Ken’s Take on the World


Dog Whistles and Trumpeteers

The rise of Donald Trump to become the leading front-runner for the Republican nomination to be President of the United States has been surprising to me.  At least upon first glance.  When one looks deeper, this success should actually not be too surprising for anyone to recognize.  Not only has his elevation and, apparent success, in the polls continued to surprise me, it has also filled me with a sense of disappointment and sadness.  I am not saddened by his success, after all, how can anyone be made sad by witnessing the success of another person.  I am saddened, however, by what his current success in the Republican primaries is premised on.

 

Mr. Trump has been a successful businessman.  Yes, like all great business people, he has had his failures.  His initial wealth was inherited which I do not fault him for.  There are many great people who also inherited great wealth.  I believe he exploits others for his personal gain and that makes him unethical and a poor role model.  Prior to his current entry into politics, I would have never guessed that he would be considered by anyone, let alone describe himself, as a, “conservative.”  The only casual link I can identify between a conservative philosophy and Mr. Trump is that he is a business person and I have always tended to think that responsible, self-made, business people trend somewhat conservative, at least financially.  Mr. Trump does not fit the mold that I imagine of the conservative business person.  He is extravagant, opulent, boisterous, and brash.  None of these are qualities I would associate with a truly conservative persona.

 

Donald Trump has increased his personal fortune through real estate, gambling establishments, and other businesses.  He has owned an airline, hotels, casinos, and has had his name attached to steaks, water, and other consumer products.  He has experienced successes and failures with these operations.  When his businesses were failing he sought out bankruptcy protections.  These are completely legal processes, however, they are inconsistent with a conservative philosophy of personal responsibility.  Bankruptcy is generally harmful to creditors and, when it involves a business, it is always harmful to the workers.  A President Trump cannot take the United States of America through bankruptcy court.  His economic ideas, he has not advanced any specific policies, are not fiscally-conservative by any means.

 

His personal life makes it even more unfathomable that he would consider himself a conservative and even less likely that he should have the support of those who consider themselves to be, “social-conservatives.”  He has been married multiple times, engaged in affairs, made crude references towards women and to male and female genitalia.  Things that I would have automatically assumed would disgust evangelical Christians and other religiously devout individuals.  I am not judging him, mind you, I am only at a loss to comprehend his support from those who have expressed condemnation of adultery, divorce, non-monogamy, and homosexuality.  On other areas of social conflict, including abortion, I did not even think Mr. Trump had expressed a position.  In fact, I would have laid money on the idea that he was not opposed to abortion, homosexuality, or infidelity.

 

What is it, then, that fuels Mr. Trump’s rise among the Republican base?  It is not his fiscal constraint nor his fiscal responsibility.  It is not his social mores.  And, yet, a large percentage of his supporters in the primary elections are those who claim to be fiscally-conservative and/or socially-conservative.  It would appear that he is the antithesis of a candidate that these individuals would coalesce behind.  The answer must lie deeper.  It is within these deeper layers that we begin to see the origins of Donald Trump’s rise, and more importantly, of the reasons underlying his support.  The Republican establishment and those who serve in Washington understand, all too well, where this support comes from and they are suddenly afraid of being exposed for this dark philosophy as well.

 

The truth is much darker, and much uglier, than anyone could imagine.  It harkens back to the days of slavery and the effectiveness with which Mr. Trump promotes this ugliness the more likely it becomes that the Grand Old Party is at a crucial junction in its existence.

 

From the mid-1950’s, through today, the Republican Party has promoted a philosophy that trends socially-regressive.  It is based on the promotion of fear and anxiety.  From the racial segregation and anti-Communist policies of the 1950’s to the continuing opposition to equality for women since the 1970’s, to the opposition to homosexuality, including non-discrimination and marriage equality, and into recent battles over transgender equality and immigration, the GOP has incorporated the language of fear and increasingly narrowed its base to disaffected white, heterosexual, poorly-educated, Christians.  From the end of slavery, conservatives have used innuendo like a dog whistle to create scapegoats of minority groups in order to advance a white agenda that opposes equality for anyone else.  The Republican Party began to capitalize upon this idea in the 1950’s by promoting fear over reason.  By the 1980’s the Grand Old Party solidified its base of white, Christian, males. The stoking of fear of the, “others” is what has created a, mostly, homogenous base of Republican voters.  The GOP has mastered the art of, “Us versus Them” in politics.  If you are different, in any way, you are not, “Us.”  It is this sense of fear or anxiety that allows the Republican Party to recruit poor whites, who are most harmed by Republican economic policies.  It is for this reason that a candidate like Donald Trump has had the ability to rise so rapidly up the hierarchy of Republican politics to, possibly, become its official standard-bearer.  In light of this, it is really not so surprising that Mr. Trump has emerged as a viable candidate for the Republican Party.  The Republican establishment has employed the use of fear-based rhetoric like a dog whistle for so long that the trumpeting of such dialogue would naturally draw certain supporters out from hiding.

 

It is extremely disturbing, however, that a candidate, from any political party, seeking to be a candidate to become President of the United States would actively support, or tacitly endorse, such un-American values.  It is not that any person should be so naïve as to deny the existence of prejudice in this nation.  Neither, should one be surprised that there are some people in 2016 who are bigots or racists.  I am more troubled by the fact that there is such widespread support for the ugliness of racism, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and Islamophobia within this great nation.  This has become even more apparent immediately after the election, in 2008, of President Barack Obama as Republicans immediately expressed genuine hope that he would fail.  It is the extent to which these attitudes pervade our nation that is most alarming to me.  This is something that is genuinely surprising and bothersome.  I find this disgusting and would never support a political candidate that condones such vile attitudes.

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