“”It’s not hard to see in the demographics, the words, and the behavior of Trump supporters an ethic of total retaliation at work. These are men and women who defend their vote by saying things like: ‘I just wanted people to know that I’m here, that I count.’ These are men and women whose scorn of ‘political correctness’ translates into: ‘You can’t make me talk the way that you want me to talk, even if that way of talking is nicer and smarter and better.’ These are men and women whose denials of climate change are gleeful denials of scientific expertise in a world where scientific experts have unquestioned intellectual respect and social status. These are men and women who seemed to applaud the incompetence of Trump’s campaign because competence itself is associated with membership in the elite.
“[Hunter S.] Thompson would want us to see this: These are men and women who know that, by all intellectual and economic standards, they cannot win the game. So whether it be out of self-protection or an overcompensation for their own profound sense of shame, they lash out at politicians, judges, scientists, teachers, Wall Street, universities, the media, legislatures — even at elections. They are not interested in contemplating serious reforms to the system; they are either too pessimistic or too disappointed to believe that is possible. So the best they can do is adopt a position of total irreverence: to show they hate the players and the game.
“Understood in those terms, the idea that Trumpism is ‘populist’ seems misplaced. Populism is a belief in the right of ordinary people, rather than political insiders, to rule. Trumpism, by contrast, operates on the presumption ordinary people aren’t going to get any chance to rule no matter what they do, so they might as well piss off the political insiders using the only tool left available to them: the vote.
” While many commentators say Trump will have to bring back jobs or vibrancy to places like the Rust Belt if he wants to continue to have the support of people who voted for him, Thompson’s account suggests otherwise. Many if not most Trump supporters long ago gave up on the idea that any politician, even someone like Trump, can change the direction the wind is blowing. Even if he fails to bring back the jobs, Trump can maintain loyalty in another way: As long as he continues to offend and irritate elites, and as long as he refuses to play by certain rules of decorum — heaven forfend, the president-elect says ill-conceived things on Twitter! — Trump will still command loyalty. It’s the ethic, not the policy, that matters most. […]
” At the end of Hell’s Angels, having spent months with the motorcycle guys, Thompson finally gets stomped by them. For some offense he doesn’t understand (and which he probably didn’t commit), Thompson gets punched, bloodied, kicked in the face and in the ribs, spat at and pissed on. He limps off to a hospital in the dead of night, alone and afraid. Only in that moment does Thompson realize that as a journalist (and therefore a member of the elite), he could not possibly be a true friend of the Angels. Wear leather and ride a motorcycle though he might, Thompson stood on the side of intellectual and cultural authority. And that finally made him, despite his months of good-timing with the Angels, subject to their retaliatory impulses. The ethic of retaliation is total, Thompson comes to realize. There is nothing partial about it. It ends with violence.” (Susan McWilliams, The Nation):