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Trump has an unyielding grip on America’s psyche. He is not done yet

Write the former president off at your peril – he epitomises the American dream and knows what makes us tick

Donald Trump greets supporters and patrons at Versailles Cuban Restaurant in Miami, minutes after pleading not guilty to federal charges, June 13. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty

On stage, at a literary festival recently, I was asked by a member of the audience whether I loved America.

I said “No”.

Immediately, I thought that I shouldn’t have said that. I should have been more nuanced, more measured. Not because what I said did not reflect what I felt, but because Americans don’t say that. Especially Americans who sit on stages abroad and say what I said.

Nobody puts down the US on foreign shores because all of us Americans have a fiercely protective idea of the nation. You could even say that we have a guarded one, but that would be too nuanced, would require some cognition, some grasping of facts and history.

This is not to say that the average American, and this is who I’m referring to here, does not have the ability to sit back and think things through. It is just that the culture itself, except in a few cases and in rarefied atmospheres like universities, and maybe at funerals and on talk shows, does not prize reflection.

Trump is not reflective, and neither is his Army of Rage, which is made up of people who think the election was the biggest con job in American, maybe world, history. “We waz robbed,” they cry, and the people who think that aren’t always who you think they are.

Many Hispanic voters support Trump. This may seem strange because aren’t Hispanic people seen to be “the other” by the majority of Trump’s base?

That depends on where the community comes from: Puerto Ricans, who are seen as actually New Yorkers, aren’t actually in New York because, as the song goes: they just can’t “make it there”. They are seen in Trump World as liberals/lefties. Democrats.

But people whose families are originally from Cuba and Venezuela are right there on the Trump Train. They see him as controlling the border, and they want that to happen because to have a US border, barred from the regimes that they fled, is proof positive that they, too, are American.

Many in the Hispanic community love Trump’s performance of masculinity, which they see as his upholding of American values, and for African American men, among whom Trump has a larger base than you would think, they love that he “talks back”.

Trump challenges the status quo, those people who follow norms and precedent. Stuff like that. “I am your retribution!” he cries, and so he is. In Rage America, he is King.

Thinking of those pictures from Mar A Lago, especially the one taken in the bathroom, where top-secret documents are seen spilling on to the floor, you may well ask why those documents are there. Why did Trump take these files? What was he doing?

Why did he have his “body man”, Walt Nauta, now indicted along with Trump, drag these boxes hither, thither and yon in an attempt to hide them?

Nauta, who began his career in the kitchens of the White House, worked his way up to bringing Trump his Diet Coke. He packed the boxes of documents that the National Archives have pleaded to have back. He is on tape moving them around at Trump’s resort.

Now, his name follows the kind of heading that nobody wants to get:
“The United States vs…”

This is called “being on the wrong side of the v”. And Nauta is.
Trump has said nothing about him, offered him no solace. Not in public, anyway. Very Trumpy. It is always about him.

Which takes me back to the boxes – Trump kept them, even though he knew that this was illegal. An audio tape has recently surfaced, in which a crinkle of paper can be heard, indicating that Trump is flipping through a document or waving it around. He acknowledges that he knows that he no longer has the authority to possess this document.

But the malevolent genius of Trump, why he could dictate to people the way their homes should look, what shirts men should wear, is because he knows a bit about human nature. He knows about what lies at the root of us, what could be summoned up from the depths by the right person, in the
right moment. Trump knows what makes us tick.

More than we care to admit, we have invented civilisation to rein us in and shape us, so that we can be here on this earth in relative peace, having tempered our natural tendencies towards fierce competition, greed and aggression.

“I can even think about a document and it’s declassified,” Trump has said, and he means that. After you stop laughing; or gasping in horror, you can begin to see where we are.

America was constituted by men, some of whom held human beings in bondage, some of those humans even their own flesh and blood. They fashioned a nation in writing where all “men are created equal”.

To be an American is to live in a dream state, created by you. Each and every one of us born and raised live in that state. Reality belongs to us.

We reassemble the world in the way that we see to fit. Donald John Trump epitomises this. And he is not done.

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