Reality and fear of change
Given how much change still needs to come to America, one apparent truth is, we can never go back Through words and actions, Donald Trump has designated himself the “candidate of change.” Truly, I think of
Given how much change still needs to come to America, one apparent truth is, we can never go back
Through words and actions, Donald Trump has designated himself the “candidate of change.” Truly, I think of him in the context of change, but not in the way he intended. The fact that he has received significant support at all should remind us of how much more change America still needs to undergo.
Indeed, things have changed a great deal in our country. My daughter and other teenagers live in a country where they have known a Black president for half or more of their lives. One-third of our Supreme Court are women, and a majority of our registered voters are women. On the policy side, 20 million people have health care now that did not have it just a few short years ago. We are by no means out of the woods, but the economy has significantly improved in the last 8 years.
Long overdue discussions on inequity between the rich and poor, institutional racism, and the inequities of the criminal justice system are occurring. The election of Hillary Clinton, who would be the first woman elected president should she win, would be another barrier shattered that potentially plants the seeds for a “new normal” America has not seen.
So, despite this clear progress and positive change, how do we find ourselves seriously considering for president a sexist, misogynistic bully, whose fundamental decency could reasonably be questioned? There are many good, sincere citizens, that support Donald Trump because they have never returned to where they were prior to the market crash of 2008. While the continued pain and struggle of many is real, this still does not completely explain the rise of Trump. His words and actions have revived representatives of our country’s darkest periods; for instance, Ku Klux Klan and a White nationalist movement enthusiastically support his candidacy. While he claims to disavow these groups, he knows his tone and tenor speak directly to them. Never has a major party presidential candidate run such an undisciplined campaign and demonstrated such low intellectual curiosity about the job. One of the most qualified candidates ever is running against one of the least qualified candidates ever. So, what gives?
Simply put; it’s the reality of change and the fear of that change.
Trump has masterfully pressed the buttons of his supporters, inspiring emotions ranging from honest fear (at best) to sheer hatred (at worst). His hook is “change.” His argument puts Hillary Clinton in the “status quo” category because of her longtime involvement in politics. Therefore, she represents “the same” and “we need change,” as the argument goes. Scared citizens look at Trump and find security and strength despite a narcissistic and vengeful temperament that makes him, politics aside, dangerously unfit to be president.
Some of the most significant support Trump receives is from those that see change around them they fear. The continuing diversification of our communities through immigration is the very change that many who support Trump fear the most. Despite reduced illegal immigration from Mexico and the extreme vetting of legal immigrants coming from all parts of the world, the Trump argument is that we need to build a wall and protect ourselves. In fact, our own citizens (mostly White) are still far more likely to be the perpetrators of terrorism.
Trump tells his supporters to be scared because the entire voting system is “rigged.” Never mind that this voting system is segmented county by county in states with mostly Republican governors. Never mind court decisions in several states this year that have rebuked Voter ID laws authored by Republicans to keep citizens likely to vote Democrat (particularly Blacks) from voting, including recent decisions calling Republican “ballot purging” into question. Voter suppression has continued into the home stretch because the suppressors know that those voting will most likely facilitate the continued change that many fear.
Republicans have been “dog whistling” racist and sexist messages for years. Sensing their candidate’s weakness and fearful of change including a more liberal Supreme Court, Republican politicians have put political pressure on previously non-political government agencies, dragging FBI director James Comey before Congress to chastise him for not bringing criminal charges against Clinton. And, that probably motivated the misfire of Comey issuing a vague letter 11 days before the election stating his agency would look at new e-mails. This implied either a re-opened investigation or new possibilities of criminality on the part of Secretary Clinton, neither of which was true.
Two days before the election, Comey wrote another letter stating that after reviewing the e-mails, nothing had changed; there will be no criminal charges. Congress still promises investigations and perhaps impeachment regardless of no criminal wrongdoing by Clinton. Angry (and scared) citizens at Trump rallies still chant “lock her up,” based on her email situation, while overlooking Trump’s questionable dealings over the years (alleged mafia ties, connections with Russia) and lack of transparency (not releasing taxes).
When you put it all together — claims of “Crooked Hillary,” of the election being “rigged,” the words and actions that appeal to the worst instincts in people; the justification of racist, misogynistic attitudes that have long been inexcusable —what we have is the final “hail Mary” thrown by Donald Trump, on behalf of those that see “their America” getting away from them.
The reality of change, true change, has scared and motivated much of Trump’s support. Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again” is a dog whistle to keep inevitable (and necessary) change from occurring. In truth, Trump’s version of change is actually nothing but a return to the past. Trump’s imperfections and the fact so many ignore or embrace these dangerous traits, demonstrate the work we still have to do.
Given how much more actually needs to change, we can never go back.