Why go high?

Adam Shatz in the LRB:

In The Paranoid Style in American Politics, Richard Hofstadter wrote that the right-wing extremists who rallied behind Barry Goldwater’s 1964 race for president were

concerned more to express resentments and punish ‘traitors’, to justify a set of values and assert grandiose, militant visions, than to solve actual problems of state ... Their true victory lay not in winning the election but in capturing the party – in itself no mean achievement – which gave them an unprecedented platform from which to propagandise for a sound view of the world.

Trump, however, succeeded not only in capturing the Republican Party, but in proving that open resentment, raging against foreigners, denouncing ‘treason’ and essentially avoiding governance could be, for nearly half the population, an acceptable, even admirable, style of presidential leadership. Through his thunderous, nihilistic fury, he established an almost erotic connection with his base, which, unmoved by reason, often heedless of its own economic interests, found emotional compensation in his tributes to the ‘uneducated’ and his insults against members of Eastern seaboard ‘elites’.

Even in defeat, Trump gained nearly seven million more votes than in 2016. (Only one presidential candidate has won more votes in US history: Joe Biden.) He won in Florida by playing on fears of socialism among Cubans and Venezuelans, and even managed to pick up around 18 per cent of the vote among Black men by stoking their well-founded distrust of Democrats who have supported tough-on-crime policies (in this instance, both Biden and Harris).

Republicans appear to have held on to the Senate, and made some progress in the House, where Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia will soon become the first QAnon supporter to be elected to Congress. Trumpism and its darker manifestations are far from dead.

More here.