Donald J Trump – Part 1: Trump’s Political Ideology

In light of Donald J Trump’s domination of the news headlines and America’s collective consciousness, I’ve decided to cobble together a series of articles over the next several weeks that explore the answers to several questions individuals may have about the brash and outspoken presidential candidate. For the record, I do not endorse Trump as a political candidate and I have no intention of voting for him at this time. That said, I will attempt to answer these questions as accurately and honestly as I can.

Part 1: Trump’s Political Ideology

At least nominally, Trump falls underneath the Republican party umbrella. This is partially due to the political identity of those drawn to Trump rather than his somewhat vague and broad policy positions. Personally, I think it’s left to be seen if Trump truly believes anything he espouses versus Trump merely pandering to a certain segment of the American public based on what is the popular topic or political position du jour. In the past, Trump has expressed support for gun control, pro-choice policies, single-payer government provided health care, and tax increases for the wealthy (not your typical Republican campaign talking points). During this election cycle Trump has made pro and con statements on the same topic, often within weeks of each other (take immigration for example).i

Broadly speaking, the core ideological components of the Republican party are conservatism, economic liberalism, fiscal conservatism, and social conservatism. Historically, the party was more progressive and classically liberal. Other significant factions in the modern GOP include libertarians, moderates, neoconservatives, populists, and the religious right.

However, with the rise of Trump, I believe another significant faction of voters exists within the Republican party. A faction that also extends to groups of independent voters and segments of the Democratic party. This faction is autocratic and nativist in nature. For lack of a better word, let’s call the ideology of this faction Trumpism.

Autocratic is defined as “of or relating to a ruler who has absolute power” or “taking no account of other people’s wishes or opinions; domineering.”ii Trump’s followers view him as a brash, politically incorrect, strong leader who knows how to get things done. Interestingly, a recent analysis of a poll of registered voters across the country discovered authoritarianism to be a statistically significant marker amongst Trump supporters.iii

Nativism is “the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants” or “a return to or emphasis on traditional or local customs, in opposition to outside influences.”iv All one need do is listen to the Republican debates and Trump’s stump speeches on the campaign trail to see how strongly Trump is pushing a nativist platform.

If this gives you pause, it should. The political leanings of the majority of Trump’s followers are one step removed from fascism. The core definition of fascism is “an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.”v History has already demonstrated how dangerous and misguided this ideology can be.

Nevertheless, I’m not calling Trump or his followers fascist. Rather, many of Trump’s followers are proto-fascist in nature since they espouse precursor or foundational ideologies to fascism. On a side note, Trumpism, in style and substance, is more similar to the buffoonery of Benito Mussolini than the machinations of Adolph Hitler.vi

Robert Paxton defines fascism as the following:

A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion. [The Anatomy of Fascism]

The initial part of this definition fits Trumpism, but not the latter, hence the similarity but not sameness with fascism.

You might note that I’ve been careful to avoid directly ascribing any ideology to Trump himself even though his campaign platform and his supporters fall within the aforementioned ideological camps. That is because Trump is not a true ideologue. Rather, Trump fits the profile of a populist demagogue.

Populism is “a doctrine that appeals to the interests and conceptions (such as hopes and fears) of the general population, especially when contrasting any new collective consciousness push against the prevailing status quo interests of any predominant political sector.” Even though he is part of the national elite (Trump is a media feted multi-billionaire), Trump is running a virulent anti-establishment campaign that feeds off the anger (there is much less hope in Trump’s version of populism) and fears of the American working class.

A demagogue is “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.”viii Given the vacuous nature of Trump’s campaign slogans, debate proclamations, and little to no substance or depth behind his policy positions, this definition describes Trump’s campaign perfectly.ix Even so, Trump is extremely intelligent when it comes to the media and marketing and exceptionally adroit at exploiting the 24/7 hyper-sensationalized modern news cycle.

It should be noted many of Trump’s Republican supporters are not traditional Republicans. Most of them are Trump supporters, first and foremost, and Republicans second. If Trump were to run as an independent, many of these voters would follow him. They are anti-establishment and feel highly alienated from the political process.x Many of Trump’s supporters were not very politically active (or at least were not as active as most regular participants of Republican primaries), if active at all, in prior election cycles until now.xi

In fact, I think the relative prior political inactivity of Trump’s supporters is one of the reasons why Trump’s unflagging popularity in the polls has caught the political pundits, party advisers, and mainstream think tanks by surprise; a sobering reality which has allowed Trump to defy predictions of an eventual campaign collapse.

ii    Google Dictionary

iv   Google Dictionary

v    Ibid

vii  Google Dictionary

viii Ibid

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My Dearest Friend

My beautiful wife, dearest friend, and lover,

Gone are the care free days of your childhood and the exuberance of youth. Yet, who you are and what you have become is more cherished than you know.

Your grace and elegance, sublime as a precious stone, is marvelously rare in this world. Your insights and wisdom, as my partner and friend, are deeply valued. Your smile and laughter, giving me great joy, is sunlight to the darkest recesses of my heart. Your beauty, which is extraordinary, still causes my head to turn and my breath to stop.

You may never realize the full extent of the difference you make in the lives of others, but the impact of your walk through life is deeply felt by those who love you and I want to publicly celebrate this fact.

I love you.

The Joker’s Dilemma

Time.

Inexorably moving. Ever present. Scarce.

None of us know how much time we have on this earth – ‘cept One. Many never live to see their first birthday and few will see their hundredth. It is ironic that a seemingly infinite, ethereal resource is experienced in such a finite and limited way. Nevertheless, it is this scarcity that imbues the preciousness of time.

Consequently, I often find myself asking, “To what end? What purpose?”.

When did I start feeling guilty about having free time to just sit back and play a game? Please don’t misunderstand me, I think many adults often miss out on having fun in life and developing relationships with others simply because they cannot enjoy having “free time” by themselves or with others. Free time is really a misnomer. Nothing is truly free.

Nevertheless, I hear the Joker leeringly whispering in my ear, “Why so serious?”.

Perhaps it is my introverted nature that causes this sort of introspection or the prospect of facing a mid-life existential crisis in my 30s, but I am highly aware that the choices and decisions I make all come with their own set of opportunity costs. When you’re young and blissfully ignorant of how fast time can pass you by the future lies before you with all its wondrous representation of hope and possibility. However, regret and irresponsibility go hand in hand – tightly bound together in our psyche with immaturity and foolishness.

That said, I don’t think having responsibility and maturity means that one should have a soulless existence devoid of mirth and laughter. At its most ideal, life should be fun and joyous, but many people feel trapped in a life filled not with what they like to do, but what they should or must do according to external expectations and internal pressures.

I think many of us, on some level, want to make the most out of life. Unfortunately, there’s no simple rule book on how to succeed in the balancing act game we all play with our time. I desire to be professionally successful, yet, I do not wish this success to come at the cost of spending time with my family or participating in activities that I enjoy even though they might not bring me any monetary return.

The modern life is hectic enough. There is a constant demand for our attention. Advances in technology and the following productivity and efficiency gains (while making certain things easier and more convenient) have not resulted in an increase in leisure or time for the things that truly matter when we’re approaching the century mark with our age and I feel confident in asserting that cheap robotic butlers are still a couple of decades away.

A life filled with purpose, meaning, and warm, close relationships with others is what so many of us desire. I, for one, want a simple life. This does not mean I wish to live a life of mediocrity – lacking in adventure or accomplishment. Rather, it means cutting out or limiting things that are of little worth.

Lynyrd Skynyrd says it well.

“Simple Man”

Mama told me when I was young
Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say.
And if you do this
It will help you some sunny day.
Take your time… Don’t live too fast,
Troubles will come and they will pass.
Go find a woman and you’ll find love,
And don’t forget son,
There is someone up above.

And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Baby, be a simple kind of man.
Oh won’t you do this for me son,
If you can?

Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold
All that you need is in your soul,
And you can do this if you try.
All that I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.

The Night No One Died

For the inauguration of this website, I thought I would commemorate the anniversary of the following event from last year.

One night last November…

While my wife and daughter are off enjoying Disney World with my mother-in-law, I am dutifully redoing the hall bathroom like any good spouse. I’m also sleep deprived, unsure of what day it is, and starting to pay attention to moon cycles.

Yes, part of the issue is the fact I’m not sleeping as well with my wife being gone, but the larger issue is that my daughter’s cat is trying to assassinate me in my sleep.

This cat…

IMG_0335     IMG_0138

To put all of this into perspective, we typically have the cat sleep in the bathroom (I assume he’s sleeping – he’s likely plotting to overthrow humanity instead) so it won’t randomly attack us in the night thinking we want to play with it at three o’clock in the morning. For some reason, he’s fascinated with curly hair; which makes my wife’s head and face a particularly tempting target of nocturnal feline frivolity.

I love my wife.

I fear her when she’s sleep deprived.

I liken the experience to the danger of provoking a Viking Berserker. Hence, the cat sleeps in the bathroom. Nevertheless, the bathroom is out of commission this week with me redoing the entire thing and he’s sleeping with me (sort of – I’m not sure you can call it sleep – maybe wafting in and out of consciousness).

From my perspective, I imagine the cat is thinking, “How fortunate for me, a large, warm human being I can cuddle with to keep warm is lying still and peaceful in this fluffy habitat the humans make their nest in. I’m so happy. Look, I’m purring to show you how much I appreciate this gift of warmth and companionship.”

In reality, I’m dragged into dull consciousness by the unmistakable presence of this cat purring directly into to my ear drums (WWII bombing runs come to mind) while draping the rest of his body over my throat and alternately licking my nose and now formerly closed eyelids.

“Okay, fine.” I say to myself. “You’ll settle down eventually, or maybe let me sleep for increments of an hour or two prior to me turning over in my sleep is universally interpreted as the cat signal for IT’S TIME TO NOTICE ME NOW!!”

Although, all of this pales in comparison to my experience from last night.

I’m fast asleep when I’m abruptly and rudely awakened by the sound of something I can only describe as the noise of the Death Star tractor beam power generators revved about 20 times faster. The entire room is vibrating and humming with this deep, otherworldly noise that my brain is struggling to process.

I am so startled, I sit straight up in bed and loudly yell things like, “What the hell? We’re under attack! It’s the trees! Is everyone okay?”. Yes, I did think that trees were attacking the house. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure no one could hear me over the drone of that pernicious, throbbing noise.

By now, my adrenaline has kicked in and I know I must move to source of the noise so I promptly jump out of bed and trip over the cord to the fan near the bed.

It’s at this point, I realize what is going on.

The computer sub-woofer has a bad connection with the input jack and is attempting to scramble my brain by emulating the Death Star power generators. It’s also completely dark, and I’m not wearing my contacts or glasses so I am randomly unplugging any wire that feels like it’s near the sub-woofer.

I’m still in fight or flight mode, so my next thought is to check on everyone else in the house. Why? I don’t know. It’s not like the sub-woofer is a harbinger of death and destruction.

I’m not processing cogent and coherent thoughts at this moment.

Picture this; I’m stumbling from one room to the next in my boxers and the first thing I come upon is my grandfather ironing his clothes, so I practically yell, “ARE YOU OKAY?”

I forgot he didn’t have his hearing aids so my entreaty as to the state of his health goes unnoticed.

At this point, I wonder “What time is it?”. I discover it’s four o’clock in the bloom’n morning!

My thoughts are coming faster now. “Why are you ironing clothes? It’s so late – no, it’s so early! Is this real? Where am I?”

I’m now starting to realize how absurd all of this must seem so I sneak away hoping my grandfather doesn’t notice my presence all the while attempting to stifle what is fast becoming uncontrolled laughter.

After calming myself down to process what happened, the only conclusion I can come up with is the cat tripped the wire running to the sub-woofer since he’ll patrol the room in that vicinity. Needless to say, the cat was nowhere to be found and he only showed up later that morning.

This cat…

IMG_0360     IMG_0338

Even so, I am left with one burning question.

When I get older and can’t sleep, will I iron my clothes in the wee hours of the night?