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  • Ashok Dhillon

Donald Trump’s Dummying-Down of America (#12)


Donald Trump has caught the attention and adoration of that part of America that does not want to deal with complexity, ambiguity, endless promises, raised expectations, and equally endless disappointments and compromises (the very essence of politics). There is a large enough population in America that does not want to have to think through the complex social, racial, economic, foreign conflicts/defense, and security problems, that America is struggling with currently. To them, Donald Trump’s simplistic - improbable (nay impossible) and mostly silly solutions, have real and understandable appeal. Trump knows his audience and he is catering to their needs, going with the ‘KISS’ principle - ‘keep it simple stupid’. It’s so much simpler and easier than delving into the troublesome details of complex and difficult problems that are in part the ongoing reality of a radically changed World, such as the emergence of countries and societies that can produce widgets and services at a far more cost effective basis, than America can.

As to those problems that are seemingly fixable, such as stemming the flow of people across the southern border, Trump comes up with a simple solution. Build a wall on the southern border, and have Mexico pay for it. Apart from the questionable viability of such a solution to the migrant question from the South, it is practically certain that Mexico will not pay for it. And if Trump is insinuating that America will use its economic clout to threaten and coerce Mexico into paying for it, then he really hasn’t a clue how international political/economic relationships work, and that it is almost always a two way street. It is certain his supporters don’t know how such complex relationships work, and why should they; it’s not their job to know. But it is his. He doesn’t know, but his supporters simply don’t care if he really knows, they just want the problem fixed, and he assures them that he can fix the problem, while making Mexico pay for it. Damn reality.

And so it is with his other popular ‘policy’ statements, such as the outright ban on Muslims, abandoning NATO and the allies (and making the allies pay for protection, just like the Mob), and all the rewrites of international trade agreements, and putting China in its place and making it play fair trade, letting everyone have nuclear weapons as a deterrent from each other, restoring law & order, and of course killing ISIS; among other great policies like “Make America Great Again”, and all this is just for the first term! It is all ethereally light on details but who cares, the man says he can do it, so surely he can.

Trump is already being forced to back-off and modify most of his controversial statements, and he will have to continue to do that with any other silly or crazy stuff he comes up with in the coming weeks of the campaign. The reality is, his supporters surely hear his recantations and back tracking, but ignore them, firm in their belief that he can still make everything alright for them, with no pain, or compromise, and no need for the political and economic systems he promises to disband and dismantle, to bring in the utopian simple system that fixes everything ‘tweet-sweet’, costs nothing, or at the very least, costs far less, somehow, (one cannot know any of the exact details as he never gives an explanation as to how he is going to accomplish such grand designs so easily, and within budget).

Remember the leaders of Brexit? They had convinced their supporters that not only would Brexit not hurt, but that there was plenty of money they would save by not sending it to the EU; that tons of opportunities and money was there after Brexit for Britons to live happily ever after. Well there wasn’t a lot of money (in fact there was none, they had lied) and it did hurt immediately and will continue to hurt for a very long time coming. Both Nigel Farage & Boris Johnson quit the movement right after the win, when the realities of dealing with the fallout had to be faced. Now Britain is stalling the process, and is trying to stay in as long as possible, while more than half the population doesn’t want to leave at all, especially the younger generation (the ‘future’ of Britain). And those that had bought into the simplistic false narrative of Farage and Johnson, some of it based on outright lies, and had voted to leave, now wished they hadn’t.

We are not saying that there were no problems in the EU and that Britain and other member countries had no cause for complaint. But Europe’s most outrageously bold and visionary project had the input of all its member countries in its formation, including England’s. And as the structure and policies of the EU began to go in a direction that England didn’t approve of, or agree to, then tough and perhaps long term negotiations were far preferable to an exit.

The benefits, the free trade zone, and in particularly for the younger Brits, the free movement and open opportunities within all the member countries of the EU was what made membership in the Union so worth it. But, for those ‘ultra nationalist’ leaders like Farage and Johnson, who wanted ‘exit’ on national identity basis, the recovery of full autonomy, fear of being swallowed up into a mass of unidentifiable European countries, and being dictated to by ‘faceless non-elected bureaucrats of Brussels’, who kept exacting more and more cash from England (not accurate) while dictating increasingly invasive regulations to England (true), the fear was so much easier and simpler to sell.

Negotiating better and more acceptable terms on an ongoing basis, and ‘staying in’, would have been so much more complicated, testing and tiresome, and ultimately so much more beneficial, and in-line with future trends that only the younger generation seemed to get. The older generation scared much easier, and wanted the simpler, albeit the regressive solution, and they got it. It was so much easier to sell fear, protectionism, closing of the borders, non-existent savings and prosperity, and ‘make Britain again’, then deal with hard and complex realities of a ‘Great Britain’ in a changed World.

Great Britain suffered from an almost immediate ‘morning after’ blues after the Brexit win. Well, we’re afraid that Donald Trump supporters may face a similar post election blues-check, as reality kicks in with a possible Trump win. It will be equally disheartening for his supporters, and painful for America, to find out that like Farage and Johnson, of Brexit fame, Trump had lied to them all along, just to win. Donald Trump’s campaign has had lots of problems as of late. True to character, he spoke before thinking it through, as to the impact his statements would have on his already questionable image, and his increasingly shaky campaign run.

As he got criticized for his callous and at times outrageous and consistently ill-advised statements, he of course took those criticisms as he normally takes criticisms, badly. And as usual, made matters worse by lashing out defensively at those that pointed out the deficiencies in what he had said. He can’t help himself. He obviously has deep rooted insecurities and the ‘schoolyard bully’ mentality that only knows unrestrained aggression in a supposedly civil (barely) contest. He knows only one way to handle criticism, which is NOT to consider his own behavior that brought on the negative reactions to his statements in the first place, and thereby change his behavior and/or response, but stay true to character and lash out petulantly and personally at the accusers/offenders.

Now dropping in the polls, and being criticized almost universally, including by the leaders and the elite of the Republican Party, of which he is the Presidential candidate, Trump does what one would expect him to do when under pressure, which is to double down on exactly that which is hurting him, from the ‘no policies please we are the Trump campaign’, so-far, to plenty of out-of-control vitriol that he loves to spew unrestrainedly. To ‘flip the bird’ at all those telling him to tone it down, he ups-the-ante and takes on new and more aggressive members into his campaign team, that will pull out all the stops and go on a relentless attack, sans substantive policy issues of-course, ‘to win at all costs’ in the good old fashioned American way. He shuffled aside the existing team members as another bunch that didn’t know how to win (not that he was at fault).

Lately, Trump is trying to convince his supporters (and himself perhaps) that if it wasn’t for the ‘crooked media’ deliberately distorting his words, there wouldn’t be any problems with his campaign. His words always have different meanings when he is called out on them, but it’s never the outrageousness or inappropriateness, or more mundanely, the inaccuracy of his words that is the problem, it’s always someone else’s wrong interpretation or misuse of them.

Trump’s campaign is aimed at the Americans that are tired of trying to figure out all the reasons and solutions to the very real problems they have been facing for years now. These people only want simple and quick solutions to some of America’s most complex and persistent problems, of social and racial divide, gun violence, wealth inequality, and some of the more recent ones such as job losses in manufacturing, R&D, and services to China and other emerging economies, resulting in persistent trade deficits. These people only want to hear that someone is going to fix these problems and don’t want to hear cumbersome explanations as to the depth and complexity of such issues. Trump likes this dummying-down of the election issues, and he loves the ‘just fix it’ crowd.

He likes to address people that will not challenge his simplistic but impossible one sentence or half sentence solutions. People, who he does not have to fear will ask him for explanation and clarification on his nonsensical statements, and won’t pose difficult questions. He caters to a voter base that does not want clear and well thought out policies but just a simple statement that whatever it is - it can be done, no matter how obvious that it can not. They want simple! And he is more than happy to give them simple and thoughtless, to Hillary Clinton’s detailed and exhaustive. He revels in and thrives on, a dummied–down America that believes everything can be fixed if someone just goes and does it, not a questioning one that knows the complexities and compromises that face a changing America, in a changed World.

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