French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan wrote that, “A madman isn't just a beggar who thinks he's a king - he's also a king who thinks he's a king.” His point being that anyone who has bought into our artificially created social structures enough to believe that their birth or social standing makes them a king is living the illusion the beggar is trying to create. We enter into the world blank canvases that society paints on. None of us chose our first language, our parents, the economic circumstances we were born into, or the inherent biases and privileges associated with our gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. We all got here the same way, but societal hierarchies guarantee us different paths to death. Being born to a single mother in the Appalachian Mountains doesn’t necessarily mean one can’t attain a place among the “elite” of society, but that path is markedly different from someone born in Manhattan to a corporate lawyer and an investment banker.
When Jacques Lacan died in 1981 Donald Trump was a 35 years old real-estate developer getting his first taste of fame. 35 years is a long time to experience anything. Someone subjected to verbal and physical abuse daily for 35 years would have a different outlook on life than someone who has spent the last four decades on the VIP list. Donald Trump is a manifestation of the king who believes himself to be a king. He has spent so much time surrounded by people who have a vested interest in making him feel special that he has an altered view of himself and the world around him. When he makes grandiose statements about being the “smartest” or having the “best temperament” he believes it. Being surrounded by “Stans” for so long has convinced him that not only is he qualified to be president, but that he deserves to be the president.
If you look at pictures of the wealthiest Americans some of those faces might be familiar to you because of the media coverage they’ve received over the course of their lives, but there are a lot of faces that won’t be easily recognized by a large portion of our society. These fortunate people still have anonymity. Yes, they get the best tables at the hottest restaurants, but when they go out- more often than not- they are treated like everyone else. They can fully participate in the hospitality industry at all levels, but they have to pay for the VIP experience. This matters because they aren’t fully isolated from the American experience. Michael Jordan is nowhere near the wealthiest American, but he can’t go to the mall without a security detail; whereas, Steve Schwarzman can put on an old ball cap, a Yale sweatshirt, some faded Levi’s and buy the mall without being noticed.
Donald Trump is, in a warped way, a victim of the way our society idolizes wealth and fame; he, like the Affluenza twins Ethan Couch and Brock Turner exist in a society that places a disproportionately high value on their lives. Donald Trump like many advantaged kids of his generation avoided Vietnam because their lives were deemed more valuable. While his strongest base of supporters (white males over 60) were dealing with the existential crisis associated with being drafted or fighting in Vietnam he, George Bush, Mitt Romney, Dick Cheney, and a slew of conservative icons were partying in frat houses and “summering” in some of the most exclusive enclaves in the world.
America is attempting to come to grips with the reality that the entitlement culture we hear conservatives talk about actually works better for those who are connected. This election is taking place at a moment when working class whites, across the political spectrum, are looking for someone to champion their causes. Donald Trump has filled that void for many, but sadly he hasn’t demonstrated the actionable intelligence to understand or remedy what ails them. We live in a country that weaponizes black and brown skin while it ignores white skin attached to poverty. The socioeconomic strife many Americans call home is fertile soil for the rise of a Trump like figure. Donald Trump is the answer (for some) to Black Lives Matter. Bernie Sanders tried to be a voice for the economically disadvantaged, but he lacked the sufficient amount of demonization of the cultural other for his message to resonate with voters who feel their lot in life has been made worse by Blacks, Mexicans, and Muslims.
Donald Trump is the king who thinks he’s a king, but (at some level) we are guilty of crowning him. America has done a poor job of acknowledging the class structures that allowed an empty suit to get this far saying so little. Donald Trump’s current political standing says more about us than him. Too many Americans are looking for easy answers to complicated questions. This election has been part reality show, part bad joke, and part eye opening experience. This time last year we were all waiting for the serious season to start and guess what: we're still waiting.