Friday, March 04, 2016

The Poly Ticks

The goal of this blog is to avoid politics at the Friday night dinner table.
Dedicated to the continued and speedy recovery of my Mom, who is returned home from rehab this week and is doing better every day. (To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.

trump-cardAs you know, this space avoids politics and current events like the plague.

This week so many people have asked me my take on the popularity of Mr. Trump and my curiosity was piqued enough to do some research.

To me, the wild theories by non-Trump supporters trying to make sense of his popularity are even more extraordinary than his popularity itself.

According to NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben, quoting various polls and studies, people support Trump because they are un-intellectual xenophobic paranoids. The Washington Post's Jeff Guo says nearly the same thing.

"NerdWriter" Evan Puschak boils it down to the un-intellectual part, for Trump evidently speaks at a 3rd grade level. (There is a video version of Pushak's analysis here.)

The Atlantic, too, finds that his popularity is a result of (mostly poor white male) ignorance and racism.

This Huffington Post collumnist, under the headline "I Know the Real Reason Why Donald Trump is So Popular", has the chuzpa to say:

I don't even think most of the Trump supporters realize why they like him so much. They think they like Trump's "tough talk." But that's not what it is. They're simply hypnotized by the power of celebrity. It's sort of like how if your grandfather gets a tattoo, it's gross. Meanwhile, if an attractive woman gets the exact same tattoo, it's sexy. It's not the tattoo- it's the woman. It's not what Trump says- it's the celebrity saying it.

One common theory among the dumfounded is that the Trump phenomenon is nothing short of class-war-driven fascism. Consider this alarmed analysis from Presbyterian minister Chris Hedges:

There are tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-class whites, rightfully enraged at what has been done to them, their families and their communities. They have risen up to reject the neoliberal policies and political correctness imposed on them by college-educated elites from both political parties: Lower-class whites are embracing an American fascism.

All of the above is, in my opinion, wishful thinking.

This morning C-SPAN asked Trump supports to call in and tell why they are Trump supporters.

Here is the entire 20-minute segment (requires updated Flash).

The callers were not under-educated. They were not mostly white males.

They were often women, mostly well-educated, sometimes African Americans.

Here's the basic message I heard from caller after caller:

"I support Trump because he is not trying to be a smooth-talking politician and because he is an outsider to the big-money-driven machine of Washington D.C. Yes, he's sometimes offensive or illogical, but those qualities are less offensive to me than being motivated by greed."

In other words, ever since September 26, 1960, we have allowed our video media to drive elections more and more towards style rather than substance.

Think about it: does being the sharpest debater make you the best president?

Along comes Mr. Trump and thumbs his nose at that entire image-driven culture. His willingness to say offensive things actually makes him appear more genuine and trustworthy.

He appears to say what he really believes and not merely insincere sweet talk in order to get elected.

That, as my grandfather would have said, is my two-bits.

Leaving you with this question for your table: Given the following alternatives, what's more important in a leader: that s/he should be a tactful, impressive statesman, or that s/he should be genuine and trustworthy?

Shabbat Shalom 

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