So far, on the road to election day in November, Sanders is heading the democratic pack. He is, of course, a devout believer in government intervention. Trump, on the other hand, is a strong advocate of deregulation. Deregulating everything. Even morals.
Sanders tells us that he will pass Medicare for All, the undocumented included and, please, no billionaires. They should be outlawed. So let us be pious and self sacrificing, says the good man, give me the sick from all over the world and we will cover you.
Trump shouts proudly to his followers, ‘I am a billionaire! Be like me!’ Of course, the fantasy will be out of reach for the vast majority of his fans but something about the possibility of achieving it makes it hard to give up.
Who do you think will win in November? Not Sanders.
No matter how rough the road to riches, no matter how filled with obstacles, we want to make sure it is still there. And if we choose not to go down that path, or if it is not for us, then do allow someone else to go for it, someone with the imagination, tenacity and daring.
Sanders’ overemphasis on government intervention will block that road.
Is Trump a problem? Yes.
How are we going to defeat him?
We must explain him. Not demonize him.
What did Trump do to gain the loyalty of his followers in 2016?
He said to his audience, ‘never mind piety, you have for too long been shackled by it. Had you not been so pious you would have complained loudly about globalization taking away your jobs, had you not been so pious you would’ve marched on your state capitals and demanded action. And so I say to you, cast aside your piety and follow me. I will show you the way. I will sin for you and spare you such burden so you may be all you can be. In return, I only ask that you pledge your complete devotion to me, and with the power of your wind beneath my wings we will soar as high as you wish (just keep blowing hard). Make America Great Again. Be not afraid for together we shall not fail’. And, entranced by his grand incantation, they gave their devotion to him. Him, who, in spite of his riches (we haven’t seen the tax returns), had no track record whatsoever of ever helping anybody but himself.
What else did Trump do to gain his loyal following in 2016?
He appropriated immigration. Made it his own. Mounted on his big white horse, clad in his gilded armor, his hair nicely in place, the great man said to his audience, ‘How dare these different colored people come to our land and prosper when you have been left behind? We must not allow it. If we do, one day soon they will become our masters. Would you like that?’ And the enchanted crowd sprang to its feet, pumping their fists high in the air, ‘No, we will not!’ They cried in fury, surprised that they had so much of it in them. And Trump, himself, struck by the fervor he had ignited, thought to himself, ‘dammit, I have them in the palm of my hand, don’t I? I had no idea I was this good. I’m no longer the sorcerer’s apprentice, I have become the sorcerer himself.’
And returning to his crowd, which stood agape, hungering for his wisdom and guidance, he said, ‘No, we will not allow it. So let us ban these different colored people who have invaded us with the blessing of the traitorous democrats, let us ban them and build a wall to keep them out forever. And yes, I will sin if I must, and in return, I only ask that you pledge to me your complete devotion’. And they roared their approval.
With their devotion, Trump now could do as he wished. And he did.
After all that hoopla, however, has Trump really empowered his supporters? No. He has started to build a wall and wages have gone up a little with improvements in the economy for which Obama had laid the groundwork. (the massive benefit from the tax cuts Trump passed in 2018 went to the wealthy and have yet to trickle down to the lower classes. Don’t hold your breath)
True empowerment comes from lasting changes but Trump is a man for the moment, not a man for the future. He is not a man who sows the land but a man who harvests what is already there. In fact, he wouldn’t know what to plant, for planting in people’s souls is no easy task.
If he knew how to do it, he would’ve said to his followers, ‘you have made some mistakes, my fellow Americans, and I will help you overcome them. I will work to make you stronger, better educated, better advocates for yourselves, so you can get what you need in an increasingly complex world, where the power of knowledge and creativity is what allows us to compete effectively and succeed. I have faith in you and will work with you. There is no need to pick a quarrel with the rest of America or with foreigners, no need to claim a monopoly on virtue. Only hard work will set us free’.
Trump wished he could have said that. But it was beyond his grasp. He saw the world in a narrower way. ‘I’m 70ish and running out of time’ he said to himself, ‘I want to get on top while I can and will do what I must’.
But let us not demonize.
Regardless of his coarseness, his bullying and narrow mindedness, Trump has stirred up energies in his supporters that democrats should be careful not to brand as merely racist and white supremacist.
There are layers of that present, indeed, but there is something more that Trump is awakening. When he says to his supporters, ‘let’s have it all, right now, let us make America great again, let us be all we can be and the hell with everybody else!’ he is firing up the driving force of self interest.
There’s something very strong about that position. It is devoid of suffocating restraints and hindrances. It is not pious.
We do need rules, mind you, fair rules and decency, so we can live together in peace, just not as many as Sanders want us to have.
We do need to be respectful to others so they will be respectful to us in turn, but we do not need to be as pious as Sanders wants us to be.
Trump has strengths and they have to be acknowledged.
Demonizing him will not do.
Explaining Trump, on the other hand, will help us see how he went about exploiting human frailty and how he keeps doing it.
The good news is that there is still time.
One final note on immigration.
Immigration is too powerful a cultural and economic force to be appropriated by one man. No one leader or group should claim the power to decide its future. Instead, the issue needs to be addressed by the entire nation. Holding a National Referendum on Immigration Reform will be one way to empower all Americans on the matter. Each citizen, one vote. Let us not be afraid of it.