Monday, November 23, 2015

A Philosopher Explains Donald Trump

By Judd Legum

Donald Trump has political pundits stumped.
They’ve been predicting his imminent downfall for months. Every “gaffe” that was supposed to destroy his support has only made him stronger. “DON VOYAGE: Trump Toast After Insult,” a headline in the New York Post blared nearly two months ago. The insult at issue, questioning John McCain’s military service, is so many insults ago that it isn’t even mentioned any more.
Meanwhile, Trump still dominates the polls, leading the GOP field by about 14 points nationally. With the exception of one poll in John Kasich’s home state of Ohio, Trump has led every state and national poll since the beginning of August.
You won’t find Roland Barthes on the Sunday morning roundtables dissecting the presidential race. Barthes is a French philosopher who died in 1980. But his work may hold the key to understanding Trump’s popularity and his staying power.
Barthes is best known for his work in semiotics, the study of signs and symbols. But he wasn’t limited to lengthy, esoteric treatises. Rather, Barthes published much of his work in short, accessible pieces breaking down elements of popular culture. The New York Times described Barthes as the godfather of the TV recap.
His most famous essay, published in his 1957 book Mythologies, focuses on professional wrestling. Could an essay about professional wrestling hold the key to understanding Trump’s appeal? It’s worth noting that, before he was a presidential candidate, Trump was an active participant in the WWE. In 2013, Trump was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

(ht Michael Edelstein)


  1. If this is the reason why he is winning, then it means that his technique can be easily emulated by others once people realize it's what works.

  2. Ha! Astute observation. Remember that in Idiocracy, the president is a pro wrestler. At least they are not putting Gatorade in the water supply yet.

  3. Interesting. This is what happens with a system based on absolute popular democracy. Actually, given the widespread belief (hope?) in might makes right how could it end up any different? And as the writer points out given the level of corruption in government, Trump is peddling hope for a different constituency. So if he doesn't deliver will his fans hit him over the head with a chair?

  4. Check out Pro Libertate's latest:

    Donald as the Heel

    IOW never underestimate a demagogue wannabe, even when they don't know they're a wannabe.