Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why I Am Terrifed

I keep hearing that Donald Trump supporters tend to be poor and uneducated.  Supposedly 50% of American women don't support him.  Even though he keeps winning primaries, I'm told by the media his campaign is a fluke, a joke.  Intelligent people don't take him seriously.

How I wish that were true.  This is not what I'm seeing in my world.  I am seeing far too many intelligent, middle class, educated men and women (probably even more women than men) showing subtle and even outright support for Trump and it terrifies me. 

What is it about Trump that people like?  Is it because he's famous and we like a familiar name? Is it because Republican voters feel he is the only person who can defeat Hillary Clinton?  Is it because his appearance of success in business seems like a guarantee that he will succeed in anything else he does?  Can it really be true that the current support of Trump is simply a manifestation of something far more sinister?

Those who praise Trump say that he says what's on his mind without fear of offending anyone or a need to be politically correct.  How has this become a good trait?  How did treating others with kindness and respect suddenly a character flaw?  Do you think a fear of offending people has gone "too far"?  What makes it too far?  Isn't it better to try to be kind and respectful to everyone than it is to cease to care about how others feel? 

It's not about anti-political correctness and not offending people.  Republicans are just as likely to be offended by others' language.  It's just not the same language that offends them.  (Try wishing a Republican "Happy Holidays" this December and you'll see what I mean.)  Donald Trump is saying out loud what others are afraid to say because we all know on some level that what Donald Trump is saying is wrong.  Those who support him desperately want to believe that he is right.  They want a world where good and evil are clearly defined and everything is black and white.  He is making it easy to choose sides and not think. 

It is entirely possible Trump is putting us all on.  He's pandering to certain groups in order to gain attention and play to the basest of the base.  This could all be an act.  Donald Trump has never been a likeable person, but he has never shown much of a hard-right worldview in the past.  I can remember back in the mid '00s Trump was delivering paid radio spots where he defended his good friends Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi against the mean and sexist criticisms they had been receiving from the public and the media.  Nothing about Donald Trump is sincere, but if he isn't playing sincerely to one side, how can you trust he's playing sincerely to the other? 

In the end, it doesn't matter if Trump is sincere or not.  Pandora's box is now open.  What Donald Trump has done is make it acceptable for Americans to publicly air their hatred of "The Other".  Prejudices that were once buried are now at the surface.  Every stereotype intelligent and rational people have tried to make the world reject has become normalized again.  Language is meaner.  Political discourse is based on emotions and perceptions rather than on facts. 

It doesn't matter if Donald Trump doesn't win.  The damage has been done.  Now that it has become acceptable - and even desirable - to bring this into the political arena, it won't go away any time soon.  Evil has been unleashed on the world and we are all stuck with it.

Donald Trump and those who agree with the tenets of his current campaign may not win in a national national election in the near future, but Trump has set the stage for a more insidious takeover at lower levels.  Now that bigoted talk, anti-intellectualism, and uniformed decision making has become acceptable, there will be plenty of politicians at lower levels willing to fill the holes Trump leaves if he doesn't win the presidency.  Trump's acolytes can easily win at the local and even the state level.  All it takes is to run for office at a level where few people vote and enlist your friends' support.  Once you gain notoriety, you move up.  Too many Americans only vote every four years.  A Trump-like candidate could make his state a living hell for the constituents who still possess an ounce of reason and decency. 

Every Trump supporter I know is white and Christian identified.  It's easy to support someone like Trump when you feel you have nothing to lose.  "So what if Trump wants to make Islam illegal in this country?  I'm not a Muslim.  I don't want Muslims in the county either."  You feel safe and unaffected by Trump's policies. 

I'm sure there are some Jewish Trump supporters out there (they say there is quite a contingent of elderly voters in Florida).  Trump has left the Jews alone so far.  Since he's from New York where he likely has many Jewish business associates, he can't afford to alienate Jewish voters.  Those who come after Trump may not feel a need to maintain ties to the Jewish community.  Think about that. 

Many Christian Trump supporters I know identify as Catholic.  If you think that makes you safe, consider that throughout history, the WASP establishment has not treated Catholics well. 

As politicians become more radicalized, will even mainline Protestants be safe?  If you remove the political views of Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum and simply focus on their faith, do you feel that you can live by their religious moral codes?  Think of how well-loved the Duggar family has been in popular culture.  Prior to the recent family scandals involving their eldest son, they were held up by many as the perfect Christian family.  Remember they don't believe in birth control, dancing, alcohol consumption, woman wearing pants, or anyone wearing shorts or standard swimwear.  Is that the kind of life you want to live?  Would you like those morals to be regulated by your politicians?  Does this help you understand why a Christian government (as opposed to a government whose members practice a Christian religion on their own time) is not a good idea?

Personally I want politicians who understand they are serving an entire constituency of all citizens and not just the ones who agree with them, and that every American has the right to live by their own standards provided they are harming no one else.  Saying that only your religious beliefs and standards as the only ones that count and forcing others to live by them would be the end of democracy.  The United States would be every bit as bad as the Islamic theocracies so many Americans claim to hate and fear.

If you wear them down enough about the absurdity of their arguments, Trump supporters may tell you it's really about defeating Hillary Clinton (and to a lesser degree Bernie Sanders).  The hatred of Hillary Clinton has become as irrational as the devotion to Trump and his ideals.  The disgust and outrage is truly out of hand at this point.  There is no possible way either Clinton or Sanders could possibly live up to the evil images Trump supporters have painted of them, short of them deciding to somehow morph into Osama Bin Laden himself. 

What have Sanders and Clinton done with their careers?  Both of them have devoted decades of their lives to public service.  Sanders was a civil rights champion, a mayor, a Congressman, and a Senator.  Clinton began her career as a children's rights advocate and became a public school reformer prior to joining the US Senate and eventually taking on the fourth highest position in the US government.  To me these are far superior qualifications to anything Trump has done. 

How has Trump served his country?  He has devoted his entire life to amassing his own fortune.  There is nothing wrong with amassing your own fortune.  A working economy demands there are people out there making a lot of money.  My issue with Trump is that he hasn't even done that well.  He has had multiple bankruptcies and even more failed business ventures.  He has made much of his money in lawsuits against those he blamed for his business failures. 

If you feel that a country's economy can and should be run as a business, then you should at least put your faith in someone who can run a business properly and successfully.  Trump doesn't even have that.  His business isn't even particularly integral to the US economy.  Luxury properties are not something most Americans use and need every day.  He didn't invent essential technologies like Bill Gates.  He doesn't own essential energy infrastructure like the Koch Brothers.  He doesn't possess the means to disseminate information to the public like Ted Turner or Rupert Murdoch.  In the grand scheme of things, Trump has done very little to improve or support our society and its institutions. 

No matter what I say, people will still support him.  I write this post knowing I'll be called a stupid libtard or a communist or whatever else the insult du jour is.  So even after getting this all off my chest, I still remain terrified.

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