trump became more and more vocal with his criticism of Obama and his policies, liberals sank further into the morass of woke liberalism in what seemed to become a competition to prove who could be the most enlightened, least racist person in America. Every single issue, every single statement, every single cause became about racism, and sexism, and transphobia, and homophobia. Liberals could no longer hold back their disdain and contempt for the right, for conservatives who wanted to be left alone and in peace to worship their God, hunt for their food, and to protect the sanctity of marriage. As conservatives dug in their heals and pushed back against the ideals of their woke enemies, liberals pushed even harder, insisting that gender was fluid, that early assignation of gender identity was tantamount to child abuse, and that even a hint of Obama critique was racially motivated and driven. As the left stiffened their backs and refused to budge, Trump’s following became even larger, his calls to patriotism more ardent and more persuasive. This resulted in further scorn from the left, further arrogance, unrepentant derision toward anybody who would question the things they knew to be true, all culminating in the now infamous statement from Hillary Clinton about Trump’s “basket of deplorables,” one of the most conceited, divisive, insulting, ill-advised statements ever made by a presidential candidate in reference to nearly half of the electorate.
And, all of this widened the gulf even further, creating a vast chasm of indeterminate depth, a colossal gap that seems unbridgeable at this point in time.
There is nothing redeemable or laudable about Donald Trump. And yet, nearly half the country loves him. Despite what was arguably one of the worst, most contentious, most divisive first terms in presidential history, by the time the counting is done he will have received more votes than any president running for re-election has ever received, and somewhere north of 49% of all voters will have cast their ballot for Donald Trump. And why is that? How is that even possible?
This is a question that seems to have stumped the vast majority of intellectuals on the liberal left and has led them to believe that this country in general, and the middle to southern states in particular, are completely lost and unredeemable. They think (and often state) this with no regard to the further divide that this creates. Without thought to the idea that they themselves are the root cause of the divisiveness.
I voted for Donald Trump in 2016. I voted for him because I believed that the government needed a shakeup. I believed that a businessman would be good for the country. I believed that he would indeed drain the swamp that folks on both sides of the aisle agree has become a despairingly wretched ocean of putrefaction. Unfortunately, President Trump did none of the things I hoped he would do. He divided instead of healed. He showed himself to be a person of low intellect who was filled with hatred, vindictiveness, and a complete lack of social civility. His stratospheric ego and his utter disdain for dissenting opinion combined with his actual power as President of the United States was a real danger to humanity on a global scale. His arrogance, his chronic, almost pathological lying, his charlatanic statements of his own worth and abilities made the United States a laughingstock. His unpresidential, callous, cruel, petty Tweets and statements at rallies were not just uncouth and embarrassing, but dangerous in this unstable world.
And, despite all of this, I nearly voted for him again in 2020. I didn’t, couldn’t actually bring myself to cast a vote for a man of his immoral stock, but I admit, I wanted to find a reason to do so. I was soul-searching and somewhat undecided up until just a few days before the election, in spite of scornful, derisive statements and Tweets from my friends on the left that it was impossible to be undecided at this point, and that, by extension, indecisiveness could only be indicative of racism, homophobia, or xenophobia.
Why was I indecisive and searching for a way to justify casting a vote for Donald Trump, a man I absolutely hate in his role as president? Man, what a good question. The answer to that question can be found in a brilliant podcast by Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, philosopher, and PhD. Here is an excerpt from his podcast, “Making Sense” episode #224, titled, “The Key to Trump’s Appeal.”
A significant part of Trump’s appeal is that he has flaws. Despicable flaws. Obvious, blatant flaws. Flaws of character that cross the spectrum of every aspect of character that we have a word for. He lacks virtue in nearly every aspect of life. While he demands loyalty, he’s an incredibly disloyal person. He’s a paragon of greed, narcissism, pettiness, and malice.
So, what is his appeal?
Trump can only be understood by comparing him with the messaging of his opponents on the liberal left.
One thing that Trump never communicates, and cannot possibly communicate, is a sense of his moral superiority. The man is totally without sanctimony. Even when his every utterance is purposed toward self-aggrandizement. Even when he appears to be denigrating his supporters. Even when he’s calling himself a genius, he is never actually communicating that he is better than you, more enlightened, more decent. Because he’s not, and everyone knows it. The man is just a bundle of sin and gore. And, he never pretends to be anything more. Perhaps more importantly, he never even aspires to be anything more. And, because of this…because he is never really judging you…he can’t possibly judge you, he offers a truly safe space for human frailty, and hypocrisy, and self-doubt. He offers what no priest can credibly offer; a total expiation of shame. His personal shamelessness is a kind of spiritual balm.
Trump is fat Jesus. He’s “grab them by the pussy,” Jesus. He’s, “I’ll eat nothing but cheeseburgers if I want to,” Jesus. He’s, “I want to punch them in the face,” Jesus. He’s, “Go back to your shithole countries,” Jesus. He’s no apologies Jesus.
And now consider the other half of this image. What are we getting from the left? We’re getting exactly the opposite message. Pure sanctimony. Pure judgement. You are not good enough. You’re guilty not only for your own sins, but for the sins of your fathers. The crimes of slavery and colonialism are on your head. And if you’re a Cis, white, heterosexual male—which we know is the absolute core of Trump’s support—you’re a racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, sexist barbarian. Tear down those statues and bend the fucking knee.
It’s the juxtaposition of those two messages that is so powerful.
President Donald Trump would have never been possible in the Ronald Reagan era of Republican politics. President Trump would have never been possible in the George H.W. Bush era, nor even in the George W. Bush era, and really not even as a result of the Bill Clinton era of democratic governance. President Trump became possible only because of the Barack Obama era. To be clearer, President Trump only became possible because of the rise of the far left.
Now, it might be asserted that racism and Islamophobia were the seeds of a Trump rise to power, and it’s at least credible that this is true. However, it was the actions of the far left, the sanctimonious, hubristic judgement that caused the right to rebel. It was the ridiculous revolution against capitalism, reason, and common sense that created Donald Trump. The fraudulent, malicious, opportunistic dogma of groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa that led to Trump’s rise to power. The dangerous echo-chamber rantings and ravings of far-left Socialists like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that continue to instill fear into moderate conservatives and liberals alike that continues to give power to Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is a mirror. He’s the right’s answer to the far left. He’s the extremist that the right needs to combat the extremism of the social justice warriors.
Vindictive, belligerent, bullying, and petty. Who am I describing? Donald Trump, certainly, but also the far left. The vast majority of people in this country don’t agree with or even like ultra-liberalism. We don’t like Donald Trump but we have a hard time bringing ourselves to vote for those of you who align yourselves with those ideals. The reason that I almost voted for Donald Trump despite my hatred of that man in that office is because a vote for Biden meant aligning myself with those on the far-left. And that was despicable.
Defund the Police is killing the Democratic party. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, the riots, the rhetoric, the cancellation of anybody who says anything deemed racist, sexist, or whateveraphobic by those enlightened few is killing the Democratic party. Voters in the middle of the political spectrum have a very difficult time allowing people like this to take over the country. And that means that Donald Trump will continue to have power, even though he has lost this election. Unless Democrats recognize that Donald Trump is nothing but a mirror and that they need to tone down the far-left rhetoric, disavow themselves of those dangerous ideals, and separate the core of their party from that ridiculous nonsense and abhorrent behavior, then you can expect to see Trump or another of his ilk in 2024.
And centrists like myself might be forced to cast our vote that way. Because far-left liberalism is one of the most dangerous, most existential threats this country has ever faced. The current leaders of the Democratic party need to seize back control from the lunatics. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Nancy Pelosi need to disavow the dangerous ideals being pushed by their compatriots or else they will once again lose to someone like Trump.
Sometimes we need a mirror to restore balance and sanity.