Donald Trump

The Toxicity of Trump's Aggrieved-Nation Shtick

The aggrieved-nation shtick has been the strongman's path to power many times in the past. We shouldn't discount it today.

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kenneth konica/flickr

The key to Donald Trump's presidential campaign—the feature that explains nearly everything else about that toxic dump—is his aggrieved-nation shtick. Just about everything Trump says (when he's not adoring himself or belittling others) is about how the once-great American nation has been humbled by the rest of the world. To hear him tell it, the United States is a 99-pound weakling who repeatedly has had sand kicked in his face by everyone. "We don't win anymore," he says. "We don't win with trade. We don't win with the military. We don't win."

Who's "eating our lunch"? Who isn't? China, Mexico, Japan, Iran, Germany, Arabs, everyone. Trump sounds like Rodney Dangerfield without the lovable side, using the royal we: We don't get no respect, I tell ya. No respect at all.

But with Trump it's not funny, I tell ya. Not funny at all. It's ominous. The aggrieved-nation shtick has been the strongman's path to power many times in the past. We shouldn't discount it today. Trump's not just tapping into a preexisting anger: he's defining that anger. You're angry? he asks in effect. Here's why you should be angry: THEM!

Trump promises to get even, to turn things around so that we eat their lunch, finally. For Trump a deal—and he is the self-proclaimed master of the art—is for the purpose of dealing someone a defeat. "I beat China all the time," he told an interviewer, referring to his private business. (In reality, trade is free cooperation for mutual benefit—a win-win endeavor.)

In Trump's view (or in his view of what others want to hear), foreigners are not the only ones who abuse America. There's also a fifth column that's stabbing "us" in the back. These are the forces of political correctness—the pansy "liberals" who aren't tough on protesters, illegal immigrants, Muslims, and lots of other Others. These appeasers are as much the enemy as those outside the country. It's a vast conspiracy aimed at real Americans to keep "our country" from being great again. And so they must all be stopped, even if it takes a little strong-arming.

Does anyone wonder why Trump rallies have a tinge of violence? The answer lies in the lust for vengeance central to Trump's aggrieved-nation shtick. If he were to rule, would we see trade wars and shooting wars?

But there's a problem. America is no 99-pound weakling. It's more like a 900-pound gorilla that won't leave the rest of the world alone. It's not the abused—it is the abuser.

America spends more on military might than the next several countries combined. It has close to a thousand military installations around the world. It has alliances that are by nature aggressive. These are not passive things. U.S. presidents of both parties have used them to wreak bloody havoc in the world, whether by subverting governments, backing tyrants, sponsoring insurgent death squads, or conducting overt military operations by air, land, and sea.

And that's just the beginning. The U.S. government has repeatedly strong-armed other governments into voting its way at the United Nations, whether on behalf of Israel and against the Palestinians, or in favor of war resolutions supported by an American president. More than once an American U.N. ambassador has told a dissenting colleague: "That's the most expensive vote you'll ever cast." Crossing the United States has consequences.

Trump rails against trade agreements as paradigm examples of the world's ability to take advantage of America. He seems oblivious that a primary aim of those agreements is to impose strict intellectual-property laws on developing economies to maintain the supremacy of American firms. Woe to any upstart group in the developing world that dares to compete. Free-trade agreements shift but do not destroy employment here and do not hollow out manufacturing, but they do protect incumbent American corporations.

For all the criticism of Trump, surprisingly little is directed at his central message. I think I know why. To focus on and debunk his aggrieved-nation shtick, you have to spotlight the U.S. record as a global military, economic, and diplomatic bully; you have to challenge the dogma that the U.S. government has been a "force for good in the world." For obvious reasons, neither wing of the war party wants to do that.

This piece originally appeared at Richman's "Free Association" blog. 

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  1. I look forward to the rational, well thought out comments in this thread.

    1. I’m sure they wil match Richman’s rational, well thought out premise in his article.

    2. Really? So you don’t have to work, ever?

  2. Wow. Sheldon goes full “Hate America First.” Can’t say I’m surprised.

  3. America: Adam Lanza.

    1. Oh .Ahem. Aaaannd…..Joooos!

      1. Juice? from what source?

        1. From the blood of innocent Palestinians to here Richman tell it.

      2. Hava-
        nah-gila-havah
        Nah-gila
        Hah-va, hey!

        Nice jerry curls…

  4. And St. Ronald’s campaign slogan was….. ?

  5. I’m voting for Trump in order to drive a very significant portion of Americans insane.

    I will add Richman to the list. And it has only just begun.

    1. “A kiss for luck and we’re on our way ….”

    2. Richman is already insane.

      1. Well, there is that.

    3. I know you…your that dumbass in high-school who fed on the attention of everyone bullying you.
      Are you still a virgin or did our society fuck that up too?
      (If u have have kids now…pls don’t respond I might shoot myself.)
      #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain

  6. I enjoyed how he took the opportunity to use Trump as a metaphor as an argument for American aggression.

  7. Richman needs to investigate what Trump was doing in 1953- it’s possible that he was involved with the CIA and crypto-Zionist plot to overthrow Mossadegh, using the cover of being a 4th grader. Note that he begged out of the Monday debate to speak at AIPAC. It all ties together; Jews all the way down.

    1. That would have made him 7 years old, and if he was able to do that at 7 then that’s the kind of guy we want. He’s even more awesome than thought of.

  8. When you say “neither wing of the war party”, which party are you referring to? The Dems have been just as apt at waging wars as the Republicans in the last three decades. I’d consider the Dems and Reps the two wings of the same war party.

    1. I’d consider the Dems and Reps the two wings of the same war party.

      I think that’s what he was driving at, but who the fuck knows for sure.

    2. Being two sides of the same coin politically, it would automatically make them the “two wings of the same war party.”

    3. Democrats have a stronger preference for wars that damage our country, and our international interests. They see war as a tool to bring America down.

    1. That website undercounts foreign interventions under Woodrow Wilson.

      I noticed that the US interventions in the Mexican Revolution weren’t included nor were US interventions in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Columbia, Panama, Honduras, etc.

      Those interventions are Smedley Butler’s claim to fame.

  9. Whew – for a moment there I thought he wouldn’t find a way to sneak “Israel” in there.

    1. It’s Sheldon, he always finds a way.

  10. Trump is jsut cooll like that.

    http://www.Anon-Net.tk

  11. I read Reason as from time to time they do get things right and this article was one of those times. It is, in fact, Donald Trump who represents the “Blame America First” crowd and for some reason his followers are eating it up. According to Trump we in America are losers and babies who can’t do anything right. We are the world’s chumps. Weak and soft we are. And the crowd cheers.

    On the other hand, Reason says, the trade agreements are doing EXACTLY what they are designed for, but they were designed by the oligarchy for the oligarchy and if they work against the interests of working people, it is by design. Same way with military spending. Reason is right that far from being weak, our military is overly strong and the middle class pays for it.

    Trump is exactly the wrong solution to the problems we face. Making the military “stronger” is simply going to cost more money. “Winning” at trade is meaningless unless we define what “victory” is. If “victory” is what benefits the middle class, raising tariffs would be a disaster, the jobs won’t come back and everything will cost much more.

    I will agree that our middle class has suffered in the economic transitions that have taken place over the last 30 or so years. The pain of some of those changes could have been minimized better but the changes themselves were inevitable. Shouting slogans, pining for an imagined past and being “tougher than the rest” are not solutions, but denial, pure and simple.

    1. Except Trump wants to spend less on the military, and use it less often, than Cruz, Rubio, Kasich and probably Clinton.

    2. Reason says, the trade agreements are doing EXACTLY what they are designed for, but they were designed by the oligarchy for the oligarchy and if they work against the interests of working people, it is by design.

      If “victory” is what benefits the middle class, raising tariffs would be a disaster, the jobs won’t come back and everything will cost much more.

      You see how you lost the plot between “by the oligarchy for the oligarchy” and “If “victory” is what benefits the middle class”?

      If you grant that the current deals are in the interests of the oligarchy, there should be deals out there that are better for the middle class than the current deals.

  12. As Yoda would say: “Much butthurt I sense in you. Cry like a bitch you should.”

  13. To focus on and debunk his aggrieved-nation shtick, you have to spotlight the U.S. record as a global military, economic, and diplomatic bully

    Not necessarily. I think most people are at least somewhat aware that we’re still the world’s most powerful nation militarily. Also, although we’ve slid down the world freedom index, I think most people are also at least dimly aware of the fact that, in order to “make ‘Merica great again” the solution is to climb back up the world freedom rankings, not build walls and increase tariffs.

    Of course, the challenge will be getting anyone to hear such a message over the media’s 24/7 obsession with all things Trump. Unfortunately, no one’s going to be able to make such a pitch stick over the noise of the Trumptardation. So we’re fucked: stuck with either the Cankle Queen or the loudmouth asshole.

    1. “I think most people are at least somewhat aware that we’re still the world’s most powerful nation militarily. ”

      Nobody who has been following the news would put much stock in that. Afghanistan is America’s longest running war. America’s enemy, the Taleban, is winning. It has no navy, it has no airforce, no nuclear capacity. It is a militia which spends half the year not fighting but herding goats in the mountains. And it is winning.

    2. We’re a lot freer if we secure our borders. Letting millions of uneducated indigents swarm uncontrolled through our southern border isn’t doing anyone any favors. We manage to control the flow of those flapping-headed beady-eyed fuckers to the north of us. We can do it with our southern border as well.

  14. I blame the Leftists protesting his speeches.

  15. We are “strong militarily” in that we invest (over invest) as a means to gin up the economy. It’s the military industrial complex. But what do we use it for? Are we the policeman of the world, diving into centuries old tribal hatreds and making an enemy where we didn’t have one before? Handing out foreign aid and staffing “mercy missions” – effectively an EMT for the second and third world? A glorified welfare system to give the least skilled people a “vocation”, and pension them out at half pay after twenty years? And when things do get “hot”, it’s only half measures that just stir up the wasp’s nest and makes the wasps even madder and more radicalized.

    We don’t use the military to protect this country. The military is just another department of the USG to sluice money and resources from the peaceful and productive to parasites. Granted there is a lot of stimulus via government contracts, but we could be using that capacity to advance civilization, not for welfarism/warfarism around the world.

    In short, our military is a military that is constituted under a corpora-fascist economic system. It is used not to protect the citizens are large, it is used for surgical strikes of issues for the USG that have a short term positive effect for their interests, long term interests be damned. Otherwise, it’s simply a way to keep the bottom tier of society occupied and as a polcieman/EMT service for the rest of the world.

    1. (cont)

      Of all things, 9/11 illustrates this – nearly everyone – including myself – wanted revenge. I was certain we would have a world level war, a clearing out of West versus East, the battle between the 21st century and the 8th. And all we got was personal revenge against Saddam (who had nothing material to do with 9/11), and the vacuum is filled with ISIS and refugees etc etc, and Afghanistan (who we might have had a legitimate fight with) that is going to fall back into the hands of 8th century mentalities. We got an ersatz war that was controlled by the USG for USG and crony interests, and we are not one iota safer today than we were fifteen years ago, if not worse off. THAT is what blowback means, for those who don’t get it, If we’re going to have a military, and we’re going to war, THEN LET’S MAKE SURE IT ACCOMPLISHES SOMETHING. Otherwise it’s simply another empty USG program that gives reason to take more money out of people’s wallets. It’s just more boondogglery of the NOAA and NASA and FEMA and FDA and DOE etc etc etc. A fixed branch of the Apparatus, scloretic and useless.

      1. “Otherwise it’s simply another empty USG program that gives reason to take more money out of people’s wallets.”

        Every dollar that is taken from someone’s wallet is put into the wallet of another. Those on the receiving end are among the most powerful and influential.

  16. “there’s a problem. America is no 99-pound weakling. It’s more like a 900-pound gorilla that won’t leave the rest of the world alone. It’s not the abused?it is the abuser.

    America spends more on military might than the next several countries combined. It has close to a thousand military installations around the world. It has alliances that are by nature aggressive. These are not passive things. U.S. presidents of both parties have used them to wreak bloody havoc in the world, whether by subverting governments, backing tyrants, sponsoring insurgent death squads, or conducting overt military operations by air, land, and sea.”

    Sheldon, commenters here think you’re an anti-Semitic nutcase. I think you’ve got it painfully and shockingly correct. Still, maintaining a nuclear weapons stockpile that could kill billions of people in the space of an hour and killing a million people in Syria and Iraq aren’t as important as how much you want to tax internet billionaires. That’s what is really important– and, oh yeah, how many bullets you can load your gun with. Forgot about that one. Sorry.

    1. I believe “Thou Shalt not murder”.

      Unfortunately for you socialists, I also believe “Thou Shalt not covet” and “Thou Shalt not steal”.

      1. Socialism is the philosophy of envy, and theft after all.

    2. Of course you think he’s right. You’re a fucking disgraceful deadbeat traitor.

      1. Mah gunzzzz….
        Theyz comin’ fer mah gunzzzzz…..

  17. Everywhere you have Trumps name you can insert Hillary or Sanders and at first I actually thought you were talking about Obama’s 2008 campaign. So why single out Trump, be inclusive with your hatred or reveal yourself for the statist party hack Reason has become.

    1. I’m sure Sheldon is going to be a booster to one of the democrat candidates. So he can’t be calling them out.

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  19. I heard that Trump wants to ban all shredded cheese…



    … to make Americans grate again.

    1. Lazy socialist bastards want cheese that is already grated or sliced.

  20. The U.S. government has repeatedly strong-armed other governments into voting its way at the United Nations, whether on behalf of Israel and against the Palestinians,

    Sheldon just couldn’t resist talking about evil Jooooooooooos!

    1. To be fair to Sheldon, I think there was no mention of Da Joos for his last three articles. I was shocked. Confused. Frightened. Surely, it was a sign of the Apocalypse.

      Nice to see the Universe has righted itself.

  21. I agree with most of what is said in this article. The only area that I might differ slightly on is the reference to “pansy liberals”. It’s certainly possible that Trump, and some of his supporters, view the liberals as “pansies”. However, there may also be a significant contingent of Trump supporters (and others) who see the political correctness coming from “militant liberals”. One could argue that it is the militant liberals who are shutting down free speech on college campuses, and were most likely a significant factor in shutting down Trump’s rally in Chicago. That doesn’t necessarily justify name calling, or counter free speech limiting efforts on the part of Trump supporters. But it may help to explain at least some of their anger.

    1. “But it may help to explain at least some of their anger.”

      Do you really think that Trump supporters know or care about what happens in liberal arts colleges? That’s Reason’s bag. Their editors follow the issue with an attention to detail that is breath taking.

      1. They may not be tuned in to “liberal arts” colleges, per se. But since this appears to be prevalent at most colleges, maybe they are somewhat aware. But it goes well beyond colleges. Have you talked to any teachers lately? You know, the people who spend almost as much time with our kids as we do? Did you catch the Oscars, or do you ever watch any late night talk shows? I certainly get the feeling that it is presumed that we are all in agreement with most liberal ideologies. Very much like the 1950s. Except then, it was conservative ideologies that everyone was supposed to accept. Actors got black listed for being supposed communists (which would probably be OK with most Trump supporters!), now they get black listed for being a conservative (which is just fine with the Bernie/Hillary crowd). Neither is appealing to me.

        1. I know a lot of ink is spilled portraying Trump supporters as cultural warriors, with strong opinions on what’s on TV or what’s happening on the campus, but I’m not convinced. We have a fairly straightforward explanation for Trump’s success: it’s bread and butter economic issues, free-movement of people, free movement of goods. Trump uniquely among the Republicans opposes both. As for your cultural issues, Trump, a New Yorker, is probably a lot closer to your typical campus activist than his Republican rivals.

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  23. The dollar pretty much manhandles any other currency these days.

    And stop blaming Trump for everything that stupid voters do. He’s not Lucifer. It’s already been established that Ted Cruz is Lucifer.

  24. I’m pretty sure aggrieved SJW’s have been around a lot longer than Trump’s campaign.

  25. “The key to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign…”

    The key is people are actually living in this economy and are fed up. That includes blue collar workers both democrat and republican as well as independents.

  26. Look at your own link hollowing out manufacturing. You can’t Just use a dollar amount. If one is made for one dollar today and one is made for two dollars tomorrow employment went nowhere but you pretty chart looks mighty good. You have to out up something else like units of production alongside the dollar chart. Lots of those dollars came with foreign subassemblies or other input factors. This is a trick.
    I also note you told is we are angry but don’t really tell us why we are wrong to be angry. All you did did was warn us about the bogeyman who could exploit that. Well, here’s a hint. Don’t give us so many dad burned reasons to be angry and your fears are allayed.
    You have yourself all worked up about trade wars and shooting wars. Now that you’re awake, someone, me I guess, should tell you we’ve been in a shooting war since 9/11/2001. Shocking, I’m sure. Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Libya all have new governments because of it and they’re all gonna get us, they say. Well, that just pisses me off. I do wish I were the mellow, give a shit guy you seem to be.
    Trade wars have been going on since the Federal Reserve Board plugged in the printer. It’s gotten real ugly now that everybody learned its like Monoploy money. Hey, even us yokels who finally figured out its a sneaky, legal way to rob us.
    2016 looks like a year of reckoning. It won’t go too bad or too long if you let the anger vent. Cap that anger and, if I were you, I’d get out of Dodge cause she’s a gonna blow!

  27. There’s also a fifth column that’s stabbing “us” in the back. These are the forces of political correctness?the pansy “liberals” who aren’t tough on protesters, illegal immigrants, Muslims, and lots of other Others. These appeasers are as much the enemy as those outside the country.

    The Progressive Theocracy *is* the enemy. They are the totalitarians. They use immigration to disempower the local population, lowering wages, increasing crime, and importing votes.

  28. He seems oblivious that a primary aim of those agreements is to impose strict intellectual-property laws on developing economies to maintain the supremacy of American firms.

    And *who* in America benefits from that? Guys who dig ditches for a living? Or the owners and controllers of media?

    Hmmm, is there any particular political persuasion of the owners and controllers of media?

    1. “And *who* in America benefits from that?”

      Other than Jews and Liberals? The pharmaceutical firms.

      1. Note that The Donald actually is taking a whack at the pharmaceutical firms, in favor American consumers, with his drug reimportation plan, and federal drug purchasing program.

  29. “Trump is Hitler. Really.”

    Um. No.

    It’s particularly amusing coming from the guy who routinely has a hard time stopping himself from getting in digs at Da Joos for not wanting to be exterminated.

  30. It’s more like a 900-pound gorilla that won’t leave the rest of the world alone. It’s not the abused?it is the abuser.

    Abusing whom? The proto-fascist and socialist Europeans? The French government that conducts massive industrial espionage on the Americans, or the German government that massively subsidizes its supposedly independent corporations and hates free speech? The totalitarian Russians and Chinese? The world is a nasty place filled with nasty, hostile countries.

    I think Americans have plenty of cause to complain about US foreign policy: we aren’t getting our money’s worth. Foreign countries, however, have no moral or historical leg to stand on when complaining about US foreign policy.

    1. For our faults, we’re still better than all the foreigners.

      1. Crypto-Republican war mongoloid can always be counted on with the America First horse shit.

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  32. So, let me get this straight:
    Trump is Hitler but we are already the Third Reich.
    OK, got it.

  33. There is of course the possibility we are an aggrieved nation. The source being our own government business taxes, heavy regulation, combined with free trade. The free trade without the world’s highest business taxes and heavy regulatory burden would not be a grievance. As it is, however, it may well be. Being angry of people outside our country taking advantage of our mistakes is of course stupid.

  34. Who is this buffoon Sheldon Richman ? Dude … do you live in a sandbox in your living room with the blinds shut tight ? !
    Donald Trump is 100% correct and this author does not have a clue … very disappointed in Reason for publishing this man’s garbage

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  36. If Richman’s columns get all your Jew boners in an uproar, why do you war mongoloid America-firster, proto-Republicans bother to read him?
    Just go polish your guns.

  37. 70-year old man says 70-year-old-man-stuff. Other old people agree with him. Younger generation gets all outraged. See you there when it’s our turn.

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