This one is from TPM Reader EW about his circle of white male millennial friends and Trump. A lot to consider here.
I read this thread about the unsolicited violence we are starting to see in ordinary life as a consequence of this election. I wanted to add another anecdote that ties with this, not because it’s one about violence, but because it’s about those enabling the violence, which in my mind, is far worse.
The context: my peer group is all white male Millennials from Massachusetts in their late 20s, as am I. We all came of age in the job market during the crash in 2008; we have all benefited greatly from the recovery. Every one of us has seen income increases, job promotions, marriages, and children. At least a couple of these peers of mine were on unemployment for a substantial period of time.
This is all to say that the “system” (which I’m alluding to ahead of time) and the economy has served us well–which brings me to the argument I was in with all of them about the second debate.
According to them, it seems like there were two debates: one where Hillary Clinton discussed in an adult manner the issues at stake; one where Donald Trump lambasted the “system” with Hillary Clinton as the stand-in. All of my college-educated Millennial friends saw the second debate and loved every second of it. In that post-debate argument, every one of them defended Donald Trump’s assault on Hillary Clinton with the conception that all Donald Trump was doing was insisting that the “royalty class” be held to the same standard as anyone else.
Without detailing the rest of the argument, and without engaging the merits of this, it boiled down to the idea that Donald Trump is the only one who can “blow up” the “broken system.” I found myself alone in trying to make people appreciate that everyone loves to blow things up until the bill comes in (see: Iraq).
And that’s the core of my deep, deep fear about this election cycle. I keep reading everywhere that college-educated people are breaking for Trump, that Trump is feeding on the people who have been left behind by this economy, and so forth and so on. It’s not what I’m seeing.
What I’m seeing is men–even men who have been on government assistance, men whom the system as it exists has unequivocally helped–utterly convinced that the “system” is broken and are all too happy to egg on a guy who they know full well will blow it all to hell. The very people who have the most to lose and are the most tied into the existing hegemony and the ones looking to nuke it.
This is an old song at least in Republican partisanship: the (somewhat valid) trope of rural Southerns who benefit from government assistance railing against its existence, and so on. I did not expect to see that bite-the-hand-that-feeds nihilism in my own peer group amongst moderate college-educated 20-somethings living in Massachusetts.
People seem to be truly disconnected from the social contract that has bound us all for a great many decades. They feel like the game is rigged because the elites are never held to the same standard as the rest of us. Regardless of the reasons for why that issue exists, it’s this feeling that is making everyone want to blow it up and start over rather than engage in the hard work of making it better. And this desire to blow it up is what makes them laugh and cheer at the racist trolling and violence against others in the name of Trump and all the rest.
Mind you, that’s a description, not a defense. And this is why I’m afraid.
Thank you for reading… I hope this helps you as you form your thoughts and your future writings on this (in my opinion) revolutionary level of discontent with the world order as it stands today.