Ken’s Take on the World


Trumpets of Doom

This past week we were exposed to the spectacle that was the Republican National Convention.  I managed to catch bits and pieces of different speeches and read the running commentary on my Twitter feed and on Facebook.  I did take the time to watch the candidate, himself, give his acceptance speech on Thursday night.  What I observed this week is, to say the least, troubling for me as a progressive, voting, American.  The RNC convention was filled with darkness and despair.  It was, in a word, un-American, in my opinion.

 

From the refusal of the convention rules committee to respect the wishes of delegates in voting on the party platform on Monday, to the gaffes of color-coding elevator banks (White Elevators), posting white supremacist Tweets and anti-Semitic Tweets, and plagiarizing speeches, the promotion of an idea that the Democrat opponent would be arrested and jailed if Mr. Trump was elected President, and the very ugly idea that the Democratic nominee be marched in front of a firing squad by the Republican nominee’s veterans adviser, the campaign presented an ugly and hate-filled image to the world and, specifically, to Americans who are being asked to select the 45th President of the United States of America.  Even an innocuous photo showing Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan posing with the 2016 class of Republican interns demonstrated the big problem facing the Republican Party moving forward.  Surely, the Republican Party could have done better than this.

 

The events of this past week in Cleveland demonstrate a palpable anger of a large number of white Americans, a sense of frustration that transcends the typical values the Grand Old Party establishment has espoused for the past half century.  Make no mistake, the GOP has pushed the idea of racial politic for its benefit since the 1960’s.  The major difference during this campaign cycle is that the nominee has openly endorsed the idea that white people are losing ground to minorities in this country.  There is the explicit promise that Mr. Trump will, “take America back.”  Take it back from who?  Give the nation back to whom, exactly?  This nation belongs to each of us, Mr. Trump.  Each of us already has an ownership stake in the greatest nation on Earth!!  On the topic of greatness, Mr. Trump’s campaign slogan is, “Make America Great Again.”  Personally, I believe that any candidate who does not believe the United States of America is not currently the greatest nation on the planet is not fit to lead our country.  Hey, Donald Trump, if the United States of America is not currently the greatest nation in the world, tell us who we need to best to regain the title!!  Mr. Trump misses the point that greatness does not mean perfection.  The greatest leaders throughout history each had flaws.  This goes for individuals and nations.

 

President Franklin Roosevelt, in his first inauguration speech said, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”  http://www.historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5057  Mr. Trump, in his acceptance speech pushed a sense of fear throughout his speech.  I have to give him credit in that he recognizes that fear is, perhaps, the most powerful motivator of all living things.  Unfortunately, fear is not what makes a nation, or a leader, great.  In times of trouble or anxiety, people look to a leader for inspiration and hope.  For confidence and a sense of security.  People look for firm, rational, statements and assurances of how safety and security can be established.  Mr. Trump stoked the flames of fear in his campaign speech but failed to offer any rational assurances that he could provide this.  This consistent lack of substance does not appear to faze his supporters.  In fact, Mr. Trump has said that his supporters don’t care about policy.  His supporters may not care, however, those of us who consider ourselves thoughtful and rational, demand this information in order to make an informed decision at the voting booth!!  He commented that he will be the law and order President, but has demonstrated through his comments and prior speeches that he has no understanding of the law nor a desire to operate within the law.  Mr. Trump has been described as having an authoritarian management style.  Studies on authoritarians who have risen to power demonstrate that when people are so fearful, they have a tendency to turn to an authoritarian leader, regardless of qualifications, or lack thereof.  This is what Mr. Trump is counting on—that people are so irrationally fearful they will fall in line behind his campaign.  Thus far this has worked as he managed to beat out his, much better qualified, opponents in the primary campaign.  The problem with authoritarian politicians is that they tend to be brutal and violent towards their opponents, both domestically and globally.  Regarding the wealthy, and the bankers, FDR further stated, “They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.”  I have said on multiple occasions that Mr. Trump is primarily out to benefit himself.  He is a narcissist and demonstrates an unwillingness to compromise with others.  He has boasted of this in interviews, speeches, and in his books.  This is not the attitude of our nation’s diplomatic face to the world.  Even more dangerous, Donald Trump has praised the ideas of other authoritarian leaders including Vladimir Putin and Adolph Hitler.  Likewise, the current leaders of Russia and North Korea have praised Mr. Trump’s leadership style.  I am concerned when foes of this nation begin to praise a candidate for US President.

 

Mr. Trump has further raised the ire of leaders of nations that we consider allies.  This past week, he suggested that the United States may not honor agreements made with European nations should they be attacked by another state power.  Nothing instills confidence in our friends, or gives pause to our enemies, like a potential US President who says you’re on your own.  He has said that other nation’s should be free to pursue nuclear weapons and has refused to rule out the use of such weapons if faced with a tactical threat or even as a deterrent to non-state players on the battlefield.  Such commentary is not only irresponsible from a Presidential candidate, it is reckless and dangerous.

 

Perhaps, the most concerning thing about Donald Trump is that he is not a, one-off, an anomaly within the Republican Party.  Mr. Trump has become the face of the base of the contemporary Republican Party.  This twice-divorced, socially-moderate, candidate for US President has gained the support of Evangelical Christians.  He has been endorsed by anti-LGBT and anti-abortion, so-called, “family values” organizations even though he does not support these views.  This is why he has selected Governor Mike Pence of Indiana to be his Vice President.  Governor Pence is staunchly anti-LGBT and anti-women’s rights.  He has actually been endorsed by white-supremacists, the American Nazi Party, and other racist individuals and groups.  This should serve to inform the logical, reasoned person that Mr. Trump is a dangerous individual to be considered for the position of Commander-in-Chief of our nation’s Armed Forces and as the principal law enforcement officer of the United States.  The battle for control of the soul of the Republican Party has been won by a racist, bigoted, theocratic-minded bloc.  The fight for the hearts and minds of the people of the United States of America now begins.  While irrational fear is an incredibly powerful motivator, I maintain confidence that hope is an even more powerful motivator.

Advertisements


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.