Recently New York City’s Comptroller Scott Stringer suffered the loss of his mother, Arlene Stringer-Cuevas. Stringer-Cuevas died at age 86 due to complications from COVID-19.
Labeling his pain as “incalculable,” Stringer appeared on CNN to proclaim his anger. During an interview with Anderson Cooper Stringer lashed out: “Donald Trump has blood on his hands, and he has my mom’s blood on his hands.”
Stringer’s grief is certainly understandable. Were any of us in the same boat, we’d likely engage in finger-pointing as well. Indeed, in the current coronavirus social climate, folks are banding together, looking for someone to blame. That blame often falls on Donald Trump. But why?
It all makes sense to Eric Hoffer. In The True Believer, Hoffer sheds light on how mass movements use hatred as a unifying force.
Hoffer writes, "Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents." The hater, Hoffer adds, "becomes an anonymous particle quivering with a craving to fuse and coalesce with his like into one flaming mass."
Mass movements need also need a "devil," Hoffer explains. For some in history that devil has been Jews. In current times, that devil is often Trump.
Whether you pick Jews or Trump as your devil, haters will make everything the fault of their devil. Today some haters believe a Jewish conspiracy is behind COVID-19. Is their hatred different from those who believe Trump is the COVID devil?
Hoffer points out, "like an ideal deity, the ideal devil is omnipotent and omnipresent." Hoffer continues, "Every difficulty and failure within the movement is the work of the devil, and every success is a triumph over his evil plotting." To progressives full of hate, Trump is behind every evil in the world.
Who will the progressives hate after Trump? Growing anti-Semitism in the progressive moment, makes the Jews an obvious target. More likely, progressives will escalate their attacks on the "wealthy" and others they claim have "privilege." In line with Hoffer's observation, they will expand their definition of those they consider "wealthy" to anyone who has achieved success.
With an economy devastated by a prolonged shutdown and millions of college graduates who majored in worthless subjects, progressives have a combustible mixture to exploit. Hoffer writes, "Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life." Such people dedicate themselves to a "holy cause." Already, vigilantes call the police on their neighbors for allegedly overstepping lockdown rules.
Hoffer points to "people whose lives are barren and insecure" as they "show a greater willingness to obey." Hoffer adds:
"To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief from the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility."
Hoffer warns, "In times of crisis…to obey is…the only firm point in a chaotic day-by-day existence."
Looking at the irrational hatred for Trump being sown, I fear the coming of an authoritarian government, the likes of which we’ve never imagined, ushered in by progressives in a not so distant dystopian future.
[Image Credit: Pixabay]
Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership. To receive Barry's essays subscribe at Mindset Shifts.