I think the reason Donald Trump seems so appealing to some folks, is he is a modernist president, in a postmodern time.
What is Postmodernism?
It’s the idea that ALL things are relative. For instance, one’s morality, is generally relative to their culture. The same for one’s ethics. And the same for their belief in god, (in religion this understanding is called pluralism).
This post-modern understanding says that absolute truths rarely exist, as much is relative. Pluralism in the religious sense even goes to say that the only capital T Truth can be spoken by god, and the second man repeats it, it becomes little ‘t’ truth, aligning to the fallibility of humans to distort reality through their own lens.
So why is this important?
Well, Tribalism dies in post-modernism, as a beleif in hard truth is neccesary for it. As do things like nationalism, and radical evangelicalism. It also makes it harder to go to war with people, because in the understanding of relativity, one considers the ‘truth’ of the opposition.
In essence, it makes things very fluid. The number of people we can classify as ‘bad guys’ dwindles, and black and white issue become much more grey.
Accordingly, it can make folks that are not used to evaluating things for themselves, very uneasy, as their moral and ethical compasses now need to be readjusted. Case in point: In a post-modern world, just referring to a person as a guy because they are male-bodied, may now be wrong.
And along these lines, trump built many fans. Nationalists, Racists, homophobes, all rely on the idea of modernist views. Of absolute right and wrong. Even Christianity has. (For a good look at how the church approaches this postmodern world, my uncle has actually written a book).
But it is not surprising then, when I hear a racist comment from trumps base. Or a trans phobic one. Or he appoints people whose ethics seem straight out of 1850.
And his appeal, is for a simpler time. A modernist time. Where lines could be drawn on national borders, and entire nations, and religions classified as ‘bad’. But it also meant entire races could be classified as bad, and entire sexes given less rights.
But that simplicity, came from closing our eyes to people other than ourselves, realities. It was a time when people used racial slurs, or called people ‘retarded’, or payed women pennies on the dollar of a man’s wage, and never thought about the other’s experience.
It is in post-modernism that we accept that culture determines much of what we believe. And from there, attempt to realize our truths’ amongst it.
The Dali Lama had an interesting view on this, himself a pluralist. He said that to move forward in the world, each of us needs to fully believe in our own beliefs, yet understand, that others fully believe in there’s as well, and refrain from condemning them for it.
It’s why folks like him, are able to meet with the leaders of many different religions, and have great friendships, despite big ideological differences. Because they look for the things they agree on.
Where it gets tough though, is when things seem backwards. Such as cultures treating people extremely poorly based on race, sex, or class. That is when modernism can become appealing.
Accordingly, I think that is the big rift in our country. Not between democrats and republicans, or the working poor and rich, but between the modernists and the post-modernists. Both groups holding to what they believe to be true, and trying to find the best way through, with very different approaches.