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Donald Trump Is the Most Honest Candidate in American Politics Today

Where other candidates appeal to a fictitious unity or pretense of moral integrity, he displays the power of inequality.

BY Jodi Dean

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The Republicans don't like Trump because he doesn't hide this point under flag and fetus. For him, flag and fetus are present, but incidental to his politics of truth. Those with money win. Those without it lose. Winners get to do whatever they want. Losers get done to.

Donald Trump cuts through the ideological haze of American politics and exposes its underlying truth, the truth of enjoyment. Where other candidates appeal to a fictitious unity or pretense of moral integrity, he displays the power of inequality. Money buys access—why deny it? Money creates opportunity—for those who have it. Money lets those with a lot of it express their basest impulses and desires—there is no need to hide the dark drives when there is none before whom one might feel shame (we might call this the Berlusconi principle). It's the rest of us who bow down.

As Trump makes explicit the power of money in the contemporary US, he facilitates, stimulates, and circulates enjoyment (jouissance). Trump openly expresses the racism, sexism, contempt, and superiority that codes of civility and political correctness insist be repressed. This expression demonstrates the truth of economic inequality: civility is for the middle class, a normative container for the rage of the dispossessed and the contempt of the dispossessors. The .1 % need not pretend to care.

The freedom from civility, the privilege of enjoying superiority, incites different responses, all of which enable people to enjoy—get off on—this political round.

Some of the underpaid and exploited enjoy through Trump. Not only does he give them permission to express their racism, sexism, and hate, but they are already accustomed to imagining themselves with his power, firing and degrading a wide array of those with whom they disagree. His television shows taught them to do this, instilling in them practices of judgment and dismissal ready to move out of prime time and into the political sphere. Others like the way Trump's brutality, his directness, unsettles and disrupts the branded lies that are the mainstream parties. He's going to screw the same folks who screwed them. The more Trump calls women 'slobs,' 'dogs,' and 'pigs,' the more they (a 'they' which may include some women) like it. The more incendiary his racism, the better. Trump's not afraid to back down—he's not even angry. It's just good business, good sense, a fact. An American id, Trump affirms the obscene impulses it's just too much effort to continue to repress.

Liberals enjoy their outrage. Here Trump confirms for them their rightness in despising the Republican base, itself only seldom anything other than their own disgust with the working class. As they use Trump as a catalyst for their own good feeling, liberals repeat his practices of contempt in another register. Not only is he a candidate they can enjoy hating but he enables them to extend their hate to all the non-millionaires supporting Trump: they really must be idiots.

In a plutocracy, the plutocrats rule. The Republicans don't like Trump because he doesn't hide this point under flag and fetus. For him, flag and fetus are present, but incidental to his politics of truth. Those with money win. Those without it lose. Winners get to do whatever they want. Losers get done to. Trump unleashes the drives US electoral politics more typically attempts to channel along set scripts. This is his politics of enjoyment.


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Jodi Dean teaches political and media theory in Geneva, New York. She has written or edited eleven books, including The Communist Horizon and Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies.

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