FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Want to Stop Trump? Promote Open Dialogue

Donald Trump’s recent rise in the polls has been both meteoric and puzzling. Many commentators expected his appeal to fizzle out by now. But, as he is often keen to point out, Trump still holds a commanding lead over his main rivals in the GOP field.

What’s particularly perplexing is that every time he makes bold, sweeping generalizations about a political issue, or attacks his opponents in a visceral manner, he receives widespread condemnation from politicians on both sides, as well as the media – but almost always, this outrage is followed by a rise in his numbers at the polls. Just when people start thinking, “Well, his campaign is over after that comment!” the exact opposite happens. Why is this the case?

Many candidate explanations have been put forth, some more charitable to Trump supporters than others. The more charitable explanations often invoke the frustration of blue-collar workers at persistent low wages. But why would such workers support Trump rather than Bernie Sanders, who promises a $15 minimum wage? Perhaps Trump supporters do not believe that high minimum wages are good for maintaining low unemployment. That may be true, but then why aren’t these people attracted to more centrist candidates like Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush, who have not pushed for high minimum wage figures? For many reasons, then, this particular explanation is unsatisfactory.

However, there is an alternate possibility. It’s common wisdom that when certain human desires are suppressed, they have the potential to express themselves in extreme or distorted ways. For instance, one of the common explanations for why there is much more binge drinking on U.S. college campuses, as compared with Europe, is that the legal and social norms around alcohol consumption by minors are much stricter in the U.S. So, when kids finally get the freedom to drink in college, they often do so excessively.

The case of Trump supporters might be analogous. What has been repressed in this case is open dialogue about some of the most challenging social and political questions of our time. Trump is able to thrive in the vacuum left by the intellectual, cultural, and political elite’s suppression of frank and open discussion of certain issues.

Here is a concrete example. A 2013 Pew Research study revealed widespread support of Sharia law among populations in the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In many countries, the majority of Sharia supporters thought that the punishment for adultery ought to be stoning, and that the punishment for leaving the religion ought to be death. Now, this data raises several important and challenging questions for the West with regards to immigration and foreign policy. It’s intellectually dishonest to pretend otherwise, and we ought to be able to talk about the study and its implications without immediately resorting to words ending in “phobia” or “ism.” Yet, the media, along with the intellectual and political elites, largely ignored the study – leaving room for Trump’s citation of erroneous data in support of his proposed “ban” to dominate discussion.

Thus, perhaps we need to rethink our practices of avoiding conversation about controversial issues surrounding immigration and foreign policy. Otherwise, we might have to deal with Trump-like figures in politics for years to come.

More articles by:

Hrishikesh Joshi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University, in the Department of Philosophy, focusing primarily in ethics and political philosophy.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
George Wuerthner
The Highest Use of Public Forests: Carbon Storage
Ralph Nader
It is Time to Rediscover Print Newspapers
Nick Licata
How SDS Imploded: an Inside Account
Rachel Smolker – Anne Peterman
The GE American Chestnut: Restoration of a Beloved Species or Trojan Horse for Tree Biotechnology?
Sam Pizzigati
Can Society Survive Without Empathy?
Manuel E. Yepe
China and Russia in Strategic Alliance
Patrick Walker
Green New Deal “Climate Kids” Should Hijack the Impeachment Conversation
Colin Todhunter
Encouraging Illegal Planting of Bt Brinjal in India
Robert Koehler
The Armed Bureaucracy
David Swanson
Anyone Who’d Rather Not be Shot Should Read this Book
Jonathan Power
To St. Petersburg With Love
Marc Levy
How to Tell a Joke in Combat
Thomas Knapp
Pork is Not the Problem
Manuel García, Jr.
Global Warming and Solar Minimum: a Response to Renee Parsons
Jill Richardson
Straight People Don’t Need a Parade
B. R. Gowani
The Indian Subcontinent’s Third Partition
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: The Black Body in LA
Jonah Raskin
‘69 and All That Weird Shit
Michael Doliner
My Surprise Party
Stephen Cooper
The Fullness of Half Pint
Charles R. Larson
Review: Chris Arnade’s “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America”
David Yearsley
Sword and Sheath Songs
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail