A Kernel of Trump

Every four years, at least lately, it’s the same thing: eighteen months of mud-slinging, vitriol, animosity, and prejudice. The internet both helps and hurts the situation. On the one hand, thanks to Netflix, Spotify, and podcasts, I no longer hear or see any news, anywhere, unless I choose to see it. On the other, thanks to social media, I see the views and opinions of every person I know, some of whom I love and admire, every single day.

Recently an old friend posted this Trump campaign video , and I watched it because I lack impulse control. I don’t regret it. In fact, I think everyone should probably see it. One of the negative things about choosing our news is that we tend to give ourselves a big helping of confirmation bias by choosing media that supports our own opinions. We then spiral in a maelstrom of opinion and supporting evidence, which only serves to enhance our negative feelings about “them”. Them is the other team. You know, the people who aren’t us.

That video is the voice of much more polished Donald Trump. Not the one we saw in the debates, but one who avoids overtly isolationist statements. Here’s the thing that I found surprising: the kernel of this thing resonates with me.

I believe that the biggest problem facing us (you know, not them) is the ever growing wealth imbalance. The us here is everyone I know. The people who work, and have decent incomes, but who can’t afford any legislative influence. Middle-class people, who despite maybe struggling occasionally, are probably in the top 10 or 15% when it comes to income. I think that the system the rational Donald Trump mentions in this video is absolutely designed to pump money from people like us to those who can afford to buy influence.

He speaks of disastrous (yeah, he overuses that word) trade deals, and he’s right. NAFTA fucked some US workers. He talks about the corporate media, and there’s no doubt that the huge corporations who own the media outlets are profit driven, and will place shareholder value above dissemination of truth. Of course, there are good, hard-working people doing solid investigative journalism. People just like us. Middle-class people, who care about their jobs, and who are under the same pressures that we are to pay our bills. The kind of people who have to be careful about how much they rock the boat in the name of journalistic integrity. For most of us, financial realities require us to bend when our convictions come up against our paychecks.

Hillary Clinton is part of that system. Yes, she’s done good things. She’s worked for equality for women, and for the health, safety, and welfare of children, fought for healthcare for 9/11 first responders, LGBT rights, and for military families. She stands for the progressive values that are important to me. So if anyone is bothering to read this, know that my bias is toward social liberalism, and in that regard, Hillary Clinton is absolutely the candidate for me.

However, she also took money from big banks. So have a lot of people. The thing that I want from a candidate is not only public conviction, but also behavior that is consistent with those convictions. Her public convictions check the right boxes for me. Universal healthcare, equal rights for all, education, healthcare, environment, welfare. Across the board, she stands on my side of social issues. But should an ethical person with strong convictions tell the financial predators who destroyed our economy to fuck off? Yes, that’s what strong convictions are for.

When George W Bush was elected my biggest problem with him was the political legacy. Like the concentration of wealth, the concentration of political power is offensive to me. Unfortunately, a Hillary Clinton presidency will be a second, but different legacy. She will take office as the most experienced, qualified person ever to do so. That doesn’t ease my misgivings about the legacy thing.

So, Trump, or rather, whoever wrote the words he’s speaking in this video, is right. What we need is someone with convictions strong enough to stand against the influence of great wealth. But is he the man to do so? He presents himself as the altruistic, selfless hero (a role he seems eager to play) who, rather than enjoy his retirement, is coming to the rescue of all of us, and our economy, way of life, and sovereignty. If this message had been the core of his campaign all along, I might even believe he was sincere. I don’t believe that this is the essence of the man, though. I don’t believe that his primary interest is you and me. I believe his primary interest is winning, because right now, that’s the self-aggrandizing goal he’s set.

The second George Bush did a lot of things I didn’t like, but I never thought of him as a truly bad person. Yeah, I read the stories about his bad behavior when he was young, but I did a lot of stupid things myself, and if I’d had more money, I’d have been even stupider.

Here’s a fun little game of “I never”. I’ve never said of my daughter, “If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father …”. I’ve never bragged about sexually assaulting anyone. I’ve never defended myself from a sexual assault accusation by stating that the alleged victim is too ugly to assault. I’ve never agreed to pay for goods or services and then reneged on the agreement.

Those are all things that a really bad guy does. I’m not a particularly good guy, so if someone’s behavior disgusts me, it must be bad.

Hillary Clinton isn’t what I really want in a president. I’d prefer Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren for the job. I think that she represents a step back from the progressiveness of Barak Obama, in some ways. However, she (pardon me) is the lesser of two evils. And in this case, it’s not even close. She is a smart, qualified person who I trust to treat the office with the diplomacy it deserves. Do I wish that her husband weren’t a former president? Yup, I do. Do I wish she were less “business-friendly”? Yup again. But she’ll meet with other world leaders and negotiate, rather than try to dictate. She’ll present herself as an adult on the world stage, rather than further reduce the opinion of the United States among the global community.

There’s one more thing, and I think it might be the biggest strike against Trump. Bigger even than his ridiculous misogyny. In that regard, Bill Clinton was as bad, and he was a pretty good president. The big thing is actually a combination of that comment about avoiding taxes, and his promise to dismantle Dodd-Frank. When a man admits to not paying taxes, and states, “That makes me smart” referring to following the letter of the law that allowed him to do so, it’s probably a good idea to believe him when he says he wants to do away with other financial regulation. He’s a rich man. Likely not as rich as he’d like people to think, but certainly rich enough to care about federal financial regulations. That’s where the message from video Donald Trump falls apart for me. Why would he propose such deregulation if he were really interested in being a president for all of us?

The full name of that legislation is “The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act”. When a man admits to not paying taxes, and states, “That makes me smart” referring to following the letter of the law that allowed him to do so, it’s probably a good idea to believe him when he says he wants to do away with other financial regulation.  Particularly when the regulation in question is designed to reign in the same institutions whose criminal behavior cause the recession out of which we’re still clawing our way. He’s a rich man. Likely not as rich as he’d like people to think, but certainly rich enough to care about federal financial regulations. That’s where the message from video Donald Trump falls apart for me. Why would he propose such deregulation if he were really interested in being a president for all of us?

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