Tag Archives: Trump

The Paradox of Trump Support

New Orleans      There was a time when families followed a careful rule.  When gathering with the blood, avoid talking about religion or politics.

Only part of that rule still holds, as America becomes more and more secular, despite the hardcore pockets of evangelicals around the country.  You can talk about religion all you want.  Now in the era of mindfulness, fewer go to churches, and more can simply claim to be spiritual or religious by their own lights.  I watched the subject rise and fall without a whine or a whimper recently in a family gathering when one of the young members took a poke at the senior patriarch around the table.

Politics, on the other hand, is probably still best avoided, especially in the time of Trump.  It’s a minefield!

Nonetheless, fools go where wise men fear to travel, and I found myself having a conversation with a cherished uncle recently.  He tapes Fox and Friends, and finds them compatible company and highly informative.  Fair enough.  I don’t watch them so though I suspect they would make my hair catch on fire; I really don’t have a clue.

Talking about President Trump with him was more educational.  This is a conservative Republican squarely in the president’s demographic.  He’s carrying some age.  He’s white.  He’s a retired business executive.  He’s whip smart, but deeply opinionated.  Saying all of that though his view analysis of Trump and Obama was both interesting, and I fear predictive of the challenges November holds for progressives and winning then.

He said to me in effect that Trump says stupid, arrogant, and despicable things.  Trump is embarrassing to him.  His biases and ethics are inexcusable.  On the other hand, he believes “his polices” have been great for the country.  Comparing Trump to Obama, he then added that Obama’s character was flawless and that every word that came out of his mouth was amazing, but he believed “his policies” were disastrous.  He believes the country and his own situation will survive fine, regardless of who wins, but he also things it will be disastrous if Trump were to lose.

Thinking about this conversation later, I think it represents a warning for kneejerk progressives.  Good, decent people who disagree with many of us on particular policies can easily hold two ideas in their minds at one time when it comes to President Trump.  They can both abhor his brutish, narcissistic, bombastic, exaggerated, and biased self-presentation on the one hand and still easily vote for him, because they see it in their self-interest based on what he and his people have delivered.  The same deal with the devil that is characterized by the Republican majority in the Senate and his leader, Mitch McConnell, is not exceptional, but has leeched deeply down to even rank-and-file Republican base.

I’m sure this isn’t a newsflash.  The polls have shown for three years how rock-solid Trump’s base has been despite unending scandals and crises.  It would be a huge strategic and tactical advice for Democrats to assume, Hillary Clinton-like, that that base is her “deplorables.”  It’s not.  It’s people on the other side of the divide who aren’t getting a message clearly about better policies, and are willing to live – at this point – with a brute and a bully, if they see – and hear – the benefits.

Assuming that no one in their right mind can vote for Trump is a huge mistake.   They don’t like Trump any more than the rest of us, but they can live with him as the devil they know, rather than the devil they don’t know.

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Russians Are Teaching the Perils of Social Media “Organizing”

New Orleans     Ok, now they’ve gone too far!

Sure, like everyone I’ve tried to follow the noise and news about Russian interference in 2016 US elections. Not because I think their mischief and dirty tricks determined the results of the election, though I’m uncomfortably agreeing with President Trump on that score, but because, like all foul play, it impacted the election and that’s just plain dangerous, and also where I disagree with President Trump. It’s been wrong when the United States has interfered in elections in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa, and it’s equally wrong when the Russians or the North Koreans or the Chinese or anyone else messes with a country’s elections as well.

It turns out that the Russian interference on social media was not just a matter of buying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ads on Facebook. Not that that was insignificant either. The newspapers were full of revelations from Congressional hearings with the social media companies that their reach had long hands with posts on Facebook by Russian agents intended to sow discord during the election reached 126 million users on Facebook, more than 100000 posts published on Twitter and uploaded over 1000 videos on Google’s YouTube.

That’s a lot of noise for sure, but what takes me over the edge is the analysis by the Wall Street Journal of some of the accounts that indicates that they weren’t just throwing some words in the wind, but were actually using social media confusion in issuing the call to organize rallies on both sides of issues solely to create division. I’ve always argued that social media is an excellent communications tool, but a flawed organizing tool. Here is a case where they were able to use Facebook especially and its “messenger” application to not only issue the call for direct actions and rallies about various hot button issues, but actually dupe some folks into taking money for supplies, transportation, and other details involved in putting together these wolves-in-sheeps-clothing events. All of which makes them not fake, but real. The Journal was able to determine that at least 22 of the 60 events took place. In some cases the events even provoked counter rallies. In Dallas they turned out 300 people to a “Blue Lives Matter” rally after the shooting of police there. How will those good folks – and many others – feel when they realize they suited up and hit the streets to the call of Russian secret agents?!?

This kind of popular manipulation could make it even harder for real organizations and real organizers to recruit and organize around real grievances in the public space. A country that prides participation and protects protest can’t allow a public to be created that suddenly feels that they are unable to take action for fear of being deceived or to ignore legitimate protests fearing that they could be fake.

On the other hand it should also be a wake-up call about why real organizations are important in social change. Bonafides can easily be confirmed – even using the darned internet – with a check there on the history of the group, a wikipedia search, a look at their website postings. In real organizations people can actually join, volunteer, lead and not just follow, question and not just mimic and repeat the posting, lose and sometimes win.

Not to be too simplistic, but not everyone on Facebook is a friend, and not every call to action should be heeded. These are great tools, but they are even greater in the hands of organizers and organizations, rather than random strangers who may be working for the common good, or as we are now seeing, may be up to the worst evils.

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