How to wear your Donald Trump shame

Frank Bruni recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about the desire many have to avoid finding out whether or not their conservative friends and family plan on voting for Donald Trump. He explains how many, including himself, want to avoid learning that people they love or respect have reconciled themselves to (or worse, actively support) Donald Trump as the Republican party’s candidate for President of the United States. Unlike most candidates, the depths of Trump’s depraved and indifferent behavior make it hard for any self-respecting human to take him as a serious, respectable candidate. Rather than find out someone you know has bought into Trump’s garbage, Bruni suggests that many (probably most) of us would rather leave some space for plausible deniability.

I’d suggest that the fact that there is ambiguity about who is supporting him tells you that most of them are embarrassed about their choice. I’m pretty sure they know how this makes them look.

I want to know that you are voting for Donald Trump. Please tell me you are doing so. Thus far, not one person I know has publically claimed that they support him. I know this is not accurate. I have never known my friends to be shy about broadcasting their preferences. Most claim they will simply vote third-party (no word on who or what that might be). I am skeptical of this as well.

Why do I want to know if you are voting for Donald Trump? Because I want you to know, personally, what I think of you and your choice. I want you to wear your shame.

In lieu of the opportunity to personally address you, what follows below are my general thoughts on your choice and what it says about you.

You are ignorant. 

I mean this literally. You lack the knowledge, information, education, and sophisticated awareness necessary to evaluate serious political policies and strategies. The positions Trump has outlined in foreign policy, domestic security, trade, law enforcement, and healthcare are non-starters. Not because no one will work with him, that he isn’t capable of making deals, or any other nonsense. They are non-starters because they are childishly simplistic solutions to complex problems. Let’s take a single example to highlight this.

Donald Trump is going to make our allies pay for the privilege of hosting our military bases. This is sort of a crude version of Obama’s “no more free rides” policy. If we are providing protection for countries like Germany and South Korea, shouldn’t they foot the bill for it? This ignores both historical context (gee, why might the United States and the international order have not wanted Germany to have their own military?) and practical reality. The United States has a vested economic interest in maintaining international order. We are the heart of the global capitalist system. We are the financiers of the world. Do you know what happens to finance during times of instability and conflict? It collapses. Capitalism requires trust in the system. People in one area must believe others will pay for the goods and services they have provided. People on the other end must believe that those goods and services will arrive after payment. Financiers must believe that where they have placed their money will maintain and grow their investment. This role used to belong to the British Empire when they were the financiers of the world and it fell to us after World War II. You cannot do it without being able to project hard power anywhere and everywhere in the world at a moments notice. This is why we have bases the world over.

It goes much deeper than this, but you can already see the point emerging. If our economic system, of which we are the big winners, depends on stability and peace then where is our leverage to tell our allies “hey, pay for the privilege of our presence or we are going home”? They know we cannot and will not. It is not a very credible bluff. And following through on it would be idiotic. So how is Donald making this deal? Through threats and force? That is the opposite of creating stability and peace in the international order.

This is how most of the Trump agenda works. It sounds great to the uninformed, but anyone who has spent time seriously studying the subject immediately knows how impossible and stupid his ideas are.

You have no respect for public service.

If you support a self-aggrandizing buffoon like Trump for the highest office in the land, you clearly do not think much of the men who have held that office or what it means to be the elected leader of the oldest free nation on Earth. Even Andrew Jackson, the crudest and cruelest man to ever hold the office, had some level of respectability to him. He was a decorated war hero and served his state and country as a congressman and Senator. Donald Trump is a man who has never served his country. Not in the military. Not in public office. Not as an appointed advisor or administrator. Not at all. Every President, even the “outsider” Reagan, had a long record of public service. It has become popular to bemoan public service. Being the President of the United States is an unbelievably tough job. It requires real sacrifice on the part of the people who hold it. Expecting a man who has never deprived himself of something he wanted to sacrifice for his country seems pretty absurd to me.

You are an anti-America conspiracy kook.

To you, “establishment” is a dirty word. Rather than being viewed as experienced in the ways of democratic government, they are decried as “insiders,” a term used synonymously with corrupt. The Washington insiders are selling out regular Americans!!!! This is idiotic. There is more oversight in public service than in any private institution. Not understanding how the government works does not make you less corrupt, and it certainly doesn’t help you run it. Anyone who thinks being an outsider is a benefit is likely to support tearing down the way government works. You literally hate America. The government has always worked this way. And it has been an amazing success.

You do not take democracy seriously.

You cannot believe that who we elect matters if you support someone who never tells the truth. Trump lies all the time. Seriously. 75% of what comes out of his mouth is a lie. The only defense I have seen mustered for this fact is that we should ignore what he says. He is just a showman saying things to egg on a crowd. Unfortunately, neither domestic or foreign policy is run like an episode of Dancing with the Stars. Whipping a crowd into a fury makes for great tv. It is lousy for financial markets that panic at the prospect of war, unexpected and sweeping legislation, or rash executive action. It is downright dangerous when it comes to foreign policy. Having a maniac say that he won’t hesitate to use nuclear weapons plays well with the militaristic streak in Jacksonian Americans, but it is a reckless and stupid way to behave as a statesmen. If you believed that the people should have a voice in their government and then vote for the least qualified and most dangerous person for the job you are basically undermining the entire notion that responsible democratic government is possible. Thanks for making the elitist John Adams look right.

You are comfortable with bigotry and misogyny.

That is a best case scenario. No one should be ok with Donald Trump’s race-baiting. He makes racist comments regularly and supports policies that are openly discriminatory. He incites his followers to commit acts of violence that are motivated along racist lines. His misogyny is even more blatant, as hard as that is to fathom. Donald Trump views you, your wife, your mother, your daughter, and your granddaughter as useful only insofar as whether or not he would bang you/her. In every other way you are meaningless to him.

This is impossible to support.

You are a stupid, small-minded, and petty person.

Much of Donald Trumps support comes from people who claim they are tired with politics as usual. They want a disruption. And they do not really care who, where, or how it happens. That is really stupid. By nearly every objective measure, America is better than it has ever been. Seriously. We are healthier and live longer, have more money and possessions, have more de facto and de jure rights, and are extremely safe from war and destruction. This is true in other areas as well. And you want to desperately disrupt this? That is dumb.

Oh, you are an uneducated and angry white man. Now it makes more sense. Your situation has declined slightly, though you are still much better off than similarly skilled blacks and latinos. You hate seeing other people begin to have more (even if it is still less than you have) when your position is sliding downward. Instead of taking personal responsibility and doing something about it– you know, like going to school, spending tax-dollars to support education for your kids and grandkids, voting for candidates who protected the unions that made your relative success possible, etc– you sit in your La-Z-Boy and mutter things about Mooslims, Obummer, and all the other things Sean Hannity tells you are ruining your country every evening on Fox News. You are a small-minded peasant.

Your anger is based on petty grievances. You are pissed that gays can get married. You are seething that trans people want to use the bathroom. You probably agree with Tom Cotton and think we need to lock up more of those scary black people.

And now you are set to act on your petty anger. You are voting for a self-serving imbecile who has never shown any commitment to the ideas or policies you claim to care about. Because you are mad and he pandered to you.

Who you are:

I want you to know that I think you are an ignorant and stupid person, Donald Trump voter. You do not understand how government, the economy, foreign relations, or notions of citizenship in a democratic society work. You support, if not outright agree with, hateful and unAmerican positions on freedom and equality. You do so out of a sense of being alienated, ignoring that your own voting practices, economic behaviors, and cultural worldview have contributed to (if not outright created) the factors that have “left you behind.” You make a joke of democracy and the United States.

The good news is, these are curable conditions. You can read books about how government developed and functioned in this country, what people have fought over in the past, and how we stitched together a functioning republic despite those differences. Here is a good list to start you:

The American Revolution

Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789

The Early Republic

Gordon Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

Westward Expansion, power of the Presidency, and the question of slavery

Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (one of my favorite US history surveys)

Civil War and Reconstruction

Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877

Industrial and Immigrant America in the late 19th Century

Mae Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America

Progressive Movement and New Deal

Alan Brinkley, The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War

Consumer industry and America’s post-war boom(s)

Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (this is one of the two books I think you absolutely must read if you want to pretend that you have even a little knowledge regarding 20th century America…)

Civil Rights

John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi and Thomas Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North 

Urban Crisis (deindustrialization and urban decay)

Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (this is the other one)

The Southernization of America

James Gregory, The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migration of Black and White Southerners Transformed America 

Feminism 

Ruth Rosen, The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America (Revised)

The Rise of Modern Conservatism

Donald Critchlow, Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A woman’s Crusade and Kevin Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism

The Development of the Sun Belt

Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West

American Foreign Policy in the 20th Century

Victoria de Grazia, Irresistible Empire: America’s Advance through Twentieth-Century Europe and Frank Ninkovich, The Wilsonian Century: U.S. Foreign Policy since 1900

Notions of Citizenship in 20th Century America

Alice Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America 

This is a pretty good place for you to start. Happy reading.

 

 

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