Charlie Pierce in Vermont last night:
BURLINGTON, VERMONT—I admit that, at this point, you start thinking about your own complicity in what’s happening in politics right now. You stand in the town square of Burlington, not 300 yards from Bernie Sanders’ campaign headquarters, and across the street from the Flynn Center For The Performing Arts, the tiny venue that the campaign of Donald Trump oversold by about eleventy-billion percent, probably just to say that they oversold it by eleventy-billion percent. Why are you here, you think? You are here for precisely the reason He, Trump wants you here—because it is the circus come to town, and because you are obligated in whatever way you can to watch people pay homage to how much they love him. That remains the alpha and omega of the whole sprawling mess. He is Trump and you’re not. But neither are all those other losers, either, and that’s what makes the difference. By loving Trump, you love yourself. By embracing his campaign marked by no ideas and not even the bare bones of policy proposals, you pronounce yourself willing to answer the question on which He, Trump has built his entire career.
“But enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”
So he came to Burlington, and he filled the tiny hall, and he filled the larger city square across the streets. People chanted his name. People chanted imprecations. He wins both ways. He will make you your own personal demagogues. The point is they all came out to share the phenomenon that is him. They don’t come out this way to love Ted Cruz, or to imbibe the mysterious charisma of Jeb (!) Bush or to heckle Marco Rubio in choral derision. Nobody does any of those things because all of those people are afflicted with the congenital problem of Not Being Trump. Only He, Trump can put on this kind of show and, even if you’re only there to observe it and to chronicle it, you are complicit in its creation and in its very life force in our politics. He has put the entire system in a box. He takes it out a couple of times a week to play with it.
Donald Trump doesn’t care about anybody but himself. That’s no great revelation; the reason he’s running for president is because there’s no higher position of power in the world, even if the pay is lousy. (The president’s annual salary is roughly equivalent to the amount of money it costs to fly Trump’s jet across the country.) But deep down I think the attraction of Trump for a lot of people is that he thinks so highly of himself and doesn’t hide his self-adoration. And he draws the crowds because they like seeing someone like that. Crowds eat it up because they wish they could feel that good about themselves; that they could go through life bullshitting without end and not caring if they’re lying or hurting people or destroying the party that brung them.
We’ve had presidents who thought very highly of themselves. A few of them have been worthy of their own opinion. But when you have someone with raw ego and no control over it and himself, you’re looking at a dangerous and deadly combination.