The blame for Trumpism

I’ve written that the Trump phenomenon is a dive to a lower, baser level of civic discourse. Who can we blame?

UnknownOf course there’s a lot involved. But I’ve long argued that demonization of opponents has been poisoning our politics: thinking the other guy is not merely wrong but wicked, actuated by bad motives. And left-leaners do it the most.

I often criticize their politics but believe they sincerely aim for human betterment. Unfortunately that’s not reciprocated. Typical is one blog commenter repeatedly labeling me a heartless ignorant bigot. A local columnist spews strings of vile epithets about those he disagrees with. One “progressive” I know loves calling others “regressives.” Unknown-2And Alan Chartock, ubiquitous head of WAMC, the local NPR station*, constantly calls people “bad.” After Justice Scalia’s death, Chartock made a point of labeling him a “bad man.”

How does this relate to Trump? As I’ve said, such hate speech has poisoned our politics – and a toxic candidate is a natural result. Trump’s shtick plays to a loss of confidence in our governing institutions and the officials comprising them. And if you keep talking about bad people with bad motives, pretty soon voters will believe it, feeding the idea that all politicians are rotten scoundrels. With Chartock repeatedly insisting even Supreme Court Justices (well, those who decide “wrong”) act corruptly and are “bought and paid for” – should he be surprised by the popularity of a candidate who assaults our governing institutions?

Unknown-1True, government hasn’t been performing well lately, and it’s not crazy to seek some break-out. But here again, a key reason for government dysfunction is our hyper-partisan scorched earth politics. When the other guys are demonized as bad people, how can you compromise and work with them?

Many voters feel betrayed by promises not kept. But can we blame the politicians who told them what they wanted to hear? Or the voters who wanted to hear it, and continually rewarded impossible promises with their votes? We have continually voted for expanding government profligacy, awarding ourselves a shower of goodies, with nary a thought of paying for it. That’s why the promises really cannot be kept. And it will only get worse as the fiscal imbalance ineluctably widens.

So we do need to break out of this paradigm. But unfortunately electing an ignoramus blowhard is not the way.

But meantime, even if he doesn’t win in November, Trump is showing how successful tearing up the old rule book can be. And meantime Hillary personifies all the political divisiveness I’ve written about; her presidency will just be more dysfunctional scorched earth political combat. imagesAnd after four more years of that unproductive dismalness, the next Trump-like candidate may make Trump look like an angel.

* Chartock also constantly trumpets his support for Sanders. He insists that doesn’t constitute an endorsement by WAMC. But WAMC is thoroughly Chartock’s creature; and such open political partisanship is completely inappropriate for a “public” radio station receiving taxpayer funding. (Click here.)

12 Responses to “The blame for Trumpism”

  1. politicsforteenssite Says:

    Though this was humerus and well-written. Would you mind checking out my new politics blog and giving it some support?

  2. Lee Says:

    I agree that characterizing folks one disagrees with as evil does a disservice to us all. Characterizing them as well meaning, but deluded, misguided, or incompetent is nearly as bad. What differentiates us is not which values we have but how we prioritize shared values. For example, the abortion debate is not about good vs. evil, but how to best balance our shared value of freedom (a.k.a. choice, self determination) with our shared value of human life.

    I am constantly struggling to winnow out a person’s calling others evil, incompetent, etc. so that I can try to distill what human value the person is actually advocating for. Once we all know the values in play we can dialogue. We cannot always achieve consensus, but we have democracy as a fall back to help us all live together peacefully.

  3. wolfgang Says:

    Frank- Careful! You say Chartock is wrong for calling Scalia (whose rulings were constantly clouded by his religious leanings) as a “bad man”, yet you call Trump “an ignoramus blowhard”. How is this different? (I’m not a Trump fan, BTW).

  4. rationaloptimist Says:

    Perhaps a fair point, Wolfgang. It is different because I was using descriptive words to characterize what Trump actually is, rather than calling him bad or evil, but maybe that’s too fine a distinction. However, Trump is an outlier in the U.S. political spectrum. I disagree very strongly with Sanders’s positions, but would not call him a “bad man.”

  5. Paul Landsberg Says:

    Frank! Are you trying to defend the indefensible?
    Mitch McConnell – “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
    Rush Limbaugh – ”Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.”
    Glenn Beck – I am not saying that Barack Obama is a fascist. If I’m not mistaken, in the early days of Adolf Hitler, they were very happy to line up …………”
    Rand Paul – “‘I guarantee it’s one of their long-term goals, to have one sort of borderless mass continent.”
    Ann Coulter – ”My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.”
    Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) – ”Baby Killer!”
    South Carolina State Sen. Jake Knotts (R) – “‘She’s a f**king raghead. We got a raghead in Washington; we don’t need one in South Carolina. She’s a raghead that’s ashamed of her religion trying to hide it behind being Methodist for political reasons.”

    Now I am sure that you could match my 6 examples of utterly divisive, scorched earth, dehumanizing political quotes from “left leaning” folks but I find it incredible that you would blithely make the statement “left-leaners do it the most.”

    I think that a better point to ponder is why did Trump, the ultimate in style over substance, the laser like focus on “the government only does stupid things,” wrapped in a package of vicious pettiness happened to the Republican and not the Democrat party.

  6. rationaloptimist Says:

    In my unbiased experience, lefties do more commonly attribute evil motives to those on the other side, than vice versa.

  7. Lee Says:

    Frank, what do you think motivates these lefties to do as you perceive? Are they evil? Are they brainwashed, incompetent, or short-sighted? 🙂

    Seriously, I think I hear you saying that there is not enough civility and respect in our world. I agree with that. I think people are too quick to name calling (or worse, war) and that we would actually get more of what we want if we were not so quick. I believe that people fall back to name calling because they feel that they are under attack, and indeed name calling etc. can be the best action for those whose security is threatened, as it helps to rally the defense.

    So, although I have had this dialogue entirely with myself — which is at best a very poor substitute for having an actual dialogue with an actual person with a differing opinion — I am starting to see that the goals of more civility and better security (physical, financial, etc.) are related. I suspect that work towards security would directly benefit respect, so I’d start with security. As a militarily and financially strong nation, what can we do to strengthen physical and financial security for more of us?

    (Given that his has been a monologue, not a dialogue, I could have strayed from the true path. The point is that we should be having dialogues so that we can find and then move along the needed paths.)

  8. rationaloptimist Says:

    Very relevant is the book, The Righteous Mind (my review: There is a lot of us-vs-them going on. Your tendency, Lee, is to always think there is a rational solution — here, improving people’s feelings of security. That won’t address the tribalism, and the “I’m right, they’re wrong” attitude.

  9. Lee Says:

    I beg to disagree. Finding the right paths and moving along them will reduce tribalism and other evils.

  10. Diane Gorman Says:

    I completely agree with Frank on the issue that the Lefties do it more. For example, last night I was confused. In Wisconsin this new voter ID law is in effect. The Republicans wanted it to FIGHT VOTER FRAUD. So, thats something that would keep both parties on the up and up. Good all around no matter how you slice i t.. You’d think. I’m watching the news and this is what they report. The Democrats who oppose it say it was designed by Rrpublicans to “DRIVE DOWN VOTER TURN-OUT AMONG DEMOCRATIC LEADING VOTERS.”
    I ask you … WHAT the hell is a LEADING VOTER? Lemme guess. They vote more than once?? Noooo that can’t be right. And how exactly do THEY get screwed yet the Republicans DON’T?? Haha really??
    NO ONE should have an ISSUE with showing ID. It just proves how corrupt the Democrats are! I mean there’ s no GOOD reason to oppose the voter ID law so they have to make something up on the fly. At least make up something remotely believable! Perhaps something that makes sense!?
    They actually find fault and not only fault … but they find something sinister and corrupt about OUR motives!! They are infuriating.

    WHY IS IT SO EASY FOR THEM TO BELIEVE WE HAVE BAD INTENT? We just LOVE OUR COUNTRY. Hmmmm I’ve never ever heard a Democrat say that.

  11. rationaloptimist Says:

    Voter ID laws tackle a problem of voter fraud that does not exist. They are indeed a blatant effort to keep some people, most of whom tend to be Democrats, from voting. It’s disgraceful. Republicans would do better trying to persuade voters than blocking them.
    It’s “LEANING” not “leading.” It means voters who lean toward Democrats. Nothing wrong with that.
    I’ve heard many Democrats say they love our country (and mean it).

  12. Lee Says:

    The Rational Optimist says: “Your tendency, Lee, is to always think there is a rational solution….” You are correct that I am optimistic about rationality. Perhaps I could start a blog called The Optimistic Rationalist!

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