By Jay Menard
For all those saying this “Trump” thing isn’t funny anymore, turns out the joke’s on us. After all, Donald Trump is nothing more than a reflection of how we play politics — and if you don’t like what you’re seeing, take a look in the mirror because Trump is just a reflection of how we play the game.
And it’s not too long until we have our own Trump her in the Great White North (and, no, Mr. O’Leary, I’m not ONLY looking at you.) Thanks to hyperpartisanship, a predilection for self-congratulatory confirmation bias, and a Zealous approach to framing arguments based not on merit, but rather on side (right/left/Conservative/Liberal), we’re well on the way to dealing ourselves a similar hand in Canada.
Of course, this isn’t just an American or national-level problem. That “Trump” card gets played with increasing regularity here in good ol’ London. Trumpian name-calling and branding is rampant.
- If you’re not 100 per cent for the London Plan, LRT, or Back to the River, you hate progress, you hate London, or you’re against youth.
- If you don’t agree with certain opinions, you’re misinformed, out of touch, or stupid.
- If you’re not aligned politically with one issuing a statement, your opinion is invalid.
It’s name-calling and dismissiveness designed to undermine opposition to ideas. And that’s downright Trumpian. It’s also not restricted to either the left or the right, but, rather frighteningly, it’s representative of an increased polarization of politics.
One that’s almost American in its dichotomy.
The thing is, there are no black and whites in life. I can favour parts of the Dundas Place plan, whilst having (and expressing) major reservations about its rollout and efficacy. I can disagree with swaths of the London Plan or the public transit changes without being anti-London/downtown/youth/progress.
And I can firmly believe that action for the sake of action’s sake is generally the worst waste of time, effort, and resources without that meaning a blind adherence to the status quo.
But we no longer listen to dissenting voices. Thanks to the overwhelming amount of media, social media, or peer groups and organizations that are literally at our fingertips, it’s easier to find those who align with us 100 per cent. It’s easy to believe we’re right, because it’s easy to engage in confirmation bias. And it’s easy to pretend dissent and valid opposing opinions don’t exist because having our beliefs challenged makes us feel uncomfortable.
So we can move ahead, secure in our own beliefs, ignoring those who disagree with us, and dismissing them with labels, names, and opinions about their lack of intelligence. We can remain secure in the knowledge that “we” get it. We know and have all the answers, and actively ignore dissent.
Doesn’t that kind of sound like Trump?
In the rush to castigate those who support Donald Trump, what’s missing is a real understanding of why people are drawn to Trump. It’s easy to dismiss Trump supporters as stupid, because looking at why they’re drawn to this hyperbolic ball of bombast is more challenging. But ignoring the truth doesn’t make it go away.
I don’t believe all Trump supporters are stupid. I believe they’re scared, frustrated, and have no outlet to express those emotions. We live in a society where we choose castigate the ignorant instead of educating them. We don’t discuss issues, we brand and label them.
Take immigration issues. Yes, Trump’s “keep all the Muslims” out mentality is horribly ill-informed, misplaced, and racist. But it resonates amongst some people because they’re afraid. For years, the U.S. has lived under “elevated threat levels.” People see and read stories about ISIL and terrorist attacks — largely perpetuated by those who have chosen to bastardize a religion for their own nefarious reasons. They’re afraid.
But what can they do? If they step up and say, “I’m worried about Muslim terrorism” they’re immediately beset upon by those who have no interest in dispelling myths or providing facts, but instead prefer to replace those statements with brands like “stupid,” “dumb,” or “racist.” And that’s only those who step up and speak. How many more may share those misinformed ideas, but won’t stand up due to fear of repercussions? Ignorance flourishes in the dark and by perpetuating an environment where there’s no ability to discuss these issues in the light, we facilitate their growth and spread.
You can say people have no reason to fear, but you can’t take away their right to be afraid. And along comes a candidate who shouts about protecting them and taking away their fear. Sure, it’s all pomp and bombast, but it’s a reassuring message for those who have no other recourse.
You can say Trump’s a liar, but there are many that believe all politicians lie. You can say he cherry picks the truth, but that’s a Hallmark of all of our elections — hell, this past my Twitter feed was schizophrenic with my left-leaning and right-leaning racing to outdo each other with their selective posting making it easy to discount their opinions completely due to bias. When the same story is told in two completely disparate ways; when political truth is reduced to perspective, is it any surprise that people are willing to take Trump at face value?
It’s easy to see why that appeals to people. And it’s our fault as society for allowing that to flourish.
Maybe I’m remembering a time that never existed, but when I was younger, I always felt Canadian politics were more conciliatory in nature. We discussed issues and came to compromises. We respected all views — right and left — and tried to learn from each other. That’s why so many supported the Liberal party of old — they represented the combination of the best of the right and the best of the left, in a compassionate middle.
Now? There’s no middle ground. You’re left or right with nothing in between. And if you’re not on the “right” side, we’re going to ignore you at best, and belittle you at worst.
Nobody has the monopoly on “right.” We can only identify what’s right for us and to assume that those who disagree are ill-informed, stupid, or uncaring is immature and arrogant. Everybody has different needs, motivations, and desires. And those change. Ideally we listen to each other, take the best that everyone has to offer, and challenge our assumptions to ensure the best possible solution. Or we can barrel ahead, secure in our own knowledge, and continue down the path that leads us to where our neighbours to the south are now.
You can play your Trump card but forgive me if I don’t play that way. Of course, those playing the Trumps only want to win for themselves. I don’t see politics, or life, as a game — and if it is, I’d rather that we work to ensure that everyone wins.