Friday, March 4, 2016

Is Donald Trump The Sign Of The Apocalypse?

Is Donald Trump so popular because America lost its way?  
You gotta hand it to Donald Trump. He's simultaneously turned himself both into a national crisis and the Great Buffoon Of The Day. And, to many, a savior.

Half the country is scared to death that he might actually become president and ruin the nation and the world. I'm pretty much in the camp.

The other half want him to do all the outrageous things he proposes, because it's "fighting back" against all that they see is wrong with the world.

There doesn't appear to be a way out of this standoff.

Getting Serious About Trump:

Trump had a great Super Tuesday primary. Google searches of the phrase "How to move to Canada" increased by 1,500 percent late Tuesday night as the results came in.  The government of Canada's immigration page experienced delays under the load of presumably mostly Americans looking at it, the Montreal Gazette reported. 

Trump has repeatedly said he wants to build a wall along the United States southern border to keep illegal immigrants from Mexico out. So many Americans might want to move to Mexico to flee Trump that it might be Mexico that builds that border wall.

Hey, if that happens, at least Mexico would pay for it, fulfilling one of Trump's campaign promises.

More seriously, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers, writing in the Washington Post, said just the threat of a Trump presidency could well badly damage both the national and global economy.

Summers went so far as to call Trump a threat to American democracy with his authoritarian viewpoints.

He wrote:

"The economy is already growing at a sub-two percent rate in substantial part because of a lack of confidence in a weak world economy. A growing sense that a protectionist demagogue could soon become president of the United States would surely introduce great uncertainty at home and abroad.

The resulting increase in risk premiums might well be enough to tip a fragile U.S. economy into recession. And a concern that the U.S. was becoming protectionist and isolationist could easily undermine confidence in many emerging markets and set off a financial crisis."

I know in my head I've started thinking about spending less money and trying to horde as much cash as I can to stave off what is to my mind the inevitable Great Trump Economic Depression if he's elected president.

Rise Of The Authoritarians:

There's an incredible amount of commentary floating around as to whose fault it is that somebody like Trump could capture the imagination of so many Americans.

The hard question is how to reverse this. It won't be easy.

One major reason why Trump is so popular is that so many people have lost trust in most institutions and the "establishment." Which means not many people are going to listen to the likes of Lawrence Summers and abandon their infatuation with Trump.

And sorry, Mitt Romney, they're not going to listen to you, either. 

Vox this week had a long but fascinating piece on how big picture fear and uncertainty and societal change can bring out the authoritarian in a large segment of the American public.

Vox cited the work of Karen Stenner, author of the book "The Authoritarian Dynamic."

Vox reported:

"According to Stenner's theory, there is a certain subset of people who hold latent authoritarian tendencies. These tendencies can be triggered or 'activated" by the perception of physical threats or by destabilizing social change, leading those individuals to desire policies and leaders that we might more colloquially call authoritarian.

Authoritarians prioritize social order and hierarchies, which bring a sense of control to a chaotic world. Challenges to that order - diversity, influx of outsiders, breakdown of the old order - are experienced as personally threatening because they risk upending the status quo order they equate with basic security. 

There's certainly a drumbeat of big changes in threats we're all hearing about, amplified by the 24 hour news cycle, cable TV shoutfests, zillions of radio shock jocks and social media that scream all kinds of dire news and warnings.

Some of the changes and upheavals are good:  Gay people can now marry in the United States. The Black Lives Matter movement is putting a spotlight on racial injustice and the excesses of some police forces. Authoritarians equate police with social order, so even objections to police shootings of unarmed citizens is equated with a breakdown of social order.

Other changes are indeed threatening to all of us. Rising income inequality is threatening everyone's livelihood, except for the elites, which were the ones who were suppose to maintain social order. They're not anymore, which encourages the authoritarians. Money in politics, and inaction by Congress do the same thing.

You can see why the world seems to have turned upside down and inside out, especially from the perspective of white lower and middle income men, who are really being buffeted from all sides.

Ever notice how many white male faces you see at Trump rallies? I don't think that's a coincidence.

This Won't End Soon

Here's the intractable problem:  Even if the Trump candidacy implodes, the nation is ripe to embrace some other demagogue. The "Trump problem" isn't going to go away if Trump goes away, as Vox notes.

So-called establishment Republicans are in a tizzy, because they fear Trump will be the Republican nominee, and might not win the presidency because of his crazy ideas. Sure, Trump, with all his excesses, might open the door for Hillary Clinton or even Bernie Sanders to win the White House.

But there's still a chance Trump could win. Or, because I don't see signs of our nation's upheaval and resentment among its citizens going away anytime soon,  another dangerous authoritarian overlord type, one that's less of a clown than Trump, could become President in 2020, or 2024.

Yeah, I'll keep laughing at Trump's buffoonery, but meanwhile, I, like Summers, am fearful of some authoritarian jerk, be in Trump or someone else, taking power.

We've gotten into this mess because leaders don't lead, the idea of making money while maintaining a sense of ethics and fairness has gotten quaint, and many members of the media value ratings more than responsibility, and let every wacko commandeer the microphone.

No wonder so many people are pissed off and would go so far as to vote for Trump. In embracing a crazy person, they're screaming for some sanity in this nation.

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