Why Trump Is the Greatest American Idol

Donald Trump - Hero of Republican EstablishmentLet us salute the greatness of lazy men.

It was bound to come to this. We’ve demeaned workers and the very concept of labor long enough. Now the person who gets up, has coffee, puts in their eight, and comes home, doesn’t feel like “I did an honest day’s work.” No. They feel like a sucker.

Because the clever ones, the “winners,” are those who figured out how to make gazillions doing as little as possible.

Once upon a time, we were fascinated by con men and grifters precisely because they were weird. And weirdos are interesting! The grifter or the hustler — someone who abhorred regimented labor — was an amazing figure. Everyone would enjoy giving the finger to their boss and never filling out a time card again.

Old and New Grifters

Of course, the classic grifters are not lazy. To become a master con man takes years of practice — and probably a lot of beatings. It’s actually much harder than having a regular job. But that’s not how we view them. We see the grift as easy money.

Over the last four decades, we have seen the rise of a new kind of gift. And these new grifters are Our Heroes. Don’t think Joseph Weil. Think Gordon Gekko.

Forget the blather about soldiers and teachers and people who bring wounded abandoned puppies back to health. They’re saints. As is, we’re glad they exist, because we sure as hell don’t want to do that stuff. But they aren’t heroes.

No. A “hero” is someone we look up to — someone, at our best, we think we could be.

Greatest American Hero

And Trump is the Greatest American Hero.

He’s never done an honest day’s work in his life. Never had to. Early on, he figured out that the American lip service paid to a work ethic was quickly becoming blather. So, rather than pretend to a work ethic like his kind did in generations past, he was simply “deserving.” His schtick was, “I’m too awesome to work.”

Truly, a man ahead of his time.

Sociopathic Society

This attitude is sociopathic, of course. In a sane culture, you’d never be proud of laziness. Even if you hate a co-worker, you do what needs to be done for them. If for nothing else, you assume this creates an environment where they do the same for you.

But that was Old America. Before we learned that every human interaction must be weighed by a cost-benefit economic analysis. Before free riders — the people who don’t obey social norms, yet get away with it — became Our Heroes.

American Idols

Trump’s art form is the “reality” show, and what are those? They’re quick, easy cash for TV networks. You can spend a bundle on period decor and fabulous actors and talented writers for Mad Men. Or you can produce a bunch of cheap crap and hope something sticks.

Notice the title of late, unlamented American Idol. It was never about singing. Your local PBS station has programs about singers in your community who are unbelievably good at their craft, totally unknown, and stick with it for the joy of honing their skills and sharing this joy with others.

American Idol was about becoming an “idol.” About “winning.” Not being a “loser,” like those local musicians who are so damned good. Pride in a difficult task, well accomplished? Save that for the nerds.

The losers.

The people who haven’t “figured it out.”

Valueless Work

Trump is an idol for a nation that’s devalued workers so badly, we’re not sure helping our fellow employee (or fellow anyone) makes sense anymore. Sure, it seems right. But what does that matter? Maybe the liars and hustlers were the smart ones, all along.

I don’t believe that. I think it’s destructive madness, ultimately. But is cashing in on it currently rewarding? Yes.

Yes, it is.

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About James Fillmore

I am a spy for MI-6 who recklessly sleeps with innumerable gorgeous partners, drinks like a madman, ruins expensive company equipment, and I get away with all of this because I save the world on a consistent basis. As my cover, I am a poor person living in Minnesota.

6 thoughts on “Why Trump Is the Greatest American Idol

  1. I want to disagree in the strongest possible terms.

    But I can’t. I keep thinking of too many examples to support your side. I’d list them, but I’m too awesome to do any of the actual work involved in making such a list.

    • It’s sad. Remember when we rooted for con men in movies because they stole from even bigger crooks? Redford and Newman in “The Sting,” they weren’t defrauding a widow out of her home. They were trying to rob a mean gangster. The guys in “Ocean’s Eleven” steal from jerk casino owners. Why is Harold Hill so charming? Because he finally stops being a dishonest cheat. (If he’d gotten away with robbing the town blind, that probably would be more historically accurate for the period. But they sure wouldn’t be doing the musical at your local high school today!) When did we start idealizing the cheats who kept on cheating?

      Oh, dammit, it’s too late now, but I should have done a musical parody where Trump embodies Harold Hill. “Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with B and that means Brown Folk!”

  2. So if that is the ethos of the culture today – how did it get this way?

    I have my own ideas. But I do remember a very different culture – a more sophisticated one; and one much more refined than today.

    Yes – even Republicans were more thoughtful back then. My own view is that with the advent of Rush Limbaugh and the likes of Fox News – the way Americans saw themselves and each other changed. It did not happen overnight but it happened. And the citizenry is all the poorer for it.

    I think my explanation is not really complete. There are a multitude of other factors no doubt – but I am not so sure we could have reached this point without the above two. So how do we as a culture get a more civil aociety back?

    • I remember hearing Limbaugh for the first time in the 1990s. And it shocked me. Not his conservatism, as I knew quite a few conservatives. But his angry tone. The conservatives I knew believed Democrats were misguided, some might say foolish or naive. Limbaugh called them traitors. Not just Democratic politicians. But anyone who voted Democrat as well was actively seeking the destruction of America. Which dovetailed with the rise of fundamentalism, which believes that policies displeasing God (gay rights, abortion) would lead to Divine Vengeance.

      It’s not new. The Birchers believed much the same. But they were never as popular as modern fearmongers. I think you have to go back to the Red Scare of Wilson’s day to find anything comparable.

      I’m sure you’re right and there are many causes. One I can think of is the rise in corporate power. With increasingly fewer constraints, compared will treat people badly. Most workers are routinely belittled and dehumanized (as they were in the WWI era). Customers are often cheated. It creates a great deal of ugliness. Some people react to shoddy treatment by mistreating others, or idolizing those who do.

      For too long we’ve swallowed whole the notion that wealth and power connote intelligence. And forgotten that how someone gained it makes a difference. If Frank invents the greatest screwdriver ever, and makes money, that’s terrific. That benefits everybody using the screwdriver. If he runs a health insurance company and makes millions by denying people needed care, he’s a moral monster.

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