I love Dave Eggars’s writing. He was the guy who convinced me in the summer of 2016 that Trump might win. The key persuasive text was a report he wrote of a Trump rally which he attended out of interest. It was the most perceptive thing I read in the entire year and it led to me spending four days of my holiday in Provence trying to write something about the possibility and implications of a Trump victory. But then I made the mistake of reading Nate Silver and was soothed by his polling predictions. So I abandoned the essay.
Now Eggars has written another lovely essay based on spending time in Arizona around the time of Trump’s speech there. I was particularly struck by this passage:
We ate while standing in the restaurant, near the front door, and I talked to the two young men, who were unfailingly polite and eager to debate the merits of Trump and what the country needed and deserved. I told them how incongruous I found it, that they could be so good-mannered and open to debate, when the man they were supporting — and this they admitted readily — was rude, unkind, erratic, and disunifying.
“But at least he’s honest,” one of the young men said.
He indeed said this. I didn’t know where to start.
We talked for about 10 minutes more, and finally we all shook hands, told each other to be safe out there, and went on our respective ways. Outside in the cooling night, it occurred to me that these bright young men, like James, were drawn to Trump not for what he was saying, but how he said it. It did not matter so much what he said. Or if he lied. Or if he inflamed animosities or bullied opponents. What mattered was that his unstudied, unrehearsed way of expressing himself was itself evidence of honesty. They equate unfiltered expression with truth.
Thus a politician who speaks carefully, who measures his or her words — or worse, who reads from a prepared speech — is being a politician, i.e., someone who does not tell the truth. Conversely, someone who speaks off the cuff, who has no script, who tweets without any consultation from staff, is inherently more honest.
These young men, and millions of other Trump supporters, do not care so much about what is or is not the truth. They care only that their elected leaders speak to them candidly, even when they’re lying…
My reading of this is that Trump will go the distance, and that Trump 2020 isn’t a fantasy either.