21. March 2019 · Categories: Analysis · Tags:
Recently, USAToday produced a webpage titled Trump Nation that presents the opinions of 103 Trump supporters. It’s a rather well-done multi-media exhibition complete with photographs and , audio recordings
I decided to read through some of these opinions because I find the support for a candidate who I think is so obviously wrong for working-class America nothing less than fascinating. It didn’t take long for me to realize how subjective the opinions were and I decided to make a little project out of it.
I wrote a short program to extract the data and compile it into a spreadsheet for easier analysis and this is what I found. None of the 103 Americans interviewed mentioned any specific law, policy or problem and none of them mentioned any specific actions taken by their chosen candidate in the past to suggest his qualification either. All the respondents remained vague, hopeful and incredibly subjective.
Out of these vague, “touchy-feely” arguments a small number of generalized themes and assumptions appear as the basis for their support.
  • 26 of the respondents suggested that Trump is a straight talker and cited that as a reason for supporting him.
  • 24 cited his career as a businessman as a clear reason to support him.
  • 21 indicated their support was in part due to his position as an outsider.
  • 20 mentioned their utter distaste for Hillary Clinton as a good enough reason to vote for Trump.
These are the most common themes across all the respondents in this particular study. There were a few other themes that I was surprised to see so few people mention such as putting America first, a major theme in Trump’s campaign and yet only 14 out of 103 respondents mentioned that. Another one is bringing back jobs, another major theme in the Trump campaign and yet only ten respondents mentioned it. Even more surprisingly, border-security was only mentioned by ten of the 103 respondents and making America great again was only mentioned eight times. That’s not much more than the seven respondents that had negative things to say about immigrants or the six that had negative things to say about Muslims.
So from the opinions of these 103 Americans we can see that although racist issues and the promise of a “greater America” ARE indeed factors they are nevertheless outweighed by a prevailing sentiment that people are just sick and tired of politicians. While I can understand that sentiment I am appalled by the inability of these 103 Americans to improve the situation by learning how to elect better politicians.
To demonstrate what I mean I’m going to respond to the most common points made by these 103 Americans.

Trump the Straight-Talker

First thing I want to ask is why is there so much evidence to the contrary? Why is he being investigated for so many things that would suggest he isn’t so honest, such as issuing hush money and obstructing justice? Is that not fair because the investigation is still in progress and nothing has been proven yet? OK fine, what about the fact that he still refuses to reveal his tax returns? Saying that he’s not legally obligated to disclose his personal taxes does nothing to change the fact that he is obviously hiding something. The excuse he came up with during his campaign was that his taxes are being audited. Well that was two years ago, which I’m sure is long enough to wrap up an audit or at least identify the case or get some kind of confirmation from ANYONE that his taxes really are being audited, but we got nothing, which really leaves no other option but to assume he was lying about that. Not enough? OK, what about his campaign promise that he would never cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Don’t remember that? See if this jogs your memory… Trump promising no cuts to Medicare or Medicaid
And yet… in his latest budget proposal he is cutting $200 billion from Medicare. There is no legal loopholes for Trumpian excuses here. This is empirical evidence which couldn’t possibly be any more direct or obvious. He is very clearly breaking his campaign promise. Now sometimes this happens when a president promises something, tries to make it happen but fails. But Trump’s promise not to cut Medicare should not have been a challenge; the program is overwhelmingly supported by the American people and their representatives. Slashing the budget for Medicare was not a failure to preserve it, it was a conscientious decision to attack it and in so doing he did in fact break his promise. This is not the hallmark of a honest man.
One might say, well, ALL politicians lie, but remember, two of the most common reasons these 103 Americans came up with for supporting Trump is that he is NOT a politician and that he IS an honest man. Could have fooled me. In fact he’s breaking records by amassing a collection of more proven lies than any politician so far ever recorded. It’s because of this unprecedented disregard for the truth that the New York Times has been maintaining a record of his lies since his inauguration. NYT: List of Trump’s Lies.
Another aspect of this straight-talker illusion is based on the recently increased intolerance for being politically-correct. Five of the respondents mentioned this directly. Honestly, I don’t know what the problem is here. We used to call it being civil or just having good manners, but now there seems to be this impression that being civil somehow interferes with getting things done or with being honest. There IS a way to be honest and civil at the same time… It’s called tact… which is something Trump obviously doesn’t have.
Gary Johnson, 26 said “we need to be less politically correct and get to the source of problems without beating around the bush as much.” Well Gary, maybe you could provide an real example instead of a baseless generalization.
Joshua Grad, 27 takes it even further by calling political correctness a “disease” that “has caused a lot of arguments, fights, disagreements, and a lot of destruction and decay throughout the entire country.” Again, no examples but that doesn’t stop Joshua from going even further by stating how he loves “the fact that, of all the candidates, Republican and Democrat, [Trump] came on and he was rude, he was vulgar, he got his point right across, but he did not do it in a nice friendly way. I’ve had too many politicians that are nice and fluffy, I want someone who will say ‘Naah, you take that and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.’
Josh, this sounds to me like what you want is a rude nasty tyrant. Your one chance to make your opinion known to the entire USA Today audience and you waste it on praising the president for being rude and vulgar and expressing a desire to see a president shove his own agenda in the face of the American people whether they want it or not. Yes, that’s called a tyrant.
Overall, I think the of lack of substance to support these opinions about Trump being a straight-talker, paired with the prevalence of that theme among supporters provides a very strong indication that what we are seeing here are people that are either brain-washed or they have other reasons for supporting Trump that they don’t feel they can justify so they reach for “cover” reasons which don’t always make sense. As for the honesty they insist comes from Trump, I’m pretty dang certain it’s more about the fact that Trump is just saying things they like to hear and calling it the truth is more about endorsing the statement for what they say and much less about whether they’re true or not.

Trump the Businessman

Yes, Trump is a businessman but… does that really qualify him to be a president? There are two parts to this question. First, what kind of businessman is he and second, is experience in business really that important to the job of a president?

There are so many types of businessmen out there that qualifying a candidate on that basis alone is like qualifying him on the basis that he has two hands and two feet. While some businessmen are innovators like Henry Ford and Bill Gates who built large companies and created lots of jobs, other businessmen are back alley drug dealers, crime bosses, dog walkers and baby sitters. It’s ALL business. In fact every American with a job, a budget and a checking account is in a sense a businessman. Every kid who ever sat at a lemonade stand is in effect a businessman. So just calling yourself a businessman really doesn’t say much.

So, what kind of businessman is Donald J. Trump? Well, all wisecracks about his ethics aside, he is what I would call an investor. This is arguably the easiest kind of business. It doesn’t require any significant skill or talent, but it does require money and luck. Of course it helps to know what you’re doing when you invest because you increase your odds of success. This is why they say it’s always better to invest in what you know. But it’s not 100% necessary because it’s always possible to invest in a lottery ticket and win. By contrast no amount of money or luck will help an idiot invent a better mousetrap and build a successful company around it. This is why there are relatively few founders like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs compared to people who leverage their success in one thing, such as rap music, to become successful investors like Snoop Dog and Kayne West or like the second-generation Kardashians, Hiltons and Trumps (including Donny J. himself) who got their seed money through inheritance.

So while I’m not saying Trump lacks sufficient skill and talent I am saying that we really can’t rule that out based entirely on his status as a businessman, especially when it comes to the challenges of government. This of course leads to the second consideration; Is business experience even relevant to the job? My simple answer is no and this is based on the simple premise that our government is not a business – it’s a republic. It’s a shame that more Americans don’t realize that. Even worse, there’s a tendency for people to mentally disconnect the democracy that underlies the republic, leaving what they see as an aloof government. 

Over recent years, there has indeed been an upswell of resentment toward this “aloof” government and its politicians and a businessman is a cultural icon that in many ways symbolizes the “outside” alternative. Some of this comes from the fact that so many Americans are businessmen, so there’s a sense of commonality. But also, in the ideological world, businessmen represent the leaders of the private sector, which is being hailed by many as being more capable of efficient solutions than the government. This perspective is largely based on the idea that in the business world, competition encourages efficiency and performance and in government there *is* no competition so logic dictates the government would be less efficient. But there’s a huge flaw in this logic. The assumption that there is no competition in government is flat wrong.

You wouldn’t think this would be so hard to see in an age where politics is so dominated by election races and partisan arguments. In fact it’s exactly the competition between political opponents that often make government proceedings more inefficient and this underlies the fundamental difference between business and government which is enough to change the effects of competition. This fundamental difference is that business is typically a homogenous enterprise driven by one thing above all else; profit. This makes business decisions relatively easy as the bottom-line practically makes the decisions for us. On the other hand, a representative republic like ours is heterogeneous, there is no bottom line and differences can’t be reconciled on the dollar with simple math.

There is however a field of expertise that deals directly with the challenges of government… it’s called law and there’s a reason why around the world the most common candidates for government office are experts in law, not experts in business.

For those who are still not convinced. Let me also point out that transparency only exists in the public sector. That means that in government we see all the ugliness and the competition between politicians will make sure of it. On the other hand, in the private sector, the ugliness is none of our business. So just because we see more ugliness in government doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also exist in the private sector. With the private sector being so… private, it’s hard to make meaningful comparisons but there are some clues out there, such as the debt statistics.

So it’s not surprising that these 103 Trump supporters would expose such misconceptions as a basis for their support. But it’s concerning because we are all sharing the same republic and until voters start wising up, they will continue to elect bad politicians and perpetuate their frustrations.

I for one am not as sick and tired of bad politicians as I am the people who keep voting for them