3520 – Wednesday, September 11, 2019 — Can We Ever Understand the Trump Phenomenon?

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Pontificating and writing books and articles about what I will call the Trump phenomenon has become (forgive my use of this cliché), a Cottage Industry.  I have three books on my shelf right now in which an author has gone on a quest (to a remote area of America) to find the reason why so much of rural and middle America embraced Trump.  The ostensible goal of these quests is to understand why anyone would vote for a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic bigoted egomaniac.  Fully twenty-eight percent of American voters selected Trump as well as more than 75 percent of the Republican Party.  Most of those on the left, regard it as the proverbial enigma wrapped in a riddle.

Many of these quests endeavor to be “objective” exercises to find out why Americans voted for and in many cases “love” Trump.  Not surprisingly, these authors tend to be on the left of the political spectrum.  I suppose to be objective and qualify as research, each author must show sympathy for the “deplorables” that elected Trump by trying to listen, empathize and gently understand the forces that were at work in their embracing Trump.  In one case, the author assumes that if you can party with the other side, you will better understand their perspective. 

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A few of these books have sold quite well, even if they do very little to shed any real light on the Trump phenomenon.  They all seem to be researched (research to these authors means meeting with rural folks over tea or coffee and talking to them without insulting their intelligence) by a well-meaning liberal.  Usually, the author is an academic who thinks that talking to anyone who would vote for Trump can solve the puzzle and perhaps make America great again.  Reading these books, you will be no doubt be embellished with many narratives that involve a poignant description of a “typical” rural American to show how the other side really lives and how sad some of their lives are.

I find the solution to the enigma much less puzzling and much less difficult to solve.  I did not need to go on a quest to find the solution.  The solution simply involves “looking at rural America.”  Rural America is dying, dying, dying.  Churches are dying.  Restaurants are dying.  Retail stores are dying.  Industries are dying.  Banks are dying.  Resorts are dying.  Jobs are dying.  Small farms are dying.  Rural America is dying, and no one seems to notice.  Even the people living there do not really notice.  It is a case of the fish being the last ones to see the water.  But on many levels, the angst exacts a toll on the citizens of these areas.   Alcoholism, drug addictions and guns are all means of coping in rural communities.  

People who live in many of many of these rural depressed areas have been told to “get retrained.”  “Find employment in the new emerging industries.”  “Join the information age.”  “Learn computer programming.”  “Go back to school.”  “Go where the jobs are.”

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In 1979, I was hired as a DVOP (Disabled Veterans Outreach Person) by the State of Minnesota.  I worked as a job counselor with the DES (Department of Economic Security.)  At about this time in Minnesota, the iron range was shutting down, many foundries in St. Paul were closing and the stock yards were closing.  For years, these industries had provided relatively decent pay and benefits for people more amenable to working with their backs than with their intellects.  As an employment counselor with a Masters in Employment Counseling from the University of Wisconsin Stout, my job was to help them regain financially viable employment.  Here is what this meant.

I had to take a man (most often a man) with twenty or so years working in one industry, a bad back, little or no education beyond high school, responsible for supporting a wife and two or more children and find him or her a job paying twenty or so dollars per hour with benefits.  There were no funds provided by DES for this man to go to school and even if there were, what kind of school could he go to?  Over the years, both Wisconsin and Minnesota had shut down many vocational training schools to emphasize college over vocational education.  Unions seldom provided apprenticeships and even if they did, most would go to younger workers with less physical problems. 

Globalization was hailed as a great concept and as a business person, I would argue it was good for many Americans and much of the world.  But for the man or woman who worked in American industries that were either outsourced, replaced by foreign labor or moved overseas, it was not so good. 

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I continued working as an employment counselor for the DILHR (Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations) in Wisconsin.  I had taken a Wisconsin State test and found work closer to my home in River Falls, Wisconsin.  I became a Manpower Counselor II in charge of an office in Hudson and Ellsworth Wisconsin.  I ran the WIN Program (Work Incentive), IHRAP Program (Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program), LEAP Program (Labor Education Advancement Program) and several programs for veterans and minorities. 

We had minimal funds for people that could qualify for education and we had maintenance funds for eligible job seekers to help support them while they looked for gainful employment.  With respect to education, there was no way anyone could go to school and support a family while they were in school on the available funds.  For job seekers, the maintenance funds could help while they looked for employment but, in many cases, they had little chance of finding employment without further education.  Regulations prohibited many of these “eligible” job seekers from going to school while they received AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), Welfare benefits or unemployment benefits.

Bottom line, both the Democrats and Republicans threw many of the people who lost their jobs because of Globalization under the bus or over the cliff.  “Go get retrained they were told.” 

694940094001_5470675642001_5470650547001-vsThe research that purports to explain the Trump phenomenon almost never goes beyond the “Right Wing” narratives for Trumps election.  These narratives all point to abortion, guns, taxes, small government, immigration and jobs as the key factors in Trumps victory.  Trump blames the Democrats for everything wrong in rural America and the Republicans have provided a compelling set of schemes that have convinced many in rural America that a partial solution to their problems lies in more capitalism. 

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Greed is good is a mantra among Republicans and they have managed to sell desperate people needing desperate measures with faith in the “Trickle Down Theory.”  For those who might question this theory, the fallback narrative is to blame immigrants, Latinos, Blacks and Muslims with usurping the American Dream.  Trump and the Republicans have sold the rest of the solution as “Make America White Again.” 

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Is it any wonder that people are sick of government and politicians?  The vision and mission of most government agencies hardly ever comes close to matching the reality of the policies, laws and regulations that spew forth from these lawyer led entities.   You would be forgiven for not realizing that the citizens of the United States of America are the customers of government rather than the other way around.  Trump is a phenomenon of distrust, disgust and despair.  Trump promised solutions to these problems while the rest of the government slept and slept and slept.

“I’ve always resented the smug statements of politicians, media commentators, corporate executives who talked of how, in America, if you worked hard you would become rich. The meaning of that was if you were poor it was because you hadn’t worked hard enough. I knew this was a lie, about my father and millions of others, men and women who worked harder than anyone, harder than financiers and politicians, harder than anybody if you accept that when you work at an unpleasant job that makes it very hard work indeed.”  ― Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

 

 

 

 

 

Evolution in Reverse:  From Homo Sapiens to Trump Deplorables.

Dancing Racists-2I ponder at a quote by the author Stephen King in which he notes that Donald Trump will never get elected but “he has certainly exposed the ugly underbelly of conservatives in America today.”  I think about this comment because (by recent polls) Trump has a large percentage of voters in his camp who qualify for the “Deplorables” label than Clinton so recently used.  Ironic that the King of Insult and Slander now says “anyone who makes such comments about Americans is not fit to be president.”  The truth is that anyone who fits into this underbelly or “deplorables” category is not fit to be an American.  They share nothing in common with the values that our Founding Fathers had for this country.

This “underbelly” that King refers to and that Hillary calls “Deplorables” is a group of racist, xenophobic, sexist, ignorant bigots who belong to such fringe groups as the Tea Party, KKK, Aryan Brotherhood and Sons of the Confederacy.  Many who do not belong to these groups simply espouse racist and bigoted ideologies hiding in the sanctuary of their own homes. These are largely uninformed and uneducated people attracted to the glamour and promises that Trump seems to hold out.  Vote for Trump and you can be great again.  No more mortgages!  No more taxes!  No more government telling you what to do or not to do!  No more immigrants taking your job and standard of living away!  Be able to tell it like it is and don’t worry about political correctness!

The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts.  Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike.  And former Louisiana Rep. David Duke reports that the businessman has given more Americans cover to speak out loud about white nationalism than at any time since his own political campaigns in the 1990s.”White supremacist Groups See Trump Bump – 12-10-15

Racists+not+oc_0826f0_4310362Today, we now know (thanks to Trump) that we have at least ten million US citizens who think that Donald Trump could deliver on such promises as noted above.  This latter fact simply astounds the rest of us (180,000,000) registered voters who would sooner drown ourselves than see Donald Trump as president.  The majority of US voters know that Trump is a buffoon and a bigot playing on the heart strings and delusions of a minority of people who have no clue what the USA stands for or what our Founding Fathers envisioned for this country.

We_want_white_tenantsI am not worried about Trump.  King is right. He will never be elected.  I am worried about the disillusioned and hapless people who are supporting him.  These people are the real threat to America not Donald Trump.  Cast out by an economic system that rewards the most competitive, the Trump supporters are the least competitive and most hard hit by the recent economic recession.  Statistics tell us that Trump’s supporters make up a large segment of the population who are unemployed and unemployable.  I should say unemployable at a wage sufficient to support a family.  Just like in Germany during the recession, it was this same type of people who were most attracted to Hitler.  They were the unemployed, uneducated and people who felt life had been unfair to them.  When Hitler came to power, they became his willing disciples and minions.  The parallels between the hate and xenophobia espoused by both Hitler and Trump would be uncanny, if not for the fact that it is and always will be predictable.  The formula to create such hate and bigotry has been the same for four thousand years.

Here is the formula:  Lack of education + lack of economic opportunities + a notable minority population + one hate filled leader = Prejudice, Discrimination and Violence.  

neo nazisLeaders throughout history have used the above formula to incite their followers to acts of hatred which have taken such forms as the inquisition, pogroms, mass deportations, genocide and the Holocaust.  It has always been the same formula and it has always worked.  The hapless, ignorant and hopeless are lured by the sirens of revenge and retribution to take action against a targeted minority group who are portrayed as having stolen their hopes and dreams.  The solution is to eradicate the despicable group and thereby restore the future that was stolen from the hapless and ignorant.

Listen to the V for Vendetta “Revolution” speech:  Speech

Protest At Ground Zero

NEW YORK – JULY 4: Shirley Phelps-Roper holds up signs as she joins fellow members of the Westboro Baptist Church, from Topeka, Kansas, as they protest across the street from Ground Zero July 4, 2004 in New York City. The church members believe that because of homosexuals and America’s rebelious and immoral conducts, God has brought on acts of terrorism as a way of punishing society. (Photo by Monika Graff/Getty Images)

I often listen to right-wing religious fundamentalists and one of their favorite refrains is “The end is near.”  In their minds, the just will be rewarded with a life of happiness and prosperity.  The unjust (anyone who does not subscribe to their particular religious orientation) will be condemned and punished to a life of pain and hell fire.  Many of these fundamentalists deny the concept of evolution in favor of what they call “Intelligent Design.”  This is a creed that subscribes to a literal interpretation of the Bible in which an all-powerful God created the world in 7 days.  No primordial soup, no dinosaurs, no Homo sapiens predecessors.  Adam was created by God and Eve was created out of one of Adam’s ribs.

It is interesting that after about two hundred years of science proving the Theory of Evolution that we seem to have more people than ever before who endorse the idea of “Intelligent Design.”  Darwin’s theories suggest that more intelligent people would have a better chance of surviving, hence propagating even more intelligent people as the gene pool favors those with a higher I.Q.  However, when we look at Trump and his supporters, this concept does not seem to be working.  The number of people who support Trump is simply astounding.  Could we be de-evolving?  Could we be regressing mentally?  Will the dumb inherit the earth?

paineOne would have thought that most of the Neanderthals who succumb more easily to bigotry and hatred would be on the decline.  Instead, in the last few years throughout much of the world, it seems as though the fanatics, racists, and bigots are on the incline.  Witness the rise of ISIS and its supporters all over the world.  What is happening?  Was Darwin wrong?  Is the world witnessing a devolution instead of an evolution?  Donald Trump and his followers seem to be evidence that not all of the population has been evolving according to Darwin’s Laws.  A sizable portion of US citizens seem to be going from intelligent thinking rationale Homo sapiens to stupid unthinking racist bigoted Homo rednecks.  Where will this end and what will we do with these Neanderthals?

Listen to Charlie Chaplin’s “Great Dictator” speech:   Speech

hitler and trumpMost of the US is supportive of the idea of destroying foreign Muslim terrorists.  But what of domestic right-wing terrorists?    What about the home grown nutcases, terrorists, Nazis and extremists in the USA?  If we assume that the KKK, racists and sexists in the USA are of the same ilk and just as dangerous to liberty and freedom as Islamic terrorists, then when do we wage war on our domestic terrorists?  When will we enlist the Army, National Guard, police and other liberty protectors to jail and wipe out these home grown extremists?  Should we allow American Neo-Nazis the right of free speech and the right to vote, when we lost nearly a half a million citizens in a war to save the world from the Nazis and Japanese warlords only seventy years ago?

homophobesWhy are we tolerating groups wearing swastikas, Nazi armbands and Hitler slogans?  Groups parading around against immigrants.  Groups who make a mockery of the values that this country was built on.  This tolerance is a disgrace to the Founding Fathers.  It is a disgrace to the Union soldiers who fought for the freedom and equality of African Americans.  It is a disgrace and affront to the soldiers that lost their lives fighting the Fascists.  It is a disgrace to the people in this country who are first and second generation Americans.  Finally, it is a disgrace to all people who believe in the idea of “liberty and justice for all” which is a part of the Pledge of Allegiance to our country.

“If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace.  We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”  — Samuel Adams

As patriotic citizens, we need to stop applying double standards.  We need to treat domestic enemies as ruthlessly as we do foreign enemies.  We need to stop tolerating extremists in this country just as we despise extremists in other countries.  Goldwater was wrong.  Extremism is not a virtue.  Extremism of any sort is an evil insidious disease that if left untreated will spread and infect an entire nation.  We need to speak out against extremists, whether left, right, foreign or domestic.  There can be no room for extremists in a country based on Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. There are many who forget that freedom for oneself is based on freedom for all.  Anyone who would take away freedom from others has no right to freedom for themselves.

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves” — Abraham Lincoln

I want to remind some of you of a recent history in the USA.  It was a time between about 1950 and 1990 when smokers had rights and non-smokers had no rights.  Smokers could light up wherever they wanted to from offices to parks to restaurants to hospital waiting rooms.  If you were a nonsmoker, smokers could blow smoke in your face, put the ashes out in your car and throw their butts wherever they wanted to.  Nonsmokers had no rights to challenge this behavior.  Smokers were simply executing their constitutional rights to pollute the air and help the rest of us develop pulmonary lung conditions.

Well, the times finally changed.  The large corporations that tried so hard to make smoking glamorous and dispute the idea that cigarettes were a major contributing cause of lung cancer, finally succumbed to a combination of lawsuits, anti-smoking campaigns and citizen awareness.  Non-smokers have rights to.  The right to clean air and the right not to have to be around people who indiscriminately smoke.  In what was a long battle against smokers, smokers finally became the “bad” guys and non-smokers are now the good guys.

What does this have to do with Neanderthals?  About a week ago, a disgruntled smoker was asked to put his cigarette out in a Waffle House restaurant.  He pulled out a 9-mm handgun and shot the waitress to death.  An aberration?  An anomaly?  A freak occurrence?  I think not.  Rather, we have an example of an individual who believed his right to do whatever he wanted to, whenever he wanted to “TRUMPS” the rights of the rest of us.  This is the same behavior that is exhibited by racists, sexists, bigots and right-wing fundamentalists.  They are all infected with the idea that their beliefs and ideology are so important that those of us who do not subscribe to their nut case philosophies have no rights.  In the worst of cases, such as the Waffle House, they believe that we have no right to live.  This must change.  How you might well ask can it change?  How do we erase bigotry and hatred?

Waffle House Customer Shoots and Kills Waitress over No-Smoking Policy

against racismThe only way it will change is for good people to speak out.  Speak out against racism.  Speak out against sexism.  Speak out against homophobia.  Speak out against intolerance.  Speak out against injustice and discrimination.  You don’t know what to say?  It’s simple.  WWJD?  A meme that I see on a lot of t-shirts provides one reply that all Christians should endorse.  If you are not a Christian, simply practice the Golden Rule or some other rule that shows respect and love for others who are not like you.  That’s what Jesus, Gandhi, King and many other great leaders would do.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

BTY:  I still like to smoke a pipe or a cigar once in a while.  I do not smoke where others will be subjected to the smoke or smell.  My father and sister were both heavy smokers and both died from lung cancer. My father was 60 when he died after two lung operations and my sister was 58 when she died.  I stopped smoking regularly when I was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous lung condition about 9 years ago.  Hoping a very infrequent pipe or cigar will not kill me before I get run over crossing the street.

Time for Questions:

Why do you think so many people seem to hate others?  What causes intolerance and bigotry?  Do you have friends who are bigots, sexists, racists?  What do you do about their attitudes?  Do you challenge their ideas or do you simply ignore them?  When should we challenge bigots and extremists?

Life is just beginning.

“Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature…. If the next centennial does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.”  — James Garfield, the twentieth president of the United States, 1877

“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite” — Joseph de Maistre

 

 

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