I’ve never considered myself to be a student of human nature, of the motivations that compel people to do what they do. This probably explains why I never succeeded in my attempts at writing fiction: All my characters think and sound like me because I literally can’t get into the heads of others.
There’s a lot going on in the world of politics today that I just don’t understand. First and foremost, I do not understand the appeal of Trump. Not one iota. To me, there is nothing attractive or powerful about the man. The way he looks, the way he speaks, his rampant narcissism and bullying – why every American isn’t disgusted by all of that (and more) is beyond my comprehension. Behavior we wouldn’t tolerate from a middle schooler is allowed to inundate our airwaves, the Internet and print media. Why do we waste so much time and space on him? He is a laughing stock internationally and makes people worldwide question the intelligence (and sanity) of Americans. Every time he comes on the TV or computer screen, I involuntarily avert my eyes from his ridiculous hair and orange face with the white circles around his eyes like some kind of sunburnt albino raccoon. I cringe when I listen to him speak, garbling words and repeating his sixth grade vocabulary to the point of incoherence – who could listen to that and be anything but embarrassed for the man? When his followers are interviewed at his rallies, they say they like him because “he tells it like it is”. Well, if an incoherent soup of lies, insults and unsubstantiated boasts are “like it is,” then I guess they have a point.
A woman I know professionally and with whom I’ve shared a meal or two, mystifies me with her Facebook posts. She was very helpful to me during a stressful time in my life, and I genuinely like the woman. Based on what she posts on Facebook, it’s clear that she loves animals and is concerned about the preservation of the natural environment, and she has even shared some intelligent and humane items on immigration and income inequality. But she is an unabashed Trump fan and constantly posts negative items about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Democratic leaders generally that make them out to be liars and the scourge of our country and the reason why things are as terrible as they are in this country right now. I cannot comprehend such utter cognitive dissonance.
I don’t understand why people like her consistently vote against their interests. Why are there any middle class supporters of Trump at all? If you’re not a multi-millionaire like him, he doesn’t care one whit about you except to the extent that you shower him with praise and adulation. For that, you are useful to him. Otherwise, he couldn’t care less. I read about a recent Gallup poll that claimed 6 in 10 Americans think they’re better off today than they were three years ago, but I just don’t see it. I must be part of the 4 in 10 who is struggling, paying more in health care bills, utilities, student loans and credit card interest than ever before, with no relief in sight, seemingly unable to get ahead or escape the crushing debt. And yet, I saw another article today about the record levels of personal debt Americans are carrying. That explains it, then. We’re better off because we’re more willing to go into debt to get there. (See my post last week about the curse of consumerism – and here’s a post-script to that: I forgot completely to mention this new insane phenomenon of “influencers”. For the uninformed, these are otherwise talentless individuals who have managed to develop a social media persona whereby they promote certain products and accumulate followers, which earns them money and the opportunity to promote more products and get more followers, and on and on. Yet another thing I do not get at all: why people waste their time and money on the advice of nobodies who want you to buy things just so they can bolster their reputations.)
I don’t understand why someone like Lindsay Graham can be so anti-Trump during the 2016 campaign – and be insulted and belittled by him; remember Trump’s public disclosure of Graham’s cell phone number? – and suddenly become his biggest fan? Same with Ted Cruz or even “Little” Marco Rubio. Don’t these guys have any self-respect? Humans shouldn’t be able to make 180-degree turns like that without a good reason, and I haven’t seen one, unless fear of reprisals from a bully and a jerk are sufficient justification. What has Trump done for Graham or Cruz or Rubio to make them change their tune so radically? I just don’t get it. And why haven’t former loyalists like Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson, who Trump insulted mercilessly both in and out of office, stood up and defended themselves, or at least questioned why this behavior is allowed to continue? I’ve heard that former Chief of Staff John Kelly has finally started talking sense, but really, who’s listening other than people who already agree with him?
Some people’s motivations are clearer than others. Take Mitch McConnell, for instance. His drivers are greed and power. That much is obvious. But why is he so adamant about creating an insurmountable logjam of bills in the Senate that ultimately reflects badly on him? I guess his Kentucky constituents are still behind him (although that will be proven in November, as a really attractive Democratic opponent, military hero and mom Amy McGrath, is lurking back in his home state generating grass roots support hopefully sufficient to remove his saggy ass from office while Mitch wastes all our time rejecting House bills in D.C.), but here’s a thought – why bother keeping Trump around? McConnell could do the same damage with Mike Pence as president and have a lot less mind-boggling baggage to deal with. If I were McConnell (which, happily, I am NOT), I would have cut my losses with Trump and thrown in with Pence in a heartbeat when handed a primo opportunity with the impeachment trial. Pence is a lily white, homophobic, religious right-wing nightmare, but he’s not a megalomaniac, wanna-be dictator like Trump who daily threatens the rule of law and democracy itself through his cruelty, ignorance and self-absorption. Frankly, I didn’t understand why there wasn’t more of a push amongst Republicans when they held both the House and the Senate to oust Trump, because only Republicans would have been in the line of succession. Now, if anything happened to Trump and Pence to remove them from office, we’d have President Pelosi, which would be a karmically delicious outcome for Democrats but awfully dangerous to Republicans. I have to believe there are other ways to disseminate the poison of the Republican agenda that don’t involve the unpredictable and ridiculously unattractive Trump.
That’s another thing I don’t understand about Republicans in general — why they have been so willing to abandon their core (or at least they used to be core) ideologies, such as reducing the deficit, limiting governmental control and preventing executive overreach? In an effort to try to make sense of some of these motivators, I consulted former Republican media manipulator Rick Wilson’s book, Everything Trump Touches Dies, which provided a comprehensive analysis of why Republicans are so willing to drink the Trump Kool-aid. But even with all of Wilson’s explanations, and acknowledging that, if Trump is skilled at anything, it’s being a con man (it’s certainly not being a deal-maker), those rationales still rang hollow. Trump, to me, is like the old alcoholic who takes up residence at the end of the neighborhood bar, a built-in fixture bloviating about everything and anything, who knows it all and has all the answers, and no one listens to him until the bartender finally says, “Enough, old timer,” and calls him a cab so the patrons can finally get some peace and quiet.
Or do Republican goals only have meaning if Democrats are in control of government? Another thing I don’t understand about Republicans is, if they want government out of people’s lives so much, why are they so fixated on controlling what women do with their own bodies, or what folks do in the privacy of their bedroom, or what children are taught in schools? If you’re going to roll back regulations in favor of Big Agro and Big Oil and Big Pharma because they don’t want government intruding into the workings of commerce, what about rolling them back for the Little People? (In that sense, I have somewhat Libertarian tendencies and think government should be less about CONTROL and more about SUPPORT.)
But enough about the incomprehensible Republicans – what about the Democrats? How is Elizabeth Warren not the most popular candidate in the 2020 campaign? Why are the strongest candidates at the moment all old white men in their 70s? Why do young people so fervently support a crazy-haired old white guy who would (figuratively) blow up the establishment in a heartbeat rather than everyone’s favorite teacher, a mom and grandmother, who is truly looking out for the “little guy” in a less combative way than Bernie (but then again, don’t challenge her, because she’ll put you in your place in a heartbeat)? She doesn’t have Hillary’s baggage, and she’s smarter than anyone in the room (but doesn’t feel the need to brag about it). The New York Times, former fellow candidate Julian Castro and others clearly agree with me (although the Times split their endorsement with Amy Klobuchar, who I also like, but I don’t think she’s as complete a candidate as Elizabeth Warren is). When she dialed back her plan for Medicare-for-All after being criticized for it, by saying, “Okay, we won’t force it on you, but we’ll give you a chance to try it, and I’m sure you’ll like it” – which in my mind was such a reasonable response: she re-considered her position and offered up a compromise solution — how was that a bad thing? And yet pundits and the public deemed that a problematic development and have even blamed her supposed “backtracking” for her drop in the polls. There’s a woman I know through my rescue group who is very kind and funny and I think we could be better friends if I ever managed to wake up early enough to join her at the local pool for Aquasize. But she and I had a text discussion the other day where she said she doesn’t trust Warren because she had the temerity to release her DNA results in connection with the whole Native American brouhaha. To me, that was Warren being transparent, but to her, it was disqualifying. This is what we’re up against!! I don’t understand it – not one bit.
[An aside on that episode in Warren’s trajectory: I kind of understand where she was coming from with her claims to Native American heritage. First of all, she was PROUD of it, so why is that a negative? We should all take more pride in our Native American ancestors and predecessors rather than ignoring the slow genocide of a race of people that continues to this day. I’m certain it was a matter of a childhood spent listening to family tales of a great-grandma or auntie who was a member of the Cherokee Nation, and feeling pride in that. I have something similar in my history: My father told us for years we were descended from gypsies, which explained his clairvoyance and ability to tell what was in wrapped packages before he opened them. In my youth I would brag about being a gypsy (before learning about their darker side, of course), but I confess I would be a little disappointed if I did a DNA test and it didn’t come back with at least a little Romany ancestry.]
And one last thing I don’t understand (although believe me, there’s more): What’s the deal with women who willingly subvert themselves to men ? Maybe their excuse is fear, or it’s all they’ve ever known, but thinking that way only serves to perpetuate second-class citizenship for females. Why are there woman saying America is not ready to elect a woman president? To the contrary, women should be DEMANDING a woman president, and since we actually make up a slight majority of the population in general, we should win every election if we stay true to our gender.
The bottom line? I wish I had more clarity about human nature, but given that we are so complex and not always transparent, it doesn’t seem likely that I’ll get it. People’s motivations will continue to be a mystery to me. Even on those rare occasions when I think I know why people do the things they do, something will be revealed that shows my assessment to have been completely wrong. All I know for certain is this: Whatever their inclinations, the majority of Americans had better do the right thing come November 3 and vote the current disaster out of office (and make sure he leaves). I am so tired of living in Bizarro World, where presumably decent and intelligent people are controlled by their fear of the insults and retribution of a Cheetoh-colored man-baby.