Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Can't Stump The Trump!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a blogger in the era of Trump must be writing about the election. But first, some caveats. I do this for mainly three reasons: 
  1. Any trend or person that drives my indignant and beloved friends on the left as crazy as Trump does must be at least applauded and appreciated for his work;
  2. Like many successful economists, I wanna play amateur political philosopher from time to time;
  3. I see this strange dissonance among my fellow university students, who on the one hand go out of their way to convince everyone about the value of diversity and equality and different perspectives, yet they refuse to engage with the most striking differing perspective; that their worldview is narrow and thoroughly rejected by most “normal” people. By bus-drivers and factory workers and plumbers and cleaners, and especially blue-collar workers i.e. those people that ended up voting for Brexit and Trump. I wanna try to mend that misunderstanding. 
Last caveat: I can hold two thoughts in my head at once. By defending and applauding and explaining Trump’s achievements, I am by no means endorsing his idiotic economic policies or myths about free trade, globalisation or China. He’s becoming a politician, and as such I have a mountain of disdain for him already.

Let’s go.

And so finally it happened. What couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t happen – happened. After an intense night of vote-counting, electoral counting, speculation and indignation, watching swing states swing forth and back, and Florida at times separating the two candidates by less than a hundred votes, Trump won. A night-time popularity contest more exciting than the football World Cup, and presumably more destructive for relationships than most other conflicts, became the event of the decade. Seldom have two candidates so hated by the American population been running for office, in a memorable illustration of Hayek’s old proposition in The Road to Serfdom that in politics the worst get on top.

And people honestly woke up surprised that it could have happened. The unthinkable event, that should have been impossible  all the polls said so! How in the world did it happen? To be fair, looking back at 18 months of campaigning, two periods with the Obama miracle, massive warnings of what was to come in form of Brexit and before that Trump the Clown actually becoming the Republican Nominee, nobody could seriously claim that they did not see this coming. You may not have wanted to believe it, and you may have even convinced yourself that it was utterly impossible, but there are at least two very closely-related reasons that should have prepared you for the prospect.
  1. Twice in a row, Obama was crediting with winning on the back of the Black vote. His skin-colour, his promise for change, his embodiment of the American Dream and the ability to reach the very top, despite being black, carried him to victory not once, but twice. Why, then, would it be so incredible that a similar candidate could win by the same method with equally 'underprivileged', uneducated, disenfranchised voting groups – the blue-collar workers whose Michigan and Pennsylvania factory powerhouses seemed to have moved oversees, the “losers” of globalisation and those who desperately yearn for days long since past?
  2. Brexit should have taught anyone who was looking that polls, politician, betting firms and intellectuals left and right may not be a fair representation of the bigger population –  especially those voters who flew under the radar, or didn't wanna say who they intended to vote for. But somehow, the true believers refused to believe that the God-Given Establishment could have been wrong again. 
What bothers me most of all is this constant lack of understanding for how anyone but angry, racist, sexist men could vote for Trump. Maybe you indignant crusaders could perhaps ask the very people you so desperately want to defend but so rarely socialize with? They were, after all, yelling as loudly as they could, on every TV-network and all over Youtube, forcefully explaining why they – women, blacks, Hispanics, <insert minority of choice> – intended to vote for Trump. There’s an avalanche of these interviews and clips. Your incredulity towards all these people strikes me as insulting. Let’s have a look at a few of them:

Trust:

“When he says he’s gonna do something, he does it. And they know they can trust him.” 
“He told the truth, he told the unadulterated truth […] I voted for Barack Obama when he said he was gonna bring hope and change and ‘Yes, We Can’ and no we didn’t; the jobs didn’t come, the better schools didn’t come, the investment in our communities didn’t come.”
Or even more telling for how disconnected Mrs. Clinton is to normal people:
“Ms Clinton, as you parade around the stage with rich, privileged women like Alicia Machado, real women like me are sleep-deprived, doing the balancing act between work, school, family, loans, and bills. We are sipping stale coffee, while deciding the give and take: how will I put gas in my car when payday isn’t until Friday and the gas light is on today?” – Theresa Ahearn

Trump is not a politician, and he fights for The Little Guy  

“his track record on creating jobs beat the other candidates”
“he’s not a politician; he’s not owned by anybody; although he says controversial things, he’s not a liar”.
And my personal favorite:
“it’s the way he delivers his message, man. He has a very good charisma when he’s talking.”

Illegal Immigration over and over and over:

By blacks,
by Hispanics,
by women and
by inner-city black men whose success stories are awe-inspiring indeed. 

Why would anybody be surprise that normal hard-working decent people who see struggles for job and security and safety for their loved ones would vote for someone who seems (keyword: seems) to be one of them? Sees their burden, constructs a narrative for it and provides some superficially plausible solutions? For the narrative it’s irrelevant that his solutions are unlikely to solve those very problems. It’s irrelevant that the political establishment are up and arms about him grabbing inappropriate things left and right. I can throw a million Ivy League sociologists or economists or political philosophers to explain what’s wrong with Trump and his policies – it does nothing to destroy the narrative. Why? Because those people belong to the very establishment his voters are reacting against, and so they happily discard any information coming from that establishment. 

The point I’m trying to make is this: he’s not your everyday semi-corrupt lying politician whose fake attempts of empathy are quickly reduced to ashes. Hence, normal rules of politics don't apply to him – which is why he gets away with (and probably gets votes from) saying scandalous things. Instead, like a good little social-democrat, he looks into the eyes of the people and candidly says:
“we’re gonna make this country great again [...] the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. We’re gonna make sure those left behind don’t stay behind”. 
That’s worth a million fake Hillary-smiles and -handshakes. And it doesn’t take racists and sexists and awful people to buy into such a package. Darn, even I am on the verge of tears and feel the patriotism in my stomache – and I'm not even remotely American! 

Daddy God Emperor Trump, like a good businessman, saw an unsatisfied political demand and created the supply for it – himself! Whether he acts the role convincingly, if he genuinely is the role, or if he constantly lies is beside the point; he's doing a great job filling a political market niche that had been previously ignored. In a way, this is the core of democracy: replace your leaders when they've drifted far enough away from what most people believe. 

The bottom line is this: Politics isn’t about truth. Truth isn’t established by a show of hands in media-covered elections. People’s beliefs about the world and their willingness to do something about them, however, do translate into political success. At that point, it doesn’t matter that Trump acts as a clown or invent senseless and economically illiterate ideas. If enough voters believe them, he wins. That’s politics. I mean, after all, that strategy has worked for the left for a century – how come you guys didn’t recognize it?

And when you listen to most people openly supporting Trump, it’s the same old story: It’s the Economy, stupid; immigrants, safety, security; give me a chance to build my own life. He's neither the first nor the last to win on that. Perhaps in the most entertaining way possible, but that's a different story. 



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