Skip to main content

Why Trump is Winning America

How does anybody explain the Trump Phenomenon? Most opinion pieces talk about his fear mongering, an ignorant supporter-base, the disarray in the GOP, weak opponents, or his anti-establishment persona. The fact is, Trump is a polarizing figure, but he's never going to win the presidency. Still, that doesn't explain why he's come so far.

I live in Romania. I only really hear about Trump if I want to hear about Trump. It's a blessing.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't discuss a man who's making a serious run for the world's most powerful office. But people seem to be missing the bigger picture.

Why did Trump get so big?

I don't believe the 'perfect storm' explanation. How he plays on people's fears in a precarious geopolitical situation, how he's a straight talker in a world of political correctness run amok, and how he's not in anybody's pocket. These play a role, maybe, but there's more.

If you've read more than a couple of posts on this blog, you'll know I criticize Romania and Romanian society as much as I sing its praises. When anything is particular to any one nation, it's more than likely that its citizens have something to do with it.

Trump is particular to America much like Gigi Becali is particular to Romania. In fact, there are more than a few similarities between these two jokers of modern politics. Although Trump hasn't been in jail - yet  - and doesn't own a sports franchise, they both talk to much, 'tell it like it is', have a surprising number of supporters, and seem to share a passion for gaudy home design.

But, thankfully, Romanian society is not quite like American society. This might explain why Trump is just a couple of steps from the presidency while our own Gigi is simply getting readjusted to freedom - and is mostly ignored.

A brief aside on the difference between Romanian and American (Western) society...

In June, 1978, Alexander Solzhenitsyn gave Harvard graduates  their Commencement Address. The scathing rebuttal of Western culture in his speech is, in many ways, even more relevant today, but the part I want to highlight is his criticism of the media; "the press". I've condensed it, but you should read, or listen to, the entire speech.

"The press enjoys the widest freedom...But what sort of use does it make of this freedom? What sort of responsibility does a journalist or a newspaper have to his readers, or to his history -- or to history?

The press can both simulate public opinion and miseducate it...We may witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: "Everyone is entitled to know everything." But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era. People also have the right not to know and it's a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls [stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk.] A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information...

Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the 20th century and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press. Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within the Western countries, more powerful than the legislative power, the executive, and the judiciary. And one would then like to ask: By what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible?

One gradually discovers a common trend of preferences within the Western press as a whole. It is a fashion; there are generally accepted patterns of judgment; there may be common corporate interests, the sum effect being not competition but unification. Enormous freedom exists for the press, but not for the readership because newspaper[s] mostly develop stress and emphasis to those opinions which do not too openly contradict their own and the general trend."

This 'wide freedom' to publish absolutely anything is the backbone of free speech, but thanks to the media, free speech in the Western world is only 'free' insofar as it's trendy. It negates truth and relevance in exchange for excitability and political or corporate agendas. We have to look at the Trump Phenomenon through the lens of another modern trend....

Have a look at this trailer (it starts where it needs to start): Hot Girls Wanted
You don't see it in the trailer, but her friend's reply is: "Exactly, you gotta be selfish once in your life."

Do you?

In America, this is just one small part of the modern creed: It's all about 'looking out for number one' or,  'doing you'. I mean, really? Isn't,"I gotta do me" a euphemism for masturbation? How about "Don't judge me", and the all-dismissive, "I don't care what anyone thinks"? This is nihilism at its apex. This is the point where everybody else's  thoughts and existence matter so little that the ultimate achievement has become the most ego-driven ambition of all time.

The pursuit of fame for the sake of fame.

Is it any surprise that Trump has been repeatedly labelled a narcissist? A businessman whose main business is growing the brand's name through any means necessary isn't exactly publicity shy. But it's obvious that the star of The Apprentice absolutely revels in it.

But again, let's take a step back from Trump.

In 2012, a study entitled "The Value of Fame: Preadolescent Perceptions of Popular Media and Their Relationship to Future Aspirations" (emphasis, mine) found that an aspiration to fame was the most common goal among  the 10-12 year old respondents. These kids want fame for the sake of it, just like their role models.

Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, and Farrah Abraham all skyrocketed to fame thanks to sex tapes. Is it then surprising when a small-town Illinois girl leaves home at 18 to star in pornographic films because she's, "trying to be famous"?  What about the moron whose claim to fame is getting the logos of major brands tattooed all over his body. He now delights Instagram followers with images that highlight his poor taste, like a wedding right he bought for himself. What about the cast of Jersey Shore, with a combined IQ of 80 and planet-sized egos? Or just about any YouTuber who tries to extend his 15 minutes by hiring publicists and PR people because of one viral video

Much like a potential Trump presidency, none of these people offer anything of value to the world. Not one thing. Not even actual entertainment. Because entertainment is meant to mirror reality, not the other way around.

America should be asking, "Where did we go wrong?"' not, "can Trump be president?"

America went wrong when it started replacing human values with artificial values. It used to heap its praises on people who were doing extraordinary things. Mostly. And then the dynamic shifted. People stopped paying attention to whether those things were important to begin with. Moreover, even achievements started taking a backseat so long as an individual's (extraordinary) personality continued to sell newspapers and generate ratings...and clicks. Trump himself is a case in point.

If the YouTube 'stars', the reality TV 'stars' and, and all the fame-seeking fake celebs would read this (if they did read) I know exactly what they'd say. "Don't judge me." And to that I say, "I'm not judging you. I'm judging the lies I'm being fed: That you're worth talking about, hearing about, looking at, listening to. I'm judging you as a reflection of a society that's flipped its moral compass 180 degrees."

In a nation that can no longer discern entertainment from reality, or distinguish lies from the truth, Trump isn't the problem, he's just one of the symptoms.



  1. Don't know how many readers you, get Matt, I check In from time to time to hear about life in your (old-but-new-again country). I read this when it was first posted and 7 months later, it's bang on.

    1. Shouldn't have said, "he's never going to win" but I suppose that's what I wanted to believe at the time:)
      But thanks, I also still stand by the rest of what I wrote.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

10 Reasons Why Romania is Better Than America

Really? Yes, really. Let me count the ways.

In America you can get everything you've ever dreamed of: GameBoy, Sega Genesis, plants that look like faces, and more.  Maybe if you work really hard long hours at the job you hate (but that you tell everybody you love lest you appear to be a miserable person), you can even get a flat panel home theater TV that takes up half your basement (on credit, of course). Awesomeness!!
In America you can always be sure to be on top of the latest fad, such as devil sticks or Tamagochi and you will be first to read bestsellers like The DaVinci Code and Fifty Shades of Crap literature. Basically there are thousands of ways of feeling accomplished -or pretending that you are - you just need to be there to catch all these wonderful trends on time!

I know what you're thinking, how can Romania possibly top all that considering America is also the land of Root beer floats and Antoine Dodson?

Everything's been done in America, that's why peopl…

Is Cluj The Best City On Earth?

It's a question I ask myself at times.

Let's put it this way; I've been around. Maybe not all around the world, but halway-ish maybe. Sailed the canals of Amsterdam, biked from one end of Paris to the other, took the train from Budapest to Berlin, drove the 405 in LA, and yeah, I even rode a hay cart back in the day. But other than enjoying all these forms of transportation, I got to enjoy the places I visited. I don't know about you, but when I visit a place I always ask myself,  'would I live here?' While the answer is often 'yes, why not', the only place I moved to was Cluj.

Cluj, how do I love thee, let me count the ways:

1. I love your smell. It's like earth, and air, and city. I will never forget my first day here, when I  walked out of the arrivals building at the airport and breathed in your smell. Spring. You're the city of eternal Spring. On a balmy day, it's what you smell like, even if it's December, or August.

2. I love your…

Are Romanian Women The Most Beautiful In The World?

More than once, I was asked to write about the beauty of Romanian women, but...

I have no words. Besides, I may be biased, but clearly it's a rhetorical question.

However, there is no shortage of Facebook pages dedicated to the subject.

Image: A typical Romanian woman, Madalina Ghenea.

10 More Reasons Romania is Better Than America

I get it. The US is special. I hate to say it, especially as a Canadian, but it is.

But it's mostly special because of the America that it used to be. The idea of America is special.

There was, once, an American Dream within the reach of any hard working man. It was a country that offered unprecedented freedoms and opportunities unmatched by any other. The great melting pot was about inclusion towards one common goal, it was not divisive, individualistic and driven by a Bergeron-esque vision of 'equality'. Assets were not based on decades-long lines of credit, and salaries kept up with cost of living increases. I could go on about 'the way things used to be' but you can look it all up if you're interested. If you live there, you should be.

The reality in America is different now.

Sure, it's still the land of plenty. But the plenty is not all good. Plenty of debt, plenty of poverty, plenty of obesity, plenty of civil unrest coupled with plenty of heavy-hand…

10 Things Romania Does (A Bit) Differently - Part 1

A few days ago, after walking into a grocery store, I couldn't help noticing I was in a state of trepidation. The reason? I'd walked in with my gym bag, purposely avoiding the security guy at the entrance. I felt his eyes must be following me and that a loud, "Hey, you!" would ring out the moment I turned into an aisle.

It turns out that the longer you live somewhere, the more you get used to it. A truism, of course. What is not immediately apparent is that this isn't necessarily a good thing, especially when you find that you've become used to something you may have found, at some point in the past, in another place, entirely unacceptable.

This is why, now that I've crossed over the honeymoon period of my move to Romania, I find my enthusiasm for life here wanes when, for the 286th time, I  am forced to walk into a supermarket through the designated entrance point, even if an empty checkout is much closer and no less accessible. Then, upon entry, a grump…

You Can't Plan a Romania Road Trip, But You Should Anyway

I started writing this post in September 2014, not long after coming back from vacation. I dropped it because I got sick of going through the hundreds of pictures we took just to pick the perfect ones for this post. But, like a seed once planted, it needs some water and the right conditions to flourish. In my case: an email from a reader, asking me about road-tripping through Romania, and the chance to lift this weight off my back. So here it is, a summary of one Romania road trip, from Cluj and back.


2,656 Kilometers.
188 Liters of gas.
2,919 RON.

That's more or less the tally for the Romania road trip I took with my roomie/wife Roxana. We could have booked an all-inclusive vacation to Greece, Turkey, or Bulgaria at about the same cost, but how could we resist a road trip? A unique waterfall, the 'tunnel of love', the best driving road in the world, Summer …

What I Learned About Driving In Romania

I get it now. I understand Romanian drivers and their follies. It's something I thought would never happen. All it took to shape me into a Romanian road rage machine was one month of driving around Cluj and a 400 km round trip. I'm kidding about the rage part.

The idea of driving in Cluj was intimidating. Last time I'd driven manual shift was almost ten years ago when a co-worker asked me to drive her and her newly purchased, Pontiac Firefly home because she had no idea how to do it. So of course I stalled that little bastard all over the place. Little surprise that the idea of driving along busy and narrow European streets was unappealing - especially after years of driving automatic on wide, North American roads.

But I managed. Stalled an average of once per trip during the first week, and then a couple of times in the second week, and now, a little over a month later, I sometimes stall at stoplights when I forget I'm driving stick and leave it in gear when I release…

Here Is Why Romania's Future Is Bright

The festival is only in its second edition, but following last year's inaugural event, Electric Castle has stirred up enough buzz to attract visitors from beyond Romania's borders. Walking around the festival grounds I had the impression that every other group was comprised of foreigners speaking Hungarian, English, German, or French. And judging by the license plates in the parking lots, every county in Romania was well represented. While there's plenty to be said about the artists and the music, there's something else I want to discuss in this post.

When you think "music festival", the image that comes to mind is that of overly excited youth on a drug and alcohol infused rampage, laying waste to everything in their path. Maybe it has something to do with the way festivals like to promote themselves; these are basically the images that stand out on most 'Official Aftermovie' videos from major music festivals. But obviously the experience is defined b…

Why Romanians Don't Like Romanians

To my knowledge, this national self-loathing is a uniquely Romanian experience. Maybe we share it with some of our neighbours, but I doubt it. I've never seen a people dislike their own as much as the Romanians.
This is going to be highly generalized, but as with most things I write here it's rooted in personal experience and observations. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

1. Romanians like the exotic, to be Romanian is the antithesis of what it means to be exotic.

2. Romanians are often prejudiced. The thought process goes something like this: If you're Romanian you're probably bereft of interesting experiences and financially limited. You're from 'the-worst-country-on-earth', after all. If  you're well off, then you're just a rich asshole (probably a thief, too). Either way, your Romanian-ness ensures you're seen as a person with limited horizons who likely can't offer anything new or different.

If you're Western European or Nort…

Rosia Montana - An Informed Reply

It's always a pleasure to see a new email message from somebody who's been reading this blog. In this case, the message came in from a reader who first contacted me last year. He moved to Canada quite a while ago and settled in the Northwest Territories. He wanted to respond to the previous post on Rosia Montana, but given the length of the reply, I've asked him to allow me to publish it as its own post. He asked me not to share his name, but outside of that, I'm copying it verbatim.

(Edit: In Romana mai jos)

Hello Matt,

Here we go again: Rosia Montana. I got involved in this project about four years ago. I had had phone interviews with radio stations in Bucharest; I published several articles in two or three magazines in Bucharest. I hosted, guided and loaded up with data and portable computer equipment one “Romanian explorer” as the Romanian media called her: Uca Marinescu. Perhaps the name rings a bell. Anyhow she never got back to me; there was no feedback, no follo…