Almost everything Donald Trump says is provably wrong. PolitiFact says that 76 percent of statements by Trump that it checked were false. Aside from the juvenile insults and abuse he spews, he constantly makes up lies. He demonstrates every time he opens his mouth that he has a fifth-grade bully's mentality and multiple personality disorders.
But he is the one the GOP voters chose as their presidential candidate. Not that some other contenders, such as Ted Cruz, would be much different. Although a few Republicans repudiate him, he has a large number of followers. Until he was spurred into an insane rage by the Khan family, he was holding even with Hillary Clinton in the polls. But if American voters can elevate a wretch like Trump to be the candidate of a major party, they can rally and put him into the presidency. Remember: Half the people are below average.
All the attention given to Trump misdirects attention away from the real reason that the United States is at a tipping point. Trump is not the problem. The people who are attracted to him are. Trump is the kind of person that our parents, our teachers, our pastors define as the ultimate human failure, as the kind of person to avoid and avoid becoming. So, why would so many people choose him as a leader? To do so, they they have to give up the values of honesty, respect, and good will that are the base from which America launches its quest for freedom, equality, and justice. At every campaign appearance, Trump blatantly flouts those qualities. So why do so many people cling to a person who constantly makes things up that are so easy to disprove?
It is because he tells the lies that his adherents prefer to believe. The anti-intellectual faction cultivated by the Republican party cherishes and takes pride in its ignorance and its inability and refusal to handle factual information. Social scientists have studied this mentality over the years. When people's beliefs in false facts are challenged, rather than examine them, they feel threatened, reject any conflicting information, and lock down on their preferred beliefs. Appeals to reason with verifiable facts makes them cling to their false notions more desperately.
Some months ago, I noted, along with other observers of history, that the rise of Donald Trump put America on a parallel track with Germany of the 1930s. The Nazis played to a sense of shame at being defeated in World War I and to white supremacy and its accompanying racial and ethnic hatreds within the people to engineer its takeover of Germany and much of Europe. Trump portrays American progress in dealing with racial and international conflicts as a state of decline. Americans who hid their racial hatreds and their deficiencies of thought and character following the civil rights movement, now openly express and practice those traits of character. They have revived the spirit of Jim Crow. They feel that if a billionaire and reality television star can openly demonstrate ignorance, stupidity, and the perverse characteristics of human nature, so can they.
A person who was once a state legislator and the minister of fundamentalist church took issue with that post. We got into an exchange about what sources of information provide reliability and integrity, and he cited sources such as Breibart--proven fabricators and deliberate misconstruers--over fact checks such as Politifact and the Washington Post's Fact Checker as credible sources. A man with presumably some education who is in the business of interpreting texts chooses spurious and scurrilous sources over those that make earnest and professional efforts at determining truth and accuracy. His comments are a case study in how prejudice and mental attitude nullifies any inclination toward intellectual integrity. And as is the case in most such exchanges, he turns to Trump-like denigrations and malevolent accusations at the end.
It is not Trump, then, who is responsible for the descent of American politics into insane-asylum incoherence. It is those people who education has failed and who have failed education. The divide is not between liberals and conservatives. It is between those who value the development of intelligence and those who give in to the malignancies of the human spirit.
If Trump were to be elected president, that great experiment called American democracy would be at an end. The people would have proven what the skeptics have contended every since the founding of America: stupid people cannot govern themselves. And the stupid outnumber the intelligent.
I am not one who thinks the American people ultimately choose rightly. Yes, we have slowly worked our way up from slavery, Jim Crow, and the all the religious and life-style oppressions that exist in the country. But Trump in thought, word, and deed expresses a desire to return to those conditions of life. Although the polls currently show a rejection of him by the majority, he has the support of the GOP and adherents who find in him a leader back to the bigotry and oppression that they long for. Just as the Germans did in the 1930s, a majority of Americans just might vote to choose malice over liberty, equality, and justice.
If Trump loses, the United States will still have to deal with the malevolence he has unleashed in the electorate. If he wins, the human aspiration we called America will effectively close. And the violence that exists in so much of American life will rule. There will be no winners.
People who believe in the better angels of America are ashamed of what Trump represents in their country. People who prefer to vent their hatreds and to oppress have found a way to channel their malice.
America is at its tipping point. Whatever way it tips, people of good will and good purpose will have prodigious work to do and some strenuous battles to fight to allow the better angels to rule.
Trump is not the villain. The people who want malice to triumph are a fact of life that will be with us no matter which way the election goes.
News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com
Thursday, August 18, 2016
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