Someone I know, respect, and love is a Trump supporter…

What do you do with that?  Despite the calls by some to shame Trump supporters, I can’t imagine trying to make a family member feel like shit on purpose.  It doesn’t seem kind, it doesn’t seem productive.  When you’re talking about a Trump supporter in the abstract, maybe.  But no group is made up of abstractions.  We’re talking about people.  And maybe the forgotten, slipping white middle class needs to check its collective privilege, or get used to the realities of life that have been patently obvious to anyone who isn’t white for forever.  Maybe all of that is true in the abstract.  But whatever approach, whatever *truth* you think needs to be applied to a group as a whole is very different than what might have a chance in hell of working when you’re looking at a face you know and love.  

So I asked questions.  What do you like about Trump?  

It comes down to his stance on trade.  Our various and assorted trade deals have allowed companies to manufacture things on the cheap in other countries.  The reason why it is cheaper to manufacture in China than it is in the US comes down to the protections that are legally mandated here.  These protections look out for workers: weekends, safety measures, reasonable working days, minimum wage, legal working age…  These protections also look out for our environment: no, you can’t just dump your toxic sludge directly into the river.  Yes, you need to do something about the contaminants you’re releasing into the air.  

These trade agreements are the reason why the vast majority of us have a tablet, a cell phone, a flat screen TV (or three), laptops, additional screens for the laptop, shredders, printers, scanners, cameras that are mostly obsolete, game consoles, speakers, docks, headphones, and a shoebox full of old technology that we can’t figure out how to dispose of.  Most of us have some collection of the above, and some of us have all of the above in spades.  And that’s before we get to the drawers full of socks, shoes by the dozen…  jeans and teeshirts and work pants and dress clothes and weekend clothes and…  

Compared to the 1950’s, when those manufacturing jobs were in the US…  You had one TV for the house.  One phone.  Look at the housing stock from the 1950’s…  Storage is minimal.  The kitchens are small.  Imagine building one of these massive outlet complexes that currently grace the side of every major highway in 1950.  Imagine an area when you could get to five of the same in 1.5 hours?  That’s DC at this point.  Five of these bastards.  Because the demand for discount Michael Kors is that high?  

So the powers that be traded upward mobility for those segments of our country that just want a job and a house to go home to, nothing fancy, and got *stuff* in return.  Cheap stuff.  Even those who are sliding backwards economically probably own at least twice as much stuff as their grandparents or great grandparents.

I’ve not heard a reasonable argument that counters this.  We sent our manufacturing elsewhere and got a pile of plastic in return.  Who that benefited, whether we’d trade dual monitors and technology that is replaceable every couple of years in favor of those jobs is another question altogether.  

Irrefutable is this: everything costs something.  You pay one way or the other.  

Again, Trump’s status as an “outsider” is a positive.  Our political system is drowning in funds supplied by people attempting to sway things in their favor.  Laws are written by lobbyists to the benefit of corporations and then rubber-stamped by legislators.  I’d point out that answer to this is to elect Senators and Congressional Representatives who don’t take private funding, not to place all that vitriol into the Presidential race.  

The other selling feature for my pro-Trump family is the politically correct thing.  I find this less defensible.  As addressed elsewhere, there are forms of the anti-pc argument that are more clearly put like this: I liked it when I could say what I think because I’m white, and white people agreed with me, but society silenced anyone who fell outside of the narrowly-defined parameters of normal.

I asked if there was anything about Trump that this family member didn’t like.  

Nothing came up.  I brought up the violence at his political rallies.  “Well, he can’t control what people do in his name.”  Some truth to that, but also something to this question: why aren’t Kasich’s supporters sucker-punching people?  This relative dismissed some of the more outlandish of proposals – the wall, the mass deportations – as more of a metaphor than a literal thing.  

I fear (like others) that Trump supporters are hearing what they want to hear, interpreting it as they want to interpret it, and discounting the rest.  It is an approach that takes a remarkably optimistic view of the very thing they rail so eloquently about: the government.  Because if anything would stand between us and the worst excesses of Trump’s rhetoric (should he choose to follow through on proposals that would muzzle the press, for example) is that same government everyone is bitching so heartily about.  The ethics of the Military a firewall against the willful commission of international war crimes and nuclear war.  The obstructionist power of Congress to resist mass and dangerous alteration to the systems of government that have done a good job of keeping us all dissatisfied and reasonably free all these years.   

The problem with countering the Trump narrative is that the things that he says that ring true ring *really* true, especially for those who are suffering the worst effects of income equality.  Unfortunately the fears about near poverty and declining prospects get bound up with xenophobia and a longing for the good old days of law and order.  I just don’t think that you can get anywhere with the latter until the former is addressed.  


One thought on “Trumped

  1. I would contend that the idea of a consumerist export economy includes exporting jobs–as you say for “cheap” (translation “slave”) labor. We are exporting the good stuff, like raw materials, and importing the cheap junk and other products, like finished clothes from American cotton.

    Who are the real “consumers” here? The people who buy the products, or the government, which collects money but produces nothing of value? Why are Americans asked to spend to support “the economy”? What is good for “the economy” is generally bad for individuals and for the environment.

    The trouble with machines in this industrial age is that the machines cost money but don’t make money. They displace the workers who then can no longer afford the products. Rather, the new category of employment becomes one of maintaining the machines and their parts–literally, a case of man working for his machines. Think electronic technology.


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