While one encounters many definitions of Trumpism based on President Trump’s statements and actions, because of the contradiction in Trump’s statements and actions, I favor a less textual and policy-based definition. To me, Trumpism is believing things despite there being no basis in fact for them. As a necessary corollary, Trumpism requires ignoring obvious contradictions between accepted values and the racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-democratic, and immoral beliefs adopted by Trump and Trumpists. A Trumpist holds close to heart a belief in equality while being a racist; a belief in law and order while ignoring law breaking and obstruction of justice; support for due process (fairness) and compassion, while separating families and throwing kids in cages; believing that science supports global warming skepticism; believing America is a great nation because of its values while believing it needs to return to greatness, i.e., be made great again.
Believing the unbelievable is common. A great number of people are religious despite there being no proof of it and it’s being contrary to science. No science experiment has ever shown that collective wish-making (prayer) can change the laws of nature. Two petri dishes with the same stuff in them do not change in different ways depending on people praying for one or the other. There is not one Youtube of a miracle unless you set a low bar for a miracle. If God or gods manifest their power on earth, why is there no agreement as to which God or gods are true and which are false? If God’s presence is obvious, why are there so many different gods and religions? If humans are hundreds of thousands of years old on the planet and if these gods or God care about us so, why did religion show up only 5000 or so years ago?
Trumpism requires being inconsistent. Thank heavens, Trumpers must think, for Emerson, when he wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines,” which gives Trumpism its intellectual basis to exist. (A hobgoblin itself is an evil spirit or elf or pixie, a religion-based, i.e., false, figure.) This deny-the-facts Trumpism is not limited to Trump and his supporters. Criticize progressives for their Apple phone, watch, and pad, their multi-national Budweiser or Coke consumption, their social networking, and their Amazon Prime membership, and they lay that Emerson quote on you. Criticize Trumpers who assert they are not against legal immigration for being white supremacists and out comes Emerson.
There are other examples of pervasive Trumpism besides religion. Support for Israel is a classic Trumpism-logic position. American children of a certain age started their school day reciting the American’s Creed, “I believe in the United States of America… established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.” Take that Jewish American kid and then place him in an afternoon Hebrew school and he learns about Israel. Say what you want about the origins of Israel and the necessity of its actions, one most certainly cannot say it embraces principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity unless one is willing to deny facts on the ground every day showing the exact opposite. Hebrew school teachers were prepared to explain why the American values of Thomas Jefferson that their students learned from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. didn’t apply from 4 to 5:30 p.m about Israel: It’s God’s will; the Jews are better stewards of the land (I swear, a Hebrew teacher told us kids that the fertile crescent is no longer fertile because Arabs let their goats eat all the trees. This was not man-made global warming denial, but the climate changes over time denial.); the Israelis are forced to take these actions because of Arab antisemitism. For Jews of a certain age, Golda Meir’s vomiticous statement, “We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours,” was an Israel-defense staple. There’s the untrue “there was no one living in Israel until Jewish settlers came” argument – the Serbian and Apartheid South African argument. There’s the Metternich argument, “We won it fair and square. Should America give its land back to the Indians?” Little Jewish kids learned Jefferson democracy during the day and Kissingerian realpolitik in the afternoon. There was the argument based on the misconception that all peoples should have their own country, as if all countries are ethnically homogeneous and Jews deserve that simple right as well. This ignores the fact that most countries are complexly heterogeneous and struggle to protect the rights of all their inhabitants. And on and on, with well-honed Hasbara Talmudic casuistry manifestly opposite to the Jeffersonian concepts in the American’s Creed. This anti-Jeffersonian-ism is exemplified by this interview with the New York born Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. Read it and cringe.
The point of all this is not to trash the religious, whites, or Zionists. The point is that we should all soul search and discover our own Trumpisms. We need to show patience while encouraging and insisting that people evolve from Trumpist thinking, while we struggle with our own evolutions. Earlier, making fun of gays on TV was standard. So was making fun of alcoholics. James Bond could rape his female adversaries into being his supporters. Now you rarely see such things.
William Buckley once credited country-club Americans with evolving in their beliefs, once being indifferent to littering the ocean with yacht waste and antisemitism, to being firmly against both. Jefferson owned slaves, but would obviously be against it now. So too, we all need to see that Trumpist logic systems pervade our lives, be tolerant of our own and others’ past views, and accept converts to consistency and decency.
Are you concerned about global warming while driving a huge SUV or eating beef? Are you concerned about ageism and sexism, while calling jokes Dad jokes based on the teller? Concerned about misogyny but joke about Mom jeans? Do you decry the condition of the poor and homeless but don’t declare all your income? Do you have concern for the low wages of the service workers, but eschew the tip jar? Are you concerned about educational inequality but support the SAT’s because there needs to be “some objectivity” (and you did well on them)? Do you embrace vegetarianism because you don’t believe animals should be bred as objects for human exploitation, but own (and feed) pets? All Trumpism.
The failure to be consistent is leading to the destruction of American democracy. Consistency requires that we insist that the President obey the law. Consistency demands an independent Justice Department and judiciary. Trumpism causes policy errors, harms millions, and will destroy the planet. Understanding how Trumpist inconsistency affects us all is the first step in enlightening others. It is a pervasive human flaw that education and self-awareness can cure. We need to work on it. Just as you cannot beat a kid into learning, we cannot beat the misguided into adhering to the vital values of society. To rephrase Golda – We can forgive others for thinking really dumb stuff. But we will never forgive society for not quickly becoming more self-aware and striving to do better before it is too late. Posted January 19, 2020.