Sunday, October 02, 2016

(Still not) understanding Trump's support

It's interesting, isn't it, that most interviews you read with the downtrodden white-bread males who largely make up Donald Trump's fan club characterize him as "straightforward" or a "straight-talker' who tells it like it is. Those not a member of said club - half of America, and pretty much the rest of the civilized world - are at a complete loss to understand how the club-members can have such a skewed interpretation of a man they see as anything but straight.
The continuing furore over Trump' s failure to make available his tax returns, in contravention of decades of precedent for presidential candidates, is just such an example. One would think that such deliberate obfuscation would give the Trump camp pause. Surely, that is not the approach of a straight-talking man? Surely transparency is a virtue to be held dear by such a candidate?
But apparently Trump supporters find it quite possible to  overlook such a failing, which suggests that "straightforwardness" is not actually the character trait they are attracted by. In fact, they are just swayed by the wishy-washy promises that Mr. Trump will somehow improve their own personal lot, whether that be investing in moribund coal mines in Ohio, or getting rid of those pesky Mexicans who fill all the jobs no-one else wants in the Southwest. Trump panders to solipsism and greed, but his supporters can hardly say that, can they? So they have hit on "straight-talking" as a positive trait they can get behind. This is my own pop psychology attempt at understanding the phenomenon.
So then, when the New York Times actually does manage to obtain some of Mr. Trump's old tax figures, and it turns out that he probably hasn't paid tax in two decades due to an almost billion dollar loss reported in 1995, that HAS to be a bad thing, no? One, how can such an astute businessman make quite such a hash of his businesses, and two, how can a fabulously rich guy not be paying taxes when even the lowliest of us has to?
But, once again, in the Orwellian doublespeak of neoconservative ideology, even that has a silver lining. Prominent Trump advisors (and rich guys) like Rudy Giuliani and Chis Christie jumped to his support, calling this yet more evidence of Trump's "genius" for playing the system and pursuing a businessman's "duty" to avoid all taxes wherever possible.
And the Trump supporters are lapping this stuff up. You can almost see the thought balloons above their heads: "Oh yeah. I never thought about it that way." Any thoughts of callousness and double-standards clearly never enter their heads (although you have to assume that Giuliani and Christie at least are intelligent enough to see what is really at play here).
It's all too easy to be flippant, but I am genuinely trying to understand these people, and to understand how I can see what they can't (and vice versa). Unfortunately, here in Canada, I literally don't know anyone who supports the man, even slightly, so I have no-one who might be able to offer me some insight into the Trump phenomenon. I truly believe that this election will provide material for psychologists for decades to come.

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