The Tao of Trumpism
September 1, 2020
Posted in Politics
I’ve been thinking. I struggle to understand why people continue to support Trump after he has demonstrated his unfitness to be president (at least in my eyes) time and time again. As a young math prodigy I learned that the mathematical systems we use depend upon which axions or postulates we accept as true and unquestionable. If you accept the principle that say zero multiplied by anything equals zero (zero x a = 0) you get a quite different mathematics than if you base it on the principle zero multiplied by anything equals that thing (zero x a = a.) In short, where you start determines where you end up. The starting postulates are not arbitrary but determined by choices one makes. Some resulting mathematical systems are useful e.g. Boolean algebra from which computer machine language developed, and some are simply mind experiments that have no value in the real world.
Something similar has happened among Trump supporters. Chinese philosophy defines Tao as the absolute principle underlying the universe or code of behavior, that is in harmony with the natural order. What then are the axioms that people who support Trump believe in? What is the Tao of Trumpism? It would be too easy to say that it is white supremacy although that plays a role. It seems to me that the basic idea is that something has been taken from them or something threatens to take it from them. For example, non whites, immigrants, the “Deep State,” protestors, government sanctioned pedophiles, “socialists,” or Democrats, are coming for your guns, rights, freedom, tax money, or neighborhoods, Although none of these threats is real, the fear is. Trump has pitched himself as the only one who can prevent these things. Praising armed gunmen who attack protestors and denigrating silly things like the Constitution, laws that protect these threats, government policies that encourage or allow these threats. Despite his failure to adequately protect them by responding promptly and effectively to the corona virus, ignoring Russian bounties placed on American troops in Afghanistan, foreign policy failures like his North Korean and China fiascoes, failure to build his wall and have Mexico pay for it, his supporters still think of him as a savior. His re-election campaign is based upon exploiting this fear, by arguing that oatmeal man Joe Biden, despites his blandness and decent guy reputation is a new threat. He has supposedly been “captured” by the “left wing radicals” of the Democratic party and forced to go along with their agenda. This is what historian Richard Hofstatder dubbed “the paranoid style in American politics way back in 1964, in criticizing Barry Goldwater’s campaign.
The question is “will it work?” Are enough Americans dumb enough, misinformed enough, and fearful enough to continue to support this lazy and arrogant conman. After all it did work in 2016. In the famous words of cynical, newspaper columnist H.L Mencken in 1926 “No one in this world, so far as I know … has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” That there are convoys of armed men going to confront protestors, evangelical Christians who support this adulterer, sinner and unbeliever, poor people who support this champion of the rich against their own interests, is proof of the truth of this adage. Part of the problem is misinformation. Trump and his administration spout lies that come like a torrent of water from an open fire hydrant, yet his supporters believe he is telling the truth. Right wing news and news silos persuade people. People have been taught to mistrust the mainstream media and their “lies.” The K – 12 educational system is not only failing to educate but indoctrinating students to believe in an America that doesn’t exist. The mainstream media coddled and didn’t challenge Trump lies for too long in a mistaken belief that it was being objective and presenting both sides.
However Trump won in 2016 not just because of this support, but because of the support he got from independents, suburban women, and those just fed up with the current system. I hope enough of these people have had enough of Trump. His margin of victory was slim, only hidden by the Electoral College. If he loses that support and the Democratic turnout for the election can overcome the Republican attempts at voter suppression and opposition to mail in voting, he may be in trouble. Although the fear that he may claim voter fraud if he loses the election remains high, November may finally bring an end to his reign and the would be king. If it doesn’t we will be facing a challenge to democracy from which we may not recover. Get out and vote.