We’re a week into the Trump administration and it’s pretty obvious what he’s up to. First, Donald Trump is running a demolition derby: He wants to demolish everything he doesn’t like, and he doesn’t like a lot, especially when it comes to government.
Like one of those demolition drivers on a speedway, he keeps ramming his vehicle against all the others, especially government policies and programs and agencies that protect people who don’t have his wealth, power or privilege. Affordable health care for working people? Smash it. Consumer protection against predatory banks and lenders? Run over it. Rules and regulations that rein in rapacious actors in the market? Knock ‘em down. Fair pay for working people? Crush it. And on and on.
Trump came to Washington to tear the government down for parts, and as far as we can tell, he doesn’t seem to have anything at all in mind to replace it except turning back the clock to when business took what it wanted and left behind desperate workers, dirty water and polluted air.
Like so many others, I’ve been puzzling over the Trump phenomenon for months. It seems like every journalist, pundit, psychiatrist, psychologist and armchair psychologist has something to say about the man. Understandably, they are trying to figure out what kind of person he is and why he is so popular with millions of Americans, including nearly half of the Republican Party.
My own interest is undergirded by the work and ideas of the late Joseph Campbell, a foremost interpreter of world mythologies and author of The Hero With a Thousand Faces. It was said of Campbell that “he could make the bones of folklore and anthropology live,” as millions of viewers would learn in watching the classic PBS series Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. [Disclosure: I knew Campbell from my alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, where he taught for 35-plus years. Many years later I served as executive producer of the Campbell-Moyers series.]
Campbell’s gift was to interpret the themes and forces underlying myths, stories and legends and how they play out in our lives. He illuminated the interior pathways of the mind which guide human behavior and action — a psychological roadmap within each of us which is nonetheless dark and mysterious to most of us.
One of the dominant highways on that inner map is the Hero’s Journey. The hero appears as a universal character in all cultures, everywhere, throughout human history, in myths and legends. It is so universal a theme that Campbell, along with other scholars and psychologists, called it an “archetype.”
On the eve of the New York primary, Bill Moyers sat down to talk with Rick Shenkman, the historian, editor and publisher of the indispensable website History News Network. Shenkman tells Bill that it’s the voters and their emotions, not the candidates and their ideas, that will determine the outcome of the election in November.
Shenkman’s latest book is ‘Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics.’