Well, we fucked up big time. Exactly how this came about, though, is the great mystery. We need desperately to understand how this nation could possibly have elected this deeply flawed, thoughtless individual masquerading as a human being.
It is not as though we didn’t know his flaws, and the absence of any balancing virtues. He apparently comes virtue-free. And everyone knew that. So, why did they nonetheless vote for him? Well, many folks simply dismissed Hillary. It was a vote between two evils, they say. Well no, it wasn’t. There really is no equating Hillary's flaws, and she has some, with Trump’s. They say she lies. Excuse me, Hillary lies??? Did you really just say that, as though Trump is a truth machine? The scale of Trump’s lies are so vast and so purposefully evil that the two people simply cannot be compared. A vast right wing conspiracy she called it 20 years ago, and it seems that it does exist. A combination of Fox News and the echo chamber of Facebook and other “social media” combined to produce this enormous flood of misinformation about Hillary. She has in fact devoted a large section of her life to helping others in need. Trump has never stooped to the helping thing. He helps only himself. Has Hillary acted in ways to better, even enrich, herself? Doubtless. But she also has acted to better the lives of others. He seemingly never has.
We know, we know. He stiffs everyone with whom he comes into contact. He treats everyone he meets as a potential mark. So, we knew all that. Oh and we also knew that he is incapable of focusing on anything beyond five minutes. He apparently neither reads nor writes, because he is incapable of focusing—that adult ADHD thing. So how/why would we imagine he should be in charge of our nuclear arsenal? Why would we imagine he could negotiate international treaties, when he doesn’t seem to understand anything?
Oh, and by the way, we also knew that the Trump’s VP pick, Mike Pence is, if anything, even more to the right, even more of a Neanderthal than Trump. Trump is entirely unpredictable. Pence is a known man of evil purposes, quite predictable.
So, how did this happen?
Well, the right wing propaganda machine certainly carries a large part of the solution. They were effective at their game, which was to destroy the credibility of the “other party”, or the left wing. Fox News, their faithful ally in this war of words is amazingly successful at their game. They are a lying machine, but a slick one.
Facebook and other social media is also part of this machine. It isn’t that the social media are biased, because they seem to carry no bias. But, by design, they allow everyone to channel, and to build walls around their information inputs. I build such walls myself, so I am familiar with the concept. When you surround yourself with one information source, one that suits your personal interests, then your side of the story approaches righteousness.
But the concept of “Truthiness” also plays a large part in Trump’s election. What is “Truthiness” you might ask? Well, Stephen Colbert coined it in a segment of his program he called “The Word”. Colbert explains:
“Truthiness is tearing apart our country, and I don't mean the argument over who came up with the word . . . It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It's certainty. People love the President [George W. Bush] because he's certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don't seem to exist. It's the fact that he's certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?...
Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality.”
And the Trump built on Truthiness to establish his base of support, a base that never wavered and even grew during his unlikely campaign. Folks out there are pissed about many things. The big banks piss them off. Global companies that move jobs overseas piss them off. Hedge fund managers that cause stock markets to crash piss them off. Presidents that lie to us and then send our armies to fight in stupid, illegal wars piss them off. The list is endless. Many American towns have been bypassed and the good old days (say the 1950’s) are gone forever.
The fact that the Trump participated freely in these events seems not to have been noticed. Virtually all Trump products get made overseas, He makes a lot of money by investing in global, even Russian markets. But he says things the pissed off folks want to hear. He gives them voice. He sees regulations aimed at curbing climate change as the enemy and says exactly that. They like his commentaries. He also gives voice to the discontented folks who hate blacks, Latinos, and other folks of color, because they believe they are taking jobs white guys need. So Trump promises to ban them, kick them out, build walls . . . and the discontented folks love it.
Somehow, all this loose talk also managed to support many thousands of people who had been in the closet—our very large collection of racists and neo-Nazi’s. It seems clear that the election of a black man, Barack Obama, brought them out. The Tea Party seems to be the KKK wing of the Republican Party. When Neo-Nazi and Racist/KKK groups formally endorsed Trump, it should have appalled his supporters, but it did not. They continued applauding. When he threatened violence should he lose the election, they applauded even harder and louder. And the rest of us were appalled, but we failed to pay attention to what was actually happening.
When he ran as a candidate, one of 16, we all laughed. Even the comedians applauded, because he provided so much material for them. But we never really paid attention to what had happened overseas—the BREXIT vote. In Britain, the Tory/right wing campaign to end British participation in the EU—the European Union—included an ocean of lies. Nigel Farage was one of the prime spokesman for Truthiness. “We will bring back 250 million pounds per week and reinvest it into the National Health Service” he said. And the same pissed-off folks in Britain, the people annoyed about job losses and immigration, believed him. And the BREXIT voters prevailed. They voted to leave the EU, followed almost immediately by Nigel Farage stating that, “well no, that was a mistake to promise all that money would come back into the NHS”. In short, the folks had been had. More “Truthiness” in action.
So, somehow, we are all to blame for not noticing what was happening to our political dialogue in the country. We pretended not to notice. And now we must all pay the price. And what is that price, you might ask?? Well, funny you should ask, because nobody really knows. Donald Trump seems to be an empty set. He says a lot of bullshit, but he really doesn’t seem to know anything. He promises a lot of stupid things (build the wall) but we have actually no idea what he will do. And, the saddest and most dangerous part of all this is that we actively encouraged the ultra-right-wing by electing back into office all those republicans who participated in the past 8 years of refusing to govern. Now they can govern, or not. We have given them a carte blanche.
Good luck on that one. So hang on folks, we may be in or a very bumpy ride, hopefully one that does not end with a series of mushroom clouds.