His vision is Reaganism with a side order of Jetsons
BY Mary Harrington
One of my informal metrics for political cut-through in our synapse-frazzled age is “could you play this sentence over a bass drop and have the crowd go wild?”.
The last time a British politician managed this was early in 2020, when Kritikal Mass remixed Boris Johnson. And while obviously this metric doesn’t tell you anything very scientific about policy, or even a speaker’s relationship to truth or sanity, the fact that it’s impossible to imagine either Keir Starmer or Rishi Sunak saying anything you could sample tells you something about their political style.
I’m being a bit frivolous, but it’s a serious point. Though there are plenty of situations where what’s needed from politicos is competence, today the “Share” button can propel a new mood at warp speed through millions, in minutes. Sometimes, what matters in politics isn’t policy (or even making sense) but the knack that makes a good DJ: the power to channel a vibe.
On that metric, however dubious his track record is of actually delivering, Donald Trump is box office. Love him or hate him, it’s hard to think of another politician who has contributed so bigly to internet memes — or, relatedly, shown such eerie ability to tap into undeclared layers of collective longing.
And for that reason alone, Trump’s latest campaign video deserves attention, even among those not directly affected by American electoral politics. For where his 2016 campaign led on nostalgia (“Make America Great Again”) and a sense of being under siege (“Build The Wall”), now we find the Orange Man is a sunny delight, whose vision is a futuristic one of expansion and excitement, all powered by innovation.
Under Trump, we hear, America will “reopen the frontier”, giving “hard working families” a shot at “home ownership and in fact the American Dream”. He’ll do this, he says, by building “Freedom Cities” on federal land, and turning “forgotten communities” into “hives of industry” via a “strategic national manufacturing initiative” that will make all the stuff they’re no longer going to import from China. Cars will be less expensive. Public spaces will be clean, abundant and safe. There’ll be baby bonuses, flying cars, monuments to American achievement, and new, affordable homes.
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