“This constitutes the polemics of a lazy polemicist. It’s easy to attack a politician with an apparent following with clever and brutal language designed to thrust the politician and his followers into a netherworld of evil and disrepute, unworthy of any serious analytical regard. It’s easy to hoist the hoary Nazi analogy as a definitive definitional stamp, not admitting of rebuttal or any kind of interpretative parsing.
What isn’t so easy is attempting to determine just why such a political phenomenon as the Trump poll numbers might emerge in the American polity at such a time as this. When a crude, pugilistic politician emerges in the country, it shouldn’t be dismissed as simply an evil sump of outlandish political sentiment that threatens the very foundation of our democracy. Far better—and more productive—would be to seek to understand the origin of the Trump emergence, such as it is. After all, railing against it won’t neutralize it; it will have to be either absorbed into mainstream political thinking in some way or rebutted effectively through the normal channels of American discourse.
An attempt to understand the phenomenon might begin with a sentence in Egan’s own column that resides in a paragraph in which the writer seeks to describe the Trump constituency. Conceding that these people don’t see “the shadow of the Reich when they look in the mirror,” he then portrays them as white, lower-middle-class, with little education beyond high school. Following this somewhat elitist description, he adds, “They don’t recognize their country.”
They don’t recognize their country. This carries more freight than Egan seems to perceive. In the context of his overall column, this appears to be a pejorative, a kind of explanation as to why these benighted people—without college degrees, after all—are flirting with something approaching Nazism. But, if we strip away the smugness, it actually might get to the heart of the Trump phenomenon. Egan probably could have built a meaningful column around that single insight, had he been willing to dispense with the fulmination and pursue a true analytical quest.”