By JUDITH STILES
“You’re Fired!” Why is anyone surprised that the golden-haired reality tv show host, aka business mogul named Donald Trump, is leading the pack in the Republican Party? American culture spawned him. Hey, he even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Let’s face it, when Ronald Reagan lost in the Iowa caucus years ago, most Americans were watching more mind-numbing tv than paying attention to news that covered the primaries. (Italian Version)
Today the chatter of political discourse has gotten shorter and less substantive – purveyed on our little smart phones in sound bites, and it seems most Americans like it that way. Short and sweet. Most “folks” do not read the NY Times and attention spans are super short these days. “Make America Great Again”. Forget nuance and details. Even in Canada, the Shark Tank reality tv show host and businessman, Kevin O’Leary, is flirting with running for The Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership position.
Less than seven months ago “The Donald” declared his candidacy and the aristocracy of political pundits laughed. But small business owners and what Obama calls regular “folks” were thoroughly exhausted from swimming upstream for seven years in the lousy economy of The Great Recession. Sick and tired of the failed promises of career politicians, they took Odysseus’ beeswax out of their ears and listened intently to the siren calls of Donald Trump. In a short time, he became an alternative to the career politicians of Washington’s Scylla and Charybdis. “Folks” of many stripes were excited that there might NOT be a perfunctory coronation of Hillary or Jeb.
These folks (code for less educated?) crave prosperity in their own homes and Trump supporters are betting on the idea that he has the Midas touch and will wave his magic wand and make “MY America great again”. But then Trump began to speak more. . . in robust and emphatic sound bites. Build a wall. Deport them all. No new Muslims. Her blood from somewhere else. And many Americans got queasy fast because for example, Trump has not yet explained logistically how he would send millions of immigrants out of the USA, and then put the “good ones” in line to come back in. However, like Odysseus himself, the followers of Trump are mesmerized by the lure of personal prosperity and rebooting the greatness of our nation. Who can blame them. They do not really care about the details this time. Personal prosperity trumps compassion for the less fortunate. ME FIRST.
College graduates who are saddled with enormous debt and living at home with their parents, feel dejected and depressed and are way less concerned with the problems of immigrants. They want jobs and are angry that college may have turned out to be a big fat Ponzi scheme when it comes to meaningful employment. Hence, it is not just older white “folks” going to Trump rallies. The DebtHeads are not so sure about Bernie’s plan to raise taxes to pay for a “free college education” for everyone. They believe that Midas might have a better idea. But after the second place finish in Iowa, Trump followers want more reassurance from Trump but not too much complicated politician-speak. They like the way he does not come across as an intellectual snob.
He talks regular-folk and they love the way he does not use the language of a choir boy. He does whipped cream with a swear word on top, while forgoing politeness to anyone. They view political correctness as a straight jacket and Donald Trump is untying our previous election year norms. Trump followers are also reveling in the fact that the intellectual aristocrats of tv and print journalism have not been able to squash Trump. Journalists (especially the NY Times) have done their best to slice and dice the Trump phenomena but so far, the efforts to demote Trump did not work and he controlled the narrative. Trump was not just an annoying blip in politics, he was an affront to the power of the party bosses and media moguls. Trump’s ability to stay front and center and up in the polls flummoxed the best of pundits so much that there was a collective sigh of relief after Iowa’s second place finish – that Midas could not control everything…And now that our ADHD populace is careening toward New Hampshire, Trump followers are taking a more sober look at the candidate as he has noticeably softened his tone since Iowa. (Does he have handlers now that recommended that?)
In some ways it has become sport for many political pundits to disparage Trump fans, whispering about their collective white male working class IQ. But everyone in America wants the country to return to a nation of prosperity, strength, and compassion, and even left-leaning and right-leaning voters don’t want lobbyists to control the nation’s course anymore. Although the country is sharply divided, the left, the right, and then the 1% (sound bite), people are united in relief that we are not actually sonambulating through the primaries awaiting the coronation of candidates picked by lobbyists and Super PACS. Only the party bosses and the lobbyists beholden to their own boss-men are panicking. This is worth celebrating and hopefully Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder doesn’t derail the discourse because while we are sleeping, the lobbyists are feverishly plotting to hold onto the steering wheel.
Judith Stiles is an artist/business owner/community activist who emigrated from NYC to Wellfleet on Cape Cod.