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“Trumpism Won’t Disappear When He Does”: In The End, Only One Thing Can Kill A Bad Idea

On Saturday, someone tried to kill Donald Trump.

You may not have heard about it. The story didn’t get much play, the attempt wasn’t well planned and the candidate was never in jeopardy.

Still the fact remains that authorities arrested one Michael Steven Sandford, 19, after he allegedly tried to grab a gun from the holster of a Las Vegas police officer with the idea of using it to kill Trump at a campaign rally. Authorities say Sandford, who carried a UK driver’s license but who had been living in New Jersey for about a year and a half, had visited a nearby gun range to learn how to handle a firearm. They say he has wanted to kill Trump for a year.

Let us be thankful he was not successful. The assassination of Donald Trump would have been a new low for a political season that is already the most dispiriting in memory. It would have deprived a family of its father and husband. It would have traumatized a nation where political murder has been a too-frequent tragedy.

And it would have imparted the moral authority of martyrdom to Trump’s ideas. That would be a disaster in its own right.

Like most would-be assassins, what Sandford apparently did not understand is that you cannot kill an idea with a bullet. Even bad ideas are impervious to gunfire.

Trump, of course, has been a veritable Vesuvius of bad ideas in the year since he took that escalator ride into the race for the presidency. From banning Muslim immigrants to building a wall on the southern border to punishing women who have abortions to advocating guns in nightclubs to judging judicial fitness based on heritage, to killing the wives and children of terror suspects, if there has been a hideous, unserious or flat-out stupid thought floated in this political season, odds are, it carried the Trump logo.

It is understandable, then, that even people who wish Trump no bodily harm might feel as Sandford presumably did: that if he were somehow just … gone, the stench of his ideas — of his anger, nativism, coarseness and proud ignorance — might somehow waft away like trash-fire smoke in a breeze.

But it doesn’t work that way. Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality did not die on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Nor did Adolf Hitler’s dream of racial extermination perish with him in that bunker beneath Berlin. Ideas, both transcendent and repugnant, are far hardier than the fragile lives of the men and women who give them voice.

So, any hope that Trump’s disappearance would somehow fix America is naive. America’s problem has nothing to do with him, except to the degree he has made himself a focal point.

No, America’s problem is fear. Fear of economic stagnation, yes, and fear of terrorism. But those are proxies for the bigger and more fundamental fear: fear of demographic diminution, of losing the privileges and prerogatives that have always come with being straight, white, male and/or Christian in America. It was the holy quadfecta of entitlement, but that entitlement is under siege in a nation that grows more sexually, racially and religiously diverse with every sunrise.

Trumpism is only the loudest and most obvious response to that, and it will not disappear when he does. Indeed, there is no instant cure for what has America unsettled. There is only time and the hard work of change.

In a sense, we are bringing forth a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women really are created equal. If for some of us, that fires the imagination, it is hardly mysterious that for others, it kindles a sense of displacement and loss. The good news is that their Trumpism cannot survive in the new nation.

In the end, you see, only one thing can kill a bad idea.

And that’s a better one.

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, June 22, 2016

June 22, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, Gun Violence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump’s Apocalyptic Message”: Obama Just Ripped Into Donald Trump’s Nightmare Vision Of America. He’s Right

This afternoon President Obama offered his most detailed and comprehensive attack on Donald Trump, not just the particular things Trump proposes but his entire worldview. He was particularly contemptuous of the idea that once we speak the magical words “radical Islamic terror” the entire effort against terrorism will be transformed.

But for the moment I want to focus on this part of his critique of Trump, referencing Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from the country and his placing blame on all Muslims for individual acts of violence:

“We’ve gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear and we came to regret it. We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history. This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights are clear about that. And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect: the pluralism, and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties, the very things that make this country great. The very things that make us exceptional.”

Obama then went on to talk about how inspired he was by the cadets he saw at the Air Force Academy when we spoke at their commencement. “That’s the American military. That’s America. One team. One nation.”

There’s a formula presidents usually follow when they speak to the country after a tragedy, whether it’s a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or an accident like a space shuttle blowing up. Express the sorrow and pain people are feeling. Praise those whose lives were lost. Emphasize the common purpose we all share (or ought to). Invoke fundamental American ideals that bind us together. And promise that out of the darkness we will become stronger, our future even brighter than our present or our past.

Some presidents weave those elements together more skillfully than others, but nearly all try to both mirror the public’s emotions and give them reason to hope. But not Donald Trump.

At moments like the Orlando shooting, we’re reminded of just how bleak and miserable Trump’s vision of America is, even when we haven’t just suffered a tragedy. It’s been said that presidential elections are usually won by the most optimistic candidate, and that will certainly be tested this year. That’s because there may never have been a candidate who sees America as such a dystopic nightmare of gloom and despair.

It’s not that Trump doesn’t say things will be great when he’s president, because he does. But his critique of the current state of the country goes far beyond what opposition candidates ordinarily say. A challenger will always argue that the party in power has been wrong about everything as they instituted disastrous policies. But Trump’s argument goes deeper, into the very heart of the nation as a whole. “When was the last time we’ve seen our country win at anything?” he says. “We don’t win anymore.”

Try to imagine, for instance, what would happen if Hillary Clinton said, “This country is a hellhole. We are going down fast.” It’s difficult to contemplate, because a careful politician like Clinton would never say such a thing in a million years. But Trump did, and he says similar things all the time. “America is being taken apart piece by piece,” he said a week ago. “We’re broke…Our infrastructure is a disaster. Our schools are failing. Crime is rising. People are scared.” And that was in a victory speech. Or as he’s said before, “Our country is going to hell.”

When he looks at a non-Trump future, he sees outright apocalypse. “If we don’t get tough, and we don’t get smart – and fast – we’re not going to have a country anymore,” he said in his speech yesterday on terrorism. “There will be nothing left.” What does that mean, “nothing left”? Are we all going to be dead? Will America itself cease to exist, wiped off the map like Yugoslavia? It’s hard to tell, but it sure won’t be good.

That’s not to mention that, like his assertion about crime (which is at historic lows), so much of what Trump says about the living nightmare that is America is just false. We’re not “the highest taxed nation in the world.” There are not “tens of thousands” of terrorists streaming into the country. GDP growth is not “essentially zero.” The unemployment rate is not “42 percent,” and we don’t have “93 million people out of work.”

And don’t forget that when he wrote his campaign book, instead of giving it a title like “Into the Future” or “America Ascending” or “Greatness Awaits,” Trump called it “Crippled America.”

That’s not to say that Trump’s apocalyptic message doesn’t resonate with some people. He has tapped into a vein of discontentment, particularly among those who feel like they’re being left behind by demographic changes and a modernizing, diverse society. If you feel profoundly unsettled when you hear two people speaking Spanish on the street, Trump is your guy. He regularly laments the fact that we don’t know “What the hell is going on” on some topic or other, often immigration or national security. That notion — of being confused and bewildered by a world that doesn’t seem to make sense in the way it did back when you were young — is obviously powerful for some voters.

Trump may promise that once we elect him we’ll find ourselves living in a paradise of winning-ness, where the most serious question that confronts each of us is which 20-something Slovenian supermodel we want to make our fourth or fifth spouse. But his unceasing descriptions of our nation’s allegedly endless suffering also says something profoundly miserable about not only our country but ourselves.

You might find the typical politician’s paeans to America’s optimistic spirit overdone or trite, but when someone like George W. Bush says that “Americans live on the sunrise side of the mountain,” even if you don’t agree with him politically, you want that to be true of yourself and your country. It’s part of a politician’s job to not only promise greatness, but to assure the country that we have it in us to reach it. When Donald Trump talks, on the other hand, he tells us that only he can change our ghastly condition, and we ourselves will have barely any part of it. “I will give you everything,” he promises. “I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.”

The clear message is that if we don’t pick him, we won’t just be making the wrong choice, we’ll doom ourselves to sink further into the unending torment we’ve made for ourselves. And we’ll deserve it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, June 14, 2016

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, Orlando Shootings | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Clinton vs Trump: A Shift In Gender Roles”: This Campaign Has Come Down To Fear vs Getting Things Done

One of the criticisms we’ve heard often about President Obama is that he doesn’t do enough to show us that he feels our pain. That has been a staple of pundits like Maureen Dowd who wrote this about the President during the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010.

Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it.

That critique resurfaced over his two terms, most notably during the Ebola scare and the attacks from ISIS. It tends to place more emphasis on reflecting America’s feelings than it does on the actual “signal part of his job” – taking action to address the problem.

I thought about that when I read the report from Greg Sargent on his interview with Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist, Joel Benenson, about how she plans to take on Donald Trump in the general election. This part is revealing:

“This isn’t about bluster. It’s about having real plans to get stuff done. When it comes to the economy, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate with plans that have been vetted and will make a difference in people’s lives.”…

A certain species of fatalism has taken hold among our political classes in general and among Democrats in particular. The idea is that, because Trump has successfully broken so many of our rules…it must mean he has a chance at blowing apart the old rules in the general election, too.

And so, you often hear it suggested that Trump can’t be beaten on policy, since facts and policy positions no longer matter; that he is going to attack in “unconventional” ways, so there is more to be feared;…and that he has some kind of magical appeal that Democrats fail to reckon with at their own extreme peril.

That might be what this campaign comes down to – a contest between someone who is trying to reflect our feelings of anger and fear and someone who is determined to tackle the challenges we face as a country.

Beyond the importance of us getting that one right, it strikes me that these two candidates have completely flipped the script of who might be expected to take which side of that argument. When I was growing up, it was the Eisenhower Republicans who claimed the mantle of being the policy wonks to the Democrats who – even as rabble rousers – were the purveyors of peace and love. Whether you see that through the prism of Mommy and Daddy parties or the Myers/Briggs binary of “thinking vs feeling,” the roles between Republicans and Democrats have been completely reversed.

But the bigger cultural dynamic will come from having a woman be the thoughtful wonk and the man being all about the bluster of feelings. That is why I found the comedy of Samantha Bee to be so prophetic when she said this about the Republican presidential hopefuls as a group: “I don’t mean to sound sexist, but I think men are just too emotional to be president.”

That is a huge shift in our perception about the genders. It might help explain why so many voters still have trouble “getting” Hillary Clinton – she’s not playing the traditional woman role (just as Obama challenged the stereotypes about the angry black man). When she talks about breaking down barriers, one of the big ones she’s challenging is that a woman can be a thoughtful, intelligent leader.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 18, 2016

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fear And Racism Taking The Place Of Policy”: Donald Trump; The Epitome Of Post-Policy Nihilism

Fair warning: over the next six months you’re not likely to find me writing much about Donald Trump’s proposed “policies.” Over the last few days there has been a lot of talk about whether or not the presumptive Republican nominee does/doesn’t support raising the minimum wage and lower taxes on the uber-wealthy. Remember that time when he said that women who get abortions should be punished? In less than 24 hours he had reversed course. Now he’s saying that his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States was just a “suggestion.” And one of his advisors said that he will consider changes to Medicare and Social Security. Next thing you know, that whole border wall that Mexico is going to pay for will be nothing more than a distant memory.

All of this was pretty well explained by something an anonymous source told Politico.

“He doesn’t want to waste time on policy and thinks it would make him less effective on the stump,” the Trump source said. “It won’t be until after he is elected but before he’s inaugurated that he will figure out exactly what he is going to do and who he is going to try to hire.”

None of this has anything to do with Trump pivoting towards the center for the general election. Way back in January he told Bill O’Reilly, “The voters want unpredictability.”

There are two things that Donald Trump knows really well: (1) how to play the media in order to get maximum exposure (these flip-flops generate tons of coverage), and (2) what his base of supporters want to hear. I’ll give you a clue…it’s not about policies.

Back in 2013, Steve Benen came up with the perfect way to describe the current iteration of Republicanism: post-policy nihilism. After the disastrous Bush administration, it was demonstrated that Republican policies – both foreign and domestic – were complete and utter failures. In response, rather than re-think those policies, conservative leaders drafted a plan of total obstruction to anything President Obama and the Democrats attempted to do. In order to get their base on board with that plan, they fanned the flames of fear and racism…that is what took the place of actual policies.

It should therefore come as no surprise to anyone that the current presumptive Republican presidential nominee is running a post-policy campaign based on fear and racism. It is why none of the other contenders for the Republican nomination could ever lay a hand on him. Their choice was to either defend the failed policies of the Bush administration or challenge the fear and racism that animated his supporters – either option was doomed to fail.

What we’ll be witnessing in this election is someone running to be the leader of the free world who is the epitome of post-policy nihilism. That’s why I wrote yesterday that his response to a question about whether or not he regretted saying that John McCain wasn’t a war hero was so revealing. At first he flip-flopped on what he’d said previously. Then came this:

You do things and you say things. And what I said, frankly, is what I said. And some people like what I said, if you want to know the truth. There are many people that like what I said. You know after I said that, my poll numbers went up seven points.

Over the next six months Donald Trump will ensure that journalists who attempt to take what he says about policy seriously are sent running around in circles. Proposing actual policies is not the game he is playing – and neither are his supporters.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 12, 2016

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, GOP, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Do Some People Respond To Trump? It’s Biology 101”: Conservatives Respond To Fear-Inducing Stimuli

As humans, we are first and foremost programmed to survive. Millions of years of evolution through natural selection have sculpted instincts and intellect aimed at staying alive. Fast, sudden movements instantly capture our attention, and unexpected noises cause us to jump back reflexively. It only takes common sense to see that survival requires a certain degree of sensitivity to threat. A desire to feel safe is part of our hardwiring, and as such, we tend to want people and rules in our lives that are going to help protect us from harm.

For some people, Donald Trump and his policies are seen as that protection. Afraid of the radical Islamic terrorists who are out there plotting attacks? Don’t worry—Donald Trump is going to ban every single Muslim from entering the country. Do you fear the Mexican immigrants coming across the border that you heard were “drug dealers, murderers, and rapists”? Fear not, President Trump is going to build a wall to keep out all the bad guys.

It is clear that those politicians who are best able to exploit our most basic biological traits, like our instinct to survive, are going to occupy a timeless niche in the political environment. The effectiveness of fear mongering in politics is no real secret to anyone anymore. But there were many GOP candidates who were great fear mongers, like Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, whose success flailed in comparison to Trump’s. That is because fear mongering alone isn’t enough.

After you succeed in making them afraid, you must also convince them that everything will be A-OK if they have you on their side. First you create the need for a hero, and then you pretend you are that hero. Donald Trump is the candidate who is offering the most extreme measures for protection. He’s strong and the other candidates are weak or “low energy.” It is only he who can save the day.

So an obvious question is, why does Trump’s tactic work on some people but not others? Don’t we all want to feel safe? Why is it that liberals and progressives feel like Trump is the actual danger and not the protector? Neuroscience and psychology research supports one clear explanation: Conservatives are hypersensitive to threat compared to liberals, and thus respond more fearfully.

For example, a 2008 study published in the journal Science found that conservatives have a heightened physiological response to threatening stimuli. Researchers tested this by showing participants threatening images—like spiders on faces or car crashes—while they measured skin electrical conductance, and presented loud bursts of white noise while they measured the strength of their eye blinks. The data showed that those who held conservative values startled more easily and had increased electrical skin conductance, which indicates a heightened state of arousal. Those with liberal views did not seem to be affected by the stimuli.

Additionally, an MRI study published in Current Biology in 2011 found that self-described conservatives had larger amygdalas than those who identified as liberals. The amygdala is the region of the brain that is involved in threat processing. Generally speaking, as the strength of the electrical response of the amygdala increases, so does the sense of fear we feel in response to a stimulus. As a result, stimuli that might seem neutral to most people, like Muslims or Mexicans, might appear threatening to conservatives.

Trump is popular amongst the right because he can tap into irrational fears and amplify them. Then, when threat seems imminent, he offers the most drastic solutions. And when danger is on the doorstep, there’s not much time for rational thinking.

One might be inclined to point out that not all Trump supporters appear to be fearful. In fact, at Trump rallies many of the attendees are angry and aggressive toward anti-Trump protesters. But hostility is a natural response when one feels threatened, and the anger that fuels their behavior stems from deep-rooted anxieties.

It is also important to remember that we aren’t just programmed to survive. We are also hardwired to flourish. It is in our nature to vigorously compete for success. In essence, we are constantly trying to win. It’s part of the mentality that drove so many civilizations to conquer others.

As such, we shouldn’t expect all Trump supporters to be fearful or irrational people. Some are just Americans who acknowledge that all of the countries in the world are contenders in one big game of power, and that most of them are not going to play by the book. Are nations like North Korea, Iran, and Russia always going to follow the rules and act according to what is fair? Absolutely not, and to some it would seem unwise and even flat out foolish for us to do so when everything is at stake.

Trump told a journalist what he’s constantly telling the world: “I always win. Knock on wood. I win. It’s what I do. I beat people. I win.” For many, Trump is a president who is going to do everything in his power to ensure that we get ahead as a nation. He will be tough. He will wheel and deal. And he will definitely play dirty when the situation calls for it. Whatever shady dealings Trump does, he is doing it for us, and we should be thankful to be on the winning team.

The rise of Trump has defied almost all logic. But he isn’t appealing to logic. He is appealing to our most basic survival instincts. Those include fear and the natural tendency to thrive and conquer. This presidential election will be an important test for our nation. We will see if we are evolved enough for our logic to overcome our instincts.

 

By: Bobby Azarian, The Daily Beast, May 6, 2016

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Fearmongering | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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