Are you supporting Trump, or do you know someone who is? I’ve been speaking to a number of Trump backers recently and trying to get a sense of what it is that is motivating their support. The reasons I have identified so far are:
1) I’m fed up with politicians and I want something totally different.
2) I feel like our nation has become weak, and we need to be strong again. I want someone with a real backbone who is going to stand up to China, Isis, and all of the other threats to our country.
3) I like the fact that he can’t be bought.
4) I believe he can “make this country great again.”
5) I think his business acumen will help stabilize and restart the economy.
6) I’m tired of all the PC bs.
7) I feel like he’s the only one who can beat Hilary.
8) I don’t love him, but I feel like he’s going to win, so if you can’t beat him, join him.
I am not going to demonize Trump or those who are supporting him. I don’t think he’s evil, and I don’t think you have to be crazy or stupid to vote for him. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and obviously we all see things differently.
That said, I do feel that Trump is not the right man for the job of president, and I feel that it could be very detrimental to our country if we put him in office. So I’d like to address the reasons that people are backing him which I’ve listed above, and I’d be very happy to discuss these with anyone in a civilized, rational way.
1) Fed up with politicians – The vast majority of Americans (if not people worldwide) seem to feel this way, and understandably so. Politics is a dirty sport. Even good people who get involved in politics can be corrupted either by the power itself, or by the system which directly links their job to the approval of a wide array of constituents. The best politicians are those who are clear and honest about their values and stick to them regardless of the way the wind blows. But admittedly, these types of politicians are hard to find. That said, is it really a good idea to put someone in the office of president who has no prior experience with politics? Would you hire someone to run your company who has no previous practice in your industry? Even if the person has proven him or herself talented and successful in other industries, wouldn’t it be better to groom him/her first in a junior level position before giving over the reins completely? While I understand and sympathize with the antipathy toward politicians, I find it really hard to understand the willingness to take such a chance on someone just because he’s very different from those who have come before him. Consider the stakes here – we’re giving the person the keys to the kingdom, the most powerful position in the entire world! What would lead us to think that Trump is ready or worthy of that consummate power? Just because he’s not a politician? That’s quite a gamble! I would refer to that as irresponsible reactivism. It’s fine to want something different, but we need to be responsible and not just reactive.
2) The need for strength – Most Americans would wholeheartedly agree that our country has forfeited the position of strength and authority that it once held. The current administration’s desire for a more equitable international playing field has left a power vacuum that has been filled by a variety of unsavory forces. But there are other candidates – namely all of the other Republican candidates – who believe, as Trump does, that we need to refocus on American strength. Wouldn’t it be better to have a strong president who also has strong diplomatic skills and a strong understanding of global geopolitics? I am not bashing Trump by pointing out that he is woefully uneducated on international relations – that has never been his field. We would be much better served, and much more secure, if we have a commander in chief who knows what the Nuclear Triad is and who has been a longtime student of governance, military history, and diplomacy.
3) Can’t be bought – Wouldn’t it be great to have a president who is consistent in his positions and his policy decisions regardless of the pressures of lobbyists and special interest groups? It’s definitely true that Trump is unabashed in his opinions and more than willing to say things that are offensive and outrageous. But while that can be a good thing in many ways, it seems to me that a president is the representative of the entire country, and that it is incumbent upon him to consider opinions that are contrary to his own. The country’s increasing polarization and uber-partisanship has benefited no one. Both republicans and democrats will admit that there is a chasm in congress that inhibits progress and threatens to tear the system apart. What we need now is a president who is clear in his convictions, but is simultaneously ready to reach across the aisle and unite the country. While Trump has been vague and evasive about his positions on a variety of issues, one thing his campaign has established decisively is that he is a polarizing and divisive figure, which is certainly not in keeping with the values of equality and brotherhood on which the country was established.
4) Making the country great again – What a noble ambition! And what a terrific slogan. It was first used by Ronald Reagan in 1979. More recently, Trump applied to trademark it for his campaign. But how exactly does he plan to do so? It’s one thing to have lofty goals – it’s another to implement a series of policies that will effectuate those goals. Trump is an accomplished marketeer and entertainer, but when he is asked for specific policies or specific advisers, he weaves and dodges like a prizefighter and retreats behind generalities and catchphrases that attempt to obfuscate his inexperience. (For a great article on the glaring differences between Reagan and Trump, go here.)
5) Business Acumen – No one can deny Trump’s financial success or his many entrepreneurial triumphs. But it is also on the public record that he has declared bankruptcy on multiple occasions. Of course it is true that every success story has moments of failure interspersed. But Trump’s bankruptcies have adversely affected many others who were counting on him and his word. While Trump has weathered his financial crises, many of those who were employed by him did not. The contractors and tradesmen on the Taj Mahal casino, for example, were left destitute when they were unpaid for the work they had done. Concern for the average worker does not seem to have been as much of a priority for Trump as his own profit and advancement. Additionally, the correlation between Trump’s financial successes in real estate and entertainment and the economic recovery of the country is sketchy at best. Every enterprise has its particulars, and there is no telling that success in one will translate to another. The notion that Trump’s riches will lead to riches for all is hopeful and without foundation.
6) Tired of PC – Trump says it as he sees it. There’s definitely something refreshing about that in a time when people are forced to weigh out every word. But there is also something to be said for being courteous and sensitive and maintaining a certain dignity in public discourse. Isn’t there a difference between the way you talk with your buddy and the way you’d speak to a client or to someone who didn’t know you well? Isn’t there a certain propriety and decorum which we expect from, and admire in, our leaders and role models? Perhaps the dumbing down of culture is inevitable, but do we really want to cheapen the institution of the presidency with the type of vulgar and demeaning discourse that has characterized Trump’s campaign?
7) Beating Hilary – If you’re a member of the GOP, or an independent or democrat who is disturbed by the increasingly frequent revelations of Clinton’s improprieties, obviously beating Hilary in the general election has to be the primary factor in your choice of a republican nominee. According to the polls, Trump would lose to Clinton by a wide margin. Trump currently has roughly a third of the GOP vote, which may get him the nomination, but he will get very few if any percent of the Democratic vote. Hilary, if she is not indicted, would get the vast majority of the Democratic vote – even those who don’t like or trust her will vote for her just to keep Trump out of office – and most centrists who could be swayed either way will either vote Hilary or abstain. According to the current polls, Rubio is the only GOP candidate who can win in a general election. He would take the centrists and those Democrats who can’t stand Hilary but could tolerate a Republican who has proven himself willing to reach across the aisle.
8) If you can’t beat him, join him – It seems to be a foregone conclusion for many that Trump is going to win the republican nomination. They say they’re not fans of Trump, but they find him much preferable to Hilary. For some reason, they’ve already bypassed the primaries and have moved onto the general election. It’s true that Trump is far ahead in the delegate count, but it is not true that he has clinched the nomination. There is still time to consolidate energies around one of the other candidates in order to put forward a nominee that can unite the party and the country. But that time is quickly slipping away. Those who are firmly entrenched in the Trump camp will continue to back him in spite of his liabilities and lack of experience – but those who believe that the country deserves a more polished, seasoned, and professional leader should seize the moment to make their feelings known and challenge those who are boarding the Trump bandwagon because they erroneously believe the race is over.
I’d love to hear your comments on all this, and if there are reasons you’re backing Trump that I’m missing here, I’d love to hear and discuss them as well. If you’re as concerned about the possibility of a Trump presidency as I am, please share widely.