For the last few months, I’ve had a copy of Professor Keith Thomas’s Religion and the Decline of Magic by my bed. It’s a magnificent study of the popularity of witchcraft and magic in the 16th and 17th centuries, and investigates how organised religion dealt with the threat posed to it by the “cunning” men and women of the shires, who went around with potions and charms, and promised to find lost goods and avenge bad neighbours.
The book was a particular inspiration to novelist Hilary Mantel, who called it “monumental” and has said it’s the book she has recommended to friends more than any other.
The other night one particular observation leapt out at me. It was that the Devil held a particular fascination for those who were really suffering. Prof Thomas cited a few examples of poor folk to who the Devil had appeared in the street, and promised them a shilling if they would join his team. Witches, he said, tended to come from the desperate classes. The cogs in my addled brain started to whirr. I remembered a Trump voter saying to camera, when asked why he was voting for this nutcase: “Trump’s gonna make me rich!”
Then I read the following line in the book:
“For persons in a state of hopelessness, attachment to the Devil symbolized their alienation from a society to which they had little cause to be grateful.”
So it seems clear to me that voters were so weakened, so hopeless, that they resorted to worshipping the Devil, with all his false promises to give them money, avenge their enemies and sort out their problems. Devils can be attractive and charismatic characters, too. Therefore you could argue that Trump is the Devil. Doubtless we could come up with further proof to boot, for example, his devilish approval of cruelty and torture.
But the main point is, to rephrase Prof Thomas, that attachment to Trump symbolizes a mass alienation from a system for which many Americans have little cause to be grateful.
However, the previous overlords of society, the neo-liberals, can also be blamed for creating a situation where the people resorted to Devil worship out of desperation. In a sense, they themselves created Trumpism and Trump-worship.
The problem is, Trump is now the President of the United States. So help me God.