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.

Jodi Dean

(Mike Licht / Flickr)

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.

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.

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.

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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