Trump Takes the Politics of Resentment to the Global Stage

Jeffrey Goldberg went in search of the “Trump Doctrine” on foreign affairs. Here is the description that struck him as the best distillation:

I was talking to this person several weeks ago, and I said, by way of introduction, that I thought it might perhaps be too early to discern a definitive Trump Doctrine.

“No,” the official said. “There’s definitely a Trump Doctrine.”

“What is it?” I asked. Here is the answer I received:

“The Trump Doctrine is ‘We’re America, Bitch.’ That’s the Trump Doctrine.”

It struck me almost immediately that this was the most acute, and attitudinally honest, description of the manner in which members of Trump’s team, and Trump himself, understand their role in the world…

“We’re America, Bitch” is not only a characterologically accurate collective self-appraisal—the gangster fronting, the casual misogyny, the insupportable confidence—but it is also perfectly Rorschachian. To Trump’s followers, “We’re America, Bitch” could be understood as a middle finger directed at a cold and unfair world, one that no longer respects American power and privilege.

What Goldberg just did is provide a perfect example of the politics of resentment, which is what attracted Trump supporters to him in the first place. Josh Marshall explained it this way:

People continue to marvel how a city-bred, godless libertine who was born to great wealth could become and remain the political avatar of small town and rural voters of middling means. The answer is simple. Despite all their differences, Trump meets his voters in a common perception (real or not) of being shunned, ignored and disrespected by ‘elites’. In short, his politics and his connection with his core voters is based on grievance. This is a profound and enduring connection.

The president and his supporters aren’t just raising their middle finger to American “elites,” they’re doing it to pretty much the entire globe. Jay Bookman described the politics of resentment as “a bone-deep cultural resentment that probably does not originate in politics, but that finds its outlet and expression in politics.” Another person Goldberg talked to described the Trump Doctrine this way:

“People criticize [Trump] for being opposed to everything Obama did, but we’re justified in canceling out his policies,” one friend of Trump’s told me. This friend described the Trump Doctrine in the simplest way possible. “There’s the Obama Doctrine, and the ‘Fuck Obama’ Doctrine,” he said. “We’re the ‘Fuck Obama’ Doctrine.”

There is a bone-deep resentment that Donald Trump shares with his supporters and Barack Obama symbolizes everything they resent: a well-educated successful black man with the middle name “Hussein” who held the most powerful office in the world. As Andrew Breitbart famously said, “politics is downstream from culture.” That is the origin of the resentment that is finding it’s expression not just in domestic politics, but in foreign policy as well. These folks are giving a giant middle finger to the whole world and don’t give a shit about the consequences.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .