Like many other people who are appalled at the idea of Donald Trump as president of the United States, I can’t understand those who downplay the problems. The people who insist that those of us who raise concerns should just “get over it.” Those who gloat at their candidate’s win as if the election were a football game.
I have been a registered Democrat most of my life (after a stint as a Libertarian) but I have always voted for the person, not the party. When a candidate I didn’t care for won office, I was disappointed, sure, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
But what is happening now with Donald Trump is not the same. It is not a normal situation. The problems with this man’s plans and behavior cross party lines.
Mr. Trump is continuing to lie and promote drama after the election just as he did before. He is proving himself uncaring about the United States and its citizens and he is breaking campaign promises at an impressive rate. He pushes aside ethics concerns about his business interests. He is appointing fox after fox to the henhouse. He is already making the U.S. vulnerable to being exploited by other countries. Whole categories of its citizens are in immediate danger from his promotion of racism, misogyny, ableism, and anti-Semitism. He has given bigots implicit permission to malign, abuse, threaten, and injure target populations and they are doing so. The policies he promises to carry out will endanger these groups (and many others) further.
It’s clear that he used and lied to his backers in a calculated way to get their votes and get elected. I, along with millions of others, see our country in danger from this man. And we can’t understand those who don’t. Here is my attempt to explain. I urge those who voted for and/or support Donald Trump to try to see the situation the other way around.
Once upon a time there was a presidential election in the United States. One of the Democratic candidates was quite eccentric. His name was Richard Crown. He was a white guy with dreads and he dressed like a 1960s hippie, though he was too young to have been one. He barely met the age requirement for the presidency. He was or had been married (it wasn’t quite clear), but often brought a girlfriend along to his speaking engagements. (Not always the same one.) They would make out on stage, to the delight of the crowd.
This candidate promised to legalize all recreational drugs at the national level. He recorded his own acid trips and published them on YouTube.
He believed that the US should open its borders without restrictions and, in addition, give every immigrant $500 on arrival. He just blew it off when people warned him that unlimited cash payments would wreck our economy. He planned to force a complete redistribution of wealth in the U.S. anyway, so he figured this would be a good start. He also planned to shut down most of the military.
His campaign appearances were circus-like. He dressed in costumes and would often throw water balloons or dozens of beach balls into the audience. He would make a game of drawing straws to choose federal agencies to do away with. He would smoke weed during his speeches. He mocked and mimicked other candidates.
He didn’t “believe” in sexually transmitted diseases and advocated for unprotected sex, including a pro-intercourse educational initiative for high school students. He planned to decriminalize drunk driving and all other alcohol- and drug-related regulations.
Republicans were appalled at him and so were many Democrats. His platform was not liberal. It was eccentric. Most Democrats thought he would be beaten early on by a more serious candidate. But he had a cadre of strong supporters. It turned out that this odd guy was a PhD climatologist and seemed to have a fantastic plan to address greenhouse gasses and climate change. Scientists around the world vetted the parts of his plan he made public. The plan was innovative and appeared workable. He kept back some of the details, swearing to publicize everything after he was elected.
When called on the damage he could do and his amorality, supporters claimed that they were able to forgive the terrible effects of his shorter-range plans. He was going to save the earth from disaster with his remedies for climate change. There would always be time to take care of those other problems later.
He won the Democratic nomination with votes from environmentalists, some people who were eager to see wealth distributed in their direction, recreational drug users, a lot of people who thought he was entertaining, and a good handful who were saying FU to the system. Others were terrified.
As the campaign went on, he was dogged by controversy. There were multiple paternity suits against him. He seemed to have at least two concurrent marriages since he had failed to complete divorce paperwork. But neither of his wives participated in the campaign and they were rarely seen. Instead, many of his campaign stops ended up looking like the Jerry Springer show, with arguments between his girlfriends and former girlfriends. He drove around in an old Volkswagen van and made a game out of trying to elude the Secret Service personnel who were required to protect him.
He had direct financial interests in illegal drug activities and bragged about the money he would make when all drugs were legalized. Many of his activities were clearly illegal but somehow never got prosecuted.
His personal insults and name-calling directed to the other candidates were unprecedented.
Republicans were trying to get the Democrats to listen. This goes beyond party politics, they said. This man’s policies will cause immediate harm. Children will get sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies will skyrocket. Dismantling the military while the rest of the world is armed will make our country completely vulnerable. There will be no way to get justice or restitution for families of people killed by drunk or high drivers. When the economy collapses, as it surely will, everyone will suffer. And what about his personal habits? What if he is high when a national emergency happens? In addition to his bizarre plans, he doesn’t have the right temperament to be a good president, to represent our country. He’s a terrible role model for our kids.
But somehow he won the election. He started making plans for his presidency. His attitude and actions were the same as during the campaign. He formulated plans for his ill-advised acts. He continued his attention-seeking antics. Drug use and drunk driving immediately increased. Financiers committed suicide. But the promised climate change fix didn’t look like it was coming to fruition anytime soon.
The election results did not calm the Republicans’ concerns. Their dreaded outcomes were coming true. They engaged in activism and wrote many articles and editorials. They gave to organizations that had promised to fight Mr. Crown. But his supporters said, “Get over it! Stop whining! Our guy won!” They objected vociferously when questioned about their support of this guy who was already taking the country to hell in a handbasket.
The Republicans tried in vain to explain that this was different. This was not politics as usual. They may have hated and blocked Obama and been disgusted by Bill Clinton. But Richard Crown was an immediate threat to the United States and its citizens, and the threat was becoming more concrete every day, not less so. They tried and tried to explain it. They could not understand the failure of Crown’s supporters to understand, their smug dismissal of any concerns, their accusations of “sore losers!”
Richard Crown’s policies threatened to destroy our country and put thousands of lives in immediate danger. His refusal to take the office of president seriously practically invited other countries to take advantage of our weakened situation. Yet his supporters could not, would not perceive it.
I know this analogy is flawed. Frankly, I couldn’t think of a liberal-gone-wild candidate who could compare. I couldn’t think of a set of radical policies that would have the immediate deleterious effects on U.S. citizens that Donald Trump’s racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and carelessness already have. But my goal was to describe a candidate whose policies and demeanor were dangerous and far beyond the bounds of acceptability. One who couldn’t be trusted to run a corner store, much less the country.
That’s what we have in Trump. The evidence keeps rolling in, with none to the contrary. A Trump supporter can’t write with a speck of truth that Trump is doing what he promised to do. Instead, he is already doing exactly what his critics feared he would do. And it will benefit none but a tiny percentage of Americans: the financially elite.
What will it take for his supporters to perceive it?
Trump the Man vs. Policies
I have read some persuasive arguments that articles focusing on Donald Trump’s unacceptable behavior are ineffective. That the way to fight against Trump effectively is to ignore the outrageousness of his behavior and to concentrate on the day-to-day policy decisions coming from him and his decision makers. Perhaps that is so. I am actually doing both in this article. I hope that something I write here will get through to those who still seek to defend him.
This goes beyond party politics, beyond liberal and conservative. His behavior is abhorrent. Donald Trump is a danger to this country, immediately to ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, LGBT, the working class and the poor, but eventually to all.
- Connecting Politics and Learning Theory: Norms and Habituation
Copyright Eileen Anderson 2016
“Hippie” photo licensed from Canstock
London photo from Wikimedia Commons