Who’s Driving?

“Who’s driving?” is actually a very scary question.

The New Republic recently ran a first-person account of a Trump rally, written by a creative writing professor who attended out of curiosity. His report on the event–what he heard from attendees and from those hawking paraphernalia–was deeply disturbing, and gave rise to a “chicken and egg” question: Did The Donald create the angry, mean-spirited crowd at that rally? Or did their seething hostility to the various “others” who are his targets create an opening for Trump or someone like him?

This campaign, whose success has long been attributed to the forgotten working and middle classes, the so-called Silent Majority, has been, and always will be, an unholy alliance between the Hateful and the Privileged, the former always on a never-ending search for new venues for their poison and the latter enjoying, for the first time since Reagan’s ’80s, an opportunity to get out and step on some necks in public.

I considered the odd pairing and its implications as I left the lot and turned onto Coliseum Boulevard. Trump can be defeated, and most likely he will be, but elections cannot cure this disease. It’s always been here and perhaps it always will be. Trump’s narcissistic quest to “Make America Great Again” has only drawn the insects to the surface, and there’s plenty of room to wonder whether he’s driving the movement or if it’s driving him.

It is sobering and very depressing to realize that a substantial percentage of Americans reject what really does make America great: our willingness to treat our neighbors as valued fellow-citizens, whether or not they look, pray or love the same way we do. Diversity, inclusion, civic equality….those are the aspects of American culture that most of us (or so I hope) value and embrace.

Of course, America’s commitment to inclusion and equality has always been as fragile as it is laudable.

If you  click through and read Professor Sexton’s article–fittingly titled “American Horror Story”–you enter an America very different from the “can do” nation that has long taken pride in welcoming “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The people cheering for Trump aren’t welcoming huddled masses, and they aren’t looking for solutions to America’s problems; they are looking for someone to blame for whatever has gone wrong in their lives.

Trump’s supporters are attracted to his nativism and bluster, his ability to reassure them that whatever “it” is, it isn’t their fault. His appeal lies in his ability to focus their discontents and direct their animosities outward: toward Mexicans or Muslims or women or immigrants. His supporters find his utter ignorance reassuring–there’s no need to know all that mumbo-jumbo about policy and the Constitution and how government works. Just know how to wheel and deal and screw the other guy.

If the nature of his appeal is obvious, the number of voters who will respond to that appeal is not. Less obvious still is an answer to the question posed by the shaken professor who attended the rally: is Trump a cause or an effect? Is he driving this current “know nothing” eruption, or has an increase in nativism and resentment created Trumpism?

And most worrisome of all: how widespread is the Trumpian conviction that making America “great” requires making Americans white and Christian?


  1. Wow! Professor Sexton. What a genius. He finally figured out for us all, what could have been done by a bright “5 year old,” who hadn’t already lost his courage. Can you believe it? America seems to have some sort of racial problem.

  2. I suppose you think jay Leno’s and Jesse Watters’ “man on the street” segments are representative as well.

  3. I suppose like anything else, the take away from Trump is different for different people. However, I am at a loss to see how there is anything positive to take away from the Trump campaign or his rallies or his “uplifting” speeches. But I sense that Ken disagrees based on his comparison of the professor’s observations with the man on the street interviews. Sadly Trump is everything he appears to be and probably more. I also sense that Ken’s problem is really w Hillary Clinton. She, like every other politician, has a history and it’s not perfect by any definition. However, she has a demonstrable set of skills and experience in policy-level government – maybe not all good by Ken’s definitions – but relevant to the job she is applying for. Trump had a reality TV show and has filed for bankruptcy several times.

  4. The fact that Trump has been allowed to be raised to these heights in American leadership by American voters, to me heralds the beginning of the end of America and Americans as we knew it. We are being overrun by savages; once held in check by laws and the fear of no support from our lawmakers. They now have the full support of the entire GOP which cannot be withdrawn at this stage of their “game” who didn’t stop it when it began. They may try to “walk back” or remove themselves from Trump’s many rants, forms of hatred and support of violence but they not only cannot “unring that bell” – they are stopped by the fact that THEY allowed it to go to the public who duly voted Trump in as THEIR nominee.

    Whether he is elected president or not; there will be riots, there will be bloodshed, there will be retaliation because the far right has antagonized the far left if he wins and Trump’s supporters will not accept his loss without retaliation. I have lost faith in the current government and am vulnerable living alone, surrounded by “Trump” yard signs. THEIR Congress has vetoed any and all forms of gun control; how many of those with these signs have weapons? Those who do have no reason NOT to use them.

    Do not only be afraid of those who attend Trump rallies; be afraid of your neighbors. They are the “driving force” behind this out of control political nightmare we are living.

  5. JoAnn,

    “Do not only be afraid of those who attend Trump rallies; be afraid of your neighbors. They are the “driving force” behind this out of control political nightmare we are living.”

    You’re getting better and better. I would also throw in “your doctors,” from my own experiences, in addition to “your neighbors.”

    In the time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
    ~George Orwell

  6. On the bright(er) side, I am seeing more and more young(er) people who are really getting involved this time. They never have been involved in political work before. Not so much with money, but with the time and energy. They want to defeat ALL the Republicans so we can move on to a better future. Only total defeat will stop the Republican nut show. Please help.

  7. patmcc

    “Only total defeat will stop the Republican nut show. Please help.

    Thanks 4 saying it like it is! There’s no time left.

  8. All of the negative propaganda that has been spewed out over the last eight years by professional propagandists as well as the crazies on the Internet and other sources have rubbed enough salt in the already festering wounds of the American people have led to this. I hope they are all proud of themselves. They all set the stage for the rise of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. Now this is feeding itself with no real end in sight.

    My question is how do we as a nation lean back from this or if it is even possible to do so and regain some sort of equilibrium in our political discourse. Even if we do what will that look like?

    We are in totally unknown territory folks and quite frankly it scares the heck out of me.

  9. America has a long history of bigotry and fear-mongering. We have hated the Irish, the Italians, the Roman Catholics, the Jews, the African Americans, and of course the Native Americans. Today we hate Mexicans and Muslims. What we lacked before was social media which can be used to spread our hatred to millions of people simultaneously.

    We already kill 33,000 people a year with our guns. It’s a little late to go into hiding. It’s not too late to stand up for what is right.

  10. Tough economic times and scary international developments (including war) give rise to real leadership or to demagogues. Whoever successfully appeals to group fear and need for security will gain a following.

    After the war torn and economic distresses of WWI, Germany turned to Adolf Hitler who appealed to nationalism and later to anti-semitism to ‘make Germany great again’. Italy turned to Mussolini to restore Italy’s ability to get the nation running again, who later permitted Hitler to overrun Italy in order to save himself. The U.S. turned to Franklin Roosevelt to make America great again by putting people back to work and later by fighting fascism and world war.

    Each of these nations were responding to world-wide depression, and Italy and Germany also were recovering from the economic and infrastructure destruction of WWI. Looking back, this nation has been blessed indeed that a Donald Trump wasn’t running at such a dangerous time.
    The question is, have we learned from that history or even remember it at a time when so many of our ‘greatest generation’ have passed away?

  11. Taking a hint from “David and Goliath,” I’m sure WE can bring down this present day monster with “three little words”….SUBMIT OR COMMIT….[ment] to a psychiatric evaluation.

    In order to compete with a Donald Trump you have to be willing to be as OUTRAGEOUS as he is.

    out’ ra’ geous (-ra’ jes) adj. l. involving or doing great injury or wrong [I’m not advocating this]
    2. very offensive or SHOCKING [ I do advocate this as our only effective option at this time]
    `Webster’s New World Dictionary

    In order to win, you MUST be able to match up with this type of deviant elite or oligarch and be able to survive the retaliation. I’ve been able to do both so far.

    That’s why I have never lost to the likes of Ross Perot, George Bush #1, or Robert Strauss. And that was the principal reason why I was asked to be a featured speaker at the Inaugural Sun Tzu Art of War Conference this past February.

    This isn’t about IQ. I would probably lose that contest on this blog. But knowledge of and experience with the oligarchy on “engaging at the democracy front” is just as vital. And no one has (not as of June 2, 2016) beat me in that arena, including any oligarch or an impostor like Donald Trump.

  12. Tom,

    “We are in totally unknown territory folks and quite frankly it scares the heck out of me.”

    It’s like old home week to me.

  13. This is all laughable. Trump will probably win and do you know why? Because… Democrats! There are actually people on the left that haven’t decided what to do in November yet because they want to see the “platform” of the DNC and HRC. There are people who think Bernie still has a chance to be the nominee – you know if they yell a little louder about election fraud! There are people out there who think HRC and Trump are the same “establishment” choice. I could go on and on. And you can point out that each of these are small percentages… but Trump will get around 40% of the vote just for being on the ballot (and will win a few states no matter what) so these small percentages will start to add up and they will matter. Trump will be president because Democrats would rather fight to the death over who is named as the author of paragraph 6 of item 3 on the DNC 2016 Platform rather than confront the “Biggest Loser” to ever run for President. Wait.. did I use the wrong NBC reality show????

  14. Evolutionary Biology has the chicken or the egg answer. The egg is the answer. The egg made the chicken possible. The Republican Egg began it’s own evolution with Nixon’s “Law and Order” platform, which evolved into the Southern Strategy.

    The Republican Statue has instead of “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, we welcome you Jim Crow Racists, we welcome you who are stricken with homophobia. It was a mass conversion from the Democratic Party to the party of Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms and articulated by the Rush type Media.

    Respectable Political and economic Conservatism was hijacked by the Bible Thumpers and thinly disguised racists and given a cloak of respectability. The Cultural Wars became the visible manifestation of the Republican Party, enemies are every where: Gays, Femi-Nazis, and Tree Huggers among others. The Wall Street agenda was carefully hidden behind the cultural war facade.

    So I believe the Trumpet is just logical progression of Republican Evolution. The Republican Establishment does like the Trumpet as he has torn the costume off and exposed the Republican Party for what it is. Tyrannosaurs Trumptus is the Apex Predator of the Republican Party.

  15. Peggy – America has a long history of bigotry and fear-mongering.

    I agree E pluribus unum, Out of many One was just a marketing slogan, just like In God we Trust, since we cannot trust the politicians who insisted on In God we Trust on our coinage and license plates. Think of these slogans like the old Uncola ads for Seven-Up.

  16. Before you all break your arms patting yourselves on the back for not being like the Trump supporters, remember that they are taking it in the shorts. Especially the ones ages 45 and up who have been unemployed for several years, if not decades. Their lives started going south in the 80’s and the slide continues. But we are all on the incline as the jobs dry up faster and faster. Switzerland has the right idea–give everyone a check for the amount it takes to minimally pay for food, clothing and shelter since we all know the jobs aren’t coming back, and you have to do something to pacify the population. Unlike us, these actual democracies are smart enough to realize civil unrest is expensive, and the early deaths of the working class population ages 45-55 in America should warn you off of treating this as a problem for ‘the other.’ But you won’t, and instead of doing something this smart here, the powers that be will just keep re-electing people like Reagan who promise to give them their lives and self-respect back, but just keep taking more. The brilliance of making education, health care and prisons profit centers will keep the pipeline of sell-out politicians–from both sides, since we all realize there is no real difference between the establishment parties–full to bursting. Get a job with congress, and you’ll be set for life. And the only reason the establishment Republicans have a problem with them is the same reason the establishment Dems have a problem with Sanders–the real rulers aren’t assured that the fix is in.

  17. Louie is 10 times more to the point than Professor Sexton who writes for The New Republic.

    The New Republic is rotten to the core. I’ve mentioned to you before they were responsible for the attacks on Bill Moyers back in the late 80’s. Now like the Republican leadership they’re trying to weasel out of their perfidy with an article from Professor Sexton.

  18. Deception is probably our biggest problem in America. However, it’s not working very well, at least, in the last four hours on this blog of continual counter-deception.

  19. Democracy requires of the majority a level of knowledge that increases every decade. Fortunately our ability to communicate and learn continuously has kept up with the requirement.

    However there are many who have always fallen below the requirement. In the past they haven’t been much of a force in the country because they are naturally disorganized – among those they hate are each other – and one of the causes of their ignorance is that they are irresponsible to anyone but themselves. The image in my head is the jackels and hyenas of the African plains. A pain for everyone except they take out the garbage.

    What’s different today is that the Republican Party has been forced by the circumstances of their ineptitude to organize the hyenas of all stripe in order to stay relevant after decades of repeated failures. Hard but not impossible because carrion consumers are also pack animals although if you see them at the meal table they are decidedly ill tempered about it.

    Today we have an unholy and uneasy alliance of the party the organized the jackels and an alpha jackel snapping and snarling at each other over who owns the spoils.

    That puts us all at risk, but in my mind the risk is not the likelihood of the political mafia winning but the consequences of an accidental win.

    If all goes according to script Nov will be a reenactment of Custer’s Last Stand and America will be further down the road to recovery.

    But, there’s many a slip ‘tween cup and lip.

    What if something devastating happens to Hillary at the most inopportune time? Is there a chance of disaster?

    Unfortunately yes.

  20. Regarding the commenters who have dismissed the article and its author as stating the obvious, they may want to actually attend a DT rally as a protestor to see that what he describes is accurate in almost every detail. In Indianapolis, there were very few, if any, Confederate flags or logos. There were many older white men and their significant others (I assume, wives) as well as a good number of young men who looked to be college students from their attire. Hard core motorcyclists dressed in tattoos and denim with swastikas and skulls akimbo were a fairly intimidating presence at the entrance to the building, along with a phalanx of police and National Guardsmen between the entrance and the protesters. The police and military numbers were just slightly less than the protesters.
    The DT’s remarks were being broadcast over large loudspeakers mounted just outside the hall. Every tag line of vicious hate and demagoguery spewing forth was met with rousing cheers by the rally attendees. The nastier the remarks, the louder the cheers. Some of the same t-shirts were apparent. Yes, there were in the crowd who appeared to be the stereotypical poor white mostly men, but the majority looked to be middle class whites. The vehicles in the parking lots bore lots of license plates from the donut counties around Marion County.
    The most frightening part of the whole experience is that these same attendees are my friends and neighbors. They go to the same churches, the same schools, the same store and restaurants as I do. The fact that they harbor such hate and disdain for anyone who doesn’t look and act like them is a very unsettling revelation. It certainly does not give me confidence in the electorate’s ability to make reasoned decisions in the voting booth.
    The author may have been stating what is apparent to any five-year-old, but it is accurate and needs to be retold to all audiences not just those who already think they know all about it. Be afraid and aware. Then act and vote for reason over fear and hate.

  21. Someone asked if anyone had a response to the overwrought fears of Jo Ann. Yes, Trump and his supporters are scary. Yes, the Republican party leadership has not only fertilized and watered the longstanding paranoia and resentment of significant parts of the population, but has cowered before Trump. Yes, some Trumpians may get violent, either in Cleveland if (unlikely) Trump fails to be nominated, or after the general election, whether he wins or loses. (Count on Trump to claim the election was stolen if Clinton wins, regardless of the margin, inciting his followers.)

    But the country always has had this crowd. Andrew Jackson specifically appealed to it and won, with his nativist policies damaging the country in several ways. I continue to believe that Trump will be no more than a flatulent relief as the gaseous ignoramuses get their anger out but the majority of voting Americans finally recognizes the danger Trump would pose as president.

    The angry white lower middle class is killing itself with opioids. My plea is that they continue to do so with drugs, mean as that sounds, rather than take out their frustrations at the voting booth and bringing us all down with them.

  22. No, Trump will not be president! His structure is imploding with each passing hour. Trump has ‘trumped’ himself. The rats are beginning to desert the sinking ship. We cannot let up for a moment. We cannot afford to stay home on Election Day. There is but one choice for experienced, clear-headed leadership and it’s Hillary Rodham Clinton. Vote Democratic to save America from Trump and his poisonous message against all that we say we hold dear.

  23. Every sensible vote in Nov will really count as two. The first and most important one is a vote against Trump, or for America to look at it another way. That’s the essential one and it can’t be cast without going to the polls and making your mark for any alternative.

    The second vote is for someone qualified to be President and that vote is really the sum total of both primary, to narrow the field, and general elections to pick our leader for probably the next eight years.

    While performing this essential duty you can also vote for the founders promise of functional legislative and judicial branches by voting out those who have deprived us of them for these 4 years.

    It will both feel and be good to take back the founders dream of government of, by and for the people.

  24. Reading today’s comments brings me to a three-word greeting from my usually calm, reserved, and non-emotive spouse. Yesterday, he arrived home after work and following an hour at the gym where he’d had a steady dose of TV news outlets of every flavor with their non-stop coverage of the 2016 election.

    As usual, I greeted him with “How was your day?” His out-of-character response was “We are f**ked!” I immediately thought a patient had died under his watch, on his dime. No, his patients are fine; the country is f**ked.

  25. JD; thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in my difficulty trying to “Love thy neighbor”. When I close my eyes to concentrate on changing my negative mind set, all I see are “Trump” yard signs….everywhere.

  26. Louis, girl cousin and JD – I agree with all of you and appreciate your ability to make excellent points.

    Now, I’m going to profess my anger – I am angry that Sheila isn’t running for office! OK, I’m not really angry at her, but she sure could educate and improve the state of affairs in Indiana if she held office.

  27. Ms. Kennedy, for the learned person so many believe you to be, I am stunned by your absolute lack of knowledge re the history of this country (or, for that matter, any country in this world). We may have erected a statue given to us by the French (an intolerant mass of people if ever there was one) that proclaims our willingness to take others’ poor, tired, and huddled masses, but the reality is that Americans have never rolled out the red carpet for immigrants. As for Americans’ willingness/ability to “love thy neighbor”, well, the fact that this country remains steadfastly opposed to adopting the Golden Rule as a tenet of our individual behavior is proven every day on the streets of our nation’s cities (including Indianapolis), when people decide to resolve their disputes with a gun rather than with their brains.

    Donald Trump is not a cure for what ails this country. Neither is his opponent. But to think for one minute that Trump’s idiocy flies in the face of how Americans “usually” treat each other (and how they treat outsiders) demonstrates a very real disconnect with American history–from the Puritans on.

    What makes (or at least has made) America great are the values to which she aspires. But history shows that the vast majority of this nation’s citizens have never treated each other as they themselves would like to be treated. This isn’t Trump’s fault. The garbage that Trump spews is nothing different than so many of our nation’s leading citizens have spewed for the last 200+ years. It’s a fundamental inability on the part of so many of us to show respect and common decency to everyone we encounter.

    And for those who have to close their eyes to concentrate on changing their negative mind-set, it seems to me that these folks need more than Trump’s banishment from the stage of national affairs to cure what ails them.

    All of you commenters want to fix what’s wrong with this country? Start with yourselves and how you treat others. This goes for those on the “left” as much as it does for those on the “right”. Perhaps if we got rid of such noxious classifications as left/right, conservative/liberal, Democrat/Republican, we’d find the strength and ability this country needs to pull itself together. As long as we remain safely ensconced in our echo-chambers, though, all we’ll keep doing is what we’ve always done: blame somebody else for our problems.

    You, Ms. Kennedy, should know better than to do that. (But history also teaches that knowledge doesn’t always bring with it wisdom.)

  28. JoAnn, speaking about political yard signs, Trump or otherwise, I’ve never placed a political yard sign anywhere at any time. This is not because I’m disinterested in election outcomes, but rather I’ve decided along the way that it’s one of those things that families either do or don’t do, a ‘family’ thing that transcends generations for no reason other than it’s a family thing.

    If you remember Kevin Meaney, a fantastically funny stand-up comedian, you’ll get the gist of my comment. “We’re big pants people”…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hy8HcM_ry9I

  29. BSH; I love reading bumper stickers but never, never had one on my car till 2008. Have now covered two of my Obama bumper stickers with Bernie’s. Also never, never had a political yard sign till 2008; I still have my “Barack Obama” yard sign, it is a piece of history I will keep. My “Bernie For President” yard sign is next to my “Pence Must Go” sign which will stay until he IS gone, even if he is reelected and it takes another four years. Guess I never, never felt as deeply about politics or politicians till Barack Obama renewed my first sincere belief in a candidate since John Kennedy.

    By they way; your term “mouth breather” was the correct terminology as you used it. You can Google it and “mouth breeder”; scroll down to the Urban Dictionary web site. The definition for “mouth breeder” was unfit to post on Sheila’s blog. For some reason, I find the term “knuckle dragger” to be hilarious, I picture a George of the Jungle level of mentality character when I see it.

  30. David, we are a diverse lot. I personally think that it’s great that I never have to worry about meeting the same person in different bodies but I know what I like about the human race bothers others.

    So to me different opinions are very valuable assets. Of course we need as Sheila instructs to both listen and debate and that’s what this forum, or at least the majority here do.

    So the fact that there are infinitely diverse opinions doesn’t mean that reality is as diverse. No, there’s right and wrong, effective and ineffective, functional and dysfunctional, factual and mythological.

    So to be effective citizens and a creators of progress we need to work it all out and for one thing support democratic government.

    It’s an ugly thing but the best we have.

    I like to think that’s the bottom line here, effective democratic citizenship and the never ending search for better.

  31. Harbrace College Handbook for effective writing: Chapter 17 a-f The Comma (important). Chapter 18 a-c The Semicolon (really important). Chapter 19 a-d The Apostrophe (no less important).

  32. girl cousin: Switzerland voted 80% NO to a basic income for the masses. Switzerland is a very conservative country and didn’t allow women to vote until the mid-70s. The boomers there don’t even think women should work. They should stay home and raise children and clean house. They are a friendly people but very conservative when it comes to finances and taxes. That’s why their income tax is about 10% and their sales tax is as high as 19% for non-food items. Just fyi.

  33. AgingLGrl–that legislation hasn’t even been introduced in committee in the US. And thanks for making the point for me that if a hidebound country like Switzerland can think this idea has merit, where does that put us on the conservative scale?

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