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AN AMERICAN EXPAT'S TAKE ON WORLD POLITICS: PART 3 - TRUMP

When talk about politics among English-speaking expats here in the south of France turns to the USofA, two questions are inevitably asked.

1. How did Donald Trump manage to get himself elected President of the United States?
This is a technical question, asked by those who are aware that Clinton received 3,000,000 more votes than Trump.

2. How did Donald Trump manage to get himself elected President of the United States?
This is a philosophical question, asked by those who do not understand the current body politic in the United States or, for that matter, in much of the modern world.

Let's take these questions one at a time.

THE MECHANICS OF AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
A quick rehash of the fact that American Presidential elections are fought state by state is in order. The coastal American states are relatively few but with highly concentrated populations. The interior states are less populated but are more numerous. While Clinton racked up big wins on the two coasts, Trump nearly swept the interior. So, in simple terms, although Clinton won the popular vote, Trump won the vote in a majority of the states and therefore the Presidency.

BUT HOW DID IT HAPPEN? REALLY?
I've struggled mightily with this question. I have come to a simple, five-part answer:
Racism
Misogyny
Fear
Denial
Self-Deception

I have no explanation for the existence of racism, misogyny, or the fear that goes with them. I suspect that they are the result of manipulation by those seeking power in order that they may rule us by dividing us. I will not spend more time on that except to say that persons who exhibited those traits made up the core of Trump's base. Such seems to be the way with many Western populists.

Denial and self-deception are more interesting to me because they provide the basis for otherwise rational people to make irrational choices. And in the end, that's who elected Trump, otherwise rational people making an irrational choice. No, there were not enough racists to elect a President in the US, nor enough misogynists. But when you add those in denial, those blithely turning a blind eye, Trump becomes possible.

Denial and self-deception also explain why Trump is still revered by some. Take the budget recently passed by the American Congress. That budget includes both deep tax cuts and increased spending that combined will surely result in huge deficits. Republicans no longer even pretend differently. Yet political conservatives by and large welcome Trump with open arms. The only way that a conservative can approve of such financial brinkmanship is to jettison the policy cornerstones to which fiscal conservatives have adhered for decades. Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan must either be in denial that he ever held those principles in the first place or be deceiving himself into believing that they never mattered. I don't know Ryan. I can't say which explanation is true. But he's on record. He used to be a fiscal conservative. No other explanation for him applauding the current budget than denial and/or self-deception is possible.

Here's an example from a different but relevant conversation that has been raging online recently. How will we address gun violence in America? A picture of the black actor Samuel L. Jackson is circulating on social media accompanied by the following quote: "I grew up in the south with guns everywhere and we never shot anyone." (I've been on his site. It is apparently a valid quote.) A Southern black man who grew up during the civil rights struggle in the American South somehow fails to mention that, while he may never have shot anyone, or his friends may never have shot anyone, Emmitt Till is dead and Medgar Evers is dead and Michael Schwerner is dead and Andrew Goodman is dead and James Chaney is dead and Martin Luther King, Jr. is dead. And more. In the South. Through gun violence. The irony is stunning. The only way that a man like Jackson can own such a quote is to be so deep in denial as to be immune to reason.

Thus, Trump. There is no way to soften it. I cannot find a path to civility or, for that matter, forgiveness. I have listened closely to my American friends rationalize the circumstances that led to Trump's election. I understand the battle between Sanders and Clinton in the Democrat Party primaries took its toll. I understand that bots backed by big dollars and/or foreign governments messed with social media. But in the end, people voted. And the reason that they voted for Trump boils down to those five, simple reasons. Hard to swallow. Harder to deny.
Racism
Misogyny
Fear
Denial
Self-Deception

Read more of my political musings HERE. I'll wrap these musings up with a fourth in the series presently.




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