The Strong Man Ideology
Strong Man politics are in the ascendant. – President Barack Obama, 17 July 2018
Donald Trump glorifies his strong men. He wants to be one of them. He thinks he is a strong man. If you agree, you are caught in the miasma of propaganda.
Trump, an illiterate, elderly, unfit, unindicted criminal perceives strength in all the wrong ways. To him, strength is an all caps tweet full of bravado. Strength is a crossed arms, clenched lips, glaring pose. Strength to Trump is bucking the norms to such an extreme that it verges on sociopathy.
Strength to Trump is not about courage or compromise or complexity. It is the divisive rhetoric that he pumps out hourly on Twitter. It is an affirmation of other strong men: the torch-bearing Nazis at Charlottesville, a pint-sized KGB officer glutted with the riches of petrol, an obese dictator starving a country while threatening nuclear doom.
The strong man of Trump is white and male, the father of sons who slaughter wildlife. This kind of strength naturally assumes superiority to people of other colors, to women, to different cultures and faiths, even animals.
Strength in Donald Trump’s mind replaces civility and inclusiveness. It demands mob loyalty. It sneers at intelligent thought. Ideals such as service to others – a humanitarian bond – are dismissed. The whole fabric of democratic principles is a mantle to be tossed aside and ground in the mud.
Trump’s eyes light up when strongmen steamroll opposition, brush aside legal constraints, ignore criticism, and do whatever it takes to get their way. – Former Secretary of State Madelaine Albright, FASCISM: A Warning
This kind of strength is power over – the abusive spouse, the rapist, the mass shooter – and that abuse of power inevitably reveals a frightened, diminished man, undone by his own weakness.
Strong Man politics is an extension of the ideology of Ayn Rand. It demands unquestioning obedience. Infractions to this first commandment result in ostracism. No exceptions.
Trump as Strong Man re-enacts the charade of brawn over brains. He is a cudgel slamming our conventions, a mafioso-type bullying of political opponents and wavering allies. It is bluster and body slams and BS. His response to the anonymous New York Times editorial extends that aggression even to his so-called base. At his Montana rally last night, he pointed the finger at his cheering fans, blaming them for his imminent impeachment.
You will find models for the Strong Man ideology in the Senate, that once austere body, where Chuck Grassley yells at Senator Amy Klobouchar and threatens to release all her email-how would you like that?, and his comrade John Cornyn reads from a rulebook to threaten Senator Cory Booker with expulsion for releasing questionable documents. Or Alex Jones of Info Wars assaults Senator Marco Rubio in a hallway as he talks to the press.
Strong Man ideology is a degeneration of the republic. From Senate chamber to street corner to the Oval Office, we see it. Flying out of Donald Trump’s foul mouth as hysterical vomitus, it projects itself into the minds of the ignorant and angry, who recycle their own brand of hate with his consent.
Most importantly, Strong Man politics in the era of Trump is a direct prelude to authoritarianism.
It must be stopped. Trump must be stopped. His henchmen and enablers and subjects must be stopped. The republic is in peril.