How was Trump able to harness so much anger, even though he had proposed no solutions and offered no way to build anything new? Martha Nussbaum offers that he could do this because anger, and the desire to damage the object of your anger, gives a false feeling of strength and agency. The anger feels like strength; the destruction like a plan. But in the end it can get you nothing, or worse.
Green: When you look at this year’s campaign—something like a Trump rally, for example—do you see a kind of collective anger?
Nussbaum: Oh, absolutely. Often, we feel helpless in lots of situations in our lives. The way anger gets a grip on us is it seems to be a way to extricate ourselves from helplessness. People—and I think this is particularly true of Americans—don’t like to be passive. They like to seize control. I think what Trump has found, and very cleverly so, is that there’s a lot of helplessness out there in the middle of America: People who feel they’re not doing as well as they want; people who aren’t doing as well as their parents did. Jobs are going to China; jobs are going to other countries. He makes them feel that if they turn their helplessness into rage, they will accomplish something.
Of course, they won’t.