In Defense of the Rise of Trump

The establishment so wants everyone else to unfriend Trump supporters on Facebook. There's even an app to block them. That'll teach them!

Yes, Trump plays a bully boy and is appealing to populist (good), nativist, xenophobic, racist sentiments (bad). 

Those things need to be meaningfully addressed and engaged rather than dismissed by self-styled sophisticates, noses raised.

Focusing on the negative aspects of his campaign has blinded people to the good -- and I don't mean good like, oh, the Democrat can beat this guy. I mean good like it's good that some of these issues are getting aired.

Trump is appealing to nativist sentiments, but those same sentiments are skeptical of the militarized role of the U.S. in the world -- as was the case of Pat Buchanan's 1992 campaign. 

The New York Times recently purported to grade the veracity of presidential candidates. Of course by their accounting, Trump was off the scales lying. But he recently said the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State "killed hundreds of thousands of people with her stupidity....The Middle East is a total disaster under her." Now, I think that's pretty accurate, though U.S. policy in my view may be more Machiavellian than stupid, but the remark is a breath of fresh air on the national stage. 

But I've not seen anyone fact check that, because that's not an argument much of establishment media wants to have. Of course, a few sentences later Trump talks about the attack on the CIA station in Benghazi, causing Salon to dismiss him as embracing "conspiracies," which is likely all many people hear. 

Shouldn't someone who at times articulates truly inconvenient truths be noted as breaking politically correct taboos? Trump says such truths -- like at the Las Vegas debate about U.S. wars:

We've spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could've spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems; our airports and all of the other problems we've had, we would've been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now.

Which I think is a stronger critique of military spending than we've heard from Bernie Sanders of late.

But Trump -- or Rand Paul's -- remarks about U.S. policies of regime change and bombings are often unexamined. It's more convenient to focus on our kindness in letting a few thousand refugees in than to examine how millions of displaced people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somali might have gotten that way because of U.S. government policies. 

People say Trump's proposal to temporarily ban Muslim immigrants is unconstitutional. News flash: the sitting Democratic president has bombed seven countries without a declaration of war. We've effectively flushed our constitution down the toilet. Does that justify violating it more? No. But the pretend moral outrage on this score is hollow. 

And there's a logic to the nativist Muslim bashing. It's obviously wrong, but it's rational given the skewed information the public is given. Since virtually no one on the national stage is seriously and systematically criting U.S. policy -- it's invasions, alliances with Saudi Arabia and Israel -- then it makes sense to say we've got to change something and that something is separating from Muslims. 

Some sophisticates slam Trump for acting in the Las Vegas debate like he didn't know what the nuclear triad is. Well, I have no idea if he knows what the nuclear triad is or if he was just acting that way. But I'm rather glad he didn't adopt the administration position of saying it's a good idea to spend a trillion dollars to "modernize" our nuclear weapons so we can efficiently threaten the planet for another generation. People may recall that for all the rhetoric from Obama on ending nuclear weapons, it was Reagan who apparently almost rose to the occasion when Gorbachev proposed getting rid of nuclear weapons. But Reagan is totally evil, so "progressives" have to hate him and so we're not supposed to remember that. 

So much of our political culture just lives off of hate. People hated Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladin, so they backed anything GW Bush wanted. People hated GW Bush, so they backed Kerry or Obama or whoever without condition, no matter where it lead. People hated Assad, so they helped the rise of ISIS. People now hate ISIS -- some apparently want to nuke 'em -- that will almost certainly lead to worse. John Kasich -- the great reasonable Republican moderate -- says "it's time that we punched the Russians in the nose" -- who cares if that brings us closer to nuclear war. Many demonize Trump -- at last, someone from the U.S. who some in the mainstream label a Hitler. Hate, hate, hate, hate. Can we just view people for who they are with clear eyes, assessing the good and bad in them? 

Trump calls for a cutoff of immigration of Muslims "until we can figure out what the hell is going on" -- which, given our political culture's seeming propensity to never figure out much of anything, might be forever. Then again, he's raising a real question. Says Trump: "There's tremendous hatred. Where it comes from, I don't know." Trump -- unlike virtually anyone else with a megaphone -- is actually raising the issue about why there's resentment against the U.S. in the Mideast. 

Virtually the only other person on the national stage stating such things is Rand Paul, though his articulations have also been uneven and have been a pale copy of what his father has said.  

Of course, what should be said is: If we don't know "what the hell is going on!" -- then maybe we should stop bombing. But that doesn't get processed because the general public lives under the illusion that Obama is a pacifistic patsy. The reality is that Obama has been bombing more countries than any president since World War II -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. 

At the Las Vegas debate, Trump said: "When you had the World Trade Center go, people were put into planes that were friends, family, girlfriends, and they were put into planes and they were sent back, for the most part, to Saudi Arabia." Which is totally mangled, but raises the question of Saudi Arabia with relation to 9/11. 

Half of what Trump says is boarderline deranged and false. But he also says true things -- and critically, important things that no one else with any media or political access is saying. 

Yes, Trump says he'll bomb the hell out of Syria, as does virtually every other Republican candidate. But Obama's already bombing the hell out of Syria and Iraq -- but it's quiet, so people think it's not happening. So they reasonably think passivity is the problem. 

What people are right in sensing is that Obama, Bush and the rest of the establishment is playing endless geopolitical games and they're right to be sick of it. The stated goals -- democracy in the Mideast, getting rid of WMDs, stability in the right and protecting the U.S. public are obviously not going to be achieved by the policies of the establishment. They in all likelihood pretexts and the planers have other, unstated, objectives that they are perusing.  

Trump touts his alleged opposition to the Iraq war. Some of us launched major campaigns to try to stop the 2003 invasion. I don't remember seeing Trump at any of the anti war rallies in 2002, but he apparently made a few remarks in 2003 and 2004. Certainly nothing great or courageous. But it's good that someone with the biggest megaphone is saying the Iraq war was bad. People who are getting behind him are thus reachable on the U.S. government's proclivity toward endless war. 

And perhaps think for a minute about what a Trump-Clinton race would be like, given that she voted for the invasion of Iraq. 

Now, Trump may well be no different if he were to get into office. But he conveys the impression that he will act like a normal nationalist and not a conniving globalist. And much of the U.S. public seems to want that. And that's a good thing. He's indicating that there's a solution to constant war and that he's different from everyone else who has signed on to perpetual war. It's good that that's energizing people who had given up on politics. 

Trump -- apparently alone among Republican presidential candidates -- is saying that he will talk to Russian President Putin. Having some sense that the job of a president is to attempt to have reasonable relations with the other major nuclear powered state is a serious plus in my book. He conveys the image of being a die-hard nationalist, but -- unlike most of our recent leaders -- not hell-bent on global domination. People who want a better world should use that. 

No prominent Democrat has taken on the position that we should really seriously examine the root causes of anger at the U.S. government. The public is never presented with a world view that does that. The only one on the national stage in recent memory to have done so in recent history was Ron Paul -- and he was demonized in ways similar to Trump by much of the liberal establishment in 2008. 

Bernie Sanders has of course rightly touted his vote against the Iraq invasion in 2002 and has very correctly linked that invasion to the rise of ISIS. But Sanders had a historic opportunity to address these issues in a debate just after the Paris attack on Nov. 13, and actually didn't seem to want to talk foreign policy. Now he's complaining about a lack of media coverage. Yes, the media are unfair against progressive candidates, but you don't do any good by refusing to engage in what is arguably the great, defining debate of our time. 

Even more troubling has been that Sanders has adopted the refrain that we need to have the Saudis "get their hands dirty." That's exactly the wrong approach and one shared with most of the Republican field. Even at the liberal extreme, Barbara Lee has declined to take issue with the U.S. arming with Saudi Arabia as it kills away in Yemen. 

In terms of economics, Trump is alone in the Republican field in defending in a progressive tax. Tom Ferguson has noted: "lower income voters seem to like him about twice as much as the upper income voters who like him in the Republican poll." Trump has "even dumped on some issues that are virtually sacred to the Republicans, notably the carried interest tax deduction for the super rich." Writes Lee Fang: "Donald Trump Says He Can Buy Politicians, None of His Rivals Disagree." 

Can progressives pause for a moment and note that it's a good thing that someone who a lot of people who have checked out of the political process are backing someone saying these things?

It's important to stress: I have no idea what Trump actually believes. Backing him as person is probably akin to picking a the box on The Price is Right. He could of course be even more authoritarian than what we've seen so far. The point I'm making is what he's appealing to has serious elements that are a welcome break from the establishment as well as some that are reactionary. 

I have no personal love lost for Trump. Truth is, I lived in one of his buildings when I was growing up in Queens. His flamboyance as my dad and I were scraping by in a one bedroom apartment rather sickened me. I remember seeing the recently completed Trump Tower in Manhattan for the first time as a teen with my father and my dad bemused himself with the notion that he'd own one square inch of the place for the monthly rent checks he wrote to Trump for years.  

And Trump for all I know is a total tool of the establishment designed to implode, as some of critics of Bernie Sanders have accused him of Sheepdogging for Hillary Clinton, so too Trump might be doing for the Republican anti establishment base. Or he might pursue the same old establishment policies if he were ever to get into office -- that's largely what Obama has done, especially on foreign policy. Trump says "I was a member of the establishment seven months ago." 

The point is that the natives are restless. And they should be. It's an important time to engage them so they stay restless and funnel that energy to constructive use, not demonize or tune them out. 

Sam Husseini is communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy and founder of -- which urges left-right cooperation. Follow him on twitter: @samhusseini.

6 responses
I have an old friend who writes regularly for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Here is David's latest column about Donald Trump and, below it, my own thoughts on Trump's role (sans embedded links), as a response to your defense of the rise of Trump. I, too, have noted that occasionally Trump says something that needs saying, but I wonder if the truths that Trump occasionally utters aren't largely lost on the vast majority of those who pay attention to him. David Hunter: Demagogue Trump acting irresponsibly The Free Dictionary online defines a demagogue as "a leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace." Demagogues depend on ignorance fueled by fear in people unwilling to think rationally and look at the facts of a claim. The Internet makes research so easy, any person with an average IQ can find the truth. Being willfully ignorant, though, allows the creation of a fake villain who can be portrayed as the source of all the problems plaguing a society, and will carry a demagogue a long way. Hitler, one of history's better-known demagogues, convinced the German people that Jews were responsible for their country's ills and focused the pent-up rage of people suffering financially on a specific target. He was able to turn a cultured society into a monstrous lynch mob that persecuted and murdered those who were different from them without being hampered by guilt because they were "saving their country." In February 1950, Republican Sen. Joseph Raymond "Joe" McCarthy of Wisconsin rose to national fame when he said in a speech that he had a list of "members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring" who were employed in the State Department. Through his House Un-American Activities Committee, he eventually accused staff members of President Harry S. Truman, the Voice of America, the Army and the entertainment industry of being communists or sympathizers. In the end, he was censured by his fellow senators but had destroyed hundreds of lives. On a similar note, Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, said at a town hall event in 2012: "I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party." West added that he was talking about the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of 76 of the more liberal Democrats in the U.S. House. None in the news media took him seriously, but frightened, ignorant people are still quoting West's words as truth on the Internet. Donald Trump spouting pure demagoguery has managed to become and remain the frontrunner in polls for the coming Republican primaries. It apparently matters not at all to him that he is stirring up fear and hostility that may eventually result in injury or death to innocent Muslims by ignorant non-thinkers. Just days ago, three sixth-grade boys in a New York middle school attacked a female classmate, held her in a neck lock and called her "ISIS" while trying to rip off her hijab, a head cover worn by some Muslim women. Trump, who started out raising fears about rapists from south of the border, has now escalated to calling for a halt to all Muslims from entering the United States — never mind the Constitution and America's principles — and his followers are cheering as he amps up the hostility. The willfully ignorant don't care if what Trump says is legal or even true. He feeds their xenophobia and offers instant solutions to the fears he has helped instill. It's Un-American and Un-Christian, but one must think to arrive at logical conclusions — and it seems unlikely we will see anything of the sort from Trump or his adoring fans. Meanwhile, he goes on with no concern for the lynch mob he is creating and inciting. [David Hunter is a freelance writer and former Knox County sheriff’s deputy. In 1993, David helped me co-found the Knoxville Writers Guild. My guess would be that David has written more books than the average American has read since he or she graduated from high school or college.] *** ** * ** *** ** * ** *** I think it likely that whether by design or happenstance Donald Trump's function in the Big Media extravaganza that passes for a general election primary campaign is that of a foil for neocon pro-Israel candidates. Trump makes the other candidates look less racist and more sensible by comparison while he and the War Party's media outlets, which studiously ignore Bernie Sanders and his popularity, drive the public discussion toward fear and loathing and encourage far-Right extremism. By the time Trump drops out or is forced out, if that happens, the remaining neocon War Party's candidates, Republican and Democratic, will seem less dangerous and more acceptable to an electorate that has been force fed a media diet laced with a false but heightened sense of immediate danger from "radical Islamic extremism" portrayed as a threat that must be militarily obliterated before there are more terrorist attacks on US soil. Never mind the more than 12,600 gun deaths unrelated to terrorism in the USA so far this year. Those who believe the steady stream of hyperbole and fear mongering, and far too many Americans do, are easily manipulated to serve the purposes of the few who fatten on violence and perpetual war at the expense of the many. A foil is a common literary and dramatic device, a tool, and American general election campaigns today are little more than hideously expensive, thoroughly scripted media extravaganzas that take place largely in media venues and pour money into the pockets of media moguls who own and operate those venues. Moreover, two multi-billionaire media moguls, both ardent Zionists, have openly declared that they will finance the 2016 campaigns of Republican and Democratic candidates. In our digital media era, all mediated reality comes with embedded political and social messaging that reflect the agendas of media owners and managers. Much, very much, of that media product is violent, harmful, and dangerous. To find out who profits from violent media product and how they corrupt our government, follow the money. The Zionist political and media machine uses foils in a variety of ways and in a variety of venues. Such deceptive practices, the rule rather than the exception in Big Media product, occur even in alternative media and in purportedly progressive organizations. The hecklers at a March 4, 2014 presentation in Des Moines by USCEIO Policy Director Josh Ruebner served as foils to bolster Ruebner's bona fides both as a political analyst and as a leader of an organization that strives to end Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine, though Ruebner that very night flatly, categorically denied that there are neocons and neoconservative influence within the Obama administration. Ruebner's assertion was and is, of course, laughable. The Big Media corporations that profit directly from and serve as venues for the quadrennial general election campaign media spectacle routinely encourage the demonization of Muslims and Arabs but do not allow criticism of Jews, Israel, or Zionism‬. Coincidence? I think not. While I am not one who has ascribed to the far-Right's rhetoric about a "war on Christmas," I note that here in Iowa, where Zoinist money is striving mightily to put a wholesome Iowa/Midwestern gloss on what passes for an open political process in America, I have searched in vain in recent days for Christmas music on AM and FM radio dials. Imagine that.
Finally someone who makes sense of Trump.
The Reason I’m Anti-Anti-Trump, by William Voegeli
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