Sunday, December 18, 2016

Trump supporters: victims of the Stockholm Syndrome?

Given the intelligence community’s belief (supported by overwhelming evidence, apparently) that Russia intervened in our election on behalf of Donald Trump, it’s probably premature to say that, like it or not, he won fair and square, so let’s just say for now that he won it square. My heart can never accept this individual as the leader of the free world—hell, I wouldn’t accept him as leader of a Cub Scout troop—but, my mind says that once the voters have spoken, the system must be allowed to work its way back to something approaching normal.
With the things he said, and the things he’s done since the election, though, my mind is having trouble coming to grips with the adulation and adoration he still gets from crowds of supporters. It’s like they exist in a different universe from me and are not seeing and hearing the same things. Or, maybe they are, and they just don’t give a damn, because to them, ‘he’s one of us,’ and he’s saying what’s in our hearts.
Trump got tons of support from poor whites in the south and desperate working class whites in the Rust Belt base on his promise to ‘Make America Great Again.’ He’s never explained just what that means, but it seems to have struck a chord. What are some of the things he’s said he’d do to make America ‘great?’ Well, he’ll cancel all trade agreements. Sure, they hurt factory workers and unskilled labor in this country, but they help the overall economy, and contrary to the misinformation, they do create jobs, just not rust belt assembly line jobs. We should be beyond the smokestack economy anyway, or if not, should be supporting an education system that helps us get beyond it. He’s going to ban all Muslims from entering the country. Good luck with that one. As someone who has done visa and immigration work, I can tell you that making changes of that nature to our immigration system is complicated, and the backlash from the Muslim world will be swift, and possibly violent. Oh, and in the meantime, we’ll look even more like hypocrites than we do now. None of these things benefit Rust Belt workers.
What has he done since the election to benefit his supporters?  Well, he started.a spat with China when he had a phone call with the president of Taiwan and turned our longstanding China policy on its ear. Then, he doubled down with a Twitter rant that ticked the Taiwanese off when he referred to them as a bargaining chip in our trade negotiations with China. Smart move, considering the economic ties between the US and China. Sure, we have a deficit, but we have a deficit with almost everyone, and it’s never been a big deal except during elections. We still sell a lot of junk to Chinese consumers. Start a trade war, and that junk doesn’t get sold.
He’s been cozy with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, despite the belief that Putin directed the hacking of our election. Now, he’s even started a war of words with our intelligence community, supporting the Russians over our own people. What has Russia done for the Rust Belt lately? Right, nothing.
His cabinet and advisor choices so far have been a lot of military guys and some of the richest guys in the country; the same guys who’ve moved jobs abroad, used foreign labor over US workers (Trump himself has done this, hasn’t he, and his daughter sources goods from overseas?), been involved in destroying the environment, and basically enriched themselves at the expense of those avid Trump supporters.
But, they still support ‘their’ man. What’s going on here? Social scientist Arlie Russell Hochschild addressed this issue in her book, Strangers in Their Own Land, a study of the emotional appeal of the Tea Party among residents of Louisiana, despite clear evidence that the Tea Party politicians and corporations they support have abused them and despoiled their environment. She attributes this irrational behavior to the fact that political beliefs are often grounded in emotion rather than fact. Despite evidence to the contrary, they cling to their beliefs and continue to vote for the same politicians and support the same corporations that are giving them the shaft.

I’m seeing that same thing happening with hard core Trump supporters. Despite evidence pointing in one direction, they continue to look in the direction his little orange finger points. He talks about grabbing women’s privates, and they laugh and say ‘it’s just locker room talk;’ he flaunts his wealth, and they look on in awe. It’s like the Stockholm syndrome of politics, or a real bad dream. Only, we’re not waking up from this one.