Trump & the American Dream

Trump’s pitch to the American people was the same poisonous fiction that capitalism has been telling them for decades. As inequality worsens, Trump says: vote for me, and you can have it all. Unfortunately, you can’t have it all. All you end up with, like the students who spent $30,000 on a “Trump University” education, is a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump. He still lives in Trump Tower, and you still live in your shitty apartment. You can max out your credit cards to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag, but the people who run the world will still run it, and the doors of the club are never going to actually be open to you. If you’re lucky, the billionaires may generously allow you to pay them every cent you have for the privilege of feeling like you’re in the club.
...her book is about how “we, as Americans, have gone from a traditional ethos, underpinned by Judeo-Christian values, of modesty, thrift, humility, and discretion… of helping others less fortunate, to a culture of bling, celebrity, and narcissism.”

It’s the “we” that is such a problem. One is tempted to answer: “Well, you, maybe. But leave ‘we’ out of this.” What does it even mean to say that “we” are “pathological” in our material longings, that “we” no longer have humility, and live in a culture of bling? Does it mean that everyone does? And if it’s only some people, then which people, and how many? It’s obviously true that the tendencies Greenfield describes are present in American life, and that large numbers of people embrace them. But saying that those tendencies are American life, that they define us, risks mistaking a cartoon for reality. It’s certainly tempting, now that Donald Trump is the president, to think of Trumpism as a kind of national philosophy. But the vast majority of this people in this country didn’t vote for Donald Trump. He was hugely unpopular. A suggestion that Trump is a representative ambassador for the American ethos is simply wrong.

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