Dostoyevsky Explains Trump’s Base

Proud Boys at Play

I have read Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground several times over the last fifty years. At the same time, nothing has puzzled me so much in the last five years as the rise of Donald Trump and the persistence of the scraggly individuals that are referred to as his “base.” (An appropriate term, especially when used adjectivally.)

This time, on re-reading, something clicked. Dostoyevsky’s narrator was the archetypal Trumpite:

Merciful Heavens! but what do I care for the laws of nature and arithmetic, when, for some reason I dislike those laws and the fact that twice two makes four? Of course I cannot break through the wall by battering my head against it if I really have not the strength to knock it down, but I am not going to be reconciled to it simply because it is a stone wall and I have not the strength.

The Underground Man is a spiteful creature who enjoys sticking his tongue out. And who better to nominate as your enemy than the Coastal Elites, the “Libtards,” who have the nerve to ignore or flout you.

You will ask why did I worry myself with such antics: answer, because it was very dull to sit with one’s hands folded, and so one began cutting capers. That is really it. Observe yourselves more carefully, gentlemen, then you will understand that it is so. I invented adventures for myself and made up a life, so as at least to live in some way. How many times it has happened to me–well, for instance, to take offence simply on purpose, for nothing; and one knows oneself, of course, that one is offended at nothing; that one is putting it on, but yet one brings oneself at last to the point of being really offended

He talks of others erecting a kind of Crystal Palace based on mathematical certainties, such as two plus two making four.

[M[an everywhere and at all times, whoever he may be, has preferred to act as he chose and not in the least as his reason and advantage dictated. And one may choose what is contrary to one’s own interests, and sometimes one POSITIVELY OUGHT (that is my idea). One’s own free unfettered choice, one’s own caprice, however wild it may be, one’s own fancy worked up at times to frenzy–is that very “most advantageous advantage” which we have overlooked, which comes under no classification and against which all systems and theories are continually being shattered to atoms. And how do these wiseacres know that man wants a normal, a virtuous choice? What has made them conceive that man must want a rationally advantageous choice? What man wants is simply INDEPENDENT choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead. And choice, of course, the devil only knows what choice.

Here it all is. Sit down and read Part I of Notes from the Underground, and you will begin to understand why sick, poor, ignorant people will fight the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, and college education. They had best be careful, because they can easily fall off the edge of the Flat Earth of their ideology and into the void.