If poll numbers are right, Donald Trump is having an impact, and could even conceivably become president. Polls are showing him increasingly ahead among Republicans, and even having a shot at beating Hillary Clinton or whomever the Democrats end up running for their party nomination.
Is it really about immigration and politics? Or does it have more to do with the psychology of celebrity?
Writing at psychologytoday.com about what motivates people to pay attention to the news, psychologist Pamela Paresky Ph.D. writes:
But there’s another motivator, too. University of Chicago Economists Emir Kamenica and Alex Frankel told Freakonomics co-author and podcast (link is external) host Stephen J. Dubner they believe it’s possible that the entertainment component of political news drives people to pay attention to it—in many cases, people who would not otherwise make the effort to become politically informed. New York University professor of journalism Mitchell Stephens thinks we’re predisposed to pursue sensational news (even though he believes very little of the news today is of practical value).
What is Trump’s appeal?
In thinking about this, what I keep coming back to is: Trump is appealing for what he’s not, more than for what he is.
What he’s not is a professional politician. What he’s not is someone beholden to the special interests/political interest groups who dominate Washington DC and the government. What he’s not is someone who pretends to care about what others think, so much so that he’ll walk on eggshells and apologize when he does not really mean it.
Donald Trump is none of these things. And this is precisely why many people love him; and precisely why others hate him.
I find it refreshing and healthy — and if anything, a good sign — that so many people dislike and are sick of these things.
But a negative is still not an answer; it’s not a solution. A negative is just what the term implies — an eradication or negation of something bad. Still left open is the question of what is good, what should be done, and why.
Donald Trump serves a psychological purpose more than an ideological one.
Most of the people critical of Trump are either mainstream, “establishment” Republicans, or Democrats who want business as usual on the socialist/redistributionist model, with room for some individual rights such as gay marriage and abortion.
However, as most people sense, there’s no defending business as usual. The federal government is bust, bankrupt and out of control. It has even become a glorified, legalized mafia. The evidence is everywhere. Obama feels no need to embrace Constitutional government as president. He is, in a sense, lawless. While Congress might be required to pass laws, he openly states that he will accomplish by executive order what Congress won’t do. He might as well be saying, “The Constitution be damned.” He’s almost a dictator, and in some respects already operates as one.
Donald Trump comes along and is willing to call Obama, along with others (including Republicans) who comprise the “establishment,” the idiots they clearly are. Nice? No way. Always the best approach? Surely not. But the truth? Who could deny it?
Yet that still leaves the door open to questions only ideology could address. What should the government be doing, not doing, and why? How should the debt and deficit be resolved? And what can be done about Social Security and Medicare, which Obama’s own Treasury Secretary admits are not sustainable?
Even if you think Trump is right about building a wall and immigration, what will actually make America great again, i.e. an economic engine for prosperity and growth again? At least Trump seems to want this. It’s not clear other politicians do.
Most Democrats simply say, “Stay the course.” But the course is fiscally unsustainable, and involves more government intrusions than ever before. As gays and lesbians celebrate their newfound right to marry, by just about every single other measure, individual liberty has declined in America, and it’s getting worse all the time.
Republicans likewise say, “Stay the course — only with religion.” What does religion have to do with government? How is using religion in the government going to reduce the debt, resolve Social Security/Medicare, and all the rest? What does religion have to do with liberty? While liberty implies a right for people to pursue religion if they wish, so long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others, how can the federal government adopting and spreading a religious point-of-view be the solution to our economic and defense problems?
Religion and more of the same are the only two answers being offered. Trump at least speaks above those ridiculous non-solutions, and shows recognition of the fact that defense and economics are what really matter, especially in the realm of government and politics.
Unlike most people who seem to be criticizing or supporting Trump, I took the time to read his most recent book, published in 2011. That book contains a mixture of truth and error. On the one hand, he offers a Reaganesque idea that government does too much and taxes too much. On the other hand, he maintains there must be a social “safety net” provided by government. Like Reagan and other conservatives, he does not seem to grasp that the presence of a “social safety net” is what got us to the bankrupt point, because once you open the door to such a “net,” the demands and sense of entitlement literally become limitless. While Trump probably would not hesitate to say this openly if he believed it, his biggest error appears to be a false belief that the welfare-regulatory-entitlement state can somehow be reformed.
Trump comes across with some of the psychology and attitude of what a consistent, fearless advocate of free markets, capitalism and individual rights might look like — if one were on the political scene. We have no such candidate. Trump is the closest we get, right now. He’s not an outright socialist, like the Democratic Party has finally become (note the growing popularity, with Democrats, of open, self-described socialist Bernie Sanders). He’s not a do-nothing, hapless or wimpy non-alternative who agrees with the Democrats more than not, such as Jeb Bush, John Kasich or many of the other Republicans running.
Trump comes across as strong, bold, unafraid and unbeholden to the corrupt government as we know it. But without consistent and right ideas, can he save us? No way. We first have to save ourselves from ourselves. We have to save ourselves from the idea that government is the first and only solution to most of our problems. Both “liberal” and “conservative” government have failed us, because the vast majority of what the government is doing, it should not be doing. Would the majority of those supporting Trump now still support him in steps to privatize Social Security and Medicare, in the unlikely event he took steps to start doing that? Unlikely. This is the problem most of us have to fix before we could even benefit from the right candidate.
Trump generates some of the right emotional responses for some of the right emotional reasons. But that’s still no substitute for fixing what’s wrong. Both his critics and supporters would do well to remember this.
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