In a move that further roiled an already-jittery stock market, President Trump announced substantial tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, supposedly in the name of national security. The assertion is risible, but it makes for great theater for the protectionists and nativists that make up the core of Trump’s support. It may also actually be useful election-year politics, its damage to the economy aside. Indeed, unions across the country engaged in quite the collectiv(ist) smile at the announcement.

The phrase “culture of victimhood” is generally and derisively aimed at the Left, but in Trump, the Right has found its own champion of victims. Tariffs and trade wars are big bully government stepping up to defend some Americans who claim they can’t compete with foreign producers, no matter that many other Americans suffer higher prices as a result. Abandonment and renegotiation of free trade agreements follows the same sort of logic – the existing deals are unfair and the other guys are doing too well. Again, no matter that consumers’ pockets will be hit.

Trump’s immigration ideas are also rooted in victimhood. Illegal immigrants are supposedly, whether by violence, job theft, or simple freeloading, victimizing good, honest Americans. And, given that Trump wants to substantially curtail total immigration numbers, the presumption that Americans are being victimized by foreigners landing on our shores extends to legal immigrants as well, no matter the Right’s veneer of insistence on differentiating legal from illegal.

Culturally, victimhood has been enormously successful for the Left, and that has made it seem as if the victim card is solely the Left’s province. However, in most cases where people demand government “do something,” there is a presumption of victimhood at its core, no matter the political leanings. The white supremacists of the hard-right and the anti-capitalists of the hard-left both scream “we are victims!”

Trump often seems to have no ideological tether, but that’s because we compare his behavior to traditional ideologies. If we set those aside, and instead attempt to establish a definition of “Trumpism,” we easily find a passel of victim cards in his play deck.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


Like this post?