Growing up in a political family, Tessa joined her first political party at 14. Her interest in progressive politics & economics continues.
Anatomy of the Trump Culture
Donald Trump came into power on the back of hope and hatred. A man of lacklustre character, illustrating all that is frowned upon by Christianity, civilized behaviour, and accepted etiquette, he had sufficient supporters to gain him the presidency of the most powerful military country on earth. His ascendency to POTUS has raised many questions but, perhaps, the most pertinent ought to be, “Who are these people who supported Trump?” and “Can they not see that he is incapable of what he is promising?”
Profile of a Trump Supporter
- Far from being poor and uneducated, they are well educated and averaging between $60,000 and $75,000 per annum. This puts them solidly into the middle classes.
- They also tend to be Christian fundamentalists (though not all) plus authoritarian in the belief that some have the right to tell others what to do, and that if someone of a higher rank tells them what to do, then they ought to obey.
- Most have never set foot in Europe or other first world countries and know very little about the rest of the world, thereby limiting their world view to the view that America has a far better standard of living, better technology, greater mobility, etc. They don’t have another first world country with which to compare America.
- Their understanding of political systems is limited. Years of indoctrination have given them no understanding of the factors which led to the prosperity of first world countries during the 50s and 60s. American text books are not challenged – written as they are for the American market to sustain the American world view.
- They are angry. Very angry. Their anger is justified. They have been fed a lie and promises have not been realized
A Culture of Blame
In times gone by rising up to make more and more money was much easier than it is today. There are several reasons for that.
- Unions were strong and could demand better (and more fair) wages for blue collar workers. The Unions, however, were crushed by Reagan.
- America had the Reserve Currency which means that all international trade transactions had to be paid for in dollars. This also gave America the ability to determine foreign exchange rates, naturally with rates favouring America. It meant buy cheap and sell expensive. Today, there is a challenge to American keeping the Reserve Currency when it comes up for review in 2020.
- Inequality of minorities meant that there was cheap labour and less competition.
- Socialism ensured that schools and community provided free upgrade of skills, plus there was better welfare provision. Far from teaching people to be dependent, it made them independent. Until the advent of Thatcher and Reagan, socialism was considered a good means of economic policy.
- America had a ready market as the third world had not yet evolved to the level it has today.
- Communism died in the USSR which meant the borders were opened to trade and this provided more competition to America.
- Tech redundancy hadn’t yet reared its head. So there were a lot more jobs today. Currently, in both the US and the UK, there is only work for 75% population. Various authorities estimate that by 2020, the impact will become increasing felt, peaking eventually in the loss of some 80% of jobs towards the 30s.
- The upward creeping wealth towards the few. Capitalism is a system of unequal exchange, now about 250 years old. It was created in order for the aristocracy to retain their wealth, and they indoctrinated the belief that a labourer was inferior to the ownership class. Therefore, the simple state of being an owner justified the owner greater rewards. He took greater risks. He was more skilled. He was a superior being, etc. As of 2016, 65 individuals owned half the world’s wealth.
In short, the world was a different place. There wasn’t the competition and there was a lot more help along the way.
So why do Trump supporters blame immigrants and minorities?
When one has been promised the American dream and it doesn’t come despite very hard work, plus one lives in a society which evaluates one according to one’s wealth and success, inevitably the result is anger.
The reason for the blame is a combination of several belief systems.
- Entitlement – the belief system that in America all things cannot only be achieved, but ought to be achieved.
- Not being able to accept that one’s level of skills are not achieving a similar amount to that which parents and grandparents achieved in decades long gone.
- Imposed belief systems that various people from other cultures are thieves, layabouts, and not entitled to the same thing as they are.
- Anger at the impossibility of moving towards aspired goals despite intense effort. That anger has to have a target. If one is unaware of all the other factors, or if one’s world view eliminates them, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine the cause of the situation accurately.
- A cultural belief system that is based on mythology and not reality, e.g. the law of attraction, prayer is answered, etc. When, despite intense effort, nothing happens, someone has to be blamed. “The reason God isn’t answering my prayers is because women are wearing mini skirts.”
- A belief system that business owners are at the top of the pyramid, and that all goodness comes to humanity through business. There is no comprehension that business goals and government goals are fundamentally different. If government does things that go against good business practice, then government must be wrong.
Hatred and Resentment
Whence cometh the hatred?
At a certain point in anger, it turns to hatred. To quote Yoda, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Hatred can be defined as intense anger, and when it is directed at groups of people, it then becomes racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and other intense negative social attitudes.
Can Trump Deliver and Soften the Anger?
The flat out answer to that is no. Trump cannot bring back jobs to America because the jobs have gone to robots and artificial intelligence. Even if he outlaws robots and artificial intelligence, other countries won’t, and because workers are more expensive in terms of production, other countries will be able to sell better products more cheaply.
Even building that wall isn’t going to bring back jobs. And if Jews are forced to leave the country, their capital and knowledge will go with them. It will make a dent.
Trump’s incompetence will lead America into terrible, terrible places, and it may well be three or four years before some of his supporters realize that he is not the man they thought him to be.
Can Trump Make America Great Again?
This is a catch phrase which means different things to different people. What is certain is that while America remains the greatest military power which has ever existed on earth, increasing the military will not make it any greater. It already has more weapons than the next twenty countries combined.
Perhaps Trump means that he will make other countries respect America again. That’s probably impossible. It would be difficult to explain this to those who have never been to Australia, New Zealand, Africa, or Europe. Certainly Trump will find allies. Those allies, however, do not stand for democracy or freedom. Ironic. They are authoritarian nations – something that is part of the Trump culture.
Lastly, it might mean that Trump will return America to being a land of unlimited possibility. Again, while it’s possible to return America to being a dream country for all its citizens, Trump’s refusal to acknowledge advancing job obsolescence, the role the dumbing down of education has played, and the unwillingness for America to be one amongst many, puts paid to that possibility.
Brexit, Trump, Le Pen and the rise of the right: the anger goes global
The Trump Culture
The Trump culture needed to be in place before a man like Trump could be elected. It is culture which could well lead to the destruction of many countries, including the United States. Is there any way to stop it?
UBI (Universal Basic Income) is being considered by other countries but the religious culture of Christian fundamentalism says "Who does not work shall not eat." It's not an idea likely to take root.
In addition, Innovation and invention spring from science (be it computer science or genomic science), and America has a decreasing population of scientists. There aren't sufficient scientists to keep up with other countries. It would take an all out effort to produce those scientists within the next twenty years - a generation away.
We’re out of time.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2016 Tessa Schlesinger
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on February 13, 2017:
Chris37, I am somewhat confused about your response. What have any of those links go to do with political correctness?
And what event are you talking about?
For the record, I am a populist. Populism is basically a class war. It happens in times of enormous inequality. I am absolutely furious with the way government has elevated neo-liberalism (an economic system that thinks there’s such a thing as a free market that magically regulates itself) and has left most of us paupers struggling for our lives. While I am not a Trump supporter, I do support Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
I’m a German citizen by the way.
CHRIS57 from Northern Germany on February 13, 2017:
Thanks for scratching on my clumsy examples. To get a little deeper into this, i would recommend following links:
About political correctness: Read this
It took quite some effort to bring this event to public, a perfect example of what long period framing does in the name of political correctness. And has nothing to do with correct gender endings.
I have the impression that rise of populist groups in the western democracies has to do with this. Name it Trump, LePen, Wilders, AfD, UKIP...
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on February 13, 2017:
You say, “But doesn´t this "mental condition" also come from many years of bombardment with political framing from the liberal establishment?”
Things may be different in Germany, but I read internationally, and I have never heard the term ‘humanitarian wars.” I have watched a good few wars start, and they always seem to have been started by conservatives (Thatcher, Bush Jnr., Bush snr., Eisenhower, etc. So, no.
I’m unsure what you have against equal opportunity. Do you believe in economic systems where some people are allowed to be educated but other people have to remain in the slavery class? This has nothing to do with political correctness. It has to do with the fact that throughout history, when one element of the population was held to be subservient to another, then there was a revolution (French revolution, Russian revolution.) Ask your wife what it’s like to live in a subservient environment. So, sorry, but equal opportunity has nothing to do with political correctness. It is a vital component of a civilized society.
With regard to the word ‘free world,’ again this is conservative jargon. Conservatives are always using terms like ‘free world’ as if it is something incredibly unusual. Most of the world is ‘free.’ Conservatives use these words to justify their wars.
Political Correctness was an attempt by some to stop the use of pejorative language when referring to minority groups. I suspect that when people want to substitute chairwoman for chairman, it has gone somewhat over the top. However, I do see the point. When power words are continually male, they lead to a subconscious belief system that power belongs to men only.
My experience with all people who have lived behind the iron curtain is that they are all suffer from a degree of paranoia to some extent, and that they sometimes misinterpret things – understandably.
CHRIS57 from Northern Germany on February 12, 2017:
Excellent writing, my compliments.
One remark please: You suspect the dumbing down, limited education to be one reason for the mind, blame and belief set of typical Trump supporters. Up to a certain extent i am following you on this. But doesn´t this "mental condition" also come from many years of bombardment with political framing from the liberal establishment? People seem to realize that wordings like "humanitarian wars", "equal opportunity" or "free world" are mostly wrong and come from a framing system that is called "Political correctness".
I would agree that dumbing down makes it easy to manipulate people. And this may be necessary - for the Trump administration - they do this manipulation and brainwashing in a very primitive way, they need dumbed down people to follow. But repeat saying "Make America great again" and people will start believing.
As my wife (from former Soviet Union) says: "You westerners have no clue of how to read between the lines". If you can´t read at all ...
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on January 31, 2017:
Excellent article. I wouldn't be surprised that Trump got 80% of evangelical votes, because evangelicals don't believe that women should be in power. I wish Trump wouldn't do so much damage, but so early in the game, he has already done so much harm. And he is so oblivious to it all. He causes a fracas at airports and says things are going very well. Yikes.
Oztinato on January 17, 2017:
Well thought out.
Such clear points can't be avoided unless a person deliberately chooses to do so; or they in fact know such things to be true but they really really want facism with all their heart.
Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on December 28, 2016:
The Trump supporters are aggrieved because they are losing the special privileges that they once enjoyed. This is their last gasp, or should I say, grasp. "Equality for all" will prevail. It is the arc of justice.
Leslie McCowen from Cape Cod, USA on December 27, 2016:
trump got 80% of the evangelical vote. the rest came from sanderites, and at the end, the comey letter swung the undecideds to vote for trump.
in the swiing states, it wasnt trump who beat out hillary, it was jill stein.
and ask the evangelicals how they could support a thrice married p grabber like trump...the answer? supreme court justices, i/e: goodbye roe v wade.
that is what it really boils down to. and now, even obama thinks he could have outdone the woman....
this age of male domination is going down HARD...
what a sight to behold