Donald Trump is not the first “pseudo-modern” American president, and he won’t be the last. Because what pseudo-modern Americans really want is the “People’s Choice President.” Voting “should” be as easy — and mindless — as texting “Yes” or “No” to a political poll streamed to their “smartphone.”
In philosophical terms, says Alan Kirby, “the culture we have now fetishises the recipient of the text to the degree that they become a partial or whole author of it. Optimists may see this as the democratisation of culture; pessimists will point to the excruciating banality and vacuity of the cultural products thereby generated. … By definition, pseudo-modern cultural products cannot and do not exist unless the individual intervenes physically in them.”
Thus are The People both elevated to the pinnacle of importance and reduced to utter banality. Radio listeners can influence radio playlists in real time, television audiences can vote TV show cast members off the island, and protesters can be applauded as they take over the microphone at political rallies.
Politicians are only too happy to give us what we want; indeed, that is what they’ve always done. But pseudo-modern voters have made it extraordinarily easy for politicians to portray themselves as a “blank slate” — upon which voters draw whatever they desire. Barack Obama proudly admitted this; it was one of his greatest achievements.
“I serve as a blank screen,” Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope, “on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”
While Obama merely proved that Progressives don’t care if their emperor has no clothes, what The Donald proved is that politicians no longer need a party or the press. All politicians need now is The People to physically intervene, and all the “authors” of a political campaign need to do is pretend to abolish themselves — “for the people.”
“I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours,” said the man famous for being a community organizer.
“Everyone is listening to you now,” said the man famous for singlehandedly making America great again.
In some ways, all this empowerment of We The People is “for position only” (to use a term from my days in the printing industry) — a cheap, low-resolution, facsimile of the real artwork that is replaced by the experts at the printing plant before public distribution. Another analogy comes from the Obama Administration itself, which wrote the Affordable Care Act in a way that “treated” the “stupidity of the American voter” to prevent the infection of stupidity from spreading any further.
In other ways, the empowerment is good. The gatekeepers in The Media have lost much (if not all) of their power. The Progressive coalition — long kept by politicians in separate subcritical masses called identity groups (to prevent premature detonation) — has finally reached its long-sought “critical mass” only to result in what was always going to happen: fission. If the recent Women’s March against “government taking our rights” proved anything, it’s that Progressives have finally discovered government can be too big and too powerful; and that being a “woman” or a “minority” is no longer enough. After the march, transgender women (aka men) excoriated cis-pussied white women (aka the white supremacist vaginarchy) for the “oppressive message” that a “vagina is essential to womanhood.”
Across the pond, counter-culture pop icon Brian Eno has “anger at myself for not realising what was going on” with Brexit and now Trump. “I thought that all those Ukip people and those National Fronty people were in a little bubble. Then I thought: ‘Fuck, it was us, we were in the bubble, we didn’t notice it.’ There was a revolution brewing and we didn’t spot it because we didn’t make it. We expected we were going to be the revolution.”
Back here in California, a Progressive scientist has inexplicably declared the end of the “post-post-truth world” and a Progressive legislature has demanded “civic online reasoning” in high school curricula — even as Progressive scientists and legislators insist that men without vaginas can still be women and that “fake news” is damaging the very foundation of our democracy.
“Fortunately,” says the pseudo-modern scientist, “here in California citizens have many avenues for engaging directly with scientists to discuss issues such as climate change …”
I don’t know if Brexit and Trump constitute a revolution, as Eno says they do. Perhaps they are just the outward manifestations of the pseudo-modern revolution that “occurred” — as Alan Kirby says — “somewhere in the late 1990s or early 2000s.”
What I do know is that, in this brave new world, history is meaningless. All that matters is Forward, and whether we can “lean into” our “impactful lives” — where we have The Power to vote Hillary off the island and get Trump in return.