Die-Hard Trump Supporters want to *be* Trump

by Juan Cole Juan R. I. Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, March, 2009) and he also recently authored Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) and many other works. He has translated works of Lebanese-American author Kahlil Gibran. He has been a regular guest on PBS's Lehrer News Hour, and has also appeared on ABC Nightly News, Nightline, the Today Show, Charlie Rose, Anderson Cooper 360, Rachel Maddow, the Colbert Report, Democracy Now! and many others. He has given many radio and press interviews. He has written widely about Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and South Asia. He has commented extensively on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Iraq War, the politics of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Iranian domestic struggles, the Arab Spring and its aftermath, and foreign affairs. He has a regular column at Salon.com. He continues to study and write about contemporary Islamic movements, whether mainstream or radical, whether Sunni and Salafi or Shi`ite. Cole commands Arabic, Persian and Urdu and reads some Turkish, knows both Middle Eastern and South Asian Islam. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years, and continues to travel widely there. 14.10.2016

Back in the 1960s when the James Bond craze hit the US and even President Jack Kennedy revealed that he liked Ian Fleming’s thrillers, I remember reading an interesting essay on the reason for the character’s popularity.

After all, James Bond is not in fact very likeable. The books are horribly misogynist. Bond is a grim bureaucrat who has no life apart from his grisly work. Even his occasional forays into glamour or trips abroad are actually work. He is a licensed serial killer. In the films, he has had 52 lovers, 2/3s of whom tried to kill him.

Why in the world, the essayist wondered, would people want to spend time reading about this character or watching him on screen.

The perspicacious conclusion was that people (probably meaning men for the most part; it was the ’60s) did not want to be friends with James Bond. They wanted to be James Bond.

And after all that is often the role of a celebrity, to create a persona for others to imitate (i.e. to engage in cosplay).

Donald Trump is no James Bond, lacking the latter’s courage or patriotism; and although Bond was horrible to women he wasn’t as bad or as vulgar as Trump.

But I nevertheless think that the men who back Trump no matter what are doing so because the celebrity real estate speculator and name-licenser provides them with an opportunity for ego inflation. By backing Trump , they are participating vicariously in the wealthy businessman’s persona. They can imagine themselves in the stretch limousine, they can imagine themselves putting China’s Xi Jinping in his place, they imagine never again paying taxes, they can imagine themselves having cocktails with models in the penthouse, perhaps the most despicable of them wish they could assault women with impunity.

Although among general voters nearly as many want Trump to withdraw as want him to stay in the race. But among the Republican rank and file, 77% say they want him to stay in the race.

They can’t possibly want to go for a beer with Trump. They can’t possibly find him likeable. They are engaged in cosplay. They want to *be* Trump. The men, especially, aren’t bothered by the video in which Trump speaks vulgarly of women and talks about kissing and fondling them without their permission. In a very dangerous way, Trump is modeling for them what white male privilege means to him.

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