Shovel, puh-leeze. Sometimes feeling buried in wrenching articles about this election, related polling and other political science data, I find it soothing to listen to real voters. Recently, NBC’s Anne Thompson reported from Youngstown, Ohio. Not too far from my former humble home in Columbus.
She was interviewing a 35-ish, normal seeming white man in a bar. Why he preferred Mr. Trump came up. “He’s like me,” the fellow said. Yikes. He professed to like Trump because he thought they were similar. How can that be? I wondered. Must be an exception, can’t be many others out there in “the heartland” (or elsewhere) who feel that way.
Turns out Harry Heartland is not alone. Far from it. So I searched for possible explanations for regular folks saying that Trump is like them. Several theories bubbled up. Stand back.
Trump is multicultural. Hey, he had his picture taken with a taco bowl for Cinco de Mayo. Bueno!Makes his ties and dress shirts in China. Married a Slovenian immigrant who likes Michelle Obama’s take on American values soooo much that she plagiarized her words. Speaks like a working class guy, gold plated man of the people. Maybe he secretly speaks Spanish, perhaps like some of his construction site employees do. “Pasar los tacos, por favor” … pass the tacos, please. Sure, now we’re rolling… él es como yo! He’s like me!
(Maybe only borderline) bad to the bone.“Trump falls short in terms of the character and behavior needed to perform as president,” according to Frank Levin, renowned Republican operative. Further, Trump is a “bigot, a bully, and devoid of grace or magnanimity.” Harry is going out on a limb here, unless he summarily rejects Levin’s assessment or believes that being a bully is an admirable trait. It’s cool, man… Está chido, güey!
Enter famed New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. Recently she channeled Trump’s inner voice:
“My temperament is so perfect for this job. The greatest temperament in the history of temperaments because you go through pressure and you have to be able to handle pressure. The brouhaha over whether I was a nut job was so unfair. It got so big that Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew were both on TV analyzing my so-called narcissistic personality disorder.”
But let’s put aside all that sort of psychological mumbo jumbo. Don’t narcissists really just have a nice robust sense of how capable and strong they are? Yeah, that’s it. You know, as in great confidence. That’s a good thing, right? That self-esteem thing. Shows how a man just can’t be too bullish on himself in this dangerous world cluttered with self-righteous, dopey members of the lame stream media. You betcha, Don. Uh, Harry.
He’s crazy like a fox (who actually is acting crazy). Now enter longtime Republican insider Peggy Noonan, seen regularly on TV. Chronically bright. Often amusing. Insightful. A former Reagan speechwriter, she’s good at calling political balls and strikes. (Especially off right handers?) On August 4 she wrote of Trump in the Wall Street Journal,
“Here is a truth of life. When you act as if you’re insane, people are liable to think you’re insane. That’s what happened this week. People started to become convinced he was nuts, a total flake… It is not that he is willful or stubborn, though he may be, it’s that he doesn’t have the skill set needed now—discretion, carefulness, generosity, judgment. There’s a clueless quality about him. It’s not that he doesn’t get advice; it’s that he can’t hear advice, can’t process it or turn it into action.”
My question to Harry from Youngstown, and those who feel similarly that Trump is like them, is simple. The precise definitional boundaries of mental illness can be ambiguous, but how comfortable would you be if your children grew up (more like down) to act like Donald Trump? Should we probe his mental fitness with a finer toothed comb? Or sledgehammer. As Gabriel Schoenfeld unloaded in USA Today,
“It is obvious and irrefutable that Trump is a deranged, ignorant, bigoted, impulsive demagogue, who may never be handed the powers of the American presidency… Trump swims in his own river of political toxin. He neither cares for nor knows a whit about the Constitution… Bottomless ignorance… The lack of empathy… and arrestingly, the lack even of any sense that it would be politically expedient to display empathy—is the mark of a sociopath.”
Again turning to a simple, related question, how many of your friends do you admire for their intense narcissism? Trump’s is pointed out repeatedly yet I don’t see any of his supporters denying this charge. None. My oversight, perhaps.
Science can make your hair hurt. Climate change is hooey. Earth is on track in 2016 for its hottest year on record. Scientists agree that climate change is a clear and present danger. Cool as a cuckoo cucumber, Trumpty Dumpty disagrees. As he tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Locally, in late December, Trump told the crowd at a rally in Hilton Head, “Obama’s talking about all of this with the global warming and . . . a lot of it’s a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, okay? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.”
Whatever, Harry, let’s grab another cold one and beat this darned heat. The tricky Chinese? Gān bēi, everyon . . . cheers!
Solidarity: Trump stands ready to serve as Putin’s man in The White House. Can we mostly agree that Mr. Trump has an affinity for Russia’s chief moral reprobate Vladimir Putin? Admires his “strong” leadership style? Praise for gullible Trump from a KGB hall of famer seems designed mostly to paving the way for having an unwitting partner (stooge?) in the White House. The Week magazine’s discussion of the Putin/Trump connection noted that in Trump, Putin has “a candidate with financial ties to Russia and pro-Russian advisors. Trump is a fellow authoritarian who would divide the U.S. along racial lines, alienate our allies in Europe and the Middle East, and weaken our moral standing in the world.”
Perhaps Harry just likes the underlying principle of cozy relationships across continents. Fight global warming with an inverted cold war. Pretty creative, right? Maybe he’d be interested in a nice pair of Putiny pajamas, covered with images of Comrade Macho riding horseback. Complete with footsies. Symbolic, yes?
And perhaps I’ve simply misread Mr. Heartland. Maybe I missed good ole Harry’s 7-8 pre-interview beers in that bar. Or, it might be true that he is one broad minded and open hearted sun of a gun who goes about his business looking for ties and similarities with his fellow man.
Brotherhood is king, that’s it. We’re all in this together. As Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?” Yes, that must be it. Brotherhood. Fellowship. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum. Uh, beer.
Let’s see if those Putin jammies are for sale on Amazon. Even with climate change, we still have a few more winters coming, right?