FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail