One of the curious features of the MAGA Freak Show is that it constantly looks to rich white cowards who know nothing of personal suffering or sacrifice as their saviors/gurus/guides/messianic leaders: Trump, Limbaugh, this gormless dweeb. People who have achieved nothing but hurting others. And, where possible, the cult seems to favor those who literally had everything handed to them without working a day in their lives, like Trump and Carlson. I tend to think it’s because the Cult fantasizes about being like them, but what is essential, whether or not that fantasy is fulfilled (and it won’t be) is the promise of the Savior to his cult to be Like You So That I Can Save You from Them. And by “Them” of course is always meant the Brown and Poor the Cult hate and identify as the problem because they are too stupid to see that they themselves are the problem.
The identification of the rich robber baron as the populist hero is a unique American spin on Robin Hood, which is itself a mythical reworking of Jesus Christ. Jesus, though he was rich, for our sake became poor so that we, through his poverty, might become rich (2 Cor 8:9). He empties himself so that we might be filled, becomes man that we might, as Athanasius says, become God. Similarly, Robin of Locksley is a noble, but he is willing to assume a life of poverty for the sake of the poor.
But in the American version, played out in real life with the likes of Trump, Carlson, and the other thieving populists of the MAGA/FOX industrial complex, the rich of the MAGA cult would not dream of such a thing. They steal from the poor and give to themselves. They sit on literal gold thrones and claim a commonality with the Common Man while they fleece him blind and tell him to fear the brown man, woman, and child. And the poor whites who worship them are fine with it, because they promise to punish those browner and poorer than themselves. As LBJ said:
“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
The mythology even penetrates our superheroes. It’s what ties Batman and Ironman together: the belief that you can serve God (or at least Justice) and mammon, apparently on the theory that “The rich cannot be bribed” or some such thing. But of course, as Chesterton observed, “The rich man has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man.”
Steinbeck observed back in the 30s that Americans tend to labor under the notion that, when they are struggling financially, they are not poor but are instead temporarily embarrassed millionaires. It is a mark of the American character to live by such optimism. But it is also a deep mark of American character–particularly of white America–to let rich people tell poor whites that their troubles will be over if they take their rage at their poverty and exploitation out on those weaker than themselves and not on the rich who exploit them. It’s worked for 400 years. Tucker Carlson is just the latest practitioner. And a third of the electorate gives absolutely no sign of having learned a damn thing, which is why it is important that the rest of us do not let down our guard and imagine the infection has done anything but go into remission. We must keep working to extirpate this vile cult in 2022, 2024, 2026 and beyond until it is destroyed. Supposing it died with the end of the Trump Administration is like taking your first penicillin pill for a staph infection and then throwing the rest of your meds away. Ignore it and it will roar back stronger than ever.
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” (Matthew 12:43-45)