“I am Batman.”
That was the bold declaration from Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump to a young child who rode in his helicopter last week at the Iowa State fair.
Outlandish as it sounds, he’s not far from the truth. Though Batman is long acknowledged as more of a traditional "superhero,“ he has an edge to him that other heroes don't — Batman is a billionaire who, dissatisfied with the way things were going in Gotham, decided to operate outside of the"establishment," and take matters into his own hands. While similar, Trump more closely exhibits characteristics of another heroic archetype — the anti-hero.
An anti-hero is someone who, while admired, is not always known for virtue or character. Often, their appeal is defined by the fact that the average person admires their unconventional qualities and wishes to live vicariously through their exploits.
Which bring us to Trump. The groundswell of support for Trump has frequently been pegged as the byproduct of anger, frustration, and disillusionment with the political establishment. And to be sure, all of these are factors. But I wonder how many of Trump’s supporters, if you were to have a conversation with them, would come across as "angry?”
To define Trump’s supporters as such is to isolate them as fringe people who cannot control their emotions. However, the political establishment appears to have overlooked another reason for Trump’s success — Trump’s supporters view him as a symbol of American prosperity.
After 10 years of economic stagnation, it’s no wonder that voters would come to admire an icon of business success who promises to shake up the establishment. Trump has built a recognizable brand, dominating business endeavors from real estate to reality television, and frequently touts his $10 billion net worth. In fact, Trump’s rise in power makes a cogent point that America is still a country that greatly admires success, despite the class warfare talking points of the GOP’s opponents.
Wages are stagnant, the labor force participation rate remains at records lows, and so far this year the economy has expanded at an abysmal rate of 1.5%. Congressman Kevin Brady (who has championed significant economic legislation such as the Centennial Monetary Commission) has noted that by the time President Obama leaves the White House, the "growth gap" between this "recovery" and previous recoveries will be $1.6 trillion. No wonder voters feel as though America needs a hero… or an anti-hero.
Trump’s qualities as an anti-hero are obvious — he doesn’t play nice, he is never politically correct, and he is bold enough to claim that he can arm wrestle Mexico into building a border fence. Realistic or not, it excites people who have felt powerless under a string of poor leadership from Washington D.C that has led to a decade of economic stagnation.
Trump’s supporters see the billionaire as someone who can restore an American dream that many view as increasingly unattainable for a myriad of reasons. With a political class that has turned a blind eye towards stagnating wages, the costs of government regulation, and the effects of ultra-loose monetary policy on the middle class, who can blame voters for putting faith in someone who personifies wealth? While Trump may not offer the right policy prescriptions for America, hopefully the GOP candidates will realize that his rise was fueled, in large part, by voters eager to restore American prosperity. If Trump’s supporters force the GOP candidates to explain how they will ignite our slow growth economy, and restore faith in the American dream, then Trump really is Batman.
Mark Elsasser is the Editor in Chief of Conservative Force.
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