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The Age of Disgust

The most novel explanation for the apparent popularity of Donald Trump that we’ve come across thus far is posted over at The New Republic, where they think it has something to do with “disgust sensitivity.”
Drawing on a 2012 study by a group of European and American academics, the author claims that people who are more disgusted by things ranging from drinking from the same cup as someone else to maggots, vomit, and dirty toilets to corpses, blood, and “anything that evokes our animal nature” are more likely to have anti-immigrant attitudes and “tolerate income inequality, view homosexuality negatively, and place more belief in authoritarian leaders and systems.” Trump wrote in his book “Art of the Deal” that he is a compulsive hand-washer, told a “Dateline” interviewer in 1999 that he considers hand-shaking a “barbaric” ritual, he reportedly won’t push elevator buttons, and the article has a long list of things that Trump has said he was disgusted about, including Hillary Clinton’s bathroom breaks and Marco Rubio’s sweat and anybody’s breast milk pump, so the author concludes that Trump’s supporters are simply similarly squeamish types.
We freely admit that we don’t have a better explanation for the apparent popularity of Trump, but The New Republic’s conjecture strikes us as far-fetched. That 2012 study, titled “Disgust Sensitivity, Political Conservatism, and Voting,” is just another one of those occasional attempts by academic liberals to diagnose conservatism as a mental disease rather than go through the more difficult task of rebutting its arguments and evidence. The bias is obvious from the academics’ claim that “liberals tend to heavily skew their moral matrix towards protecting people from harm and promoting fairness,” even if their policies do more harm than good to people and involve a self-aggrandizing notion of what’s fair, as well as their notion that conservatives “construct (their moral matrix) from a five pillar approach that includes authority, in-group loyalty, and purity — in other words, ideas of what is and is not disgusting,” even if modern conservatism is committed to limited government and personal liberty, insists on individualism and rejects the identity politics of the left, and has notions of what is and is not disgusting that were largely unchallenged anywhere in the world until recently.
Nor does one need to be easily revulsed by life’s less pleasant sights and odors to have qualms about the unprecedented levels of legal and illegal immigration that the country has accepted over the past decades. We’ve shared whisky with grizzled truckers on hitchhiking expeditions with just a sleeve wipe of the bottle, in our college days we were once gallant enough to hold a young lady’s hair back while she vomited, we’ve never once complained about the men’s room at Kirby’s Beer Store, we observe the “Seinfeld” show’s five-second rule regarding dropped food, and we’ve even sat through most of a John Waters film festival, yet we can still see a reason why countries enforce their borders. One can even make a case that with immigrants coming at a faster rate than jobs are being created there is a liberal argument to be made about protecting people from harm and promoting fairness, and we note that Democratic candidate and self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is making that argument, but so far The New Republic has left us wondering how many of his supporters are reluctant to use a public toilet.
Many of Trump’s followers are clearly yearning for authoritarian leadership, they do include some people who evince a certain in-group loyalty, his blunt expressions of disgust seem to be playing very well, and we suppose that at least some of his fans share his hypersensitivity to germs, but we think there’s more to it than that. The public’s anxiety about unfettered immigration from the most trouble parts of the world is not irrational, and is by no means a uniquely American phenomenon, and the effort by indifferent elites to impose their self-interested views on the hoi polloi is disgusting. That so many people are willing to trade one authoritarian leader for another, and are more committed to that certain in-group loyalty than to the principles of liberty and individualism, and express their understandable disgust in the most disgusting ways, is merely unsettling.

— Bud Norman

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One response

  1. I’m not persuaded that The Donald is ‘authoritarian,” although he has been accused of being a Nazi even before he is elected. I can practically guarantee he won’t invade Poland or send Jews to gas chambers. But on a serious note, Barack Obama has introduced us to an authoritarian style of Presidential government and that’s something that’s gonna be hard for his successor to undo … unless that successor is a Republican and white. In which case the press and Democrats will be howling for Presidential blood.

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