Yesterday someone whom I long ago blocked on social media posted a crack about me on someone else’s Facebook page. In response to something I wrote which our mutual friend shared, the naysayer quipped, “Another person who doesn’t understand why Trump was elected.”
Oh but I do.
I understand all too well that the election of the Republican candidate stemmed from a peculiar discontent common to three groups of Americans: White, upper-middle-socio-economic men; white lower-socio-economic persons of both genders; and the over-lapping and growing group of people who feel that only Caucasians should be allowed to pursue the American dream.
Possibly these three groups would not describe themselves as such. Certainly, religiously Conservative minority voters (code word for ‘non-white’) factored into the equation. But a common thread runs among the less-than-half of Americans who voted for the successful candidate. That thread spins itself into the fabric of an us-and-them mentality which Trump embraced and preached.
The supporters of Trump have a different way of describing what happened. They claim to be taking back individual control of destiny, protecting American soil, and bucking a corrupt Washington system. The L.A. Times said this about Trump Supporters:
“Sure, Trump said some vile things during an exceedingly nasty campaign, sometimes acting in ways they wouldn’t want their children to behave. But for those who supported him, that was part of what made him an unconventional candidate — he wasn’t the typical stamped-from-the-mold politician.”
L.A. Times, 02 Jan 2017, linked HERE.
So what makes people elect someone who “[acted] in ways they wouldn’t want their children to behave”? He validated their views, and we have known for a long time that people form their views and go looking for a version of “facts” which supports what they already believe. A 2009 study at Ohio State University “found that participants spent 36 percent more time reading articles that agreed with their point of view. They had a 58 percent chance of choosing articles that supported their views, as opposed to a 43 percent chance of choosing an article that challenged their view”.
This proclivity could explain why Trump voters ignored his overt broadcast of what he apparently believes which might not coincide with his voters’ fundamental values.
For example, Trump mocked and ridiculed a reporter to dismiss that reporter’s challenge to Trump’s account of seeing what he describe as “Arabs” or “Muslims” celebrating the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Building. A video camera memoralized Trump’s conduct, yet Trump supporters apparently did not condemn him for that obvious signal that Trump will rely on ad hominem attacks on others based upon their differences to bolster his positions.
Trump also made remark after remark establishing his opinion that women should be treated as inferior beings, good mostly for sexual gratification. Yet women voted for him, apparently excusing his rhetoric as idle talk or irrelevant.
So we’ve come to a point in American history where truth has become elastic or inconsequential. The American Dream used to mean hard work, accumulation of wealth, personal freedom, and co-existence among others interested in the same freedom that each of us wanted for ourselves and our families. Does it still mean that to any of us, in the era when we have to hold our nose to vote for the least offensive candidate, and 64,000,000 find someone with no regard for women, the disabled, or prisoners of war to be less offensive than anyone else on the crowded stage?
And what about this: A significant number of people found it acceptable to stand on the same side of the line as the Klu Klux Klan. The people who brought us lynchings, cross-burnings, and the murder of innocent people based upon the color of their skin. The KKK. I could never bring myself to vote for someone who is seen by the KKK as having shared values. That single fact would be a deal-breaker for me. Yet I know people whom I consider decent and intelligent, who voted for Trump. This signals to me that those people do not mind being associated with the KKK — that they prefer a divided country, whereas I strive for, and believe in, a unified nation, in which all persons are seen as equal and treated equally.
It has come to this:
The American Dream dons a white robe and burns a cross on your yard, and their candidate takes office in 18 days. They stood with him; are we to believe that he will not stand with them? We know he ridicules people like me — female, disabled — and people like John McCain, who nobly served our country. We know that Trump disparaged the parents of a soldier killed in action. What makes us think that he will behave differently after 20 January 2017 than he did for the entirety of his life including when he conducted a quite public and vocal campaign to occupy the highest office in our land?
Tell me this: Are his supporters counting on him changing?
If so, they have a long time to wait. People rarely change for someone who loves them, which might be the single most common reason for the American divorce rate.
So we must take a long hard look at truth, truth-bending, and the American dream. Less than half (62,979,636) of Americans supported the man who will take office on January 20th. The rest of us, more than 74,000,000, now have the responsibility for sitting on the teeter-totter and making sure the country stays in balance. As E.J. Dionne tells us:
“The most important political task of 2017 transcends the normal run of issues and controversies. Our greatest obligation will be to defend democracy itself, along with republican norms for governing and the openness that free societies require.”
We’re going to need a hefty tool box.