“Aspirational Incapacitation” May Account for Much of Donald Trump’s Appeal


“Joe the Plumber” came to national attention during the 2008 presidential election because he was very willing to denounce the economic “safety net” programs from which he was then actually benefiting in order to argue for the lowest possible taxes on the wealth that he was certain that he would eventually earn. The last that I heard, he had taken a job in a Jeep plant, and although the U.S. can certainly use more high-end manufacturing jobs such as those in our auto plants, no one has ever claimed that working in a plant is an easy way–or any way–to become a millionaire.

I think that Joe the Plumber’s delusions about his possibilities for joining the ranks of the wealthy may provide an explanation for the surprising appeal of Donald Trump that most political commentators have missed. It may be less that the voters who support Trump admire him for achieving a…

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About martinkich

I am a Professor of English at Wright State University's Lake Campus, where I have been a faculty member for more than 25 years. I have now served multiple terms as the President of the WSU chapter of AAUP, which now includes all full-time instructional faculty, and as the Vice-President of the Ohio Conference of AAUP. I have also served several terms as an at-large member of the Executive Committee of AAUP's Collective Bargaining Congress. In addition to serving as co-editor of the Academe blog, I am also a member of the editorial board of Academe and have been a guest editor for an issue of the magazine on collective bargaining strategies. As co-chair of the Ohio Conference's Communication Committee, I began to do much more overtly political writing during the campaign to repeal Ohio's Senate Bill 5, which would have eliminated the right of faculty to be unionized. I have sustained that activism, and at the risk of stating the obvious, I have very much enjoyed contributing to the Academe Blog and to our chapter blog. I also maintain several other blogs to which I have re-posted, by topic, my posts to the Academe blog, as well as some other items.

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