We are now a year and five months into the Trump presidency and the commentariat are still at a loss to explain Trump’s popularity. Every conceivable bogus and outlandish idea has been proposed – most of them designed to damage Trump while maintaining a veneer of impartiality on the part of the author.
Future historians will write books explaining the mass hysteria that has erupted among people who constantly remind us how intelligent and reasonable they are.
Noted writers with years of admired work behind them have turned into swivel-eyed loons at the mere mention of Trump’s name.
Intellectuals who cosied up to every left-wing dictator on the planet are worried about the threat to democracy Trump represents.
Human rights activists who couldn’t find a bomber or torturer they didn’t support are depicting Trump’s America as something out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
It’s all getting rather tiring. You can only listen to the boy crying wolf for so long before you know he’s full of shit.
Trump’s success is based on a simple idea – his followers believe that he tells the truth. And he does tell the truth. It’s the truth that any normal, flawed human being with an ounce of self-consciousness recognises in themselves.
It’s the person who forgets their car keys. Or the parent who contradicts an earlier statement because she’s tired and her teenage daughter’s petulance has finally eaten away at her patience. It’s the person who is trying to understand a problem that doesn’t have an easy answer. It’s when you think you have the answer in the morning but realise in the afternoon you were wrong. It’s the way everyday people behave in real life. And it’s not being deceitful. It’s being human.
This is what Trump’s followers recognise in him. They see somebody who doesn’t look down on them. They see a politician who at least admits that there is a problem instead of fobbing them off with boilerplate, feel-good, greeting card rhetoric. They see someone who doesn’t bully them and destroy their lives by using the malevolent tactic of calling them racist, sexist, homophobic or “deplorable”. They see someone who is fighting against people who have silenced them in the most dishonest ways.
When Michelle Obama said with a straight face “when they go low we go high”, they know that the world has been turned upside down; because they’ve seen the Democrats behave in the most abysmally dishonest and malicious ways. And while they know that Trump is no better than his opponents, they don’t see the over-weening self-regard and hypocrisy that has become a feature of left-wing politics in America. They see Trump as someone who talks and acts like them. That’s why evangelical Christians support Trump. He’s a sinner but at least he’s not a hypocrite.
For as long as I can remember I’ve heard people ask why politicians can’t tell the truth. Why, they say, do politicians sound like pre-programmed robots who never answer a question? Although politicians would never admit it, we know in our hearts that they’re trained to answer questions without saying anything concrete. Why, again, do they talk in pretentious, abstract phrases that sound good but are meaningless in any sense other than humble-bragging their own wonderful virtues?
This was Barack Obama’s tactic – and a generation swooned over his empty words. Who can take the following statement seriously? “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”. Obama said this without a blush during his nomination victory speech. It reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s aphorism: “one must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing”. To anyone with a grasp on reality, this type of talk is empty bullshit.
Trump is the antidote to the politics of sneaky malice and covert dishonesty. It’s all up front. All politicians lie because they discovered a long time ago that we don’t elect them when they tell us the truth. But there is a difference between telling off-the-cuff untruths and the deliberate, co-ordinated government lying that the Obama administration indulged in over the murder of the American ambassador in Libya.
The next time someone says they hate politicians because they never tell the truth, call them out. Remind them they hated Trump and that he was exactly what they said they wanted in a politician – someone who tells it like he sees it. If Trump does have his hands in your back pocket, at least he’s not preening like a hero when he’s robbing you.
Trump, love him or loathe him, is real. The idea that he’s dishonest while his critics are squeaky clean is one of the biggest lies of the age. Unscripted comments that turn out to be untrue are not as bad as deliberately spin-doctoring lies to further an agenda.
The politicians who deflect questions with stock responses or those who patronise their audience with lofty, unrealistic rhetoric are the real liars. Or, to put it another way, in the succinct words of a wiser man than me: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.
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