Why Trump’s Drought Denial Is in Sync With His ‘Make America Great’ Message

Why Trump’s Drought Denial Is in Sync With His ‘Make America Great’ Message

Trump’s denial of drought and climate-change science is of a piece with his overall campaign promise to “Make America Great Again.” To many Americans, environmental regulations — especially directives to use less, conserve more — are a threat to their way of life and may make them nostalgic for a time when things, whether natural resources or jobs, were felt to be in more abundance. Trump’s message speaks not only to his supporters’ sense that things they valued have been lost, but also to “anticipatory loss,” says Lertzman.

“It has to do with fear of change,” she says, “the perception that I’m going to be asked to or forced to change who I am, to let go of what is cherished and what I’ve worked very hard for.” In this framework, denial that the earth’s climate is changing is not so much a logical determination but an emotional response driven by avoidance. “How we relate to energy and water and nature is part of who we are. It’s how I dwell in my home, the way I use heat and light and water, how I get around, drive and fly, what I buy. These are all things that shape our identity. So there’s an understandable anxiety around this that includes both actual loss and what we imagine is coming down the line.

“Make America Great Again is an expression of a collective anxiety and mourning,” says Lertzman. “It’s about longing for a time when there was more nature and their kids could run around until dark and not have a problem. They are longing for their childhood when they felt more free.” If that “longing doesn’t get processed, it can get co-opted [by politicians],” she says.

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