You know, for a guy as demonstrably and reliably dishonest as Donald Trump is, he’s been pretty open about what kind of man he is, and what we’ll get if he wins the Presidency.
What kind of man is he? Well, yes, he’s straight (the straightest!), white (okay, he’s actually orange), and male (“There’s no problems. I guarantee it.”). But above all, before anything else, he is privileged.
It’s been said of both George Bushes, ‘He was born on third and thought he hit a triple.’ Trump was born on third and he’s mad because he’s sure he hit a home run. He must have, because everything he does, says, or thinks is awesome, and the only reason he can’t have literally everything he wants whenever he wants it is because the world is conspiring against him. Probably because everything he does, says, or thinks is awesome, and they’re jealous, or fat, or ugly, or sad!
It’s almost hard to fault him for it, because the notion he is entitled to do whatever the fuck he wants, whenever the fuck he wants, to whomever the fuck he wants has been drummed into him his whole life. It’s the air he breathes, the fabric of his space-time continuum, of which he is the absolute center around which all else revolves.
Okay, it’s not that hard to fault him.
But just as it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it, it’s damn near impossible to get a man to understand something when his privilege depends on his not understanding it.
In Donald Trump’s world, the superior capacity for organized violence and suite of homegrown superbugs Western Europeans deployed to remake the world in their image puts the straight white man at the top of the social, economic, political, and cultural food chain. The richest and most powerful of them are the world’s apex predators: God’s chosen, or the culmination of history and evolution, take your pick.
In Donald Trump’s world, that’s a good thing.
In Donald Trump’s world, it’s he who swings the biggest dick who’s the alpha. The guy whose self-confidence is grounded in what he is, not what he does. His successes hyperbolized, his failures passed off. His instinct always the jugular whether it’s business or personal, and conscience and honor be damned when it comes time to count the money.
That’s how, by the way, he got this far. How he won the Republican primary. Because he was better at looking and sounding like that swaggering, dick-swinging douchebag whose idea of Strong Leadership is to stroll into a room full of capable people and start yelling at them and then take credit for the hard work they do and the results they produce. The guy whose negotiating style is either date-rapey, just relentlessly pushing, cajoling, and gaslighting; or pugilistic, with no gloves and no rules of engagement. Either way it’s about dominance and submission, winners and losers, schlongers and those who get schlonged.
It’s a zero-sum game. A pecking order.
And if there’s one thing Donald Trump is really good at (maybe the best, maybe by far) it’s acting the part of cock of the walk. Hell, the only limitation I’m aware of him ever acknowledging is that he probably oughtn’t try dating his daughter, though it’s so shudderingly clear that he wants to that I almost threw up in my mouth just typing this sentence. He’s so sure of himself he walked onto a debate stage last night in front of a hundred million people and winged it.
Because that’s what that kind of extreme privilege lets you do. It’s the absolute, bone-deep assurance that comes from knowing that you are always right, the world is just as you say it is, and you are so inherently smart, capable, and amazing that you must succeed at whatever you put your mind to, because you are you, and you are awesome, and fuck anyone who says differently. And the worst part is, if you have enough privilege, you’re not likely to be disabused of that notion. Because consequences are always withheld. You settle out of court without admitting fault. Your dad comes through with a loan. You file bankruptcy and wash your hands of bad debt, leave your creditors high and dry.
The worst of it is that for somewhere around two-fifths of likely American voters in 2016, this is a feature, not a bug. Because straight white male privilege trickles down, and as someone who’s enjoyed his fair share and then some, I can tell you those blinders can be awfully damned comfortable. And while the vast majority of us don’t enjoy half the privilege of a Donald Trump, and have to struggle and work and be lucky to enjoy the best of it, it’s still a pretty decent hand to be dealt, however you play it.
I don’t even necessarily blame his supporters, who are, for the most part, like him: straight, white, male, older. The whole arc of history bending toward justice thing is really starting to unstack the deck*. It’s perfectly natural to freak out about that if you live in a zero-sum world that’s defined by a pecking order.
But the arc of history does bend toward justice. And it should. Because we don’t live in a zero-sum world. Or at least we don’t have to.
And you know what? There’s a good use straight white male privilege could be put to, something we can take from it as we consign it to the dustbin of history. It’s really quite simple. Just bring everyone else up to that level. Take away the pecking order and make sure everyone gets that same fair shake, the same chance to draw a good hand from an unstacked deck, and value them for what they do and not who they are.
It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the wise thing, too. Because when everyone gets the chance to fulfill their potential, we all win.
Even straight white guys.
* Yes, there’s plenty far to go, but we’re making progress, and that’s a good thing, for all of us.