Donald Trump and the weak man's vanity

Jim Geraghty has written a sober essay pondering how conservatives should speak to Trump’s supporters: Criticize their foolishness? Allow that they have good reasons to be angry? Geraghty settles on criticism and cites my 2006 book, A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now, by way of explaining the spread of angri-culture across the political spectrum. Conservatives are not immune. Check.

Is there anything that we can do about the triumph of rude anger in the public square? Anger is entertaining. It’s innately theatrical. It is vulgar in an age that revels in vulgarity. Can we escape?

Offering examples of upright men and women who don’t succumb to the temptation to respond in kind seems weak. The howling mob wants more tell-it-like-it-is histrionics. It isn’t going to switch to tai-chi–like composure on cue from “the elite” it has come to despise. The Trump phenomenon, like a forest fire, will have to burn itself out. That won’t happen soon enough for many conservatives, but it will indeed happen. For even anger, after a while, becomes tiresome for the audience. Donald Trump himself is unlikely ever to feel ashamed. But new anger is a performance, and for every performance there is eventually a curtain, if not a final bow.

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