As a Democrat, it pained me to watch Trump defeat Clinton for the first half of the first presidential debate, but he did, in devastating fashion. He did exactly what millions of Americans wanted him to do, and attacked Hillary Clinton hard.
He hit her hard on trade, specifically condemning NAFTA. He hit her hard for being a career politician who’s allegedly all talk and no action. He hit her hard for being in bed with special interest groups and for cheating Bernie Sanders.
Trump even tried to hit Clinton when the race question came up. Despite his own racist, bigoted, Islamophobic record, he called Clinton out for making a controversial comment about “super predators” in the 1990s.
Clinton, too, had her best moments on offense. She stumped Trump on the birther issue. She crucified him over not releasing his tax returns and emerged with arguably her sharpest moment when she contrasted her preparation for the debate, and the presidency, with Trump’s lack thereof.
But the frightening reality is, because we rarely discuss the substantive issues in these debates, the mainstream media or public life, there are millions of Americans who do think Donald Trump is prepared for the Presidency.
People call Trump crazy, and that’s their first mistake. Sure he says crazy shit. That’s because he’s running for the Presidency in the most bat shit crazy country at the most bat shit crazy time.
Raw emotions are prevailing over logic in America. Look around.
It doesn’t matter that you’re more likely to be killed by cows than sharks. Americans are more fearful of sharks. Likewise, it doesn’t matter that falling vending machines kill more Americans every year than radical Islamic terrorists. We all know which enemy Americans fear the most.
Feelings and fear trump facts in Trump’s America, and Trump is well aware. In his most recent string of loony accusations, Trump knows that the truth is irrelevant. Do Trump supporters really—like bet your money on it really—think that Obama founded ISIS? Of course not. But do they revile Obama and lump him in the same nasty category as ISIS? Of course they do.
The same goes for the birther bullshit back in 2008.
Trump knows he’s speaking to an emotional audience, so he’s playing to its emotions. Like Hitchcock mastered the emotional impact of filmmaking, Trump mastered that of campaigning. He doesn’t need to spend money on television spots or speak from a teleprompter. He knows what makes people tick. He gets under their skin. He preys on weaknesses. He makes you feel.
Whether you love Trump or detest him, he likely makes you feel something. Even if you unequivocally reject his rhetoric about Muslims and Mexicans destroying our country, his rhetoric most likely makes you feel some type of way. Maybe it even keeps you up at night.
Trump takes pride in that – his ability and power to keep people up at night. He lives for his Twitter influence. He doesn’t give a damn about how people react to his Tweets. Love em or hate em, Trump loves being talked about. He craves constant, intercontinental attention.
And getting that sort of attention isn’t easy. It’s demanding.
It means everyday, Trump has to say something new, something utterly insane. But so far, he hasn’t run out of truly original content, and something tells me that he won’t anytime soon.
The conspiracy-theorist-in-chief can utter any absurdity imaginable and millions of Americans will believe him. After all, they’ve been inundated with enough Fox News to kill a small child.
How can you blame these Trump supporters anyway? All they see on TV all day is rape and murder and brown men with backpack bombs and they’re scared shitless. They’ve been praying for someone like Trump. Someone to tell them that everything’s going to be okay.
“We’re going to make America great again.”
Now let’s be real. Trump is a smart man. Or at the very least he’s a perceptive man, a man who had his finger on the pulse of the underground white nationalism that was alive in this country.
He didn’t have to do anything to prime America for his unlikely rise or his unacceptable behavior because America was already primed for it all. Somewhere between The Bachelor, fake wrestling, Big Macs and Big Gulps, America was ready for its reality television candidate.
Trump didn’t have to do anything to make his supporters weak. They were already weak. Weakened by bad trade deals, wage stagnation, poor education, inadequate healthcare and drug and alcohol addiction.
Trump didn’t even create the Trump supporter. He gave millions of people without anything to lose something to support. He took advantage, as he tends to, of people’s deepest vulnerabilities.
Whether Trump wins or loses the election is besides the point. He’s already won in certain respects. Every day he’s poisoning the minds of millions with scare tactics and scapegoating. Meanwhile he’s turned the Presidential election into a 17-month commercial for Trump ties.
Astonishingly though, Trump isn’t even the problem. The Trump supporter is the problem.
For decades, perhaps even centuries to come, Trump supporters will remain fearful of the future. They’ll remain fear of an economy that continues to work for the richest and almost nobody else. They’ll fear a political system that’s controlled by Washington elites.
They’ll fear globalization, political correctness, foreign languages, homosexuality and any religion out there that challenges the Judeo-Christian tradition.
It’s up to us, first and foremost, to defeat Donald Trump by democratic means, no doubt.
But our real job, the job that transcends this election, is to try to help the Trump supporter. Not to dismiss the Trump supporter or call them names, but to engage them and show compassion.
When they hit low, we hit high.
The New York Times recently ran a story with the headline, “Trump Is Making America Meaner.” The column focused on white high school students in Oregon, who in 2016, are actively disparaging their Mexican classmates because Trump’s “Build that wall” rhetoric inspired them.
We all need to tackle this type of intolerance at the local level. It’s like containing an epidemic. Those white students need to be quarantined and confronted by professionals. We need to send in the activists, counselors, motivational speakers, who can teach these kids – many of whom were taught to be prejudice from a very early age – that all prejudice can be unlearned.
We’re not going to open everyone’s mind but if we don’t try we’ll open no one’s.
Trump’s brand of intolerance was taught and so it can be untaught, from the bottom-up. We all need to get more involved in our own communities as well as those that we’ve never visited.
This call to action doesn’t require much effort on your end. You don’t need to travel or protest or post political Facebook statuses. But when you hear your friends making bigoted remarks, stop them. When you do witness strangers being bullied, stand up for them. When you do find a confederate flag hanging, report it. When you do see a racist Tweet spreading, report that too.
These are all small steps we can all take to make the country a better place to live. If Trump supporters claim to be patriotic, which they certainly do, then we all need to convince them that patriotism is not about building walls and c Text Photo Video Social losing borders. It’s about loving all Americans.
True patriots are the ones among us who stand up to oppression, not the ones who stand for it.