For decades, I was wasting my votes in South Carolina by aggressively voting against Republicans. I really never voted for a Democrat, but I certainly found all the Republicans so vile that I felt a moral duty to vote against them.
Then in 2005, I was sitting in a hotel in New Orleans just months before Katrina hit and watching an interview on TV with George Carlin. Prompted by Charlie Rose about the 1992 election, Carlin explained that he was a lifelong non-voter.
With the rise of Trump, I also resisted addressing this new and unprecedented level of insanity in mainstream politics: Trump is a bizarro cartoon extreme of everything wrong with partisan politics and the U.S. (although he certainly isn’t an extreme conservative, which I address below).
Recently, I have broken my Golden Rule of not mentioning the fools who live by the glory of being mentioned, even when being called fools (again, Trump is the king of that crap).
I also have been forced to reconsider partisan politics—most disturbingly, to acknowledge that if the Republicans had nominated Jeb Bush, they would have had a very powerful leg to stand on in terms of refuting Hillary Clinton over ethics and honesty.
Yes, we all could have quibbled over policy (I detest Jeb Bush’s policy, especially the dumpster fire of education policy in Florida), but Jeb Bush proved himself one of the most honest candidates in the primary campaign, and Hillary Clinton has a legitimate credibility problem (one that is typical of almost all candidates and only easily exposed by an unusually ethical, honest candidate).
And while there is a long and disturbing history (especially in the South) of major blocks of voters voting against their best interests, the Trump phenomenon, again, is a truly extreme example of that paradox.
I have begun to understand this better after seeing a photo with a news story about Trump: A line of young white males all wearing “build the wall” t shirts mimicking Pink Floyd’s The Wall (possibly in the top three most offensive things I have seen in the campaign as a Pink Floyd fan).
Trump has risen along a continuum of Republicans who have maintained the religious right’s support despite multiple infidelities and divorces, as well as amassing wealth that clearly contradicts the whole camel through an eye of a needle idea of reaching heaven.
Trump also has seemingly increased the loyalty of poor and working class whites—despite his being the sort of business man who has exploited and ignored those populations to amass and squander his wealth. (We worship the wealthy in the U.S. and conveniently ignore that wealth is always built on the backs of workers who are left out of that wealth loop.)
I don’t want to catalogue the many contradictions between who Trump is and those subgroups who support him, but it is without question that Trump maintains support from many stakeholders who are somehow putting aside that he does not represent them in order to remain rabidly behind him.
Along with the “my team” aspect of partisan politics in the U.S. (a certain number of Republicans and Democrats, for example, would vote for anyone on their “team,” even if we simply swapped candidates), I believe there is one extremely disturbing common denominator cementing the Trump wall: fearing the “other.”
Trump has garnered the support of the anti-government Republican party with mantras of “I can do this for you” and with plans such as the federal government building a wall between Mexico and the U.S. (huge time and tax money commitments from the “less government” crowd?).
The “build the wall” refrain of the Trump campaign is simultaneously the most irrational and most compelling and solidifying aspect of his run.
The Newt Gingrich moment when he refused to acknowledge violent crime is down in the U.S. by insisting that it is more important that the public believes there is more crime—this is the “wall” element writ large.
Trump is the orange-faced, wild-haired Clown Leader of Fear—a very bad script plagiarized from a much better Stephen King novel.
The fear of the “other” feeds Islamophobia, racism, sexism/misogyny, homophobia, etc., and can be maintained only through ignorance and delusion.
And mainstream cloaked-racist refrains such as “black-on-black crime” have created the foundation upon which the Trump Circus has been built.
Some continue to argue that we must not demonize Trump supporters as stupid, but I believe that reasonable call is deeply flawed.
Do poor and working class whites have reason to be disillusioned? Of course, but that doesn’t excuse there misinformed responses.
White high school drop outs have the same employment opportunities as blacks with some college (see here page 8), but the angry poor/working class voters supporting Trump will not admit their white privilege, and refuse to address the complicated facts of a racist U.S. society.
So the ultimate paradox of the rise of Heir Clown Trump is that “build the wall” is the real unifying theme that discredits his “Make America Great Again”—because, if we were informed at all, we may be compelled to see just what our country’s values are regarding the “other”:
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”