Saturday, August 13, 2016

Trump and the Exploitation of White Male Rage

The husband and I are in Somerset, Pennsylvania for the weekend for family reunions on my husband's side.  As in the past, the area makes the Hampton Roads area of Virginia seem like the cosmopolitan, liberal center of the universe in comparison.  Indeed, in driving around town and the countryside, we have yet to see a single Hillary yard sign.  In contrast we have seen a number of Trump signs.  The Somerset area is in some ways a perfect setting for Trump and the white male rage that he is exploiting to fuel is frightening campaign if one listens to the regular media narrative: mostly white, many non-college educated, and a region where the demise of coal mining and other industries has hit the economy hard.  However, a new Gallup survey suggests that the narrative is at least partially incorrect.  The real root of the rage: the poison of Fox News and right-wing talk radio, plus a heavy dose of sense of lost white male privilege.  A piece in Salon looks at the issue.  Here are highlights:
We’ve all seen the videos replayed over and over again on social media and cable news. The past couple of weeks, however, featured two videos illustrating what I’d consider to be typical Trump supporters. Indeed, by now many of us can easily profile a Trump voter before they even have a chance to shout “Traitor!” into our not-surprised faces.
Generally speaking, Trump supporters are non-college-educated white men, ranging from younger “bros” to, more typically, white male baby-boomer retirees with plenty of spare time to be relentlessly irradiated by Fox News and AM talk radio.
While the lack of a college diploma binds most Trump supporters together, there are more obvious tells — ones that we can plainly see but that can’t be fully measured by pollsters. Specifically, it’s not easy to quantify the growing resentment of white males who believe they’re slowly losing their millennia-long grip on societal power. Likewise, it’s difficult to measure the brainwashing of Trump’s loyalists by the Fox News and talk radio echo-chamber. Yet we see it on display every day.
[A] similar incident occurred with an older white man who was filing out of a Trump rally in Kissimmee, Florida, but who stopped for a minute or two to completely humiliate himself by shouting incoherent bromides at the press. “You are traitors! I am an American patriot!” .... the man yelled, his eyes cartoonishly bulging out of his head. “I am a patriot! And your name is ‘Traitor!'” he continued to the delight of his fellow Trumpeteers.
The disconnect between how we expect older men like him to behave and how they’re comportingthemselves today is, in a word, disturbing.
Context is, of course, vitally important here. The Kissimmee fracas occurred seconds after Trump finished another of his rambling blurt sessions, and the man was obviously wound up and affected by what he heard. But we don’t expect older people to be this impressionable. . . . .  fully revealed his vulnerability to the suggestions of a charismatic would-be dictator, and didn’t mind his unspooled rantings being recorded and aired by the press. He didn’t seem to be at all concerned, nor did it even occur to him how, to the rest of the thinking world, he came off as a crazy person. A laughingstock. Except to so many others just like him.
When discussing Trump’s base, sympathetic words are often tossed into the mix due to the common wisdom indicating how they’re frustrated with the allegedly awful economy, struggling to make ends meet. . . . [however]  a new study by Gallup shows that economic issues aren’t necessarily driving Trump’s base.
According to this new analysis, those who view Trump favorably have not been disproportionately affected by foreign trade or immigration, compared with people with unfavorable views of the Republican presidential nominee. The results suggest that his supporters, on average, do not have lower incomes than other Americans, nor are they more likely to be unemployed. 
Gallup went on to suggest that other factors could be contributing to the discontent among white working-class Americans, but the economy and immigration don’t appear to be fully animating the mania that’s so prevalent among Trump’s people.
Trump isn’t necessarily responsible for the behavior of his most activated loyalists, but he’s certainly tapped into an existing cache of psychosis and he’s exploiting it for political gain. Trump’s base has been pre-tenderized by what David Frum calls the “conservative entertainment complex.” Since at least the Clinton administration, white men have been slowly indoctrinated and, in too many cases, brainwashed by conservative media and its rather loose grip on reality. 
A recently released documentary by Jen Senko, titled “The Brainwashing of My Dad,” covered this particular phenomenon: . . . . The film follows the life of Senko’s father, who was once a Kennedy Democrat and, through daily assaults by right-wing radio and television, transformed into a racist conservative zealot. Similarly, it’s not difficult to diagnose the Kissimmee man and his cohorts as having been similarly brainwashed by the extremist rhetoric of both conservative entertainment and the Republican Party itself . . . 
If you convince enough men that alleged outsiders (women, minorities, immigrants) are stripping them of their long-held power, as Fox News and others have done, there’s going to eventually be a fight, especially when one of those so-called outsiders is a black president with the middle name “Hussein.” Older white men don’t intend to hand over power quietly . . . . based on recent video footage, I wonder if they’re even aware of how ridiculously deranged they appear, alone or most often in large groups.

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