• Wed. Jun 12th, 2024

Understanding Trump: The book, the study, the controversy and ultimately a semblance of understanding

What in the world brought me here?

Seriously, the United States of America is broken and I want to know why. We are not “united” any longer and there must be a reason. Family, friends, even loved ones are discovering a chasm that is growing larger and larger.  This being an election year, I fear I will see people growing apart as the rifts grow and understanding is lost in translation of emotions and passion.

Two years ago, I started the quest for understanding by reading Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff and was amazed by what I learned. Then I read  A Warning by Anonymous and was horrified by it and gave it a disparaging review.

Next, I read A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig and was pleased with the actual documentation and factual information (as factual as news sources can be these days anyway).

Then I realized I wasn’t really getting a full picture. I needed to read a book that was more insightful about what others are seeing as the positive side of the Trump presidency.  I made a request on Goodreads and was recommended Understanding Trump by Newt Gingrich. With trepidation, I checked out a copy from my local eBook library and proceeded to be amazed.

Since that fateful day in 2016, I started reading President Trump’s tweets. Instead of believing the news, I wanted information from the source.

For the longest time, I thought him Tweeting directly was stupid and did him no favors. I was wrong. This is how Gingrich explains how Twitter worked during Trumps campaign and thus began my adventure into a surprisingly new perspective.

“So what was a perfect day for Trump on the campaign? It was not meeting with consultants, raising money or filming ads.
“He would wake up and tweet — speaking directly to millions of his supporters. That would kick off the news day across the country. Then he would watch Morning Joe  and call in and argue over what he tweeted. Then he would call in to Fox & Friends  and calmly explain what he meant by the tweet. By the time he finished his 10:00 am press conference — which was covered by the major media — he had saturated the news cycle all morning and set the tone for the day’s news. Later that day, he would hold a twenty-thousand-person rally followed by an hour-long spont on Sean Hannity that evening.

“It was routine for Trump to get millions of dollars’ worth of free media attention without spending a penny. His primary opponents were drowning in his coverage. Most often, they only got attention by responding to something Trump said or did. This strategy worked through the general election — I’ve never seen anything like it in American politics. Hillary Clinton would speak at an event and none of the major networks would go cover it, because they knew viewers would immediately switch over to see the next thing Trump did or said.” 

It worked then and it still does. His Tweets get more press coverage than anything I have ever seen.

Using Twitter, President Trump always presented a good picture of himself. Even if it was chock full of lies or misdirection or untruths. The media really did take things a bit far at times but the media has done that for a long time now. I honestly haven’t felt the media to be objective for most of my adult life.  That is one reason that I felt that being a journalist and then becoming a journalism teacher was never the career for me. The integrity of the profession has deteriorated to tabloid levels.

As I look through my notes, I witness a change in my understanding. (That being said, I will not be voting for him in the 2020 election.) Rather, my change came from understanding what others see in him.

“Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people. Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope. American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream. Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect. And streets where mothers are safe from fear, schools where children learn in peace, and jobs where Americans prosper and grow are not too much to ask.

“When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before — for all Americans. This is our vision. This is our mission. But we can only get there together. We are one people, with one destiny. We all bleed the same blood. We all salute the same great American flag. And we are all made by the same God.

“When we fulfill this vision; when we celebrate our two hundred and fifty years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began. The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts, the bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls, and the confidence to turn those homes and dreams into action.”

When I first heard this, my knee-jerk response was that this quote was from someone I could have believed in.  My inner commentary went along the lines of:  Too bad the person who said it didn’t feel it with his whole heart and soul. To him, I guess, they were just words on paper to be read aloud. Instead, we are stuck with that: a two dimensional president. Words on paper and Words on Twitter.

Somewhere along this undertaking, I realized that President Trump did, in fact, mean those words. Maybe not to the depth of heart and soul (hey, I’m still working through all this okay?) but certainly at a higher level than I ever gave him credit.

But really, how did we get here? How did this man with so much controversy win the presidential election? Well, he knew how to manipulate people and more importantly the media. He is first and foremost a business man. (Whether a successful one or not is not part of this debate, he knows how to work people, otherwise, he really wouldn’t still be “rich” now would he?)

Gingrich wrote “What Trump intuitively understood, and which completely eluded reporters, was that the constant hostility was hurting their cause. Each time Trump was attacked for saying American interests were more important than global concerns, or that American jobs were more valuable than cheap products from other countries, or that rights of Americans should be protected over those of immigrants, normal Americans felt attacked themselves.

“And to those Americans, the assault on Trump for expressing rational self-interest on behalf of our country was a breaking point. The growing liberal bias and animosity towards dissenting opinion that had developed over the Obama era had become too great to endure.”

It took a while, but finally I could grasp this. Where I feel that the specifics of Trump’s platform was anti-everything I stood for, I have since realized that I have friends and family who support these causes but don’t feel that they are the center concern in their lives. Most people want the basics: life (health, prosperity), liberty (freedom) and the pursuit of happiness and they want to be able to protect these basic rights.

People only want what is best for their family and and those were personalized by their own definitions of their basic rights. Perhaps after that (I have to believe) many of them want the basic rights for others. I have really good, really intelligent friends who support LGBTQ rights and are not racist or prejudice and don’t judge me for my religious beliefs, but they still voted for Trump. Because they are worried about themselves first. And isn’t that the point: our basic rights are our rights. So while someone who is a minority have basic rights that are more specific because they have been without rights for so long, basic rights for the majority are the generic rights that are still part of the constitution. This is where the disconnect happens. This is where the people in our country are split. The rights for ourselves (majority, don’t change our rights) and the rights for others (minority, we need the same rights as everyone else). Please note: I am writing this from the perspective of a white, middle aged, middle class, female, employed, US citizen.

An insight that I wasn’t expecting from Gingrich was “Seeing that level of support from Americans looking for change, I told Callista as we left the Capital that if Obama governed from the center, he could split Republicans in the House and Senate and build an enduring Democratic governing majority for decades.

“As President, Obama did anything but govern from the center. Instead of enacting mainstream politics to solidify his broad-based support, he pursued what I described in an earlier book as a “secular-socialist” agenda that alienated key segments of the people who had voted for him in 2008.

“But it wasn’t just Obama and the Left’s policies that alienated Americans, it was their politics. The Left, and the Democratic Party apparatus that is its vehicle, decided a permanent Democratic majority could be built mainly on the strength of blacks, Hispanics, college-educated women, sexual identity politics and the young liberal voters — leaving out the rest of the broad coalition Obama had built in 2008.”

That is where the DNC started to go wrong and that is what lead to the election of President Trump. Somewhere along the way, the DNC forgot about the values and rights of all United States citizens.

I was curious about what my friends think are the 3 most important values / rights of a US Citizen (Thank you for responding to my poll and for now reading the reason for my poll, btw. ) One of the best answers was from my new friend, Mercy. She stated that family, advocacy and compassion are the three most important values.

“Values and Rights are not the same thing, although I wish we lived in a country where that was true. What I consider the most important values for people extends to all people, however that was the question. Americans as a majority value family, however families are torn apart daily by “rights”. You aren’t guaranteed the right to raise your child in this country, yet I hold family values dear to me. Respect, kindness, support, love, acceptance. I love that the majority of Americans will rally together under this banner, no matter what color, religion, orientation and so on. It is one thing that still truly makes us the America that the rest of the world once saw.

I can’t say speech, or Justice any more. I’ve seen these all to often gagged and misused by individuals that damage the whole. However as individuals, no matter where we live, the inherit right to speak up against injustice is still there. It might land you in jail. It might get you killed, but every human has the ability, and should, use their voice.

And that brings me to my last, compassion. Family, and speaking up do nothing if you lack compassion. I still have faith that the majority of Americans. The majority of all humans, are compassionate beings.”
~Mercy Fritz

Again I look at what went awry in 2016 and to do that I look back at 2008 and 2012. It was not minority votes that made Obama president, rather it was a combination black voters and voters from the upper Midwest. “The Left overlooked this fact and pursued a strategy of base mobilization by doubling down on explicitly identity-oriented politics. Rather than finding unifying fights that attracted broad-based support based on mutual self-interest and common values, the Left obsessed over race and gender issues.” ..

“By focusing so much of its rhetoric on explicitly identity-based appeals, the Left forgot to study the actual message that Obama had used.”

Obama had the magic, but no one has had it since and that leaves other means of gaining votes.

Gingrich quoted Kimberle’ Crenshaw: “Intersectionality …was  my attempt to make feminism, anti-racist activism, and anti-discrimination law do what I thought they should — highlight the multiple avenues through which racial and gender oppression were experienced so that the problems would be easier to discuss and understand.” He goes on to say “In theory, intersectionality builds coalitions by getting different minority groups to recognize that their griefs all have common, intersecting causes. In practice, it breeds division and resentment among the coalition it is trying to build. 

“Rather than leveling an alleged racial- and gender-based hierarchy of power, it inverts it, putting the supposedly least privileged persons at the top. The result is a self-narrowing bullying culture of privilege checking, because each group is trying to one-up the others in the rankings of who is most oppressed so that their niche concerns receive the most attention. Intersectionality replaces the call to recognize our shared humanity and the common goal of equal rights with a compulsion to divide us into smaller and smaller groups.”

As an outsider looking in, I can see this now. I can see the one-ups about who has it worse. (I hope the friends who love me still love me after this)

“Of course the results of the election were shocking at the time, but in hindsight, they were consistent with the trends of previous elections. Trump continued to build on Republican advantages with the middle class and the non-college educated whites. Meanwhile, the power of identity liberalism to boost turnout among the minority community proved to be a mirage. African American turnout was down significantly from 2008 and 2012 without the nation’s first black president on the ticket. And Trump actually increased the share of the vote received from African Americans and Hispanic over Mitt Romney. It turns out the identity liberalism even alienates members of minority groups more concerned about economic issues than niche social justice fights.

“Furthermore, Donald Trump was making an appeal based on identity as well — that of being an American. His patriotic call to Make America Great Again overwhelmed explicit appeals to race, gender and sexual orientation. This universal appeal based on broad issues and common culture trumped identity liberalism,” Gingrich stated in his book.

Universal appeal. That’s what it came down to. More people believed in the generalization than they did the specifics. Individual rights are important, but it comes down to family and individuality and even if many of the people believed in equal rights, they were still of the mind-set to take care of their own first.



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