Election 2016

A Hater for All Seasons

nybooks.comThere was something almost mystical about the past year of Donald Trump. He was everywhere and nowhere—a distant mirage appearing to be close up but recognized as a mirage until it suddenly solidified as we bumped into it. Those people who thought he was false and flickering now find him unbudgeably close, a road block in their path or a boulder to be climbed over. How can one man can be such a shape shifter?

There was a time when homosexuality was called “the love that dare not speak its name.” Trump deals in hates that dare not speak their names—but he has found ways to give them sotto voce expression. T. S. Eliot popularized the notion of “an objective correlative”—what he described as “a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events” that becomes the “formula” that anchors what would otherwise just be fugitive emotions of fear, suspicion, and belief. Eliot was speaking in aesthetic terms, where the objective correlative was not meant to convey truths but to carry instantly felt emotions. This is a form of artistry that, translated into the realm of political speech, Trump has mastered. He partly disguises but enhances the force of a whole series of interlocking hates—black hate, Muslim hate, woman hate, and “Mexican” hate—by giving each an objective correlative.

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