Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Real Meaning Of "Drain The Swamp"

Let's take a break from speculating about Hillary Clinton's emails, shall we? I'd like to talk about the latest Trumpist meme: "drain the swamp." This slogan is meant to emphasize Trump's promise to go to Washington and change "politics as usual" with a slightly menacing overtone.

I hear it and get anxious. In the 1970s the German scholar Klaus Theweleit wrote a long examination of the writings of German proto-fascists, psychoanalyzing the authors. He found that they tended to subconsciously associate the leftists they hated with women, and for both used metaphors of rising tides to express their fears. The enemy was damp, wet, and threatened to drown out the "real men" of the Freikorps, who were hard and dry. It is fitting then that as David Blackbourn has shown in his research on environmental history, the Nazi occupying regime in Poland hoped to show German racial superiority over the Slavs by draining the swamps there. When I hear the cry of "drain the swamp" I hear echoes of fascist yearnings, to purge the society of all of those people deemed pollutants.

That has been at the core of the Trumpist message from day one. The Orange One started his campaign by calling for millions of people to be deported from this country. Since then he has also called for banning Muslims, who he discusses as a kind of infestation. (Disease metaphors, like swamp metaphors, set off alarm bells for me.) That depiction of Muslims as virus fits with the oldest tropes of anti-Semitism, an ideology that seems to have found a safe home in the fringes of Trumpdom. "Drain the swamp" also fits with Trump's well-known germophobia, which draws from his manifest disgust with bodily functions, especially those of women.

When attacking Megyn Kelly he famously decried "blood pouring from her whatever," obviously disgusted by menstruation. He had a similar disgusted reaction to Hillary Clinton taking a bathroom debate in one of the Democratic presidential debates. That disgust with women's bodies coupled with the desire to control and own them (which Trump most definitely has) is pretty much how Theweleit defined his subjects' outlook.

"Drain the swamp" is thus no mere slogan, it is the outward manifestation of a diseased and toxic form of fascist masculinity.

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