Telling It Like It Is

One of the more puzzling aspects of this bizarre election has been the insistence of Trump supporters that he “tells it like it is.” Here is a candidate who  lies constantly about matters large and small, and is just as constantly publicly unmasked as a liar. (Think, for example, about his easily checked recent assertion that the NFL sent him a letter about the Presidential debate schedule. The NFL immediately denied doing so.)

Not only are his lies frequent and obvious, he routinely contradicts himself. So what accounts for the refrain that he “tells it like it is”?

I think New York Times columnist Charles Blow implied the answer to that question in a recent op-ed. The entire essay is well worth reading, but here are a few of his observations:

[Trump] appeals to something deeper, something baser: Fear. His whole campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is in fact an inverted admission of loss — lost primacy, lost privilege, lost prestige.

And who feels that they have lost the most? White men.

As the New York Times’ Upshot pointed out in July, “According to our estimates, Mrs. Clinton is doing better among basically every group of voters except for white men without a degree.”

It is overwhelmingly these men who see Trump as a “truth teller”–not because he is making accurate statements of fact, but because he is speaking directly to their sense of displacement and loss. As Blow says,

These are the voters keeping Trump’s candidacy alive.

He appeals to a regressive, patriarchal American whiteness in which white men prospered, in part because racial and ethnic minorities, to say nothing of women as a whole, were undervalued and underpaid, if not excluded altogether….

Trump’s wall is not practical, but it is metaphor. Trump’s Muslim ban is not feasible, but it is metaphor. Trump’s huge deportation plan isn’t workable, but it is metaphor.

There is a portion of the population that feels threatened by unrelenting change — immigration, globalization, terrorism, multiculturalism — and those people want someone to, metaphorically at least, build a wall around their cultural heritage, which they conflate in equal measure with American heritage.

In their minds, whether explicitly or implicitly, America is white, Christian, straight and male-dominated. If you support Trump, you are on some level supporting his bigotry and racism. You don’t get to have a puppy and not pick up the poop.

What Trump supporters hear–what they believe constitutes “telling it like it is”–is that they have been unfairly deprived of the privileged status that straight white men once enjoyed by virtue of being straight white men, whatever their other accomplishments or lack thereof. They hear Trump saying that “those people”–Muslims, Jews, immigrants, blacks– have taken over the country they used to dominate, and  that he will put “those people” (along with those uppity women) back in their former places.

I keep thinking about a snarky Facebook comment someone posted following the conventions, to the effect that “no intelligent person could possibly vote for Trump–so it will be a close election.”

I don’t think Trump voters are stupid; I do think most of them are bigots. (Granted, there’s a good deal of overlap.)

On election day, we will see how many Americans agree with what Trump is really saying–how many of our fellow countrymen are responding to his not-very-veiled message of white nationalism–and that will tell us how far we have to go to make e pluribus unum a reality.


  1. Sheila:

    “On election day, we will see how many Americans agree with what Trump is really saying–how many of our fellow countrymen are responding to his not-very-veiled message of white nationalism–and that will tell us how far we have to go to make e pluribus unum a reality.”

    You better not wait till then. This isn’t just about an election. It’s an end game in a 45 year attempted “slow motion” coup de’ etat from the Extreme Right.

  2. So, the Republican base really is dumb white racists
    I kind of thought so
    When will the 4th Estate grow a spine and respond to the lies
    “I am pretty sure that is not true” might be a starter when he tells a whopper.

  3. This process (the election) will not end the veiled racism of the country. It is another step in that long journey. I really am not sure I see a reason to attack the candidate or his followers in this situation it allows too many of my friends to believe they are on the side of the angles and that only polarizes the country.
    Although it is boring to point out how the country is doing pretty well economically and progress has been made along the lines of both racial and gay lesbian rights, that is what bends the arc of justice. More importantly it puts those who believe in those issues in direct contact with those who do not. That discussion can only help our democracy.

  4. Anthony,

    “I really am not sure I see a reason to attack the candidate or his followers in this situation it allows too many of my friends to believe they are on the side of the angles [angels?] and that only polarizes the country.”

    I wish it wasn’t so, but it is already polarized. One reason it so polarized is because of the mass deception that hasn’t been challenged up to now. There is no other way to go now than to “unmask” it before it is too late.

  5. Marv Kramer, about the first of June you asserted there would be a significant uprising in a short time and that would have been by July 15 or so, prior to the party conventions. Today you suggest a disruption or whatever before November 8. Any possibility you can let us in on the nature of the coup de’etat?

  6. According to a USC poll (that assumes democrat voter turnout will equal 2012 turnout), the post-convention bounce is over and Clinton/Trump is a toss-up. As I see it, Tea Party wants change, Green Party wants change, Bernie supporters want change, and most Trump supporters want change. Johnson/Weld could be a message to the big two! They would not please any of those wanting change fully, but what a wake-up call! Think about it! Is there a single Hillary voter who wouldn’t prefer Johnson over Trump? Is there a single Trump supporter who wouldn’t prefer Johnson over Hillary? Are there not many Bernie supporters who would prefer Johnson over either? The major parties nominated two narcissistic, megalomaniacal, compulsive liars. Sensible people should unite to promote and elect a compromise candidate.

  7. As stated in your blog post, the anger does stem from the white Christian male privileged status being downgraded. Since WWII uneducated white males enjoyed high-paying factory jobs with amazing benefit packages. Strong unions fought for that pay and benefits.

    What mystifies me is how the white middle class population that used to benefit from unions is now supporting the republicans that destroyed their unions and put “right to work” laws in place.

  8. This worry and fret over Donald Trump is unnecessary. Including the normal Democrat base, Trump has alienated enough of the public to make his election an impossibility, I believe. He adds to those disenchanted on a regular basis, think of veterans he has lost in the past week. My suggestion is to ignore all of the election hoopla and go with the bettors and predictors, FiveThirtyEight being a very good one of those.

  9. Wayne,

    “Any possibility you can let us in on the nature of the coup de’etat?”

    The idea of a possible coup was germinated back in the late 60’s in Dallas by Gordon McLendon, one of the founders of the CIA Alumni Society. As I have mentioned before, I was the in-house General Counsel of his corporation back then.

    I don’t remember my exact words a few months ago. I don’t believe I said that we were facing a coup de’ etat at that time. And I don’t believe there is any chance of an attempted coup de’ etat before the election in November, not with Barack Obama still our President. Furthermore, I don’t think a successful one is possible in the U.S.

    Germany went through a couple of aborted coups in the 20’s before Adolph Hitler was finally successful in the 30’s. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a group within the Republican base that hasn’t been creating the atmosphere for one or even crazy enough to dream of one like….. Donald Trump. FOOLS come in all stripes and colors.

  10. The only constant in life is change. The rational response is to figure a way to benefit from that change. Americans are not big on being rational. We love simplistic, primal answers and we spend a lot of time waiting for someone to come and “fix it” even if we don’t know what needs to be fixed.

    The Trump supporters are right about one thing, though. If the Donald wins he will most certainly shake things up. Moody’s Analytics says he would cost 3 million jobs. Economists say he would tank the stock market. He would disavow every treaty we have made. He would not raise the credit limit, causing our bond rating to tank. Since he thinks there are 12 Articles to the Constitution, God only knows how he would go about defending it.

    If you think you would prefer the Libertarian option, consider the regulations that would have no place in government: Clean Water, Clean Air, Workplace Safety to name a few.

  11. When people “tell it like it is” all of the time, it tends to destroy relationships. Imagine a world where people have no frontal lobes that filter out the hurtful and stupid things that people would otherwise say, like Mr. Trump. People who impulsively say whatever comes into their minds are either small children or social outcasts, but many people think that would be just fine for a world leader. An effective shortcut to get the world to burn.

  12. Wayne,

    I have a suggestion to make. Why not rent the movie “The Killer Shrews” from Amazon. The cost is only $2.00. That way you can have a “cheap” glimpse of America’s future under Donald Trump or any other Republican of his ilk.

    I’ve suggested this to you all before. The movie was made at Cielo Studios located on an island in the middle of Lake Dallas. The Mclendon Corporation owned the studios and the island. Gordon McLendon has a part in the movie as the mad scientist whose experiment went terribly wrong which led to the island having to be evacuated. The movie was made in 1959. Remember Festus on Gunsmoke, he plays one of the important roles?

    Unfortunately, McLendon in his real life had the POWER to experiment with the deep DNA of our socio/political culture and he managed to change it very much like what he did in his role as the mad scientist in “The Killer Shrews.” The island in the movie was destroyed. I’m afraid we are also heading toward a disaster in the U.S. And unlike the movie, most of us won’t be able to evacuate. We are going to have to live here.

  13. By the way, Gordon McLendon was hospitalized twice while I was his General Counsel in the late 60’s and early 70’s. In the late 80’s he finally killed himself.

  14. Although a die-hard liberal I am increasingly disturbed by the tone liberals are taking against Trump supporters. Yes, their support is based on fear and I don’t share that fear. Yes, I think they are misguided and electing Trump would be dangerous. But when I read comments like this,

    “I keep thinking about a snarky Facebook comment someone posted following the conventions, to the effect that “no intelligent person could possibly vote for Trump–so it will be a close election.”

    I don’t think Trump voters are stupid; I do think most of them are bigots. (Granted, there’s a good deal of overlap.)”

    and other similar comments, I don’t wonder that they see liberals as elitist and as threatening. I have a college degree but most of my extended family members do not. I am a Democrat and they are mostly Republican. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are Trump supporters. But don’t forget that these are the people who build our houses and fix our drains and pump our oil. Don’t think for a minute that these blue-collar jobs do not require intelligence. Get off your high horse, liberals. You cannot allay fear by sneering at those who are afraid.

  15. The sneering at everyone is what has made the word Liberal a pejorative in America.It’s a shame really. Liberal ideas during the last century were good ones–until the Democrats decided to embrace Republican ideals and became infested by Republicans alienated by the party because of evangelicals.

    There are dog whistles within the comments of this forum wrt caste.

  16. I agree Dakota and it is this elitist attitude that has given way to the backlash some call the anti-intellectual movement. All of us want to feel valued. My dad doesn’t have a degree but is wicked smart. He comes from pure poverty at least poverty from finances not from love and family. He couldn’t afford to school and so he went to the military like a fair number of my peers.

  17. Ken, America does want change. Change from a Congress who’s singular accomplishment over the last session was to compromise the Supreme Court.

    And Trumpence does tell it like it is. Like it is for completely uninformed orange, male, sort of Christian, so heterosexual that he has to import wives, principle-less megalomaniacs.

    Entitlement is painful to lose. Especially if your whole life has been ubber entitled. In fact “entitled” defines who you are completely.

  18. JoAnn. Thanks for your last post yesterday. It was heart-warming and instructive.

    Ignorance to me isn’t something that is discriminatory because we all suffer from it, just on different topics.

    Your neighbor sounds like absolutely the salt of the earth and we all, but you especially, are made better by his place on earth.

    He can be, and is, all of that and politically ignorant too.

    Fortunately Democracy had a great tolerance for that fact. On the average political ignorance cancels out in the voting booth because it’s not limited to any particular party or worldview.

    Love your neighbor but don’t worry about his vote, it will be canceled by complementary ignorance.

  19. William1, “The sneering at everyone is what has made the word Liberal a pejorative in America”

    Here’s a textbook example of the echo effect of social media.

    William1 believes that his echo is confirmation. It’s not, it’s his voice coming back to him.

    “Liberal” is not pejoritive. Never was. Neither are “progressive”, “Democrat”, “left wing”, “socialist Democrat”, “Hillary”, or “Obama”.

    The fact of what William1 believes they are is a symptom not reality.

  20. Dakota; have you seen the videos from Trump rallies with the hatred, venom, filth, profanity and threats of violence that is the norm and is encouraged by Trump? Someone finally posted one with closed captioning so I could read word for word the lack of intelligence, common sense, basic humanity and their total lack of self-respect or self-control by behaving so viciously in public, to me does show stupidity. The difference between “stupidity” and “ignorance” is that those ignorant of facts and/or knowledge of normal behavior know no better way to respond. Those who are stupid do know but have found an outlet for their hatred of anyone who is unlike themselves in thought or deed and choose to behave like the groups we see following Trump. If elected, he will seek out and find the elected officials and their supporters who also encourage such hatred and animosity toward everyone who has not supported him. You don’t think they are stupid but you do think most of them are bigots? Have you been following only Fox News throughout this ridiculous presidential campaign year? We are being shamed in the eyes of the civilized world thanks to those following Trump – including the GOP.

    “I don’t think Trump voters are stupid; I do think most of them are bigots.”

  21. Bigotry is ignorance. It’s acceptance of what could be true rather than what is.

    It’s typically the ignorance of applying what might be true of specific individuals to everyone who can be associated with them by their looks or culture.

  22. Dakota, William1, and RN — thanks for your articulating a long overdue thought. The lowest form of persuasive writing relies on making light of and sneering at others.

  23. The question really is should liberals be held to a higher standard than Rush et al, the Tea Party, Trumpence, Fox News, the RNC, etc?

    Some say when in Rome speak Italian. Others say we should be held to a higher standard because that’s what we believe in, higher standards for politics. Some say in order to return to Democracy almost stolen from us by neolibralism we need to demonstrate for those who have forgotten or are too young to remember what political discourse was like before Archie Bunker lowered the bar.

    All good arguments.

    But then there’s the just human truth of what goes around comes around.

    I see all of all of the above going on. But, as bigots do, they define all of us as the least of any of us.

    So maybe all of the above is just what is and is aimed at just desserts for those who dragged our culture here.

  24. Pete,

    “I don’t know how or if this Neolibralism Manifesto influenced the Dallas Mafia which you refer to but the timing is worth considering.”

    It’s hard to tell, I believe what you describe as the “Dallas Mafia” probably influenced the preparation of The Powell Manifesto. Not the other way around.

    At the deepest level of the EXTREME RIGHT is OLD money like the Bush Family and OIL money like the Hunt family, both of which were well established in Texas in the 60’s and 70’s. George Bush was a combination of both and is just as much or maybe more responsible for the mess we are in than the Koch Brothers. When Gordon McLendon committed suicide, Bunker Hunt, one of H.L. Hunt’s sons was called to identify McLendon’s body. I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, according to The Warren Report, Jack Ruby had talked with McLendon the day before he assassinated Lee Harvey Oswald. His close friend Bunker Hunt, along with Bum Bright a past owner of the Dallas Cowboys were responsible for the “Wanted Poster” ad in The Dallas Morning News on the day that JFK was assassinated.

    Ground Zero for this mess is in Dallas. However, no doubt The Powell Manifesto added much credibility to the movement.

  25. Growing up in a Democrat home, in a Democrat extended family, and in a Democrat-controlled area, I’ve had ample time over the years to observe the evolution of the Democrat party from ‘the people’s party’, from ‘the New Deal party’ to something entirely different following the large migration of Republicans unhappy with the evangelical movement into the Democrat party.

    Today’s Democrats have no more in common with Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson than today’s Republicans have in common with Abraham Lincoln or Dwight Eisenhower. The final vestige of the Democrat party (the new deal/FDR party) was severed during President Clinton’s term and slowly and without much notice replaced by neoliberal policies.

    The following Salon article presents an accurate overview.

  26. From the above.

    “Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.”

    “The invisible doctrine of the invisible hand is promoted by invisible backers. Slowly, very slowly, we have begun to discover the names of a few of them. We find that the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has argued forcefully in the media against the further regulation of the tobacco industry, has been secretly funded by British American Tobacco since 1963. We discover that Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in the world, founded the institute that set up the Tea Party movement. We find that Charles Koch, in establishing one of his thinktanks, noted that “in order to avoid undesirable criticism, how the organisation is controlled and directed should not be widely advertised”.”

    “The nouveau riche were once disparaged by those who had inherited their money. Today, the relationship has been reversed”

    “The words used by neoliberalism often conceal more than they elucidate. “The market” sounds like a natural system that might bear upon us equally, like gravity or atmospheric pressure. But it is fraught with power relations. What “the market wants” tends to mean what corporations and their bosses want. “Investment”, as Sayer notes, means two quite different things. One is the funding of productive and socially useful activities, the other is the purchase of existing assets to milk them for rent, interest, dividends and capital gains. Using the same word for different activities “camouflages the sources of wealth”, leading us to confuse wealth extraction with wealth creation.”

  27. Pete, please know I did not express any confusion about neoliberal policies or pose any questions about neoliberal policies; however, I appreciate the time you exerted to locate just the right definition for me. That was nice of you.

  28. I should clarify that the prefix “neo” can be applied to virtually any noun. It simply means new.

    When I use the term “neolibralism” perhaps I should capitalize it (what do you English speakers think) I mean something very specific that is well defined in Wikipedia and many other references. (I’ve posted some.)

    When I talk of ignorance associated with it that could mean ignorance of what the word means, I’m new myself to understanding that, it could mean ignorance of the philosophical basis for it, (I personally think that like most philosophies it’s a sound and plausible possibility).

    What I typically mean though is denial of the empirical evidence from having put it into practice.

    It simply hasn’t worked, so believing it might is ignorance of the evidence of that experience.

    The same is true of climate science denial. It could have turned out that way but didn’t.

    Ignorance is pervasive but that doesn’t give ignorance of a particular truth a chance to be right. It’s merely an opportunity for education.

  29. BSH, I whole heartedly concur. The wedge between the science and the education and politics is neolibralism. Just as it was for the tobacco industry decades ago.

    As I said before it fails in practice.

  30. Why would anyone expect there to be a free market solution to the problems that free market solutions have created?

  31. “Why would anyone expect there to be a free market solution to the problems that free market solutions have created?”

    Well, Pete, that’s a question that K-12 educators have been asking for several years. What’s a charter school, maybe even a proprietary charter school, gonna offer to a group of students that the local public school could not offer?

    Once the market-based solutions are invited into solving any perceived problem with K-12 public schools, you can expect an immediate growth of a proprietary cottage industry devoted to indirectly keeping schools in the zone of failure.

    Pete, it’s too complicated to explain on this forum. The little text box we’re provided here does not contain enough space to begin an explanation.

  32. Pete,

    Knowing that you’re not involved on a day-to-day basis with any public school district, I’m sharing a few current Central Office job titles from a large inner-city public school district where neoliberal policies are in effect via the current School Board.
    * Talent Management Officer
    *Chief Strategist
    *Innovation Officer
    *Director of Advancement
    *Talent Officer
    *Human Capital Officer
    *Coordinator of Talent Development

    There’s not one job title that carries a hint of the personal, whether for a prospective educator seeking a position or for a parent wishing to enroll a child. Nothing but neoliberal market-based corporate job titles.

  33. Without a doubt, the mention of Tony Bennett, former State Supt of IN Schools, will bring a prolonged ‘boo’ as it should. I still consider Tony Bennett to be the quintessential arrogant, know-it-all man who considered himself the smartest guy in the room, actually the smartest guy in any room.

    Bennett is gone, trampled at the polls by Glenda Ritz, but I have this nagging feeling that a large number of Indiana Democrats believe that all the worries about charter schools and other school reform issues were buried with Bennett’s defeat as a Republican. If people followed only their local Indiana news outlets, they may have missed something important.

    That something important is DFER, the Democrats for Education Reform which maintains an active presence in Central Indiana. So active in fact, that a member of the DFER National Advisory Board also serves as the Chairperson of the Indianapolis Public Schools Board. That person is Mary Ann Sullivan, former Indiana State Representative; Sullivan coauthored and sponsored bills expanding Indiana’s public charter school law and dramatically changing teacher evaluation and licensure.

Comments are closed.