September 14, 2015
Trumpmania has infected everything, including my parenting blog. My piece comparing Trump’s rhetoric to the white supremacists I’ve studied for almost 30 years went viral, pushing Watching the Wheels way over 100,000 views. As it spread, I started doing interviews, including with Spanish languages radio stations and a newspaper in Spain. On Wednesday, I will be appearing on Al Jazeera’s The Stream to talk Trump. The blog got reposted on Countrpunch and my comment section has taken on a life of its own.
If you are one of the few folks who hasn’t clicked on that post, here it is:
I promise to get back to writing about my daughter later this week. She’s doing amazing things. But I wanted to further clarify my argument about the GOP front-runner and reality show star. First, let me be clear, I don’t think all of Trump’s supporters are racists, even though people at his rallies have been chanting “White power!” and talking about killing immigrants and at least two of his followers have been arrested for committing a hate crime against a Latino man in Boston. To borrow from Mr. Trump, some of his followers, I assume, are good people.
It’s clear from Trump’s followers that America’s favorite billionaire can do no wrong. This includes lie. Trump “tells it like it is.” To allude to Bill Clinton at his worst, it depends on what your definition of “is” is. Trump makes up “facts” that are completely untrue but the followers follow unquestioningly. There’s an f word for that; fascism.
Trump is a demagogue in the truest sense of the word. He could come out in favor of eating immigrant babies and his Trumpies would cheer, “What a brilliant idea!” A study found that when you give a Trumpie a classic liberal issue but say that Trump supports it, they suddenly support it. Another survey found that 66% of his supporters think Obama is a Kenyan Muslim. These are followers in the truest sense and they remind me of the white supremacist followers I’ve spent my life studying. They want a black and white world and an easy solution, like build a wall.
But what I really wanted to write about was the techniques Trump borrows from Klansman, neo-Nazis, Patriot Militia members and other extremists on the far right. This is how you create a movement based on hate and fear.
Anecdotes – Trump is the master of using one crime story to “prove” that Mexican immigrants are rapists and killers. He’ll drag a few headlines out from cases that are far from resolved. (You’re innocent until proven guilty in America, unless have brown skin and can be used by Trump.) He denies two very important facts. People are overwhelming raped and killed by people they know. (Sorry, white people. Most crime is intra-racial, not inter-racial.) And repeated studies show that immigrants have lower crime rates than non-immigrants.
I’ve seen more than one Nazi skinhead and Klansman point to story in the news about a black criminal to prove their racism, ignoring ALL the stories about crime committed by whites. It’s called selective perception. They are still talking about OJ! Proof black people are BAD.
Conspiracy theories – We can all enjoy a good conspiracy theory. Who killed JFK? The illegal aliens from Roswell! You know who really loved conspiracy theories? Adolf Hitler. The Jews run the banks! Get ‘em! This funny little theory is still popular with neo-Nazis, Islamic extremists and Lyndon Larouche. I like to ask my Jewish friends when the next cabal meeting is and they just look confused. Those sneaky Jews.
Donald Trump has his own conspiracy theory. The Mexican government is sending its worst people across the border. His only evidence of this is that he’s “talked to people” on the border who know. Right. My wife came to America from Mexico by walking across a border, so I asked her who sent her to the USA. She said her mother. Oh, those clever Mexicans.
Conspiracy theories give simple people a simple view of how the world works and allow them to sidestep the complexities of reality. Illegal immigration is a complex issue. “Ow! That makes my brain hurt! Donald says it’s the clever Mexican government pulling one over on our stupid leaders in Washington!” Um, most of those leaders are Congressional Republicans that you voted for. “Ow! My brain!”
Us vs. them – White supremacists love to see themselves as a defined tribe that is under siege by external enemies. Jews, homosexuals, African-Americans. Basically 3/4 of the cast of The View. They see themselves as the “real” Americans, or as the 1920s Klan said, “100% American.” The homosexuals are destroying traditional (arranged?) marriage! Muslims are destroying our (WASP) religious monopoly!
Trump sees America under attack, by Mexican immigrants, Chinese businessmen (“They’re killing us,” he keeps saying) and mad nuclear scientists in Iran. He has no time for our internal problems unless he can simply blame it on “stupid leaders.” You know, because he has such a clear solution to childhood poverty, failing schools and America’s obesity epidemic. “I’ll hire the best people,” he keeps saying. Um, the President of the United States doesn’t hire anybody, Donnie.
The bullet points Trump uses were lifted right from Dylan Roof, the young man who killed nine people in a black church in Charleston this spring. Roof said, as his massacre of the black parishioners was under way, “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.” Trump says that at every stop.
Apocalyptic visions – White supremacists see the end coming very soon. They think that Obama is going to suspend democracy and herd whites into camps. Or that Black Lives Matters activists are going to just declare open season on white people. Christian extremists like the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations folks see a biblical confrontation looming. They call it “Rahowa,” short for Racial Holy War. So if “we don’t do something,” America as we know it will be ripped from our (white) hands.
Trump does the exact same thing. Walking on stage to REM’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” (unironically) only made the point that much more clear. Does he feel fine about it? You betcha, because all this end times talk lifts his numbers in the polls. It’s a classic technique used by Nazis, gun dealers, and used car salesman. “Things are about to change so buy this Uzi/Pinto/Trump vote right now or you’ll regret it!” Trump has his followers believing that if they don’t vote for him, America will become a 4th World nation in a matter of days.
The thing that makes Trump a fascist is that all this is built on a cult of personality. He’s hard not to watch. I feel addicted to him at times. But listen to him talk. It’s all about him. How popular he is and how rich he is and how good looking he is. Just look at that face! There is no discussion about real Americans and the real issues they are struggling with or finding success with. Much has written about Trump’s narcissism but I would just like a word count of the number of times he uses the word “I.”
So why do so many Americans follow this buffoon? There are two very simple reasons. The first is he speaks in simple terms. Health care is a complex issue. Just say it’s “illegal aliens” having “anchor babies” on your tax dollar. It’s us verses them and them has a big conspiracy running out of Mexico City and Bejing. What 5-year-old couldn’t understand that? Keep it simple. America was better in the past (when, he hasn’t said) so let’s make America great again. Say it over and over. It’s the new “White power!” mantra.
The second reason is that he’s got a convenient scapegoat. If this was 1980, he’d blame Japan and Iran and he’d have lots of followers. In 1988, white America was ready to blame all it’s problem on black criminals and Bush Sr. rode into the White House on the back of Willie Horton. Now the “I’m not racist, but…” Americans are ready to lay the blame on a familiar target. It’s not on the corporate elites, many of whom are stealing money right out of the accounts of Trump’s followers. Instead, let’s go after the folks on the bottom who are working in fields and meat packing plants and cannot defend themselves like Trump’s friends on Wall Street can. It’s a brilliant strategy and it’s working because it plays right into the racism that flows under the surface of polite American discourse. And Trump Bonus, black people can hate brown people now! You guys aren’t the rapists this time!
At the start of the summer, I thought Trump’s candidacy was a joke. In 2000, I thought bumbling coke head George W. Bush could never be elected and look what happened to the country when he did. Trump is a fascist demagogue. The hate mail I got after my last Trump post put me in fear because I dared to say the emperors clothes were white robes and red armbands. For may Latina daughter, I’m not going to assume that Trump and his rabid, fact-hating minions are going away. I think we are in for a big fight for the brain of America.