How Does the Country Come Together?

Published: May 16, 2018

By Jim Lichtman
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Courtesy Dan Piraro –

The genesis for this series began when I read a Forbes article, Trump’s Support Is More About the Personal, Not the Ideological (May 6), authored by pollster and friend John Zogby. It led me to search for the answer to two questions:

How do we reconcile the divisiveness of Trump with our values as Americans?

How does the country come together, again?

Zogby’s first graph grabbed my attention.

“… President Donald Trump’s average approval rating is 45% for the past week, including a Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll which scores him at 51%. It enrages liberals who are too myopic and one-dimensional to see deep down the real source of his support base. Conservatives will cheer the rightward thrust of American voters and their demand for tax cuts, gun rights, school choice, and tough talk on the world stage. Liberals will rely on a much simpler set of explanations – too many white middle class voters are ill-informed, ignorant, and deplorable in their values to really understand this authoritarian. And pundits, who have downgraded their role from adversarial to oppositional, have simply reduced their credibility by seeing only through the eyes of being victims. They are all wrong.”

Because I too, have labeled Trump supporters as “ill-informed” and “ignorant” in looking past the obvious, I’m closely reading.

“The press,” Zogby points out, “has done a wonderful job of investigating and reporting on government, political, ecclesiastical, not-for-profit and corporate corruption that the public truly gets it. No one is to be really trusted, including a press that has fallen prey to ugly scandals. … So, there is something to be said of someone who has the capacity to use a bully pulpit to raise some of the worst failings and hypocrisies of institutions who are already crumbling in public trust.

“Mr. Trump is not the hero but the current spokesman for those who have been hurt, bullied, humiliated, cheated, ridiculed, abandoned, just plain screwed. Posing as a narcissist… he is really the poor little rich kid who inherited a fortune, parlayed by hook or by crook …but has never achieved the prestige and respect he craves…

“Ironically,” Zogby writes, “this is Mr. Trump’s leveling experience…”

“Anyone who has ever suffered from failure or humiliation, missed paychecks or their mortgage payment, been abused by a parent or mate, and so knows that that experience will stay with them for the rest of their lives. It is one of the reasons why we can bond with people who can express those hurts either by lifting our spirits or metaphorically punching the bags of those who may symbolize authority figures. Make no mistake about it, President Trump is an imperfect vessel. He appeals to our darker side and at times poses a danger to himself and the nation. But we can’t dismiss the fact that he still has some broad and intense appeal.”

The article led to an e-mail exchange with John. (His response to my initial comments appear in italics. My follow-up comments appear in blue.)

John, I read, with interest, your recent analysis regarding Trump… I agree with much of your argument that we, as Americans, are generally a mixture of “liberal and conservative, communitarian and libertarian, practical and utopian” ideals. And that you can’t distill everything down to a series of simplistic assertions. However, I don’t know where I fit in!

It’s not that Trump has shown himself to be consistently outside political norms, but that he has consistently and directly railed against institutions and values that all of us, conservative, liberal, independent and middle-class, have long believed in, not the least of which is a free press.

“Yes,” Zogby responds, “and all of these institutions are being challenged as never before because in many ways this is a revolutionary period brought on by both technology and younger age cohorts who find these institutions either corrupted or non-responsive. Trump in many ways represents the Thermidor to this revolution and/or the death rattle of a class left behind by changes.”

He regularly criticizes his own Justice department, threatening to “at some point” take deliberate action against one or more officials. He regularly criticizes the FBI which is headed by his own director. He consistently speaks out against the rule of law suggesting that he is above it, believing that the Mueller investigation is a “witch hunt,” that he is being falsely accused, and regularly calls the “Fake News” media “an enemy of the people.”

“He is not a good person. I called him an ‘imperfect vessel’ and I am being kind. But he represents something very real and it is wrong for us to blame him on an aberration or an ignorant group of followers.”

I guess I’m wrong! Twice, I have referred to Trump supporters as either the willfully or woefully ignorant. The willful being Republicans in Congress who apparently will do anything to hold onto their majority; and the woeful being those voters who just don’t do their homework.

And I haven’t even discussed his pathological tendency to misstate facts and lie like no other U.S. politician in history, I tell Zogby.

“He is indeed pathological. When a Rudy Giuliani says he probably (translated ‘definitely’) has paid more women to shut up, that is just the tip of the iceberg.”

For the life of me, John, I cannot fathom how middle-class Americans can call Trump a spokesman against the elites while Trump is, himself, one of those elites.

“He had the good fortune to run against someone who embodied that establishment and showed no ability to bond with people as one of them. Pre-election polls as well as the exit poll in 2016 showed clearly that Barack Obama would have won by 13 points over Trump. That is one reason why I do not believe there was either an ideological or ethical shift in the electorate.”

You write, “Mr. Trump is not the hero but the current spokesman for those who have been hurt, bullied, humiliated, cheated, ridiculed, abandoned, just plain screwed.”

However, Trump’s own history as a businessman and human being has demonstrated that he has “hurt, bullied, humiliated, cheated, ridiculed, abandoned and just plain screwed” hundreds, if not thousands, of employees, contractors, women, ex-wives, war heroes and, the list goes on…

“In a very twisted way, Trump was able to ‘expose’ the rigged rules of the game by saying that he used them to get richer himself or to avoid embarrassment. I wrote about this during the election. A further testimonial on how Americans simply were not buying Hillary.”

I understand the Hillary haters, but while they railed at her for using the term “deplorables” to describe a segment of Trump supporters, those same people turn a blind eye to literally thousands of dismissive and utterly disgusting tweets and remarks made by Trump. Hypocrisy. 

And don’t get me started on evangelicals, I add, who have virtually abandoned many of their deeply-held Christian values in exchange for Trump’s support of their issues. They need to open their bibles and turn to Mark 8:36 – “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

“I once got a call from Dennis Duggan,” Zogby writes, “a friend and longtime columnist for the Daily News and Newsday who told me he ran into a nun he went to high school with decades earlier. She said to him, ‘So what if the President (Clinton) wants to get a blowjob on the side. Why is that any of my business?’ Plenty of hypocrisy to go around. The evangelicals are astounding on this.

I don’t write or care about who Trump slept with. It’s his utter contempt for the rule of law, justice that is supposed to see us all as equal. Regarding the Clintons: The former head of the criminal division at DOJ told me in a conversation long before Hillary ran, “The Clinton’s do a lot of good work. However, they have this sense of entitlement, that the rules don’t apply to them.”

So, where do people like me fit into all of this?

Be assured you do fit in, Zogby tells me, you are among the 55 percent who are not supporting him!!!

More to come.


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