Thursday, August 18, 2016

Trump foments misplaced anger

By Tom Maertens
August 18, 2016

Anger is all the rage in Republican circles. Donald Trump is angry because the system is rigged, the primaries were rigged, the presidential debates are rigged, the general election will be rigged, and the press is unfair.

Trump uses such charges and froths at the media to stoke anger and paranoia. Among other scurrilous claims, he has asserted that Obama and Clinton “founded” ISIS and that she wants to repeal the Second Amendment.

A New York Times video of Trump rallies shows his supporters shouting “kill her,” “hang the bitch,” and less printable epithets. With a little prompting, many of them would probably shout “burn the witch!”

The German Socialist leader Kurt Schumacher famously denounced National Socialism in the Reichstag in 1932 as “a continuous appeal to the inner swine in human beings.”

Trump does the same, appealing to anger, hate, and misogyny in his quest for power. The “birther” accusations that launched his political career constituted thinly veiled racism. His inflammatory rhetoric about Second Amendment supporters preventing Clinton from appointing Supreme Court justices risks setting off some gun-zealot psychopath. His demagoguery and incitement to violence, including against immigrants, is the closest thing to fascism we have heard since Father Charles Coughlin’s pro-Hitler, pro-Mussolini radio broadcasts of the 1930s.

Trump is also exploiting the anxiety and fear that mass shootings and the occasional terror attacks have created to portray the country in crisis, one only he can fix.

9/11 aside, however, very few Americans are affected by terrorism. From 2004 to 2013, only 36 Americans were killed by terrorists in the U.S. Compare that with the roughly 33,000 people who die from guns and 38,000 who die in car accidents every year. Violent crime nationwide, with the exception of a few larger cities like Chicago, has dropped dramatically since 1993.

Three-time Pulitzer winner Thomas Friedman labeled Trump “a man who generates support by conspiracy theories and making people afraid of the future and one another,” adding that he lies as easily as he breathes.

Yet surprisingly, Trump has the overwhelming support of evangelical voters. As Shaun King explained in the New York Daily News, Donald Trump is winning evangelical voters because Christianity for millions of white evangelicals in America is white supremacy in disguise.

King wrote that if he were forced to create someone who is the opposite of Jesus Christ, that person would look a lot like Donald Trump [the antichrist? — LP]. But that doesn’t seem to faze the holier-than-thou family-values crowd, nor does seeing Trump’s five children from three marriages on stage together.

The reality, says Ian Goldin, from Oxford University and co-author of Age of Discovery: “This is the best moment in history to be alive — human health, literacy, aggregate wealth and education are flourishing.” We live longer and better than any previous generation.

Angus Maddison, the historian of global growth, calculates the annual rate of growth in the Western world from AD 1 to AD 1820 at .06 percent per year, or 6 percent per century.

In contrast, the IMF projects a global growth rate of 3.1% — for one year.

The U.S. has had a record-breaking 77 months of economic growth that averages better than 2 percent per year.

We’ve added 15 million private-sector jobs since the Bush recession; inflation and interest rates are low, and the stock market is at record highs. The Consumer Confidence Index has been close to 100 in the last year, an eleven-year high.

Of course, no one has ever recruited activists to a cause by announcing that things are good.

There are always some problems. The median income of a full time male worker is lower than it was 40 years ago; between 2009-2012, 95 percent of all the gains in the U.S. went to the top 1 percent. Even there, however, the recent jobs report shows wages rising at an annual rate of 2.6 percent.

A majority of Americans still regard their country as being on the “wrong track.” The reality is that a significant percentage of the population, starting with Trump’s “birther” crowd, would believe the country is going in the wrong direction simply because there is a black man in the White House.

As for Donald Trump, the NYT wrote, “over the span of Mr. Trump’s career, it is hard to find a project he touched that did not produce allegations of broken promises, blatant lies or outright fraud.” That includes 3,500 lawsuits against him.

Now he is engaged in the biggest scam of his career: trying to pass himself off as qualified to be president.

Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counter-terrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11. He lives in Mankato.


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