Let me start with the reason I chose the name “A One Man Think Tank” for this blog. I spend a lot of time listening to stuff. I listen to news, audiobooks, podcasts, or music while I’m cleaning, cooking, writing emails or doing other non-demanding computer work. That information simmers a while in my brain, and I’m pretty good at making connections and seeing the big picture. Sometimes I hear one final piece of the puzzle and the idea springs forward fully formed. That happened today, although once I began writing, I discovered it wasn’t as fully formed as I thought.
That last puzzle piece for me was the question, “Is fear the reason for Trump’s popularity.” That may not have been the exact wording, but it was the pre-commercial break teaser for the upcoming local news segment called, “Tom’s Corner.” Tom is Tom Van Howe and the Western Michigan station I was watching is WWMT (http://www.wwmt.com/news/features/tomscorner/stories/On-Donald-Trump-and-the-politics-of-fear-240951.shtml#.VmpAm3o8KrU). My answer to that question is for the most part, No – it’s anger and mistrust.
I’m sitting here with a glass of very nice scotch because I feel this is a scotch kind of realization. The media and most political observers are completely baffled by Donald Trump’s incredibly loyal supporters. The snippets of responses I have heard in answer to reporters’ questions about Trump’s latest newsworthy statement or action have struck me as cult-like behavior. No matter what their leader does or says, his supporters follow him wholeheartedly and point to the more mainstream media and political figures as being out of touch and wrong.
Today’s realization: Donald Trump is the logical result of conservative media and conservative politicians’ actions over the past couple decades.
I grew up with three TV channels – when the weather was cooperating – but people today choose the news programs that share their beliefs. Fox News has a significantly higher viewership than other cable news channels, and in some weeks, it is the most watched cable television channel in prime time. With that large of an audience (two to three times as large as the other cable news networks), there are millions of Americans whose beliefs are reinforced daily. With more interview segments than news package segments on cable news, there has been a shift away from treating your adversary with respect. It makes me cringe to hear a pundit on Fox News call the President of the United States a pussy.
So, close to 3 million people a day listen to Fox News interviews in which it is stated that:
1. The economy is doing poorly and it’s the president’s fault;
2. Taxes are bad and the reason why the good jobs are gone;
3. The country has too much debt and it’s the president’s fault;
4. The country is unsafe from terrorists and mentally unstable mass murderers and the president is clueless about what to do;
5. America is becoming a laughingstock in the world and it’s the president’s fault;
6. The federal government is incompetent and it’s the president’s fault;
7. Federal spending is out of control and it’s the president’s fault; and
8. It’s perfectly acceptable to call the president and anyone else with whom you disagree derogatory names and insult them.
Does this remind you of any current Republican presidential candidate?
Add the actions of conservative politicians to this stream of opinion identified as news. In December 2008 and early January 2009 – before Obama was sworn in as president – Republican leaders in congress held secret meetings to develop the strategy of blocking nearly every Obama initiative. The plan was to regain the presidency in the 2012 election by pointing to how little Obama was able to accomplish.
Obviously, the strategy did not work, but The Party of No (Time, September 3, 2012) has become so ingrained that congress is barely able to function and the populace has become disgusted. Last month, congress’ approval rating dropped to 11%. Still, with gerrymandered congressional districts, there is not a clear path out of this situation. In extremely conservative and extremely liberal districts, you could lose your job if you were to compromise and vote for a bipartisan bill. Consequently, very little gets done in Washington.
So, Donald Trump is in fact the perfect Republican presidential candidate for this era.
Conservative media tells us that everything that is wrong in the world is the President’s fault and by association, Hillary Clinton’s. It is also acceptable to insult your opponents and to treat people disrespectfully (there’s a lot of that going on in liberal media as well, but their audience is unlikely to vote in Republican primaries). Additionally, you can’t choose those with political experience since they’re the dysfunctional fools who can’t get anything accomplished now. You cannot trust the media or any traditional political sources because they have an agenda to defeat Trump. Consequently for his supporters, Trump’s claims and plans are not subject to fact checking or review by outside groups.
To quote one supporter, “He may stretch the truth, but he’ll get things done.” Why? Because he says he will. What more do you need?