Trump’s Culture War

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Shameless, thy name be Trump

W.J. Astore

President Trump’s strategy for winning in 2020 is to fan the flames of culture war, including blatant references to white power.  Even some Republicans seem embarrassed, though not enough to make any difference in Trump’s reprehensible tactics.  Trump’s emptiness is incalculable — this and his cult-like “base” make him a dangerous man indeed.  He needs to be denounced and voted out of office; how disappointing is it that the Democratic alternative is Joe Biden, a man with his own record of lies, a man with little going for him except that he’s not Donald Trump.

Along with culture war, Republicans are also doing their best to discourage voting.  The tactics here are many: fewer polling stations, meaning longer lines and wait times; voter ID laws to counter non-existent voter fraud; disenfranchisement of voters through purges of rolls; opposition to mail-in ballots and other efforts to make voting easier and safer in the age of Covid-19; the presence of “monitors” at polling sites as a form of intimidation.

Rally the base while suppressing the overall vote: this, apparently, is what Trump is counting on this November.

Why?  Because Trump has nothing real to run on.  His biggest “accomplishment” was a tax break for corporations and for the richest Americans.  When asked by Fox News about what he wanted to accomplish in his second term, Trump had nothing specific to say.  No policy goals.  Nothing.  The one thing he seems determined to do, besides building his wall, is eliminating Obamacare, which would throw tens of millions off their health care plans during a pandemic.

If cynicism has a bottom, Trump hasn’t found it yet, though not for want of trying.

Of course, Trump’s culture war is as ugly as it is racist.  It’s also a distraction from rampant and blatant kleptocracy.  For example, the latest “defense” budget calls for $740 billion in spending, yet the key issue for Trump is to defend military posts that are named for Confederate officers.  Trump, a New York City trust fund baby, as Yankee as a Yankee can be, poses as a principled defender of Confederate leaders and the Confederate battle flag, in the name of “respecting our past.”  Consider him the quintessential con man as cultural carpetbagger, cynically adopting any position that he can use to inflame his base and drive them to the polls this November.

Truly, these are bizarre times.  Trump, the Vietnam draft dodger, the man of heel spurs infamy, celebrates Generals George Patton and Douglas MacArthur as his ideals.  As military leaders, both were deeply flawed; both were vainglorious; both were over-celebrated and overrated.  Small wonder that Trump sees something in them that he sees in himself: overweening egotism, the quest for victory at any cost, including the deaths of their own troops.

Trump wants America to turn on itself, to consume itself, and as long as he wins another term, he couldn’t care less about the cost.  Why?  Because he doesn’t see us as his fellow citizens — he sees us as his subjects.  And even if you count yourself in his “base,” he likely sees you as nothing more than a patsy.  A sucker.  And, based on his total lack of leadership when it comes to Covid-19, he literally doesn’t care if you live or die.

Trump is a wannabe king, and he will say or do most anything to keep his grip on power.  Having just marked another July 4th celebration of America’s independence from a capricious monarch, King George III, it doesn’t make any sense to re-empower another mad king.

Don’t be distracted by Trump’s culture wars and his incessant divisiveness, America.  Remember its intent: to divide is the way to conquer.  Trump doesn’t want “to keep America great.”  He wants to keep it servile to him.  He wants you under his spell, shouting his name, laughing at his cruel jokes.

Is that what you want for yourself and for our country?

38 thoughts on “Trump’s Culture War

  1. “Cultural carpetbagger”—very neat turn of phrase. And a perfect description! The Orange One is indeed a spiritual descendant of those rapacious snake oil salesmen. Like theirs, his soul is a toxic waste dump. If he has not yet plumbed to the bottom of cynicism (and sheer evil), neither has he found the limit of gullibility when it comes to his base.

    Unlike his post-Civil War kin, however, he who currently occupies the Oval Office is not conning newly freed slaves who have seen nothing of the world and who have been kept ignorant by their masters. Those who were taken in by the original carpetbaggers had an excuse; they couldn’t be expected to immediately perceive the deceptions presented to them. Trump’s followers, by contrast, have the advantage of 24/7 streams of information from multitudes of sources. They can’t have escaped hearing of his boasts about shooting someone on 5th Avenue and sexually assaulting women; they must have heard him mock disabled people. His racist rants have made headlines. In other words, he’s a very well-known quantity, and has been for decades. Those who support him—including the GOP—can’t claim they didn’t know what they were getting. They did know, but have been willing to suspend disbelief in the altogether vain hope that they’ll be rewarded for their loyalty. Should they and their leader prevail, the outcome will be the same as it was 150 years ago: re-enslavement. The catch is that they’ll take the rest of us with them.

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  2. The only president I can remember for sure I voted for (who won) was the first time I ever voted (in 1960) for John F. Kennedy… I voted every 2-years or 4-years after that until 2016… When I became too demoralized to vote in that particular election…

    I voted for Ross Perot once, Ralph Nader twice (and oh yeah, Jimmy Carter twice: once in ’76 when he won and once in ’80 when he lost) but the rest of my presidential politics since 1960 are mostly a blur…

    This time I think I’m going to vote for Howie Hawkins and the rest of the Green Party (if they are on the ballot in Florida) and deserve to be voted for… in the absence of Bernie… and this is the most concise introduction to him I know of (plus all the other intro at this link):
    https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/504093-green-party-candidate-describes-platform

    It could be time for a 3rd Party winner in America that (in historic terms) might once again shock the world with our naivete (perhaps) but also our contagious enthusiasm! That a government of, by, and for the people can still prevail on this earth, and really be something contrary to prevailing perspectives… such as found on “Embracing Views” or at “The Contrary Perspective” that is still plugging away : https://contraryperspective.com/

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    1. My voting history closely matches yours, except Carter was my first Presidential vote. He was a lesser of two evils candidate, after my all-time favorite, Mo Udall, lost the nomination. I voted for Jill Stein in 2016, because Trump was out of the question, and I loathe Hillary as a straight-up corporate shill, like Biden. I’ve voted for lots of Greens in down-ballot races.

      Considering how easy it is to rig elections (see http://www.blackboxvoting.org ), it does often seem as if going to the polls is an exercise in futility. But….I guess I do it because that’s how I was raised.

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  3. “Don’t be distracted by Trump’s culture wars and his incessant divisiveness, America.”
    HOW does one do that?
    When something so SICKENING happens….

    How is the victim supposed to react?
    When someone who thinks of himself as a leader does not know what to do next?
    The country is in shambles.

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  4. I did a little ‘rithmetic in my head today: the last national opinion polls I was aware of indicated that up to 40% of the US citizenry still supports Trump. And yes, Denise Donaldson, they know exactly what vileness DJT represents, and that’s why they love him! If you back out of the equation the various “minority” segments of the population, I figure 50% of “Caucasians” support Trump. What does this tell us? It tells us that 50% of whites are RACISTS–some of them simply unthinkingly carrying on the “values” they learned from their ancestors, others downright proud of their HATE. They are your uncle, your spouse, your parent and grandparent, your co-worker, your boss. Some of them previously may have told their little racist, sexist “jokes” in hushed tones, among a small knot of people. Trump has emboldened them and given them rallies to attend where they can express their HATE in large, loud groups. Make no mistake: it was HATE that put Trump in the WHITE House and that threatens to return this mentally deranged person to that office. ‘Black Lives Matter’ cannot heal your sickened-by-hate souls, white folks. Only you can bring about the change that will be required to make this a humane society. Malcolm X knew this and told us so more than a half-century ago, as did Dr. King, if more “politely.”

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    1. Where do you think the evangelicals come in, that rarefied percentage of DJT’s base? According to the reports I’ve read, they are convinced that he was put into office by God. Are they among the active haters, or do they just….I don’t know, somehow “overlook” what he says and does and convince themselves that he’s serving a greater purpose? Some of the PNAC crowd believed that Cheney was an instrument of God, because his actions were supposedly bringing about the End Times. I wonder if that’s what’s happening here with the Orange One?

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      1. According to that “infallible” collection of all worthwhile “knowledge,” the Bible, dark-skinned folks are the CHILDREN OF HAM, cursed by their ancestry (the workings of DNA were not exactly known when the segments of The Old Testament were being assembled) to be n’er-do-wells. Also, excellent candidates to be enslaved by “superior” peoples. I admit I haven’t done a demographic study, but I bet you’d find that the majority of Baptist congregations in “the Deep South” are overwhelmingly white. Black folk have their own Baptist congregations, largely. If we’re examining folks who swallow unquestioningly all the hokum in “the Good Book,” why would we think that THEY would think deeply about a question like “Are my fellow congregants flaming racists?”

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        1. I’m familiar with Noah’s “Curse of Ham.” It’s been used as a justification for slavery since the 1830s, if not earlier. But it’s a spurious translation. The sense of the passage has nothing to do with skin tone. Most Christians rejected the whole “curse” idea even before the Civil War (1861-65). Only the most extreme apologists for slavery looked to the Bible and twisted the curse of Ham for their horrific purposes.

          Of course, a useful horrific idea never seems to die: useful to racists, that is. So we seem to be witnessing a revival of this mendacious and malignant “translation.”

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          1. Well now, we’re talking about a collection of fragments that originated in oral tradition, then came down thru the ages in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and who knows how many other languages. Then subjected to the work of numerous “editors” thru the centuries (sorry, believers, that book of myth and legend is NOT “the literal word of Jehovah God”!) and revisions by sundry Christian authorities. So who is to say what part is a “mistranslation”??

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      2. I think there are simple and complex reasons for evangelical support of Trump. The simple include his anti-abortion rhetoric, his selection of Mike Pence, his willingness to strike poses that resonate, e.g. holding a Bible outside a church.

        It gets more complicated in the way that Trump has supported religious education as comparable to secular and deserving of federal funding (vouchers and the like). Trump is anti-science and sometimes thinks in magical/irrational terms, and this skepticism of science and magical thinking is shared by some evangelicals (though it’s hardly exclusive to them).

        On an emotional/spiritual level, it’s more than obvious Trump is a major-league sinner. Painting broadly here, evangelicals teach a keen awareness of sin — and some think man can do nothing to please God because we are so sinful and flawed, and that’s why some are “predestined” for heaven, selected by God but not because we earned it by our works. I think evangelicals relate to Trump as a deeply flawed and sinful man who is nevertheless “good” (or at least useful to them) on some level.

        This is just a guess, but maybe some people think, Trump’s a bigtime sinner and he’s president; maybe there’s hope for me too, despite my awareness of my sins. Despite my depravity.

        And of course another factor is evangelical distrust of Democrats and their pro-choice stance, among so many other positions …

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        1. I can give you the point of view of my wife, who grew up in a conservative evangelical home and who still talks with the fairly large number of friends and family who are conservative evangelical: for the people she knows who support Trump it’s all due to the way he supports the Israeli government in its expansion and annexation desires. For them, that is by far the most important issue at hand so as long as he keeps up with that they will find a way to be for him no matter what other issues there may be.

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          1. Thanks. I forgot about that. Yes — there is a strong element of “End Times” associated with Israel and Jerusalem. Trump plays to that with his blanket support of the Israeli government.

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          2. Is the concern for the support of Israel related to the End Times and Rapture concept, then? Just asking out of curiosity, to try to figure out the thinking of a significant part of DJT’s base.

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          3. To clarify: yes, with the people I was talking about the “support of Israel” (in quotes as in my opinion abetting the current drive to expand Israel and the mistreatment of Palestinians is actually destroying the nation) is coming from a belief that in order for the Second Coming to happen Israel must exist and encompass far more territory than either the original partition plan or the 1967 borders and most assuredly needs to possess Jerusalem. They don’t really seem to care about the Israeli population except as tools to fulfill this. Which explains why there are sometimes genuinely antisemitic people to be found in this group who are rabidly pro-Netanyahu.

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          4. That’s quite the understatement!! The “pro-Israel no matter what crimes the regime there commits” lobby is FULL OF flaming Jew-haters! I’m sure Trump is in that camp, along with hordes of other totally sleazy Republicans. If you could be a fly on the wall in the rooms where they talk about Jews privately, I’m sure your ears would catch fire!!

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          5. RMO–I still think a complete ban on abortion is the prime concern of that crowd. But yes, it’s long been out in the open that Israel is viewed as the road to Armageddon, which will bring about the “rapture” directly to Heaven for the Faithful while the rest of us suckers here on Earth are vaporized. This is all so foolish and nonsensical that I can’t find the words to fully express it!

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        2. The essence of “Born-Again Christian” creeds–I have observed these phenomena for decades now–is pretty simple. We are all born in sin and condemned to Hell because of the fall taken by Adam. The escape from this sentence has nothing to do with dedicating one’s life here on Earth to doing good, charitable deeds. One must grovel, one must make oneself lower than a worm, admit to being a wretched sinner, and accept Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior. And bingo (talk about “magical thinking”!), just like that, one is “saved” from a future in Hell. As I’ve explained previously in this space, this “Evangelical” crap is really an IDEOLOGICAL strain of disease, embracing the things Trump spouts about constantly.

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          1. The “roll on that Rapture!” stuff is even more strange when you consider that a pretty substantial percent of the world’s Christians don’t even believe in the Rapture. Another thing that stands out is the lack of concern that evangelicals of the type that support Israel’s expansion sort of completely ignore the Palestinian Maronite and Orthodox Christians (or for that matter the Christians in Syria).

            The upcoming US election fills me with dread. I think that no matter who wins the fallout is going to be horrendous. If Trump loses I think a lot of his supporters will believe that he only lost due to election manipulation and they will see it as effectively a coup. If Biden loses the same thing will happen. I’m still amazed that the Democrats pulled the “foreign interference/the election was hacked” genie out of the bottle in order to avoid coming to terms with the fact that they lost because they ran a polarizing and widely disliked candidate and also ran a poor campaign. I am sure the Republicans will make use of the same techniques if their man loses this fall and it will raise chaos. A nation and a society is essentially an act of the collective imagination of the citizens and if they stop believing in it things can fall apart quickly and with great destruction. The US is getting close to the critical mass point with that now.

            I can’t see this fall playing out relatively smoothly unless both the prospective candidates drop dead of COVID or something before the election happens. If that happened I suspect the only noteworthy turmoil would be from Sanders supporters justifiably angry that the DNC et al would find some way to prevent him from being the candidate.

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          2. I’m sure that you are correct about only a minority of self-identifying Christians being in “the Rapture camp.” The problem is that those who DO flock to that system of beliefs are the loudest, most obnoxious and, frankly, dangerous (to the survival and well-being of the rest of us). The more loudly someone shouts about being “a Christian,” the more jaundiced is my regard of that person. My friend Mark Twain observed that there are “professing Christians”–those who lead their lives quietly, sincerely trying to practice what they understand to be the creed–and “PROFESSIONAL Christians.” The latter have found a way to advance their careers, especially in US politics these days, and feather their nests with bags of money by subscribing to a certain noxious ideology, cloaked in the robe of Jesus.

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          3. Back in my junior high school days, after attending a local Sunday School Bronze Age Mythology sermon, I returned home and asked my mother (raised a Lutheran, but who had her own personal religion): “Mom, am I born again?” She replied: “No son. I gave birth to you properly the first time. And I’d rather have a root canal without anaesthetic than ever go through that agony again.” As Forrest Gump would say: “Momma always had a way of explaining things to me so that I could understand them.”

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          4. “A nation and a society is essentially an act of the collective imagination of the citizens and if they stop believing in it things can fall apart quickly and with great destruction.”

            That’s well put, RMO. The US is a huge and disparate country. Some states could easily be their own countries, e.g. California, Texas.

            Trump is acting as the divider-in-chief, using culture war and racism to rally the base, motivating them with anger and hatred. Whether he loses or wins, those dark forces will have their day — indeed, they already are.

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          5. The “tell-all” book by Mary, a niece of The Donald, is due for publication within days, Big Donny having failed to legally stifle it (don’t be surprised if he launches a last-minute appeal to get a new injunction against publication, though). It apparently will reveal new personal ugliness within “the Trump Dynasty” that the general public has not been privy to. It’s easy to predict that Team Trump will launch a campaign of personal vilification of its author, saying the book is just a pack of lies from cover to cover and its publication just another effort to cash in on the name Trump. (For that matter, they may well say the Biden operation put her up to it!) I very seldom buy this kind of book, and don’t plan to buy this one, but if it sways just one previous Trump voter to desert the Trump Camp I’ll be pleased.

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          6. Ah yes, the shedder of crocodile tears, Jimmy Swaggart! Highly entertaining stuff! And BTW, the movie of “Elmer Gantry” turns 60 years old this year. It joins “Inherit the Wind” in that age category, and both are quite relevant to the politics of USA today.

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    2. Really Greg? Rithmic in your head tells you 50% of whites are racist? That’s one of the most racist things I’ve heard lately. A racist defining racists by doing racist calculations in his head.

      As hard as it might be for you to digest, racism has been fanned into a much bigger thing than it actually is by all the hot air blowing out of the Marxist left wingers. Not to say racism doesn’t exist. It does. You’re an example. What’s the matter Greg? Life hand you a bad deal or what? Lighten up. Rants like that are not helpful.

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      1. “DEAR JOHN”: Your comment may be the most hilarious one I’ve yet to find on Bracing Views!! Congrats, you should be a stand-up comedian! Isn’t it “funny” how any web-based forum trying to present progressive views draws wingnuts like sh*t draws flies?! A sign of the times.

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      2. Rock on John. You made me realize that the lions share of America’s racists are now those who are constantly calling others racist.

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      3. Rock on John. You made me realize that the lions share of America’s racists are now those who are constantly calling others racist.

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  5. Trump will win in 2020. Not for many of things he is, but for many of the things he isn’t. Thankfully there are still some core values in the American psyche, and recent events have served to further clarify who is who and what is what. Even without prompting from Trump, and in the face of relentlessly preached penny wisdom/pound foolishness, Americans are now clearly seeing what Democrats and the Left truly have to offer. Instincts are kicking in. Fight or flight. Trump will win in 2020…it’s a lock. As the saying goes, the future is already here, it is just not widely distributed yet.

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    1. Democrats, yes. The Left? There is no Left to speak of — not in the DNC and not in Biden’s campaign.

      The Democrats, notably Obama, conspired to eliminate Bernie Sanders. What we’ve got is Joe Biden, who is often to the right of Trump on wars.

      So, it wouldn’t surprise me if Trump won in 2020 — but if he does, it will be because the Democrats had nothing to offer to workers.

      Here’s a good summary of Joe Biden and his fellow neo-cons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwBJIr0msH8

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    2. TJOSTEEN–Well, I agree that Trump has a very good chance of being elected to a second term but I find nothing to celebrate in that prospect. You, of course, are free to celebrate racism and non-stop preposterous lying by a POTUS all you wish to. “It’s a free country, right?” Or so we were raised to believe.

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  6. Chris Hedges: “It’s over. Anyone who thinks we live in a functioning democracy should turn off Rachel Maddow and start reading Sheldon Wolin.”

    A Pair of Petrarchan Polemics
    (after the Elizabethan “Italian” sonnet style)

    “The Russians did [whatever].” Maddow said it.
    Americans must have someone to blame.
    Excuses they require, both weak and lame.
    Just start a rumor, then proceed to spread it.
    [Whatever] bad, give Vladimir the credit.
    In Cable-TV World, it’s all the same:
    The Villain has a Russian-sounding name.
    (Have Rachel make it up. No need to edit.)
    Or Trump. His tweets. His speeches (Himself-centered)
    A product and a symptom of our fate.
    The infantile career, by Bannon mentored.
    Once more we hear the Nixon suffix “-gate”
    Pursue the White House occupant who entered
    Then on the nation’s nerves began to grate.

    Our “leaders” want submission, not our thanks.
    They tell us where to go and where to stick it.
    A billionaire’s behind? They say to lick it.
    Obama’s government, chose by some banks.
    Now Biden: lost, confused, and drawing blanks.
    “Not Trump And Not Quite Dead” seems just the ticket.
    The Democrats’ new plan? A chirping cricket,
    But billions more for missiles, planes, and tanks.
    Some books have told us all about this racket.
    An Oligarchy with Free Money swollen
    To benefit the topmost income bracket.
    Along the way, Democracy was stolen
    By some fool posing in a bomber jacket.
    To understand, start reading Sheldon Wolin.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2020

    Liked by 2 people

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