Monday, January 30, 2017

What Do Trump Supporters See in This Man?

No, I am not trying to be funny. I am honestly curious what it is about Donald Trump that people can actually like.

I remember personally thinking of him as basically a scumbag back in the 1980's. To me, he symbolized everything that was wrong with the times, and with western, particularly American, society at the time. Basically, he seemed the same as Don King, who most Trump supporters will readily dismiss and view as a joke, which makes me wonder if they even know how blatantly racist many of them can sometimes comes across. 

Perhaps the man that Trump most reminded me of was himself fictional. Probably, you can guess who I have in mind. It is Gordon Gekko, the man who famously said, "Greed is good. Greed works."

That was how the movie Wall Street largely came to symbolize the excesses of the 1980's, which is still often referred to as the "Me" decade. 

I think Anthony Jeselnik put it best on "Comedy Central's Roast of Donald Trump" when he said to Trump's face:

"I'm not sure if you're even aware of this, but the only difference between you and Michael Douglas from the movie, Wall Street, is that no one's going to be sad when you get cancer."

Honestly, I thought that was more or less an accurate description of how most Americans felt about him.

And yet, he's now President of the United States, and will always go down in history. He will always be identified with this country, and this particular era in this country's history. He represents the very worst excesses that seem to plague the United States right now: greed, hypocrisy, dishonesty, arrogance, entitlement, bullying, and blatant corruption.

I have used this quote numerous times here before, but I think it appropriate to share it once again, because it describes Trump perfectly. This is a quote from Paul Thomas of the New Zealand Herald, and it comes from the days before he even became the official Republican nominee, let alone was elected to the White House:

“Trump personifies everything the rest of the world despises about America: casual racism, crass materialism, relentless self-aggrandizement, vulgarity on an epic scale. He is the Ugly American in excelsis.”

Yes, that about sums it up.

Now, I have actually been trying to engage in some dialect with a few Trump supporters. Most of them are either quick insults when I reveal that I do not think like they do, while others seem suddenly uncomfortable and dodge further discussion. Still others seemed to not have that great of a grasp on political matters and on current world events in general.

However, there is one guy who seems to hold a bit more promise. At first, it seemed to be almost a typical exchange of insults, which did not interest me much. We had already had a couple of minor exchanges about Trump and liberalism/conservatism in general before, but this time, it seemed a bit more engaging, and so I pursued it. Unfortunately, there were some insults hurled at each other at first, and which I was at least as guilty of initially, although I tried to move away from that in order to exchange in more intelligent discourse as the conversation went on. Thus, some aspects of the conversation remained mired in somewhat insulting, or derogatory, language. Yet, he did seem to hold some promise as being capable of expressing what it is that some people are attracted to in a figure like Donald Trump, and so I pursued it a little further than otherwise likely would have been the case.

It all started when I shared a meme with a quote from John F. Kennedy on it, where he described what he felt the term "liberal" meant to him. Here it is:

“If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.”

This guy then claimed that this was not and never was what being a liberal is, and went on to explain a bit more. Let me quote the rest of his initial response the rest of the way here:

"That has not been the fruit of the liberal tree. The liberal tree is shown in the French Revolution orgy of murder, the October Revolution of social decay, the 60s sexual revolution, and the shuffling hordes of mentally disconnected people today, we the people, relying on electronic devices instead of a moral conscience."

Me: Let me guess - you got your education at Trump University, and have since graduated to FAUX News and Breitbart, right?

Him: "It's called a study of the history of liberalism from the French revolution to Bill Clinton. What a banal riposte I've read."

Me: Supporters of Trump, like you, can find any excuses that you want, and can forgive him his trespasses all you want. But this - Americans paying for a costly wall along the Mexican border - was not what he promised. He was very clear on this point, repeating it over and over, and left no doubt. He was going to build the wall and make Mexico pay for it. As an American, I want to hold him accountable every bit as much as I wanted Obama to be held accountable for his broken promises. I don't think loyalty to one man or party comes before loyalty to country. Do you, Roger? Or will you twist this truth to make it seem like he did not outright break his promise? Mexican presidents past and president were all saying, to a man, that there was absolutely no way that they were going to pay for this wall. They said it before the election, and they said it after Trump's win, and are now saying it once Trump is president. They have been consistent. Can you say that Trump has been anywhere near as consistent?

Him: "Liberalism is the address of distraction and finishing the societal structures. Primarily, family unit. Your trans debt slave retail training culture is indicative."

Me: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Use all the big words and lofty sounding concepts you want. I received a strong education as well (derisively call it a "trans debt slave retail training culture" all you want), but I am not fooled. The easiest thing in the world to do is to try and tear someone or something down, and your incessant use of certain key words is quite telling itself. Now, I asked some very direct questions, which you did not attempt to answer. What is Trump's plan to address social inequality? Has he drained the swamp, as promised? Are the Mexicans going to pay for the wall, as promised? Why is he and his administration so afraid of science, and facts in general, for that matter? Is he upholding the constitution as he swore to do, or is he showing more interest in trampling freedom of speech and of the press? You speak of "liberals" and "liberalism" as bad words, as if this were something new, as if this were unique to you. I can turn on FAUX News or read Breitbart articles anytime I want, as well. I am asking you, Stephen Walter Howard Crane, very directly: what are your thoughts on what Trump is doing now, and is it fulfilling your hopes and dreams? Is he keeping all of his promises? Please answer without falling back on the tired cliched answers that I can get from conservative pundits, and answer what you yourself believe. Let's see if you can do that without trying to add some predictable insults towards "liberals" and anyone else who does not think like you do. We're both adults, right? As you seem to be more intellectual then most Trump supporters, I am sincerely interested. Tell me what I and many others are not seeing about Trump.

Me: While I am waiting for your answer or answers to my earlier questions, let me explain why I personally never liked Donald Trump, specifically. Ever since I first heard of the guy back in the 1980's, when he was just a famous personality who owned a bunch of hotels and always seemed to be with Don King and Mike Tyson, promoting his hotels with some big name prize fights of the day, he seemed a crass and arrogant, shallow man.  He seemed generally and genuinely nasty and had a false sense of entitlement. Many years ago, my father once saw him in an NYC street getting out of a limo, and he completely ignored a homeless man lying on the street and looked towards my father, almost demanding recognition and/or respect. He always seemed like the real life version of Gordon Gekko, and that is not a compliment. Here was a man who was born to enormous wealth and had all of the right connections, yet seemed somehow unhappy, even angry, all of the time. He cheats the system as best he can, and then brags about it. Frankly, as a grown man and father myself, one thing that I just cannot stomach about him is that incessant need for attention, for getting credit for anything and everything. He holds himself in such high regard, that it is quite clear he pretty much looks down on everyone else. According to him, he knows more about everything than everyone else, and his infamous statement that he knows more about ISIS than the generals do is only the most glaring example. Trump has this rage in him, and he seems to hold some closeted views that betray his own bigotry. He labels whole groups of people with stereotypes. During his inauguration, his facial expression and body language seemed downright  angry the entire time. There was one famous clip (you probably saw it yourself) of him showing anger towards his wife, Melania. This was on the day that was supposed to be the biggest honor of his life. He has remained completely obsessed with his own popularity, going to ridiculous levels to try and prove just how beloved he is. He cannot stand the fact that he lost the popular election by nearly three million votes, and claimed that there would be a major investigation. Within hours, members of his own party in Congress said that there would not be an investigation, as not one shred of proof was offered, and thus an investigation was baseless. This man infamously tweets his outrage towards anyone who he notices does not like him, and he truly seems incapable of letting anything go. It has gotten to the point where many people, myself included, feel that he is a little too alarmingly like an overgrown, 70 year old child. That, to me, epitomizes someone who you do not want making such weighty decisions in the Oval Office. His inaugural address was seen as a disaster by most of the outside world, and received criticism from many otherwise political allies, including former Vice-President Dick Cheney, among others. The rest of the world is looking at what is happening here, and they do not understand how the US could have elected such a man into the highest office to represent them for the next four years. Paul Thomas of the New Zealand Herald probably had the best and most telling quote that I have heard overall of what many, many people outside of these United States feels about the man. Here it is: “Trump personifies everything the rest of the world despises about America: casual racism, crass materialism, relentless self-aggrandizement, vulgarity on an epic scale. He is the Ugly American in excelsis.”

Me: All of that, and much, much more, is why I just cannot stomach the man. I was not out there protesting and, frankly, am not sure that the protesters are doing much more than basically bitching at this point. However, I am strongly opposed to just about all that this man is and stands for, and am honestly at a loss as to why anyone would look at him, with all that he is and all that he has said and done, and think that this was the man that they could proudly call their president. He is a billionaire and was born wealth, given a wealthy inheritance and all of the right connections, and is not exactly what I would call a self-made man. It was truly surprising to me that so many working Americans felt that he got them, got their suffering. It was also surprising, and somewhat alarming, that he turned around and mocked his own big phrase from the campaign ("drain the swamp") in front of his own supporters, and how he now has some of the biggest billionaires in the business among his administration, including the former head of Goldman Sachs. How could his supporters not feel at least disappointed, if not outright enraged and with a burning sense of betrayal? I am guessing that you are such a person. And so I ask you again, what specifically was it about Donald Trump that attracted you? And do you still like him as much, or perhaps more, now? In all honesty, I am curious to hear what you have to say, and not so much about what your feeling on liberals are. I am not trying to be insulting, but am honestly curious, because this is the first time that someone has actually taken an interest in debating the merits of Trump. Help me to understand in general how someone who is clearly well-educated comes to view Donald Trump as fit to lead this country?

Me: Sorry to bombard you with thoughts and questions, but again, I am honestly interested in an exchange of ideas here, rather than insults, and you seem capable of holding your end of the bargain. Just interested in some political dialogue from someone who clearly disagrees. Take your time. You've got my ear.

Well, I waited a few hours, and he did respond, the next day.

This was our exchange, starting with his response:

Him: OMG it's the liberal deluge attack at all dissent. The irony is Trump is an outsider like JFK, who wants to shake up the system for patriotic ends. ____ out. (I did not reveal his name to protect his anonymity)

Me: Well, that was a letdown. No questions answered, and back to the same nonsense of namecalling, demonizing "liberals." So much for that idea, huh? 

Me: ___ - You are more than welcome to answer any and all of my questions posed to you. I'd like to hear what you would have to say. Not especially interested in listening to typical Trump-style rants about a "liberal deluge" and such. Trump is a political outsider, but he was most certainly part of the financial establishment. As for JFK, not sure that he qualified as an outsider nearly as much, having been a career politician. 

Frankly, I thought that was going to be it, the extent of our little debate there.

But that was not it, apparently. He responded to one of my other posts, this one on climate change.

You Really Think 97 percent of the Earth's Scientists
Are in on Some Dumb Conspiracy to Ruin America by Getting Us 

Him: It's been made, they're bought and paid. 

Me: Hey, ____, still waiting for answers to the questions. I'd be up to hearing what you have to say about those. Thought you might be the first Trump fan that I've met actually willing to engage in something resembling intelligent discourse. Been disappointed with your reaction so far, but you're still always welcome. Until then, if all you can do is resort to smart aleck comments and/or name calling, I'll just assume that you, like your man Trump, are all smoke and mirrors. Big words and flashy sounding arguments, but nothing of substance beyond that.

And so far, that was that. It has been a day since this last exchange, and there is no indication that he is about to explain his vantage point, or that he has any real other arguments that do not automatically resort to insulting "liberals" and using that as a bad word. You know, rather typical strategies that have been employed countless times already by FAUX News and conservative radio commentators like Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh, to name just a few.

I am still waiting, but not with bated breath. Truth be told, there were doubts that he would respond at all, and still more doubts about whether he would actually seriously try to answer, or just give me a standard reply amounting to "liberals suck" and leave it at that. Got my answer on that one, and am still waiting for a reasonably intelligent Trump supporter to help me to understand what appeals to them so much about this guy, who I personally view as the poster child of narcissism, corruption, and entitlement.

The quote about Trump from Paul Thomas of the New Zealand Herald was taken from this article (click on link below):

Trump is Global Journalism’s American Junk Food August 26, 2015 by Christian Christensen

1 comment:

  1. I suspect many of the most vocal proponents of any given political figure or movement are ultimately trying to convince themselves that they've found the answers to society's ills, under the guise of [often smugly] presuming to enlighten or admonish the rest of us. As a general rule I think it's safe to say coming to terms with the human condition isn't easy for people, regardless of the experiences they've had, the input they've received from others and how that's influenced the way they interpret the world. Personally, I find the older I get, the fewer certainties (if any) I have. While there are any number of things I've always found alienating about conservatism as a movement (and any number of the people who identify themselves as conservatives), I'd be disingenuous at best if I were to suggest that I have any real faith left to lose in progressivism, or its champions' ability to bring about lasting, meaningful change. Which should by no means be taken to mean that I'm glibly dismissing everybody across the board. There have certainly been individuals here and there who struck me as being genuine, as being people of courage and conviction, including but not limited to the late Senator Paul Wellstone. But for the most part, the Democrats (who, granted, tend by and large to be more centrist than anything else) here and the Socialist Party in France have both provided me with a steady supply of bitter disappointment and heartbreak over the years. Time and again, when they had the opportunity to substantiate and legitimize their campaign promises and carefully scripted soundbites by taking on corporate greed or refusing to authorize wars declared under dubious pretexts, they failed – miserably – to rise to the occasion. Too many people ostensibly motivated by much the same things as you and I do tend to give them a pass, attributing their collectively grim track record to the obstructive policies and corruption of their adversaries, conveniently disregarding how complicit they tend to be in all of this. I eventually reached the point of no longer feeling "disappointed" by these people, for the simple reason that I know not to expect anything from them. I've learned to be very wary of the myriad charlatans and snake oil salesmen out there promising a better tomorrow, provided of course that I make a contribution to their movement and cast a vote for their party. While it would be reductive and simplistic to suggest that Trump's rise can be attributed to any one cause, I think one major contributing factor is the unwillingness to come to terms with precisely the alienation, hopelessness and uncertainty that I've just described, because it transcends the "conservatives versus liberals" divide. People want to feel confident, optimistic and reassured, and they want these things badly enough to vote for a megalomaniacal man-child with the emotional maturity level of a toddler – badly enough to dismiss any and all criticism or scrutiny of their idol with the usual talking points. Such is cult of personality's enticing allure. I see a parallel between that and religion, actually – this instinctive need to believe that everything's going to be just fine, to avoid and reject doubt or questioning at all costs. But that's another can of worms altogether...