Wednesday, June 15, 2016
The Donald has established a large base of support by creating a persona based on two main pillars that appeal primarily to people who are unable to discern illusion from reality. First, he has set himself up as a friend of the regular Joe working class white guy. Second, he comes across as a tough guy who promises to restore America's position of strength, both domestically and in world affairs. Both of these pillars are fictions. His policies are fraught with problems that should be apparent to any sensible voter. But his target demographic does not consist of sensible voters.
Trump has developed a reputation for "saying it like it is". He hates political correctness. He openly denigrates anyone and everyone who isn't part of his target demographic - the working class white guy. His slogan "Make America Great Again" appeals to the angst of that demographic, who typically feel downtrodden by a combination of economic decline and the loss of the privileged status they once enjoyed in American society. His alienation of various other demographics, including women, racial minorities, disabled people, Hispanics, immigrants, and especially Muslim Americans, creates a sense of us against them, with Trump as the champion and defender of his supporters. It is the politics of division. This attitude is on full display at his political rallies, where he has encouraged his audience to engage in violence against protesters. It is exactly the kind of thing that has earned him significant support from white supremacist and nationalist groups.
His stated policies against Muslims, in particular, are not only odious, but they present a genuine threat to our national security. Trump comes across as the defender and protector of America against terrorist threats, but he does it by indiscriminately demeaning and alienating the entire Muslim population. This is a topic I have discussed before. It is not in our national interest to take broad-brushed measures against all Muslims, many of whom we rely upon for help and information that may be vital to our efforts to keep terrorists at bay. Trump frightens friendly Muslims, both in America and overseas. He doesn't seem to understand that we are reliant on the support they give us, and that under his leadership we would risk losing that support.
Trump also loves to proclaim his worker-friendly economic policies that will supposedly reduce tax burdens and bring jobs back to America. But the reality is quite different from the rhetoric. He has never been a friend of workers. In his own businesses, Trump uses virtual slave labor to enrich himself. He has historically opposed any increase in minimum wage, but recently espoused a duplicitous policy of publicly stating his approval of higher wages, but letting the states decide. This would mean no wage increases for his core demographic in the red states. As described here, his protectionist economic policies would raise the cost of living, and his tax proposals would greatly benefit billionaires like himself while increasing the national debt by trillions of dollars.
How does Trump counter the policy proposals of his political opponents? With lies and denigration. He has no serious answer for their arguments, so he resorts to demeaning them in any way he can. For example he always refers to Hillary Clinton as "Crooked Hillary". He has perpetuated so many ridiculous conspiracy theories, that it's hard to keep count. And not surprisingly, his supporters tend to believe them.
I have previously commented on the Donald's tough-guy persona. In this post, I remarked that this tough guy approach to dealing with issues has often failed in the past. He praises his fellow tough guy and tyrant Vladimir Putin, while calling Obama weak, and even accusing him of supporting terrorists, despite Obama's clear record of fighting them far more effectively than his predecessor. The fact is that Trump is full of bombast and bravado, but he lacks any intelligent approach to managing the complex problems that he would be likely to face as president. His simplistic proposal for dealing with ISIS, for example, is essentially to copy the middle-east strategy of Donald Rumsfeld, which turned out to be quite disastrous. His ignorance of foreign affairs is not only a cause of great concern to thinking Americans, but to our friends and allies around the world.
Fortunately, the strategy of appealing to the stupidity of voters that has proven to be so successful for Trump in the Republican primaries may not fare so well in a broader electorate. Most Americans just aren't that stupid.