The more I reflect on the past four years of Donald Trump’s tenure in office, the more I see it in terms of Plato’s famous allegory of the caves.
Inmates of the cave are chained hand and foot, facing a blank wall, and can only view shadows that their keepers produce for them, like a magic show. The shadows are the prisoners’ reality, but not accurate representations of the real world.
This is what Trump has been doing to his base for the past four years. They don’t see reality, only the version of reality that Trump and his shills want them to see. Alternative facts, misrepresentations, half-truths, and outright lies.
According to an entry found at Wikipedia: “Plato then supposes that one prisoner is freed. This prisoner would look around and see the fire [used to create the shadows]. The light would hurt his eyes and make it difficult for him to see the objects casting the shadows. If he were told that what he is seeing is real instead of the other version of reality he sees on the wall, he would not believe it. In his pain, Plato continues, the freed prisoner would turn away and run back to what he is accustomed to (that is, the shadows of the carried objects). He writes "... it would hurt his eyes, and he would escape by turning away to the things which he was able to look at, and these he would believe to be clearer than what was being shown to him.”
And that is exactly how Trump’s base reacts to the presentation of real facts and solid evidence. Aping their ape leader, they call it “fake news,” or a “hoax,” or “liberal propaganda.” Unfortunately, some of it is, but miniscule compared to Trump’s thousands of lies and spreading of vitriol about anyone he considers an obstacle or an enemy, defined as someone who isn’t “very nice” to him, or says “bad” things about him.
Jon Meacham asked a very salient question on the “Morning Joe” show airing September 14: “Why is this working?” That is, why does Trump still have 40 percent after all his missteps and failures of the past four years?
The answer, I believe, is that Trump has tapped into something low-minded, narrow and nasty in the American psyche, harnessed it, and is riding it like a rodeo cowboy. Meacham said it remains a “live chance” that Trump will succeed in November, and that anyone who dismisses the possibility is deluded. I agree. It is time for the cowboy to hit the deck, and the Dems had better turn up the heat or else it will be a very cold, dark winter.
Bill Huey is president of Strategic Communications, a corporate communications and marketing consultancy. He is the author of two novels and a new one-act play, “The Tiger of the Flesh.”