Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bricks in The Wall

The general consensus among those of us who are vehemently opposed to Donald Trump’s coronation as our new Pharaoh has been that those who rabidly support him are either evil or stupid, or some combination of both.  Even though this analysis seems to fit, when looking at the body as a whole, our “better angels” have been whispering to us all along that maybe there’s something more to it.  While it’s somewhat comforting for us to think that we don’t belong to either of the described demographics, it is concurrently disconcerting to think that practically half of the population does. We don’t want to believe that.
A deeper examination of the phenomenon provides some relief when we first realize that Mr. Trump’s current approval rating, one week after he took office, is at 36% - if the “fake news” outlets we have previously depended upon for information are to be believed over the 140 character bulletins issued from the palm of the despot, himself. The fact that it’s not really “half” of the people is somewhat reassuring. Since it’s only the first “approval” poll, and given that not everyone polled actually voted in the election, it’s difficult to determine whether this figure represents an increase or decrease in his support since the election. But we’ll start with that as the foundation for this essay.

The first questions we must ask ourselves are “Who are the 36 percent?” and “What attracts them to a man that over half of America finds repulsive and dangerous?”
This is only an educated assumption, based upon personal observation of social media and reports from what has now been deemed “fake news,” but consider that at least 10% of them are simply going along with the crowd. Peer pressure. While they may answer to polls with approval, they don’t really care one way or the other, because they don’t think that government makes all that much difference in their lives. They just don’t want to be ostracized by their friends. Even though they may, in the course of conversation with their friends, be inclined to lean toward their friends’ perspectives, they refrain from initiating battle with the opposition through social media. These people need not be included among the hard-core supporters of Trump for this discussion; thus reducing those ranks to 32.4% of Americans.

Now comes those among the rabid supporters who are uninformed; too disinterested or lazy to look into the matter themselves; depending wholly on what they are told by their trusted friends and family members on all political issues.  “If Joe says Trump is the man for the job, then because I agree with Joe on other things, I agree with him on this.” This 10% of the overall 32.4% could, in fact, be considered “stupid,” rather than simply “ignorant” – not because of their strongly-held political opinions so much as the fact that they base them on nothing at all. Those political positions are quite often contrary to their own best interests and those of their families.  There remains a chance, however small, that these people will miraculously come to their senses once Trump’s policies begin to make discernible negative changes in their daily lives. However, it is more likely that they’ll continue to depend on those they consider to be better informed to tell them what they think, why their lives are actually getting worse, and who they support. So 3.24%: stupid.
We’re now left with 29.16% of American voters to categorize. “Stupid” has been assigned. So are all these people simply evil? There are still arguments to be made in defense of this charge, depending upon your definition of “evil.”

“Vindictive,” may be a better description for roughly half of them.  Think high school.  Studies of Political Socialization have shown the six agents with the most influence on the formation of our political opinions. They are, in order: Family, Schools, Peers, Mass Media, Political Leaders & Institutions, and Churches & Religion. Where do most of those agents converge for the first time in the lives of most Americans? While you may have had sufficient exposure to Family, Schools, Peers and Churches prior to then, you’ve only now come of age to pay any attention at all to Mass Media and Political Institutions.  You may have changed your position on matters since then, but high school is likely where you first gave some (possibly) serious thought to what kind of national government you wanted.
Bring up a mental picture now of your most enthusiastic Trump supporter; the guy who, without hesitation, assaults you for the opinions you express on social media with sophomoric taunts like “Snowflake,” “Suck it up, buttercup,” and “We won. Get over it!” (Or various, equally brash citations of the same message – usually displaying inadequate grammar and spelling skills.)  You’ll note that, even though your subject matter is concerning the performance of the president, in-office, this person will invariably respond from the perspective of a gloating winner of a contest. He/She will insist that your dissatisfaction is with losing the election and that you simply won’t accept the results.  Consider here that, perhaps, this person experienced what were perceived as great losses during these most formidable years. Never accepted into the “cool kids” clique because he was overweight or otherwise unattractive; because she came from a poor family who couldn’t afford fashionable clothing; was socially awkward due to mistreatment, even abuse, at home; not good at sports - or not good enough to satisfy a domineering father; lacking the intelligence to keep up, scholastically, and ridiculed by the mean kids who could. These are the kind of things that stick with some people through life. They grow up and see a man who – even though he physically represents every despised “winner” they ever encountered – claims to be acting on their behalf, forming a “union,” of sorts, of all those previously considered “losers” to make them winners just like him.  And they bite.

Or perhaps this was the school bully, who once had total power and control over his own domain, only to grow up and lose it all to the boss down at the factory. He wants it back so badly that he’s willing to do most anything to get it. He instinctively recognizes the bully in Trump (as-if that is difficult) and seizes the opportunity. He’s now among like-minded people who can actually appreciate the fine art of humiliating less fortunate human beings – something he always thought he did so well.  And he’s going to make others pay for those years he spent on the hot end of the poker.
The most popular kids in high school who became nameless faces in the crowd once they got to college, and then into the real world. The jock who wasn’t good enough to play at the next level. The Homecoming Queen who ended up marrying that older guy who hung around the pool hall on Main Street, selling a little weed to the school kids – because she was pregnant with his second baby and she managed to convince him that it was time. The president of the Future Farmers of America who realized too late that the plants in his post-high school farm really did need water instead of electrolytes. Resentful. Wanting again to belong to any group where they might have a chance to regain that status they so enjoyed. Here’s one. A big tent. There’s room. 

“Vindictives” = 14.16% of American voters. (If for no other reason than to get us back to a nice round number; 15% remains.)
Then, there were the “snobs.” Remember them? They actually did have everything going for them: looks, money, popularity.  They were most selective about who they allowed into their clique; and they didn’t change over the years. It carried through high school, into college, and then in their country clubs. They see in Trump the ultimate snob. Who else could they identify with? Snobs account for 10% of the remaining 15% of Americans; leaving 13.5%, and really screwing up the round number thing we had only just repaired.

“Wannabes,” aka “the bootstrap people,” make up a good chunk of the remainder, at 8.5% of Americans. (Fixed again.)  These are the people, regardless of whatever trauma they underwent in high school; and regardless of what advantages they had to begin with (daddy who could “loan” them money to get started, etc.), actually managed financial success. They have what they consider successful careers, nice houses and cars, positions of authority in their chosen professions.  While they are nowhere near the 1 percent in their financial portfolios, they’re so far ahead of that classmate who’s still pushing carts at WalMart that they feel like they are moguls. Wannabes come from all walks of life, including all of the categories above, so the 8.5% considers the overlap from those groups – except for “snobs.”  They are certainly snobs now, in the classic sense of the word, but they did not become such until they reached a certain rung on the societal ladder. Now that they are there, they will do everything within their power to keep those below them from catching up. These are the ones who complain so loudly about people on welfare and others living off the taxes they pay. Food, shelter, healthcare and human dignity aren’t “rights,” as far as they’re concerned – they must be earned. And people, of whatever creed and color, who are unwilling or unable to earn them should just wither and die, diminishing the burden of their kind on society. They have evil tendencies, but they can’t truly be considered evil, because they honestly believe that because they managed to make it this far, every other person, regardless of circumstance, should be able to do the same. Due to the fact that they feel like bigshot moguls, these bootstrappers mistakenly think the economic policies pursued by oligarchs like Trump will help them fight off those climbing the ladder beneath them. So their outlook is one derived from fear, rather than evil.  The Wannabe category includes preppers and survivalists who figure (hope) the end of civilization might as well come now, while they are better prepared to deal with it than most everybody else. It’s the natural progression of things. The law of the jungle. It shuffles the deck for them and those guys a few rungs up the ladder who keep kicking them back down.
The real 1%: the only people who will actually benefit in the long run from Trumpian policies. They don’t really fit into any other category. They simply are who they are. They have never known any other way of life, and there’s no way any of them are going to willfully abandon their ivory towers. They know they wouldn’t be able to exist outside. So in a way, theirs is a fight for their very survival.

Really evil? There’s only 4% left. There’s no excuse for them. They hate everybody who isn’t exactly like them (many who are) and are eager to see people suffer. Children, the sick and the elderly. It doesn’t matter to them.  Some of these people graduated from other categories to achieve full-blown evil. But it was in their DNA to begin with. They would have ultimately arrived here no matter what path they took. They are from bad seed.
So, there it is: Trump’s 36% broken down. It’s definitive. It’s mathematics. It can’t be disputed.

But, other than belonging to the 1%, does Trump himself cross over into any of the other categories? The answer may be bewildering to some. Trump, the man, doesn’t exist. He is merely the product of the imagination of the combined 36%; a cross section of all of them, manifested into the vulgar megalomaniacal creature with expensive suits and comical hair. He is the monster under our beds. The boogieman. And whether or not this carnation is able to succeed in destroying a once-great county, the soul of the monster will remain.

© Rick Baber, 2017

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