Why Trump?

A recent Facebook post by Brendan O’Neill addressed the question: “TRUMP?! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN??” He posted a list of eighteen reasons that people (he, in particular, I think) voted for Trump. Here is the list, just as he posted it.screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-10-12-02-am

On religious questions, reason is subordinate to belief. In fact, in many religions, rational argument is held as an enemy of the Truth. Jesus apparently said that unless we become as children, with blind, unquestioning faith, we can’t see the Kingdom of Heaven. The person who is convinced that Jesus physically rose into the clouds, for example, defying gravity, cannot entertain the possibility that a metaphor is in play. The metaphor, contrary to its purpose, directly contradicts the accepted fact: Jesus was not bound by the laws of physics. Once this “fact” is established in the mind, no amount of discussion can alter it. A thousand demonstrations that everything known in the universe follows gravitational equations will not matter. Reason and analysis will not penetrate the fortress.

Similarly, once a person has accepted as fact that Donald Trump is the answer to their personal offenses, however trivial or desperate, no display of flagrant narcissism, in-your-face examples of deviate behaviors, lawsuits settled at costs of tens of millions of dollars, or vicious diatribes directed at most groups within society will have any effect on the belief. Any analysis of the vehicle—that he has no regard whatever for facts, that he changes his spots with each audience, that he denies saying what he just said, that he has been married three times, that global climate change is a Chinese conspiracy, that his products are made in China, that he’s been bankrupt four times, that he denies ever declaring bankruptcy, that he has business deals in twenty-plus countries around the world, that he refuses absolutely to release his tax returns, blah, blah, blah—any discussion at all that involves Trump’s personal failures is held as an attack on him, while we should be locking up Hillary Clinton. It just won’t play.

So I suggest that a better approach, for both sides, is to take point by point the offenses taken by the Trump voters, find examples and explanations, and identify the real culprits. Who is actually behind these offensive policies? And how might they be successfully addressed?

Brendan’s Facebook page gives us absolutely nothing about his history, his education, his place of residence, or his interests. Nevertheless, because it is a raw, angry list of grievances, I am using it as a springboard to address the honest concerns of voters and how they motivated Brendan to vote as he did. Some of Brendan’s issues are very real and merit consideration. Others are trivial, but are indicators of offense taken regardless of actual effects on him or other individuals. The first point is such a trivial one. But other points should provoke deeper thought.

  1. “Trump won because you banned super-sized sodas.”

The problem here is three-fold, at least. First, who? Who banned super-sized sodas? Well, as far as I can tell, New York city was the only place in which this happened, and it was struck down by their court system as unconstitutional after a two-year battle. So, ill-advised and unconstitutional, this law barely made it into the books before it was eliminated from the books. Second, why did they ban them? The law was passed as an effort to address the epidemic of obesity. Not to punish the citizenry in general, but to help kids stay in shape a little better. And three, how do we address Brendan’s personal injury from this law? Well, if he lives in New York, we can apologize for those two years during which he had to buy two sodas to make up for the reduction in size. We can also remind him of the court decision to strike down the law. Upshot: Brendan won that battle! So a Trump vote is a non sequitur. I’m going to have as big a Dr. Pepper as I can find.

  1. “And smoking in the parks.”

Bam! Thirty-four states have state-wide smoking bans, and most of the other states have smoking bans by city or county, with exceptions for bars, some restaurants, many businesses, and residences. So it seems like the will of the 82% of the country who are nonsmokers is holding sway. But the complaint was specifically about parks. Unfortunately, Brendan doesn’t specify city parks, regional parks, county parks, state parks or national parks, so we can’t know exactly where the offense is felt. Obviously, some nearby park has a smoking restriction, and I suggest a petition at whatever level is appropriate might be offered to rescind the legislation. But, in any case, I don’t think that offending the 18% who want to smoke wherever they like is a strong rationale for Trump’s victory. He won’t change that.

  1. “Offensive ideas on campus.”

This needs a little more meat. What offensive ideas on what campuses? I guess Brendan is in response to someone, somewhere, being allowed to spout off on campus about something he disagrees with. But most colleges and universities, perhaps excluding the most conservative Christian schools, have a huge range of campus organizations that are free to rant about anything from the lack of ecological friendly drainage to the treatment of prisoners of war. So almost all of these would be a cause of offense if the matter is “offensive ideas on campus.” All campuses have ideas that are offensive to someone. So I don’t get this offense. I’d say just get over it. Not a reason to vote for Trump.

  1. “Because you branded people who oppose gay marriage ‘homophobic’, and people unsure about immigration ‘racist’.”

This one is more substantial. People who oppose gay marriage might better be called, “anti-gay marriage.” They may or may not have a phobia about gay people. Of course, when you decry something and march to get a law passed to eliminate it, you’re bound to pick up an insulting label of some sort. But the offense goes both ways, doesn’t it? If you want to ban something, it’s offensive to those who wanted it. And if you shove your personal habits into someone’s face, they very well might be offended. So this is a social dilemma. I would accept this as a reason to vote for a clean-living conservative who could try to address this labeling problem. The second part is about people who are unsure about immigration being labeled racist. Again, I agree that wholesale labeling of people is inappropriate. In my experience, people who are unsure about immigration don’t get called names much. I would call them swing voters. But people who actually come right out in public and call immigrants rapists or murderers or criminals do get labeled as racist, but it’s because they say things that actually are racist. So I don’t think the labeling is for uncertainty. It’s for racism. So if offense is taken here, think about it.

  1. “Because you treated owning a gun and never having eaten quinoa as signifiers of fascism.”

I’m not sure who’s being targeted here, forgive the pun, but it might have some merit. Most of the gun owners I know are much closer to libertarianism than to fascism. They don’t want to be ruled by a small cadre of strong-arms. They don’t want to be ruled by anybody at all. Or they just don’t want a lunatic crashing into their house at night to shoot the place up without some return fire. But to the degree that gun owners feel that they are wrongly pigeonholed by liberals who lump them together as fascists, this could certainly be a real offense, and, again, could be a reason to support a conservative, gun-toting candidate. I think a widespread survey might clarify what the majority of gun owners espouse, but I doubt it’s fascism. The NRA would favor Trump, although their bottom line would be better served by a candidate who wants gun control That’s what stimulates sales. As to quinoa, I don’t even know what it is, except that it’s some kind of food. I’ve never heard any association with fascism. Was this big in Mussolini’s Italy? Someone else might have to address this one.

  1. “Because you thought correcting peoples’ attitudes was more important than finding them jobs.”

Bingo, Brendan! That’s a zinger. I hear that one. My political opinion would be swayed if anyone was trying to change my opinions or attitudes when the alternative was to give me a job. Individuals can’t always help with employment, and lobbing stink bombs at someone about their attitude is so easy. And if this is felt as a sort of universal situation, then we should expect some sort of shift in the wind. Criticizing someone’s attitude usually further solidifies the attitude. Getting him or her a job would build more hope toward altering political positions. Again, any candidate who promised to employ lots of people might comb off a lot of votes. Unless he, himself, hired Chinese workers to do his jobs, or felt that people in general are underpaid, or hated unions.

  1. “Because you turned ‘white man’ from a description into an insult.”

This is a dagger to the heart of unemployed, entitled white males. I’m not sure it would be hurtful to well-employed, successful whites, for whom the system works very well, but for the down and out, it’s salt in the wound. You get laid off, you struggle to make ends meet, and then get labeled a “white man,” as if you’re to blame for the oppressive systems that affect people of color. But maybe you, specifically, had nothing to do with any minority ever, anywhere. So you’re hurt by this. I get that. I, personally, don’t take it as an insult, but as a caution, a reminder that I might not be sensitized to the oppression that minorities might feel everywhere they go. Nobody should be treated as a lesser member of the species based on the color of their skin. White males are just now learning how others have felt for hundreds of years. But I understand the feeling. Trump, being a very white man, gets a point on this one.

  1. “Because you used slurs like ‘denier’ and ‘dangerous’ against anyone who doesn’t share your ecopieties.”

This one, speaking as a scientist with a lower case ‘s,’ is not a compelling argument. Not an acceptable rationale. I think that the weight of science is so enormous at present, with cities installing pumps to rid the streets of sea water, the permafrost melting under the Alaskans’ houses, and the polar ice cap melting at an alarming rate, that to deny that the effect is real is denial at a pathological level. I would freely use the term “denier” for anyone who refuses to face the mountain of evidence. It’s not a case of opinion or “ecopiety.” Science doesn’t care what you think. The best analogy I can think of is the Bishop in Galileo’s day who refused to look through the telescope because Satan would use it to lead him astray. He presumed that he already knew the truth of the system. He was a denier. He was unable to use reason. This is dangerous at this present time. The effect of global warming and the concomitant climate changes could easily produce a runaway effect that could cause catastrophic losses of life and health. To deny this is absolutely dangerous. So turning your vote to a person who thinks that this is a Chinese conspiracy is the mistake of a dangerous denier.

  1. “Because you treated dissent as hate speech and criticism of Obama as extremism.”

If anyone who dissented peacefully, aiming reasoned criticism at Obama, was called an extremist, then this is a legitimate complaint. Dissent is as American as apple pie. This problem arose because people (probably not you, Brendan) carried hangman’s nooses and carried signs that used the “N” word. That is hate speech, by definition. But sensible dissent, including marching, shouting, and bannering, is acceptable as long as it’s not hateful and targeted at a vulnerable group. Criticism of Obama is not extremism. It’s Republicanism. Not a problem. If you got labeled as an extremist or hate-speaker for reasoned dissent against a standing president, then you have a legitimate gripe. It won’t be addressed very well by a an outspoken critic of blacks, Hispanics, Islamic people, and women, but it is a legitimate complaint and should be taken seriously.

  1. “Because you talked more about gender-neutral toilets than about home repossession.”

Bingo! Another point for Brendan. The discussion should have been all about home repossession. But, wow! I never heard a word about gender-neutral toilets until conservatives took issue with a transgender kid in a bathroom somewhere. North Carolina passed a law about it, and a couple other states tried to do the same, and before long it was news everywhere that people were afraid to be in a bathroom where someone of the wrong gender might come in. I’ve never met a single person who considers this a problem, unless it’s a hypothetical situation that might offend somebody somewhere. So it shouldn’t have been a contentious issue anywhere. Forget it. We absolutely should have been talking about home repossession. That’s a serious problem, especially if your home is the one being repossessed. Is this a federal government-level problem? If a candidate proposed to address this with federal money, I’d imagine it would be a tax and spend liberal, wouldn’t it? That would drive your vote toward the left, not the right. Still, the discussion should have been more about home repossession than about unisex restrooms. Good grief.

  1. “Because you beatified Caitlin Jenner.”

Well, that’s overstated, in any case. She’s not among the community of the saints. But who did this? And so what? I don’t think that’s a reason to be driven politically right or left. Caitlin whoever. Where’s the beef?

  1. Because you policed peoples’ language, rubbished their parenting skills, took the piss out of their beliefs.”

Hmm. Well, I don’t get this, I guess. As to language, I don’t see much policing. People on both sides say disgusting things, and they don’t get arrested. I don’t think a case can be made for policing language. I’m also confused about “rubbishing” parenting styles. Is this about spanking or striking children? I think that child services are called in when kids show bruises and breakage due to a parent’s outrage. Is that a bad thing? I don’t know if I’d call cautions about physical abuse of children “rubbishing” a parental style. Nobody in my city has been arrested for spanking a child. If that’s your style, you’re still allowed to exercise it. But studies show that physical punishment often leads to fearful, and later, aggressive behaviors among children. But, again, that’s science, and if you don’t accept studies, then there it is. I don’t get the rubbishing part. And then there’s “taking the piss out of peoples’ beliefs.” Again, I don’t mean to sound condescending, but what is this about? If I could rephrase it as, “belittling people for their beliefs,” or maybe, “denying people the right to beliefs,” then I might take it as a problem. Taking the piss out of it doesn’t make sense to me. I try to have as little piss in my beliefs as I can, and if someone wants to help me dispose of the rest of it, great. If it’s belittling, well, I can’t stand for that. You can believe anything you want, and so can I. You can deny that global climate change is occurring, and I can call you a denier. You can call me an ecopietist. Fair enough?

  1. “Because you cried when someone mocked the Koran, but laughed when they mocked the Bible.”

Whew. We’ve derailed somewhere, here. I never saw or heard any weepy reaction when our soldiers peed on the Koran in Iraq. I thought it seemed provocative and might ignite retaliatory actions. I don’t think it’s wise to mock someone’s religious text, and I think it’s counterproductive to make fun of the Bible. Most of the people you think would be offended by laughing at the Bible don’t follow it much anyway. If you look at Christ’s life and then look around you, it’s not much in evidence. It sure isn’t reflected in this list of grievances. But how does this drive you to vote for Trump? Is it just that he is fearful of all Islamic people, and that seems more Christian? I don’t get this one.

  1. “Because you said criticising Islam is Islamophobia.”

Do you feel misrepresented when you react to Islam? Sometimes I do. If you are critical of the religion, you are cast as an Islamophobe, yes? Criticizing Islam is about finding fault with the tenets of the religion. Islamophobia is about being afraid of Islam or Islamic people. If people confuse the two, you might get called an Islamophobe when all you said was, “Parts of the Koran make me nervous.” Or, “Who was this Mohammed dude?” But, again, how does this push you toward someone who is fearful and mistrustful of all Islamic people? Can’t we distinguish between the gentler parts of Islam and the terrorist nutcases, just like we do in Christianity between the people of good will and the cross-burners?

  1. “Because you kept telling people, ‘You can’t think that, you can’t say that, you can’t do that.”

This is a cry that I hear from teenagers against their parents. “Don’t tell me what to do!” they shriek. And when you try to correct their thinking, they shout, “You’re crazy!” I know this is true, because I sometimes watch Dr. Phil. It sounds like you hold a set of opinions that are unpopular in your social circles, or in your Facebook circles, and when people disagree with you, they might express it like, “You’re a demented moron!” Instead of addressing the actual meat of your thinking. None of us likes to be told what to do. I like figuring it out by myself. But if you think this only runs one way, think again. Certainly conservatives are just as guilty as liberals about telling people that their thoughts are garbage. Rush Limbaugh says it every time I tune in. So, again, why Donald Trump? Do you see him as not telling people what to think and say and do? He calls people losers. He doesn’t seem like the answer to this.

  1. “Because you turned politics from something done by and for the people to something done to them, for their own good.”

Slam dunk on this one, Brendan. Amen, brother Ben. This seems to be directed at the government in general, which, for those who missed it, is bought and paid for by corporations. Of course it doesn’t seem to be of, by, and for the people. It’s of, by, and for corporate interests. Since the Supreme Court legitimization of Citizens United, a conservative campaign that gives unlimited power to corporations to fund candidates without disclosure, lobbyists have overrun the system, and nearly every elected official is bound to vote as his or her funding sources dictate. This has been done by huge corporate interests. Donald Trump hired the president of Citizens United to run his campaign. He is the epitome of Corporate America. So if you wanted to get back to government of, by, and for the people, you missed the boat by a mile on this one. You aren’t even in the right harbor.

  1. “Because you treated people like shit. And people don’t like being treated like shit.”

Right on, Brendan! I don’t like it and I don’t know anybody who does. But to aim this at one political party and not the other is a misfire. Treating people like shit is commonplace across the spectrum. We could all bring up examples of people being mistreated for all sorts of things. Tying a gay man to a fence and killing him would certainly qualify, wouldn’t it? That was done by conservative homophobes, who earned the title. The lynching of people in the South wasn’t done by liberals. They were trying to stop it. This is a silly argument. Are you imagining that Trump doesn’t treat people like shit? The fraud cases? Not paying is workers? Having to settle lawsuits out of court to avoid greater damage? Don’t get me wrong, I agree that treating people like shit is a reason to change your vote. But to Trump? Why not Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio? Or Jeb Bush. Florida liked him. They don’t seem to treat people like shit. At least not in public.

  1. “Trump happened because of you.”

This summation, while appearing like a thumb in the eye, is an interesting statement. Brendan, you should be happy that all these people did all this terrible stuff, because the result was that your guy won the election. If it weren’t for this horrible list of offenses, he wouldn’t have won. Great, right? The problem is with the “you” part. This assumes that the reader (hopefully a liberal?) will identify with some or all of the complaints, and will admit guilt, or at least complicity. But do you really think that a reader will read, “Because you treated people like shit,” and bow their head and say, “Yeah, he’s right. I spent the last sixteen years treating people like shit. No wonder we got Trump.” When I read it I try to imagine who these people are who were so guilty of mistreating others. Whoever they are, I don’t like them, and I don’t want to be associated with them. When I read, “Because you kept telling people, ‘You can’t think that, you can’t say that, you can’t do that,” I want to know who said those things. I’ve been around quite a lot, and I’ve never been in the company of people who say that. Everyone I know says, “This is America. You can think whatever you want.”

This is almost a straw dog, except that it is clear that feelings are hurt. Nerves are raw, and now they’re raw on both sides. But I think that the hurt is largely a phantom phenomenon. Each of us should ask ourselves, “Am I, personally, really hurting? If so, who exactly is hurting me? Am I really a victim of some social ill, or am I feeling a malaise, a sense of loss of control, a sense of powerlessness? Am I angry at a generalized sense of shit? Or has someone actually shit on me? If the case is that you have actually lost your job because the town company has moved south or across the sea, then you are personally hurt. Ouch! Who did it? The company boss. Why did he do it? To save money. So whom will you vote for? A company boss who will fight for corporate America above the workers, who thinks American workers are overpaid, and who himself has shipped business to China and Mexico? That’ll serve them right. Or if the case is that you have a child with ambiguous gender, and he/she is nervous about using public facilities, then you are personally affected. Who did this to you? The governor? The city council? God? So whom will you vote for? A man who has promised to roll back protections for gay people?

In the end, I understand the conservative philosophy, and I get why a lot of people have a sense of anger and powerlessness, even though most of them still have a pretty sweet life compared to many developing countries. What I don’t understand is why so many of them have opted for Donald Trump. Look at him. He just doesn’t represent the conservative agenda. That’s why the Republicans in congress have so much trouble with him. He isn’t a conservative in any sense except that he directs everything into himself. His narcissistic, transgressive personality appears attractive to some people, at least on the surface. He does what they wish they could do. He dares to insult iconic institutions and get away with it. But he’s not a Republican, he doesn’t represent the interests of working class America, and time will show that voting for Trump for the eighteen reasons given by Brendan was a mistake. If, after four years, I turn out to be wrong, it won’t be the first time, and I will write a long, sincere apology.

Author: Samuel A. Johnson

This blog is about hiking, thinking, and writing.

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