Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?

First Donald Trump was deplorable: Sexist, racist, misogynist and a few other things. Crazy/Nazi. Then he was just incompetent. A that’s just on the left.

William F. BuckleyTrump’s critics on the right have focused on his loutish behavior. It disqualifies him for the presidency, according to one National Review pundit. Worse, he’s intellectually shallow. If you could be a fly on the wall of the National Review Editorial Board meetings, you can imagine hearing this: “If only he had read Did You Ever See A Dream Walking?’ by William F. Buckley, Jr.”

While the right continues to focus on Trump as an intellectual/moral manqué, the left is now trying to figure out Trump via Freudian analysis and ESP. But 33-year-old Michael Kruse has figured out that we have to take a close look at Trump’s theology. He’s on to something.

Politics is theology by different means. Always has been. Always will be. But Americans hate theology and we don’t notice it when our political ideas project our theological assumptions, which are mostly naïve and uncritical. Don’t need no Tri-ni-ty. Don’t need no salvation his-to-ry. Don’t need no A-tone-ment. Just need to know where Di-Maggio went.

Americans don’t go in for profound intellectual theories. We love dreaming dreams.

Trump’s personality and world view have been deeply influenced by Norman Vincent Peale. According to Kruse’s recent Politico article, Trump’s father was a personal friend and devoted follower of Peale and his lessons on the “Power of Positive Thinking.”  Trump inherited that devotion. Peale even officiated at Trump’s first wedding.

Do we have a duty to understand where a president is “coming from”? If so, you will get lost if you try to follow all of his conservative critics who try to trace and interpret his somewhat bouncy political allegiances in his past. The “dream a better future for yourself and for America” theology of the Rev’d Peale is the one constant.

The American experience has always included a strong dose of magic. If you dream dreams they will come true. Whether you are a New England Puritan dreaming of a religious utopia, or a hard scrabble pioneer farmer, or Martin Luther King, or, yes, even William F. Buckley, Jr., dreaming dreams and expecting them to come true is the essence of America. It’s still why half the planet wants to come here.

This explains most of what is Trump’s mystical connection with his supporters. In reaction to DACA, the response of Trump supporters is simple and clear and resounding: We have dreams too! But the Washington Swamp is robbing us of those dreams.

Trump is not an Aristotelian. He’s not a Randian. He has no ideology and this is what makes him incomprehensible to his critics on the right and the left and in the media/corporate/political complex.

He has a dream that something can happen. He focuses on it relentlessly. He repeats it to himself and others constantly. Until it comes true. This is why Scott Adams calls Trump a “Master Persuader.”

Dreams and visions don’t always square with facts. That’s why Aristotle ridiculed Plato. For his visions. If you think facts matter, read Aristotle and hate Trump. But Plato understood that it’s what moves people that counts. And facts and figures and analytical theories don’t move people. Visions do.

Remember the president that admitted not being so great at “the vision thing”? Trump is great at it. As a dreamer, as a visionary, he’s firmly within the American Tradition. It remains to be seen whether his magic contains more powerful juju than that of his enemies.

I have to add that I like Trump. And while I have to confess that from a theological and philosophical perspective I’m not big into the “dreaming dreams” definition of success, I can’t argue with the obvious takeaway: Donald Trump, far from being some political aberration, or someone who is outside of the American political and religious tradition, is profoundly situated at its center.

Owen Jones is a business owner whose first campaign was for Claude Kirk for Governor of Florida in 1966.  He’s moved slightly to the right each year since.

Comments

  1. And I always thought his loutishness was one of his most redeeming qualities.

  2. Wow!! Makes Complete Sense… ambrjak Read it again! , looks like you have blinders on your eyes…

  3. While I wish his Twitter account wasn’t so active, every day I give thanks that DT is my AND our President and he’s getting things done…
    He’d get even MORE things done if the traditional “Never Trump” wing of the Republicans would get on board…
    No DACA
    No unfettered immigration
    No unlimited H1B’s to appease the “donor class” “Chamber of Commerce” wing of the GOP…you know, the fat cat phony church goers who are cheating on their wives with their secretaries??? They suck anyways…
    DT is no saint, but he’s the best President since Ronald Reagan in MY lifetime….

  4. ANONYMO9US says

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  5. Edward Ring says

    Thank you for this. You have explained the positive aspects of Trump’s appeal better than anything I’ve yet seen. Underneath all the bombast and invective, and overshadowing the arguably demagogic signaling, Trump is an optimist and a visionary. The inability of the mainstream press to acknowledge that side of his appeal is perhaps their greatest failure. For those of us who can see that good side of Trump, it makes the media’s complete lack of balance all the more offensive.

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