Only in America and only to Americans is it a surprise that Trump is doing so well in the Republican primary. Why would he not? Everything’s in place for history to repeat itself
(01-31-2016, updated 07-14-2018) In an otherwise good article, Ann Marie Cox claims that Trump having such success in the Republican primary race could not have been foreseen with logic or by looking at history. Really?
I’ve Been Telling You!
Over the years I’ve written about many different aspects of American society that I find disturbing. The ubiquitous nationalism gives me the heebie-jeebies. I’ve written about the pledge of allegiance, how Europeans associate that kind of thing with Nazi Germany. When I tell Americans that, they’re either furious that I would compare America to Nazi Germany (because that’s all they got from what I said) or they blow it off, claiming breezily that something like that would never happen here. And now you have a guy like Trump in the Republican primary.
I can’t get my head around the complacency with which so many Americans let the police trample on their rights. At the very least, a cop will ask you where you’re headed when he stops you for speeding. That seems unimportant, but small things add up and the result is that the police think they can get away with murder, and they often do, as the African-American community knows all too well.
People just resign themselves to the fact that the police can pretty much do what they want. There are entire lists of dos and don’ts when interacting with the police. By staying polite and cooperative, you run the least risk of getting in trouble. If you’re white, that is. Many others idolize the police, calling them heroes at every chance, claiming that people who don’t obey every command by a cop have only themselves to blame if the cop gets violent. Those are the folks who are supporting Trump in this Republican primary.
This brings me to Americans’ love of authority figures and authoritarianism in general. The pledge of allegiance is the first instance of authoritarianism that Americans are usually confronted with, often at a very tender age indeed. When my daughter didn’t say the pledge in her kindergarten class, other kiddos frowned and told her she had to.
American high school history textbooks are even written to authoritarian guidelines: do not include anything controversial, do not encourage analytical thinking, do not discuss anything that might result in students questioning their “long-held beliefs”–read: Christian beliefs. The Texas Republican Party has these same guidelines as part of their education agenda.
The American political system is almost per definition dysfunctional. For one thing, having only two parties–for all intents and purposes–means that there really aren’t any parties at all; people vote for individuals. This leads to ridiculous discussions about politicians’ appearance, their charisma or lack of it, etc, instead of discussing in depth the issues the country is facing. It also leads to an absurd idolization of individual politicians.
The other big problem with American politics is politicians’ dependence on money. People are disenfranchised because politicians make promises but once they’re in office they do exactly what the big-bucks lobbyists tell them to. This has become even worse since the Supreme Court decided that corporations are people, and therefore corporations can donate to politicians. Money in politics make this country an oligarchy rather than a democracy.
The blatant lying–in politics, on the “news” and on talk radio–is simply flabbergasting. Apparently no rules exist ensuring that a supposedly informative statement has to at least be factually correct. It’s gotten to the point that many Americans live in a completely different universe, where the earth is flat, where Obama is a Nazi Muslim Kenyan and where most people can’t tell an actual fascist from a hole in the ground. Until it’s too late, anyway.
Internationally, America is the butt of jokes and the source of much anger. The country is mired in a war in Iraq that led to, among other things, a huge mess in Syria and the consequent mess in Europe. It’s embarrassing. The American government is weak, the political system dysfunctional. Combine all of the above with a set of primary candidates on both sides that ranges from weak to bat shit crazy, and one loud-mouthed strong-man who steps up and stirs the pot as he hops from one scapegoat to the next, promising that he will make America great again, and you have the exact scenario as in Germany in the 1930s. It’s World History 101.
How the hell does this come as a surprise?
(This post was first published on the blog Resident Alien: Being Dutch in America, under the title: “Surprise? I Think Not”, 01-31-2016)
- Cox, Ana Marie. “Brace Yourselves: President Trump Is Now a Possibility. And It’s Terrifying”. Daily Beast, 01.31.16 11:29 AM E. https://www.thedailybeast.com/president-trump-is-now-a-possibility-and-its-terrifying?source=TDB&via=FB_Page
- MacWilliams, Matthew. “The One Weird Trait That Predicts Whether You’re a Trump Supporter”. (Political Science). Politico Magazine, January 17, 2016. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/donald-trump-2016-authoritarian-213533
Header image: The Atlantic. Atlantic.com