Donald Trump: At home in postmodern America

Donald Trump is not a conservative—he’s a reality TV star thoroughly in tune with the passions and dynamics of mass publicity and social media. No matter how much he denounces them, he’s still a product of victim-based identity politics.

A lot of people think Donald Trump is a throwback to an earlier time in American history. He’s seen as a nativist who wants to go back to the days of pre-multicultural America, to a time before identity politics and political correctness. But this interpretation misses something very important about the Trump phenomenon.

The Donald is very much a child of contemporary American culture, including its multicultural offshoot, identity politics. Although he rejects the leftist ideology of multiculturalism, especially the hypersensitivity of political correctness, he is operating well within its value system. He actually represents a new hybrid version of it—a mirror image, if you will, of the very culture he claims to despise.

Trump is a champion of identity politics, which in case we should forget, was invented by the left. He advances without apology or qualification the interests and values of his supporters. As a group, they possess the identity of people put-upon by their opponents. It may not be correct to say they are all one ethnic group, although many are indeed white; but it is true that Trump’s “tribe,” regardless of its demography, identifies with him as one of their own because of his unique political style. Like members of the politically correct left, Trump and his supporters see themselves as immune from criticism not because of the strength of their arguments, but because of the distinctive characteristics of “who they are.” They are defined by their grievances. Although their identity politics exists on the opposite end of the political spectrum from the left, they do make a claim to victimhood, the same as “black lives matters” activists do to assert their immunity from criticism.