Trump Kitsch

Alex M. Parker

Alex Parker is a policy writer in Washington, D.C. with 15 years of journalism experience.

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5 Responses

  1. Saul Degraw

    The second tattoo in this article (yes I know it is from the Sun but I have seen it other places) has so much head scratching kitsch that I am not sure how to process it:

    Trump is both the symbol of ‘law and order” but simultaneously given the most outlaw of signs, the facial tattoo.Report

  2. LTL FTC


    Consider as an allegory the MAGA hat: could have been done in a mall kiosk, no thought put into it at all, becomes iconic. The Hillary forward-H, with a mask for every occasion and subtle nuances in every angle.

    If politics is inevitably two rich people duking it out over the right to hold state dinners, why not have some kayfabe? Why not root for the heel?

    It’s not just a hurting, abandoned working class. It’s rich small businessmen in the exurbs. The system is tipped far in their favor, but they still think it’s rotten to the core and valuable only as entertainment.Report

  3. Rufus F.

    Somewhere I wrote about this subject, but I think it was another site. Great minds, etc.

    The main difference, as I understand it, between kitsch and camp is camp just gets the joke. Kitsch is a sort of sentimental art that fails to evoke the feelings it’s going for and probably doesn’t know it- I think of it as when we call something “kitsch,” what we’re saying is “it just doesn’t move me, man.”

    It’s also usually going for a sort of non-cognitive emotional response- it just wants to make us cry, or feel good about Mom and the Nation and whatnot. But it fails somehow in the attempt, and almost so universally that we all get it failed. Well, maybe except for mom. I think of Oscar Wilde’s line that you’d have to have a heart of stone to read about the death of little Nell and not laugh.

    Camp is kind of the same thing, but it always knows it’s ridiculous, and that makes it fun. It’s hard to tell if Trump is camping it up, but I don’t really think so- when you see the family photos of him in his gold-plated apartment, it’s pure kitsch. He thinks he’s transmitting some kind of grandeur and it’s just too much and tips over into the absurd.

    Kundera was fascinated with why so many totalitarian countries have had kitsch as their official art and I think it’s that quality of being too much- too perfect and overwhelmingly grand. It’s like so oppressively positive and perfect that you feel like you might be losing your mind- human life is not like that. You feel like you failed to get with the program. It leads to a sort of despair.

    But there are also people who really need to belong to something like that. I remember my father once saying something about politics that stuck with me. He said, “Some people just really need a church to belong to.” I think the MAGA people probably aren’t in on the joke, if there is one, and within that world, I don’t really think Trump is pulling their leg either. He likes to live in a reality where everyone loves him and they’re all just tired of winning so much. It’s understandable, therefore, why they hate the naysayers so much because they spoil the perfect dream in some way.

    Ah, okay, yes- here’s my piece on kitsch and camp and Trump. We’re definitely on the same wavelength. Cheers!

  1. March 1, 2021

    […] greatest hits — since he only really ever gives one kind of speech right down to ending with “YMCA”— touching on the wall, on his accomplishments as presidents, on the fake news media, on the […]Report

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