Here is what I think is happening in this country, and why so many people are indeed voting for Trump.
Most people are generous and tolerant of others as long as they are happy themselves. In France, for instance, we are now witnessing blatant discrimination against Muslims. Their prejudice did not surface until recently with all the terrorist attacks.
In the US, now we have a presidential candidate who is racist and sexist, and the half of the country is supporting him. What this tells us is that the millions of Americans are now so unhappy that they can no longer afford to be idealistic. This is not so different from how Hitler came to power. Trump supporters at this point are in a self-preservation mode. They are simply reacting to fears. If you asked them if they are racist, the vast majority of them would say no.
Prejudice is a form of fear. All of us are prejudiced. If we were subjected to an increasing amount of threat, at some point, all of us would give into our own prejudice in order to preserve ourselves. It’s just a question of at what point.
I believe the main cause of their fear is the income inequality. The recent data on mortality support this. “Despair deaths” (like drinking themselves to death, drug overdose, and suicide) among less-educated white Americans are on the rise. They have hit rock bottom. They’ve tried to turn their lives around but failed. They desperately want change. Any change, they feel, would be better than what they have now. Sending Trump who is clearly not qualified to be president is a form of revenge or revolt for them.
From this point of view, Trump is actually the more rational choice. Clinton is part of the establishment that encouraged the income inequality. Her cozy relationships with Wall Street banks are undeniable. You don’t get paid $200,000 a speech and expect no strings to be attached. So, you might call these less-educated Americans “stupid” or “idiots” but if you had the same goal (or dream) of fundamentally changing the culture of Washington, voting for Clinton would actually be more stupid. The only reason why they seem utterly stupid to you is because you don’t know their lives.
We, New Yorkers, have to remember that the pillar of our local economy is Wall Street, financial services. Almost everything else is supported by that pillar, like real estate, lawyers, accountants, restaurants, etc.. From outside of New York, it is clear that all of us New Yorkers are direct or indirect beneficiaries of the income inequality created by Wall Street and by the politicians who support them. If the financial industry went the way of manufacturing, New York would look like Detroit. We would all be fighting for the few jobs left. It is almost certain that the level of prejudice would rise.
The fact that we are seeing millions of people support a racist national leader tells me that our fellow Americans are suffering. What they need is not ridicule but sympathy. As long as your life is comfortable now, it’s easy for you to claim that you would never support a racist no matter how bad your life becomes. Ridiculing them will in fact make their lives even worse, and sooner or later, they will come back with an even more desperate choice than Trump.
In this sense, Trump is actually our own creation. We are looking at ourselves in a mirror. We know deep down we have the same weakness to give into our own fears and prejudices. We hate that about ourselves, so instead of recognizing it for what it is (weakness), we project it onto others and point our fingers.
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