You might not care to admit it, but there’s a little bit of Donald Trump in all of us. Yes, his curiously insinuating, allusive, and always inflammatory comments — from his invocation of gun owners as the force to deal with a Hillary Clinton presidential victory to his dubbing of “Barack Hussein Obama” as the “founder” of ISIS — are regularly dangerous, remarkably ignorant, and often quite crackpot; yes, he plans to defend the working man by cutting taxes on the ultra-wealthy; yes, he’s left just about every group that ever depended on him holding the bag; yes, we’ve never quite seen such an unfiltered narcissist on the public stage (with the thinnest skin in human history); yes, he’s “unfit” to hold much of anything, no less the presidency; yes, his reported comments on nuclear weapons and their possible uses should make your hair stand on end. But come on, admit it: sometimes, just sometimes, he says something and you go: Oh yeah, right. And maybe it’s just a little too often for comfort.
I know that I, for instance, experience this whenever he points to Hillary Clinton’s role in the disastrous U.S. intervention in Libya. (“We came, we saw, he died,” was the way she summed up that particular triumph, speaking of the death of the autocrat Muammar Qaddafi before his whole country fell to pieces and looted weaponry from his arsenal was shipped to terror groups from the Sinai Peninsula to Nigeria.) I feel it when, responding to 50 Republican national security types who, in an open letter, denounced Trump as potentially “the most reckless president in American history,” he said that “these insiders — along with Hillary Clinton — are the owners of the disastrous decisions to invade Iraq, allow Americans to die in Benghazi, and they are the ones who allowed the rise of ISIS.” You might, it’s true, argue with parts of that formulation, but the crew that signed that letter are indeed a rogue’s gallery when it comes to Washington’s disastrous wars and national security policies of the post-9/11 era. I even feel a hint of it in his comments on Obama’s role in the creation of ISIS. Yes, that claim is genuinely off-the-wall. In withdrawing American troops from Iraq in 2011, Obama was simply following through on an agreement already negotiated by the Bush administration. But it’s also true that George W. Bush & Co. in particular did have a major hand in creating the conditions for ISIS’s predecessor al-Qaeda in Iraq to establish itself and flourish, and that the U.S. military essentially introduced just about the complete leadership of the Islamic State, including its “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to each other in one of its notorious Iraqi prisons.
In other words, The Donald has rich material to draw upon when it comes to what’s distasteful these days in American life and in the country’s militarized global reach. I mention this only to put you in the mood for the remarkable journey you’ll be taking at TomDispatch today: a piece adapted from Arlie Hochschild’s riveting, soon-to-be-published new book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. It transports you directly into a world where Trump rings far truer, far oftener than in ours, a world where, as John Feffer has recently written, there is a yearning for “simpler solutions… a fundamentalist message that appeals to British nationalists, Trumpian exceptionalists, and Islamic State reactionaries alike.” It’s important to get inside this mindset if you really want to understand the contradictions that now power our increasingly strange American world.