Indeed, Donald Trump has used all sorts of language, and has shamelessly exploited the anger and hatred and prejudices that many of his supporters – far too many – seem to feel. Whether it is half of Trump supporters as Hillary Clinton suggests (her “basket full of deplorables” statement), or whether it is perhaps more or less than this, is almost beside the point. The fact of the matter is that Trump has outright stated basically racist positions. He has insulted Mexicans and Muslims in particular. He has suggested that Western European allies, and others around the world, are not paying their fair share, and like with his proposed Great Wall of America, he has loudly proclaimed that he would force them to pay their fair share, even though the American military presence (let alone military interventions) is not always welcome in many of these regions.
At this point, it is almost lazy to mention that Trump is not the conventional political candidate. Indeed, his approach is very different and, in many ways, far less polished than most other political candidates, both Republican and Democrats alike. He is not nearly as rehearsed, and seems to speak his mind as he sees things, which is certainly not the norm in big league politics, where everything is carefully measured for political viability. That is why he seems to keep saying and doing things that people take offense to and find reprehensible. The fact that it has gotten him only increased success as the election has gone along is telling.
Below is a very good summary by Robert Kagan (see link to article below) of how Trump has appealed to so many Americans:
But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.
Yet, the problem that this election highlights is the illusion that we only have two choices - either the increasingly fascistic tendencies that are marching more boldly today, represented by the phenomenon that is Donald Trump and his growing mass of supporters, or the very same old and outdated political machinery that promises to produce exactly more of the same nonsense that has helped to get these people so worked up in the first place. The fact that Hillary Clinton was the presumed nominee far before she actually clinched it, and the fact that she and the Democratic elite had to resort to all manner of cheating in order to achieve this desired outcome into reality, is also itself an erosion of democracy. This is something that supporters of Hillary steadfastly refuse to acknowledge, because Trump is not the only major party candidate in this election who represents an anti-democratic spirit. There is a reason, after all, that Hillary Clinton is actually perceived as less trustworthy than Donald Trump according to prominent polls.
In short, the very same people who are blasting Trump as the be all, end all of everything bad and evil in this country have, in turn, embraced many of the same things that they criticize in him by closing their eyes to Hillary Clinton's record. After all, the Clintons themselves are rich, and from Whitewater to the huge "speaking fees" that they both seem to collect wherever they go to the ethically challenged financial history of the Clinton Foundation,Hillary supporters seem to conveniently forget that there is more than one elitist in this race. She has a proven track record of lying for decades now, beginning all the way back during her role in the Watergate investigations, and running straight through her years as the First Lady of Arkansas, then First Lady in the White House, then as Senator, Secretary of State and now, finally, as the Democratic nominee. She demonstrably lied and/or acted in an irresponsible manner about numerous major things during the course of her career, including Whitewater, her emails while serving as Secretary of State, her extreme embellishment of being under sniper fire in Bosnia, and distorting the facts numerous times regarding her primary opponent up until recently, Bernie Sanders (remember when she could not remember him literally standing behind her in her fight for universal healthcare back in the 1990's?). Considering Bill Clinton's own troubled past with the truth, you cannot divorce this very troubling history of the Clinton family. The fact that Hillary Clinton received so much immoral and, yes, illegal help in order to secure the nomination is not a minor point here, either. For that matter, neither is her ultimate support of things like the Iraq invasion, the PATRIOT Act, NAFTA and her having helped design TPP (even though she claims to oppose it in it's present incarnation - and just how much do you imagine she will change before she almost inevitably passes this measure, anyway?).
Let us not forget that, early on in the Democratic race, Hillary supporters seemed to constantly suggest that the only reason that people would not be willing to rally behind her was because they were sexist - and some of her supporters still believe that. It could not possibly be that her record was troubling, that many people legitimately disagreed with her overly rehearsed approach to politics, that wet your finger and stick it in the air to check which way the wind blows approach that is the essence of the political machinery of the Clintons. Apparently, we all had to accept that Hillary and her supporters have the monopoly on wisdom and political realities, so they were in position to base such lofty and harsh judgments on those of us who were so reluctant to support her. Let us remember, however, that their accepted conventional wisdom was that she was the only one who could beat whoever wound up being the Republican nominee, and given her ever diminishing numbers lately, look at how baseless that thinking was. The Clintons, like the Bushes, are a political dynasty. They are not used to getting their way, and so they will go to extremes in order to make sure that they get exactly what they want. Of course, her supporters will deny that, and will stick doggedly to the official line, so that a supposedly chance meeting at a Phoenix airport tarmac between former President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch in which they supposedly shoot the shit about their golf game and their grandchildren for half an hour, and supposedly never discussed the investigation of Hillary Clinton's mishandling of her email account really does not appear sinister or illegal, but rather innocent. Or how the Democratic Party establishment made sure that she would be the nominee, even though they are supposed to remain officially impartial, and not intervene in a democratic race for the nomination. Always, the Clintons are exceptions to these kinds of abuses of the very same democratic system that they allegedly want to lead.
Yet, the danger is real on the other side, as well, making the choice one between a cheater and a liar, or a psychopath. Of course, Hillary supporters will quickly blast Donald Trump and his supporters to be dangerous and veering the country towards dictatorship, while ignoring the big money and the big political machinery - rather than the people of this democracy themselves - that got Hillary Clinton into the position that she now finds herself in. While Trump makes news every single day with his latest idiocies, how sad is it that Hillary Clinton can only rely on getting elected by pounding home one message: a vote against her is a vote for Trump. She cannot stand on her own record, because only her most passionate supporters can rally behind that, and they clearly are not nearly enough to get her through to the White House. She is trying to shift now to a more positive focus on her own image and her own proposals. But how successful will that be when, at the end of the day, there is that ever nagging issue of trust? Again, the vast majority of American people do not trust her, and that includes people both to the left and to the right of her. The fact that Trump can actually attack Hillary from the left, in terms of her support of the Iraq invasion, as well as her support of those ridiculous trade deals, should be a real source of embarrassment to her and her supporters.
Trump’s own inconsistencies should perhaps be troubling to more people. After all, he used to be in favor of a single-payer healthcare system for the United States, although now, he is dead set opposed to that. He was critical of George W. Bush, and particularly his invasion of Iraq, and outright has suggested that the invasion was based on lies. Yet, he claims that he will bomb the hell out of some Middle Eastern countries. He claims to be an outsider, although he has had to rely on his personal wealth in order to gain access increasing access into the political system. He does not legally have to submit his tax returns, although his refusal to do so flies in the face of what each major party nominee has done now for many decades.
Yet, Trump continues to enjoy success. Each time that you think this surely must be the end, that he really has no chance (and I will admit to consistently not taking him or his chances seriously), you find that his numbers are surprisingly strong, as they are now. He has made this a close race, and suddenly, the prospect of a Trump presidency has become all too real. When you look at the poll numbers now, and how he is pulling even with Clinton, the fact that he actually might win seems suddenly undeniable.
Indeed, Trump does seem to cater to those kinds of lowest common denominator, and has simplistic sounding solutions to complex problems. But these obviously appeal to an alarmingly large and growing percentage of Americans.
Here again is some strong perspective on this phenomenon by Robert Kagan:
This phenomenon has arisen in other democratic and quasi-democratic countries over the past century, and it has generally been called “fascism.” Fascist movements, too, had no coherent ideology, no clear set of prescriptions for what ailed society. “National socialism” was a bundle of contradictions, united chiefly by what, and who, it opposed; fascism in Italy was anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist and anti-clerical. Successful fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der Führer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation. Whatever the problem, he could fix it. Whatever the threat, internal or external, he could vanquish it, and it was unnecessary for him to explain how.
Scary thought. And the even scarier thought is that this is only the worst case scenario, with the best case scenario, allegedly, being a return to normalcy under Hillary Clinton, she with the ties to Wall Street banks and powerful corporations who sponsor her. Surely, they expect something for their money, and that, of course, is the curse of our American political system as it exists today. If this election showed anything, it is that this is not working for Americans anymore, that they do not feel the political system is working for them any longer. After all, there was a reason why Hillary and friends needed to resort to cheating in order to secure the nomination, and it is this same reason that none of the more established and conventional Republican nominees could not stop Trump. We need to move away from this transparent political corruption, yet as soon as the Democratic elites were in, they acted as if Bernie Sanders had never existed, clearly not getting the message that the party should be over.
And that kind of blindness is contributing to a potential Trump win far more than those Bernie supporters who remain unwilling or unable to support Hillary Clinton.
This sickening election truly is a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Here is the article that got me onto this topic today in the first place. Please take a look, it is a fascinating (and scary) piece, but too important to ignore:
This is how fascism comes to America by Robert Kagan May 18, 2016: