EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in Question

For Ressentiment: An Alternative to Trumpism

Donald Trump’s campaign of anger may have jumped the shark this past week, and I am afraid that may lead my friends on the Left (whether you like Bernie, Jill, or Hillary) to mistake the lessons of this electoral cycle. It is tempting to believe that the collapsing Trump campaign signals something larger, a triumph of optimism over fear, but that is precisely the lesson we should not draw. Trump’s successes draw on the well of despair and rage in the American voter, but his failure would not mean that despair and rage have lost their political salience. It is high time we on the Left learned to embrace instead of reject ressentiment — the feeling of impotence that leads to anger directed against enemies we blame for our suffering — as a means of mobilizing voters. Ressentiment is a potent political weapon, as Friedrich Nietzsche knew so well, but for the last forty years it has been almost the exclusive provenance of the Right. …