An ongoing question that is being asked by citizens living in the stark reality of the 21st century is, “Why does a segment of Americans, characterized as die-hard Trumpers, believe with blind-absolute-faith in an autocratic ideology?” What is at the ethos – the core of their beliefs and attitudes?
Why does this segment of society, (estimated to be debatably a hard-core 18%) support blatant pathological lying, fabricated falsehoods, ignore criminality, believe in obstructing justice, skirt the rule of law, support extremism, oppose transparency, reject critical thinking, resort to uncivil threats, stoop to undignified – unlettered narratives, distort validated truth and tolerate violent extremism?
Why do the apostles and disciples of hard-core Trumpism continue to believe the unbelievable, denying historical context, facts, court rulings, blame for the insurrection on the Capitol, deny corroborated testimonies by fellow Republicans, reject video proof – all while deflecting incriminating recordings-emails-texts, debasing and threatening fellow Republican legislators, Republican lawyers and Republican appointed judges? How blind does faith have to be?
This leads to a critical question that continues to be asked since 2016 – how could an American citizen run for, and win the presidency in 2016, who at the time was considered to be a threat to American Democracy? How did this happen in the 21st century in America? How could a segment of society so quickly believe in one man and in an authoritarian-autocratic ideology?
I question whether the faith was ever blind, whether the absolute faith was born in 2016. Or was it a matter of coming to terms with the reality of a deep-seated identity as to who such die-hard Trumpers were before Trump decided to run for office.
My contention is that this segment of American society was “primed – standing ready and waiting” for the next “Great White Hope” – even before political escalators were invented! A segment of America was ready to follow regardless of the insidious ideological pathology.
Donald Trump recognized the proclivities, biases and yearning for a delusional past and was the master delusionist awakening the antiquated monster. With bravado, screaming ad nauseam contrived talking points, he provided a predisposed audience confirmation of preexisting beliefs looking for affirmation, not veracity and truthfulness.
He awakened the delusion monster based on established historical biases held dear by a segment of Americans that felt disenfranchised since 1863, fearing being replaced and of losing their inherited privileges and entitlements.
During the Republican primaries of 2016, Marco Rubio slammed his presidential rival Donald Trump for his inflammatory rhetoric saying that the front-runner was acting like a dictator. “Most countries around the world that are failures are because they deposit their hopes in a person, a strong leader who comes forward and says ‘Put me in power. And I will make the country better,’” Rubio told The New York Times. “That’s exactly what he’s doing. The rhetoric reminds me of third-world strongmen.”
The Florida senator added that the country needed to come to grips with the reality of what Trump would bring as president. “There’s going to be a reckoning no matter how this election turns out,” he said. “And I just don’t know if that’ll happen in time. I hope it does.” “But you mark my words, there will be prominent people in American politics who will spend years explaining to people how they fell into this.”
Fast forward to 2023 and prominent people in American politics continue to ask how and why there is a candidate running for president with the following shameful credentials:
91 criminal charges
24 sexual assault allegations
5 draft deferments
1 convicted company
1 fake university shut down
1 fake charity shut down
$25 million fraud settlement
$5 million sexual abuse verdict
$2 million charity abuse judgement
But these realities only speak to court cases, indictments and verdicts. There are other social-cultural-political-psychological characteristics that are part and parcel of the “persona” that speak to a the person’s character.
We mention “character” often when dealing with personal relationships, employer-employee expectations and institutional core principles. But what about the moral compass that we pass on to the young and expect of each other?
What about those human attributes and characteristics that parents, family members, teachers, mentors and nurturers pass on to generations of children. Those human qualities that move us from just being human to humanness. Are these but dogmatic illusions, not meant for the real world?
Accountability, Awareness of the Human Condition, Compassion, Credibility,
Decency, Dignity, Empathy, Ethics, Fairness, Honesty, Integrity, Justice,
Maturity, Mutual Respect, Legacy, Principles, Pursuit of the Truth,
Respect for the Law, Responsibility, Trust, Values
Are these some of the same credentials that citizens expect from their elected officials? What self worth does our citizenship truly reflect? To what extent should our vote reflect such values?
The critics of Donald Trump accuse him of being a pathological liar, demagogue, xenophobe, racist, sexist, misogynist, chaos agent, social destabilizer, scandalous, enemy of fact-based discourse, disrespectful of the press, indifferent to the Constitution, manipulating and rejecting the rule of law, declining to denounce white supremacy, not well read nor a critical thinker, incoherent, inarticulate, admirer of past and current autocratic strong men and disloyal to democratic norms and principles.
If but a few of these alleged characteristics are true, the question that begs to be asked is whether such a person should hold the highest position of power representing all of the people of the United States of America – a position demanding integrity and dignity? The bottom line being, “Can he be trusted?” Can any wannabe autocrat be trusted? Can any of his supporters and enablers be trusted?
There are many who still ask, “How did this ‘picaro’ ever become president in the first place?”
That said, no one man or woman unleashed Trumpism on America. That learning curve took place long ago and has been present throughout American history. The blind faith was never blind, but rather a predisposition festering throughout American history.
The definition of a predisposition can be viewed through different lenses. In medicine, genetic susceptibility to a disease refers to a genetic predisposition which may eventually be triggered by particular environmental or lifestyle factors, such as tobacco smoking or diet. Genetic testing is able to identify individuals who are genetically predisposed to certain diseases.
But what about social-cultural-political-psychological predispositions planted during our early developmental years? What about those early environmental learning curves creating predispositions nurtured and mentored from birth by way of family members using prejudicial language, modeling racist-sexist attitudes, biases introduced by friends, close-mindedness initiated by acquaintances, companions denying and revising historical regional context, affiliations radicalizing – fostering fear, hate and mistrust of everyone that is different?
What is the weight and power of influence of each of these social constructs and agencies on our persona – our identity – on what we come to believe as absolute with blind-faith? That social curriculum can become deeply ingrained, predisposing and blinding the reality of living in the 21st century. Living with such conscious and unconscious lifestyle factors do not only dehumanize self, but others.
To ask hard-core Trumpers to deal with facts, evidence and truth is a psychological-social-cultural-political-religious attack on their identity – who they have been and who they are. Who they see in the mirror 24/7/365. To deny Trumpism is to deny self-identity.
But how could this happen to a people – a society that requires some 12 years of schooling and are said to be civilized and educated? How could an autocrat deceive, not only some of the people, but a large segment of the people, most of the time?
A reality that needs to be kept in mind by American citizens, is that factual history was not taught until after the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The lack of historical transparency and honesty presented to students remained veiled and white-washed with teachers remaining at best neutral, at worst silent, as to America’s inherited reality of overt, covert, systemic, aversive racism.
Education, that could have been preventing predispositions remained silent until critical thinking, experiential learning, interdisciplinary studies and 21st Century Student Skills (2010) began to emerge and mapped across curricula. But not all schools came on board as some interpreted critical thinking skills, critical pedagogy, critical research methods, student collaboration and debate as an affront to the established status quo of traditional books and teaching methods.
Historical transparency was a threat to the delusion monster. Even some prestigious Independent Schools, known for their college admissions to Ivy League schools, had a choice to make – Independent to change by choice and design or Independent to remain the same.
Until the 1960s, the history of America lacked in-depth knowledge about the founding unnamed dilemma that would plague America to this day – “Equal but Separate.” In the first edition of the book Lies My Teacher Told Me, historian and sociologist James Loewen analyzed over a dozen major high school history textbooks for bias and inaccuracies. Loewen found that out of 12 textbooks, only five listed “racism,” “racial prejudice,” or any term beginning with “race” in their indexes.
A fifth-grade Milwaukee teacher who sorted through his state-approved US history textbooks found the situation even more dismal in his home state: “Even though publishers make claims about being ‘multicultural’ and honoring our nation’s ‘diversity,’ none of the 5th-grade United States history textbooks—even those exceeding 800 pages—examines the role of racism in U.S. history or even mentions the word “racism.’” Only two textbooks included the term “discrimination.”
The story of eugenics (known as Race Science – Scientific Racism), and its ties to racism, were not disclosed in history books, but rather misused science to justify racial discrimination and a rationale for white supremacy. In other words, that a persons condition in life, socioeconomic condition, status and educational achievements were immutable, pre-formed genes he/she inherited from parents at the moment of conception.
Without any concrete evidence, why would scientists want to go to all the trouble to create distinct biological races? According to Maria Castagna and George J. Sefa Dei, “whites created different ‘sciences’ and ‘scientific’ theories to justify, legitimize and maintain the existing social order.” “Therefore, rather than being based solely in objective observation, scientific racism is a scientific tradition in which biology is used not only to prove the existence of race, but also, to maintain existing social hierarchies.” (*)
As Barbara Fields so poignantly explains, “Bondage does not need justifying as long as it seems to be the natural order of things. You need a radical affirmation of bondage only where you have a radical affirmation of freedom.” (**)
The delusion monster had a problem! America’s radical . . . immortal declaration of freedom . . . “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
As Alan H. Goodman, Biological Anthropologist points out in “RACE: The Power of an Illusion” (***) “To understand why the idea of race is a biological myth requires a major paradigm shift, an absolute paradigm shift, a shift in perspective. And for me, it’s like seeing, you know, what it must have been like to understand that the world isn’t flat. And perhaps I can invite you to a mountain top and you can look out the window and at the horizon and see, “oh what I thought was flat I can now see is a curve,” that the world is much more complicated. In fact, that race is not based on biology but race is rather an idea that we ascribe to biology.”
“The racialized society we live in has been under construction for three centuries. How can we unmake race unless we first confront its enormity as a historical and social reality, and its emptiness as biology?” (RACE: The Power of an Illusion)
The delusion of white supremacy has kept a segment of Americans hostage from learning about itself by ‘things unsaid, reverberating silence, and stories yet untold’. As James Baldwin so poignantly and brilliantly explains in his book, “Notes of a Native son” in 1955,
“It is only in his music, which Americans are able to admire, because a protective sentimentality limits their understanding of it, that the Negro in America has been able to tell his story.
It is a story which otherwise has yet to be told and which no American is prepared to hear.
As is the inevitable results of things unsaid, we find ourselves until today oppressed with a dangerous and reverberating silence; and the story is told, compulsively, in symbols and signs, in hieroglyphics; it is revealed in Negro speech and that of the white majority in their differentiations frames of reference. One may say that the Negro in America does not really exist except in the darkness of our minds.
This is why his history and his progress, his relationship to all other Americans, has been kept in the social arena.
He is a social and not a personal or a human problem; to think of him is to think of statistics, slums, rapes, injustices, remote violence, it is to be confronted with an endless cataloguing of losses, gains, skirmishes; it is to feel virtuous, outraged, helpless, as though his continuing status among us were somehow analogous to disease – cancer, perhaps, or tuberculosis – which must be checked, even though it cannot be cured.”
History books can only go so far in providing the counterstories that continue to slowly surface. There are still too many unmarked graves on southern soil calling to be validated as human beings. This is why interdisciplinary educational ventures between subjects (history, social sciences, language arts, performing and visual arts, Science) can provide students, not only with historical facts and data, but provide emotional intelligence and moral courage regarding major reasons why students attend 12 years of education and beyond.
That is, the meaning of citizenship living within a Democracy. That curricular objective should be mapped beginning at pre-school and continue through college. But upon our graduation, it’s all left to us as we begin our busy lives.
The 21st century beckons students and citizens to continue to pursue American history in order to learn from the past, be forewarned and also recognize the reasons why America still needs to heal from its multigenerational traumatic wounds.
That said, there are school districts and alt-right parent groups that desperately want students to avoid critical thinking, collaborative research, open discourse and critical literature review in order to keep young minds sequestered and isolated from the truth. The fear being that generations of graduates from high school and college will begin to vote with civic awareness, courage and consciousness.
As Eddie Glaude* points out on Alex Witt Reports On Race & the Classroom – July 29, 2023, “At the core of so much of our problems, who you chose and what you chose to leave out of your stories, actually reveal the limits of your idea of justice. If you don’t tell a story that includes Native Peoples, then your mind is not attuned to what is happening in your lives. You don’t tell a story where ordinary working people play a central role in making the nation great, then you’re quick to dismiss working people. If you don’t tell a story about black and brown folk and women, as full fledged actively participating then you can easily dismiss them. Donald Yacovone – wrote a wonderful book “Teaching White Supremacy” – where he did this extraordinary study of high school teaching – the way slavery has been taught – that shows that it becomes a critical part of producing the notion of American identity that is tethered to the notion of “whiteness.” And so to say it more clearly Alex, we tell a story that allows us to do monstrous things . . . and if we are going to be a better Democracy, we need to tell better stories that we can be better people . . . it seems to me.”
* Eddie S. Glaude Jr. ~ Princeton University, James S. McDonnel Distinguished University Professor, Department of African American Studies, Educator, Author, Political Commentator.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, left unmentioned in history books, was the reality that white people came to believe that “whiteness” was the default ideal, the superior and standard identity, and all others were inherent deviations from “whiteness”. To ask white people to reflect and consider alternatives with open mindedness was to ask them to purge their identity.
I posit that a segment of American society has been predisposed since 1492-1494, 1526, 1619 and 1776 – (your preference as to dates depending on the historical context of when slavery began in America). Regardless of when, nearly 12.5 million enslaved human beings were transported between 1500 and 1866 suffering inhuman, cataclysmic, multigenerational trauma.
What about the numbers that died on those ships from hell, murdered, raped or committed suicide? What about the youngest among them separated from parents, grandparents and then sold? Can such horror be even described in words?
The ingrained inhumanity lingered over generations. So how much time does it take for a society to psychologically, socially, culturally, politically, humanely purge itself from absolutely believing with blind faith in its supremacy over others and convinced of being the master race?
Also, apart from being predisposed, I believe that hard-core Trumpers were not provided with the tools by which to implement critical thinking, reflection and introspection. The “Me Monster Syndrome” – “Me, Myself and I” attitudes, along with “You are not the boss of Me!”, “Don’t Tread on Me”, “White is right and always right!” short-circuited pathways to reasoning, compromise, common sense, logic and rule of law.
Their manifesto is based on the absolute blind faith belief that there are certain people who are the real Americans, and those people have the absolute right to win every election regardless of whether their candidate receives the most votes. And if they get out-voted, then state legislators should step in and change the outcome because they are the only legitimate Americans and therefore their political will is the absolute legitimate will. This is the false pretext and anti-democratic delusion that coincides with Autocratic, Fascist, Nazi beliefs. The delusion of superiority and supremacy is pathological – not normal – an illness – a mental impairment – a psychosis.
That said, pathological predispositions have been present throughout American History. We fought a four year Civil War (April 12, 1861-April 9, 1865) with some 620,000 known dead over the delusion of Confederate States justifying inhumanity. To this day a segment of the “Old South” romanticizes its reasons in myths and legends for withdrawing from the United States. Often not mentioned is the fact that there were some 850,000 casualties due to a lack of verifiable written records. The real number does not consider those who lived beyond the four years of horror mentally and physically traumatized. Over what?
Unfortunately, this is the segment of American society that has been ripe to be used and abused by politicians seeking power and its control. For those who wonder why highly educated folks support the Trumpism ideology, there is an answer as to why politicians, (graduates of stellar Law Schools), echo lies and profess altered realities. Unlike the citizens that they fraudulently con, they know the truth and live with the immorality. It is clear that the oath to the Constitution and their legacy does not matter. We are now witnessing shameless hypocrisy, dishonesty and pathological lying as a norm – worn proudly as badges of dishonor.
How do hard-core enablers of Trumpism get so comfortable with lying? How do they adapt to this psychological disorder? How do they live with themselves? What reality bubble must they live in to remain so calloused and numb to the lies and chaos they promote? History again provides a window.
Joseph McCarthy, United States Senator from Wisconsin would have made a stellar Trumper. But he was derailed in his power plays when he took on the U. S. Army and Joseph Welch, a Boston attorney who the Army hired to make its case before McCarthy’s committee.
On June 9, 1954, McCarthy charged that one of Welch’s attorneys had ties to a Communist organization. In the words of the United States Senate Archives, “As an amazed television audience looked on, Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career: ‘Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.’ When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, ‘Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?’”
It’s sad to witness a segment of fellow citizens who needlessly spend precious time existing in the past weighed down by self-imposed self-oppression, hopelessness, bitterness, despair and fear.
It is sad to hear fellow citizens holding on to dear life with their inherited delusion of white supremacy.
It is sad to realize that a segment of our fellow citizens will die with teeth grit consumed by self-inflicted delusions that were taught as absolute and made them blind. But America is moving on.
The forewarnings and lessons of history continue to reflect wisdom and hope. I again refer to James Baldwin who, beyond eloquence, taught me that during the darkest of days, to look inward where hope awaits its calling.
I must admit that, in this at times, I have failed. The needless daily madness, anxiety, stress and chaos from time to time overwhelms my spirit . . . like watching America having a stroke and heart attack at the same time . . . like watching political zombies committing random acts of hate . . . needlessly.
But I continue to lean and reflect on Baldwin’s writings that provide a discomforting solace, requiring me to lean into the reality of our troubled past with an urgency and intensity that the monster of inhumanity still lurks in the psychotic depths of America’s legacy.
Unfortunately, after Trumpism self-consumes, as it will, the desperate search for the next “Great White Hope” will continue by a dying segment of Americana that is stuck on being stuck. Trumpism will rise again, but each time with fewer cultists. The name will change. The antagonist will look different. There will be different hats, tag lines and contrived talking points. Shrinking numbers will faithfully attend and wave the same tired flags. Fox News may still be around courting the same shrinking base. Maybe even alter “Fair and Balanced” to simply “Honest and True.”
Alt-right militias, domestic terrorists, white supremacists will continue to profess their manifestos of hate, even as die-hard red states begin to turn purple . . . healing . . . one day at a time . . . healing . . . one voting cycle after another . . . healing . . . turning blood red streams into midnight blue cleansing waters. It will all take time.
What would James Baldwin say to us in the present? He continues to speak, providing us with the complexities of America’s struggle with identity – urging us to liberate ourselves from ourselves.
The following are the last words of the book Notes of a Native Son:
” People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.
The time has come to realize that the interracial drama acted out on the American continent has not only created a new black man, it has created a new white man, too.
No road whatever will lead Americans back to the simplicity of this European village where white men still have the luxury of looking on me as a stranger. I am not really a stranger any longer for any American alive.
One of the things that distinguishes Americans from other people is that no other people has ever been so deeply involved in the lives of black men, and vice versa. This fact faced, with all its implication, it can be seen that the history of the American Negro problem is not merely shameful, it is also something of an achievement.
For even when the worst has been said, it must also be added that the perpetual challenge posed by this problem was always, somehow, perpetually met. It is precisely this black-white experience which may prove of indispensable value to us in the world we face today. This world is white no longer and it never will be white again.”
As a sidebar: Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin should be required reading for all High School students (English and History) before graduating and for all adult citizens before voting. Baldwin wrote Notes of a Native Son in 1955 but germane with 21st century realities.
So in turn, what would we say to James Baldwin if he was across the table of discourse? Have we continued to perpetually meet “the problem” . . . “the reality”? Is there hope?
You bet – unequivocally because of that (debatably) 82% of Americans who believe mind, heart and spirit in Democracy, inalienable rights, rule of law and have the emotional intelligence and moral courage to defend it!
~ I see it and hear it from the Silent Generation that recognizes and remembers the hate of Fascism and Nazism they fought against and see it coming to life again.
~ I see and hear it from Baby Boomers who remember why they marched during the 1960s.
~ I see and hear Millennials who are making time to define, compare and contrast Autocracy vs Democracy and are wise to charlatans and fear-mongering.
~ I see and hear women who continue to fight for and educate America about reproductive health and rights, intimate partner violence, gender equality, economic pay gap, empowerment and representation in leadership.
~ I see and hear members of the LGBTQIA+ community dealing with the violence of hate crimes, advocating for and educating America regarding parenting rights, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, public accommodations, unequal healthcare, trauma and familial conflict, transphobia and advocate for increase in scholarship on LGBTQIA+ rights, issues, tolerance and inclusion.
~ I see and hear it among Republicans who still respect and revere Democracy, rule of law and are willing to stand alone if need be to voice with dignity and courage their disgust with what their party has become.
~ I see and hear it in my neighbors who embrace and respect the diversity of our community and care about folks far beyond our zip code.
~ I see it and hear it with my grandchildren on play dates, rollicking without noticing difference and their parents urging the same.
~ I see and hear it in Gen Zers safeguarding each other’s backs, getting involved unapologetically in local politics, articulating serious complex issues we face as a country and world – along with solutions.
~ I see and hear it in the thousands of yearly high school and college graduates who hear during commencement speeches to “Change your world for the better!” and I believe they will.
~ And I see and hear hope in the Gen Alpha who are watching and listening with 21st century ears . . . eyes . . . minds . . . and hearts . . .
“Hope is born again in the faces of the children
It rides on the shoulder of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches freezing in the dark corridors.”
~ Maya Angelou ~ “Amazing Peace”: A Christmas Poem
Written for White House tree-lighting ceremony, 2005 ~
(*) Castagna M, Sefa Dei GJ. An Historical Overview of the Application of the Race Concept in Social Practice. In: Calliste A, Sefa Dei GJ, editors. Anti-Racist Feminism: Critical Race and Gender Studies Halifax. Nova Scotia: Fernwood; 2000. pp. 19–37.
(**) Fields, B. (2003). The historical origins and development of racism. In Race – The Power of an illusion. [Newsreel]. California, U.S. Retrieved 11/30/2004 from www.pbs.org
(***) Race: The Power of an Illusion is a three-part documentary series produced by California Newsreel investigating the idea of race in society, science and history. The series originally screened on American public television in April, 2003 and was primarily funded by Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Ford Foundation and PBS.
The series is highly recommended for High School Science Genetics, Biology, Microbiology, Mitochondrial DNA, Biological Anthropology, History, Social Sciences, Civic Courses.