Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 20, No.3, 2021
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Chris Barry
Don Dewey
Howard Richler
Gary Olson
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editors
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Jerry Prindle
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somerville
Mona Eltahawy
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

divine right



Anthony Merino, renowned independent art critic, has published over 70 reviews. He is a ceramic artist and has lectured internationally on contemporary ceramics.

It is strange the way the ignorant and inexperienced
so often and so undeservedly succeed
when the informed and the experienced fail.

Mark Twain


For the last five years Donald Trump has befuddled most Americans, and many people around the world by the cult like devotion that his followers have for him. After Marx, few nineteenth century thinkers influenced modern and post-modern sociology as much as Max Weber. His most celebrated and criticized text, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, (1904-5), tries to explain how Protestants were able to distort Christianity just enough for it to kind of support capitalism and vise versa. Weber often read, or impose -- depending on your world view, religion on political theory. His essay on “The Three Types of Legitimate Rule” Weber uses this methodology to construct his definition for a charismatic leader. A key to Weber’s understanding of charisma is a leader is believed to be extraordinary. He states.

[A] certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.

From a certain perspective, Trump has no super-human quality. The absence of one -- is in a Trump paradox the proof of that he does have one. This paradox at its core explains much of Trump’s near political invincibility.

Perhaps the most astute thing Trump ever said was on January 23, 2016 campaign stop at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa he observed "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?" This was not a declaration of intention but of his superpower status. As Tim O’Brien, the Trump biographer stated of Trump:

He also has been uniquely insulated from the consequences of his own mistakes his entire life, first by his father’s wealth that insulated him from his educational and then business mistakes; and then celebrity, which insulated him from being forgotten, even though he was a joke as a businessman at that point.

Due in equal parts his own lack of shame or regret and superhuman luck, the absence of any accountability, be it personal or financial distinguishes, is part and parcel of Trump’s mystique.

This Teflon quality extended to his political life. Trump became a demagogue by being opposite of what his country and his chosen party hold dearest. The US fetishizes self-reliance. Americans believe that everyone, everywhere is the exclusive author of their lot in life. The GOP, the political party within this culture that Trump has come to dominate has as its foundational principle -- personal accountability. Whether it be preventing rape victims’ abortions, insisting elementary school teachers need gun training or holding cancer victims to financial account for their decision to get cancer -- the GOP profoundly holds that the problem with America is too few are held accountable for their bad choices. Yet paradoxically, the person whose oeuvre denies being responsible for any of his actions -- had control of the country and still controls the Republican party. The absurdity of Trump’s ability to evade responsibility makes it easy to see how one could confuse his good luck with divine selection. Trump was always a minor celebrity. More useful as a punchline than a person, he went from a curiosity to a b-list celebrity on January 8th, 2004 when he was the first host of the NBC’s The Apprentice. At the time, the only legendary aspect of Trump was his failure. At a time when the stock market was booming, DJT stock -- was hemorrhaging.

From the beginning of his campaign, Trump broke norms. On 07/18/2015, CNN reported Ben Schreckinger speculated that “Donald Trump might finally have crossed the line,” in describing Trump’s insulting John McCain. During the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa Trump said of the war hero:

He’s not a war hero, He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.

Schreckinger was wrong. In this case, however -- Trump was simply playing to his base. McCain not only had the audacity to lose to Barack Obama but defended the man. During a debate stating that Obama was “a decent family man.” This statement vilified McCain to many in the Republican party who would become Trump’s base. On 10/25/2015, Trump mocked a Serge F. Kovaleski, a journalist with arthrogryposis. More stunning than the man who would become president after having audaciously, publically, bullied a disabled man—was the avalanche of apologists who reacted to the comment, and that the insult served galvanize his support. Each transgression -- of which there were hundreds that would have ruined a normal politician -- made people adore him more.

The most shocking example was when in July of 2016. At the Democratic convention Khizr Khan, the father of a soldier, gave a speech attacking Trump. At one point he mentioned that Trump has never sacrificed anything.
In normal American politics, you allow the grief-stricken father of a man who died for his country to get his say and try to get on with you campaign. Trump could not do this. He immediately attacked Mr. Khan. Again, a general rule of thumb -- you don’t attack the families of people who died for your country. At which point, uncharacteristically for Trump -- he had to make an appearance to explain why he was compelled to insult the Kahn’s on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

I think I have made a lot of sacrifices. I've work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I've done -- I've had tremendous success.
This triggered a variety of condemnations.

One of the most artful was by John Oliver on his program, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Oliver begins with an observation citing the sheer number of outrageous and outlandish things Trump has done in part inoculates him from damage. Like lying on a bed of nails, the weight is dispersed enough so that no single nail penetrates. But even in that circumstance -- of Trumps comments about Khan he stated:

The main takeaway from these two weeks is that incredibly, we may be on the brink of electing such a damaged, sociopathic narcissist that the simple presidential duty of comforting the families of fallen soldiers may actually be beyond his capabilities, And I genuinely didn't think that was part of the job that someone could be bad at.

Yet, while there was an immediate backlash, Trump’s comment did not land a mortal blow to his campaign.
This episode illustrates just how powerful and paradoxical Trump’s charisma had become. What most broadcasters missed was Trump’s blasphemy. In mainstream American Evangelical Christianity, God exists on a continuum between the Johnathon Edwards’s wrathful bastard who creates people only to damn them unless he selects them for the gift of grace, to your less angry Gods who just think that being gay, bi or raped condemns you to exist in eternity of fire and brimstone. The only evidence that this guy, who comes off as a rather vengeful jerk, loves humanity is that he was willing to sacrifice his only Son in for our salvation. Exactly like, Khan -- jerk or not -- his acceptance of the death of his son in defense of America reflects how much Khan loves his country. Yet Trump comes in and offers up two premises. First that he is so special and above humanity that his having to give effort to get wealth is a true sacrifice. Second, that if God wanted to show his love for humanity, he need not have done something like letting his only son die -- establishing a mall or apartment complex would be enough.

That is how absolute Trump’s supporters are captive to Trump’s charisma. He is so chosen by God -- that he can promote sacrilege and still be chosen by God. The first defense of Trump would be that I am taking him too literally and being unfair. The only counter argument is: it is what he said, literally. Perhaps a better counter argument would be the insane hypocrisy of American Evangelicals defending Trump. In 1999, one of the mainstream leaders of American Evangelicals accused Teletubby Tinky Winky as being a gay icon, because it carried a purse. Now, if a neutral gendered children’s character carrying a feminine object can equate to the LGBTQ community trying to indoctrinate children into being gay -- than Trump blaspheming can be read as blasphemy.

It is this paradox that has somehow responsible for Trump’s apparent political invincibility. Trump’s presidency can be viewed as ever escalating series of outrages. On May 9, 2017 he fired F.B.I. Director James Comey for not short circuiting an investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 campaign. In addition, Trump governed over the longest shutdown in US history. That was followed by a series of salacious scandals: paying off Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress with whom he had a brief affair; there were several allegations of rape. As each outrage got worse and more unforgivable, it reinforced in Trump’s supporters that he was elected not just by the people but by the almighty God himself.




Email (optional)
Author or Title

Thank you very much for the insight. Even Benjamin can be wrong sometimes.








































































































Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
ISSN 1718-2034


Help Haiti
Film Ratings at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
2016 Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 05-16st, (514) 844-2172
Lynda Renée: Chroniques Québécois - Blog
Montreal World Film Festival
Montreal Guitar Show July 2-4th (Sylvain Luc etc.). border=
Photo by David Lieber:
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis