Last week I said I would try to do a post on this book The Second Machine Age and its prescriptions for what to do during this robot era, but I still need to finish taking notes and arranging my thoughts. But more importantly, even though I don't talk about such things, I need to process the stunning events of the past week: namely, the implication of our president's failure to forcefully repudiate the meaning of white supremacy, neo-Nazis, Klu Klux Klan, and alt right. It's simply frightening.
I’ve always wondered why the Trump supporters voted for Trump despite his displays of obvious racism, bigotry and cruelty. He reveled in insults and incited violence in his rallies. And yet, the great Midwest, the land of the supposed American bedrock values, and the evangelicals threw their support behind him. Why?? How can they?
Now it looks like the first crack is appearing. So far, I have read two articles from supporters of the president, writing about their regrets. The first writer in this NYT article is a conservative right and he lays out the same concerns I have, and I suspect, the same concerns both left and right have.
• The information economy is delivering little wage growth (he also mentions little productive growth, but that’s not true. There has been productive growth, albeit at about 1.5%; it’s just that wage has become decoupled from productivity.)
• Trade, especially global trade, may not be delivering all of the supposed benefits touted by economists.
• Deindustrialization has had devastating effect on communities.
• The democracy promotion that we’ve been on since the Iraq war does not seem to work.
• The widening income inequality.
• Cutting taxes or shrinking the government is not the panacea for our problems.
• Offshoring is having deleterious impact on our communities.
• Too many large corporations successfully avoid paying taxes while reaping the benefits from productivity.
• There is too much money in politics and politicians are now beholden to their donors.
I suspect the writer and I have would not agree on how to solve those problems but we at least have the same concerns. We are both just normal Americans with the same fears and concerns. That still doesn’t explain why he went for Trump whereas I felt it was obvious Trump would lead to no good.
So why? So why did I see obvious menace from the moment Trump came down that escalator and proclaim Mexicans as murderers and rapists and the writer sees an inexperienced man talking straight to the people about their concerns?
As best as I can understand it, it was a form of wishful thinking. He and the rest did not believe Trump would be so bad. Yes, he was a boor and said over the top things, but he really didn’t mean them. But more importantly, he spoke about the things that concerned average Americans. Was it a willful turning of a blind eye or was it truly an honest wishful thinking?
I don’t know but at least this author has now come to his senses. I applaud him for recognizing his mistake. Will the rest of Middle America do the same? Especially in light of this week’s appalling conference where Trump said “there are some nice folks on both sides”, one side being Neo-Nazis?
Here's a snippet of his reasonings:
"Rather than recite paeans to American enterprise, he acknowledged that our “information economy” has delivered little wage or productivity growth. He was willing to criticize the bipartisan consensus on trade and pointed out the devastating effects of deindustrialization felt in many communities. He forthrightly addressed the foreign policy failures of both parties, such as the debacles in Iraq and Libya, and rejected the utopian rhetoric of “democracy promotion.” He talked about the issue of widening income inequality — almost unheard of for a Republican candidate — and didn’t pretend that simply cutting taxes or shrinking government would solve the problem.
He criticized corporations for offshoring jobs, attacked financial-industry executives for avoiding taxes and bemoaned America’s reliance on economic bubbles over the last few decades. He blasted the Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz campaigns for insincerely mouthing focus-grouped platitudes while catering to their largest donors — and he was right. Voters loved that he was willing to buck conventional wisdom and the establishment."
Here’s another article but this time by a right of center Jew on why some Jews supported Trump (oh, that’s an appalling thought!). As he so eloquently said:
“Last year we were given a choice between moral judgment and political opportunity.”
“Would we vote for a man we knew to be a casual bigot because his bigotries aligned, in some sense, with our political views? Or did we know enough about bigotry to understand that, just as the hatred that starts with Jews never ends with them, the hatred that starts with others lands all too frequently on us?”
And it appears they chose political opportunity. To overlook Trump’s behavior, this is how they rationalized:
“As for Trump’s manner, they reckoned his boorishness was of small account next to Hillary Clinton’s corruption. The Billy Bush tape was “locker-room talk.” The Muslim ban showed a healthy instinct for civilizational self-preservation in the face of mass migration from the Middle East. Any suggestion that the Trump campaign trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes was an outrageous slander based on flimsy evidence and contradicted by the candidate’s Jewish grandchildren. The real enemies of the Jewish state were, anyway, almost exclusively on the political left.”
Ah, the things we do to deceive ourselves! Meanwhile, the Jews who opposed Trump were persuaded by the smell of Trump’s depravity. This statement is the most eloquent of all:
“The Jewish conservative’s case against Trump was far more simple: Breathe in deeply with your nose and … smell.”
The one thing that the evangelicals, the Jews and other citizens of Middle America forgot was that character counts and Trump’s bad character came through very clearly. (Read the rest of the article…it is wonderful writing.)
So here we are now, at a time when neo-Nazis, white supremacists and KKK are emboldened, we may have reached the point of the dividing lines. This may be the point at which the Trump voters can no longer be regarded as innocent dupes. Just like when there comes a time a child has to grow up and turn away from bad behavior or bear the consequences of his criminal behavior, the Trump voter has to recognize the gravity of their error or be regarded as supporting Nazis. As a metaphor, continuing to support Trump means they got into the getaway car, even if they don’t actually do the robbery. They got into the getaway car and are just as guilty of the crime.
Will Middle America come to their senses and realize the supreme error in judgment they made? Will they start to renounce Trump?
Unfortunately, I saw an article that indicates no, they still stand by their man. It is just one article so it may not mean anything, but we are talking about the possibility of 25 to 30% of the American voters still believing in Trump. Or 67% of the Republicans approving the President’s job so far. That’s too high. If we have a large enough group that can successfully rally together, they will start attracting the weak minded, because the weak minded will go wherever the crowds or perceived winner go.
Not to make fun but to provide an example, here’s one example of the weak joining a movement because it’s fun to pick on others, especially when done in a crowd. But once he’s alone, watch him run and blubber in fear.
Here’s another guy in an interview with Vice, bragging about how he was practicing on being violent and he showed off his guns.
Again, not to be cruel, now watch him cry when he finds out that there is a warrant out for his apprehension:
But combine all of those weak men together in a crowd and you start having trouble. This could be how German Nazis arose. Enough men got together to look like winners and started attracting the weak minded.
I have a bunch of historical book on World War II and the Nazis. It's time to pull them out again and re-read them. There are also some more recently published books to read in an effort to understand what we may go through. I thought when Bush announced the war with Iraq we would be having problems with this type of supremacy movements but that was nothing compared to what we have going on today.
Will Middle America, rural America snap out of their delusions or are they just as reprehensible as the Nazis?