Thought Experiment: What if . . . Donald J. Trump

Thought Experiment: What if… Donald J. Trump

By George Chigas

What would it look like if people like me, who see very little to like about President Donald J. Trump, were to suspend judgment for a moment and try to be more objective, even empathetic? What would it look like? The purpose of this thought experiment is to try and see Donald Trump through the eyes of the people who support him. What do they see that I don’t see? Some people dismiss Trump supporters as being racist, homophobic, xenophobic, etc., but I don’t agree. Some of my friends support Trump (albeit some less enthusiastically than others), and they are no more racist, etc., than the rest of us.

After suspending personal biases as much as possible, here are some preliminary findings:

  1. DJT is not an idiot, far from it. He has a great talent for gauging public opinion and using the media to his advantage.
  2. He has a clear “America First” vision for the US economy. That is, he is not flying by the seat of his pants, as some portray him. Rather, he has been steadfastly pursuing that vision, primarily through the use of tariffs and rewriting trade agreements. His daily measure of success is the response of Wall Street to his policies, and the DJIA is at an all-time record high.
  3. He is a fierce competitor and a fighter. The fact that he enjoys flouting the rules is something that works in his favor for many of us. As the old adage goes (this was recently stated in a Globe article about Alex Cora), “if you’re not breaking the rules, you’re not trying.”
  4. He is not a racist. In keeping with his economic vision, his “Wall” and deportation efforts are not racist. They are economic. If the people from Guatemala and Honduras were glamorous and educated like his wife Melania, the door would be wide open. Knowing full well that some people might find this policy cruel and inhumane, he uses his talent to manipulate public opinion through the media and calls these impoverished and desperate migrants “rapists” and “drug dealers.”
  5. He is not a hawk, and he is not a dove. He has used military force sparingly, primarily because there is no money in it. In fact, a primary focus of his foreign policy is to get US allies to pay for their own defense.
  6. He is a pragmatist. This means using the cheapest and most readily available energy resources to accelerate economic growth as much as possible as fast as possible. (See “findings #2” above)

Conclusions:

  1. DJT is not as bad a president as some people think, and he is not as good as some people think.
  2. Ultimate “success” for many people who support DJT is the 20th century image of the millionaire on his yacht with a drink in one hand and a beautiful woman in the other. As a dyed in the wool elitist, President Trump plays to that illusion very well. But its time has come and gone, and I hope we’ve learned a thing or two and are ready to get back to work.

George Chigas, Ph.D., is Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of World Languages & Cultures at UMass Lowell.

4 Responses to Thought Experiment: What if . . . Donald J. Trump

  1. Lynne says:

    Well, this piece is disappointing. First, we have data:
    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2019/08/14/trump-and-racism-what-do-the-data-say/

    It is clear that racism and anti-immigrant sentiments correlates with Trump support, not economic anxiety. Multiple studies have shown this over several years. Also, every move this president has made has actually made economic anxiety for his supporters WORSE–from tariffs causing family farms to go under, to coal mines closing, to fisherman not being able to sell overseas due to the same tariffs. (And cranberry farms! for heaven’s sake!)

    Second, your white friends might THINK they are not racist…but I bet you dollars to donuts they do not think twice about their own white privilege, how not having dark skin did not hold them back, and how dangerous the racism of Trump actually is. In fact, I’d argue, the act of supporting a completely racist president IS an act of racism, and of white supremacy and privilege. Because as a white person (which I am myself), we can ignore all the bad things about him, pretending it’s about “economic disruption” or whatever…but if you live in non-white skin, the consequences are very real, and you can’t go around ignoring that…at your own peril. Hence, it’s racist to support him. And supporters therefore are racist.

    Trump himself has also consistently, objectively been REALLY racist. From tweeting Jewish stereotypes, to assuming all or most of brown immigrants rapists and murderers, to calling places immigrants of color come from “shithole countries,” to CALLING FOR THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE to stay IN JAIL after they were CLEARLY EXONERATED, to discriminating against black folks in his housing OVER and OVER again…he’s racist to the core, there can be no doubt.

    He is also demonstrably dumb as a post. If there is a word for the opposite of “intellectually curious” it would apply here. There about a thousand examples, but this recent one scares the bippy out of me.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/youre-a-bunch-of-dopes-and-babies-inside-trumps-stunning-tirade-against-generals/2020/01/16/d6dbb8a6-387e-11ea-bb7b-265f4554af6d_story.html

    And in fact, his foreign policy has been slapdash, dangerous, and destroyed any hope of keeping Iran or North Korea from having nukes. Not to mention pissing off every ally we have…

    It’s also pretty clear that Trump’s pugilistic tendencies not only ruin any chance for good decision making, but stem from a VERY toxic narcissism that precludes any chance he will ever admit to being wrong. That is a dangerous person to have in charge, and anyone who objectively thinks about this should be able to see that…but the Cult of Trump do not, because it is more of a religion to them than a political movement. I suggest you read The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer (free PDF on the internet for download) for some psychological examination of the type of people bamboozled by someone like Trump…it’ll be eye opening.

    https://theauthoritarians.org/Downloads/TheAuthoritarians.pdf

    In conclusion, your entire post is completely hogwash. Objectively speaking.

  2. Amy Baranoski says:

    He may have a reality tv star’s ability to manipulate the media and rile up his base, but that doesn’t mean he’s not an idiot. Countless sources have shown him to be clueless about basic issues and utterly incurious about learning more. He even lacks a fundamental understanding of the policies he shapes. (Other countries don’t “owe” us money for NATO. That’s just not how it works.)

    I disagree with the premise that his racism stems from a place of economics, rather than merely skin color. But, even if you are granted that point, it doesn’t matter. The end result is the same. Racism. Children are still lost and remain in cages. Stephen Miller remains on his senior staff. Hate crimes are still encouraged and on the rise. Trump voters believe they aren’t racist because they don’t attend clan rallies, but they just have the privilege to ignore the racism.

    I refuse to “both sides” this. His behavior and his 15,000+ lies must not be normalized. Getting rid of him won’t fix everything… the entire Republican party is complicit in lying for him in this sham Senate trial… but it’s a good place to start.

    He is exactly as bad as I think he is.

  3. George Chigas says:

    Thanks for these comments. As an ardent Bernie supporter who may share many of the political positions that you may have, I need to clarify the purpose of this thought experiment. Basically, I tasked myself with trying to identify the common ground necessary for engaging in dialog with Trump supporters. How else can we move forward collectively to address the many pressing problems that threaten human existence on this planet? I can see how someone might have read my “preliminary findings” as supporting Trump’s policies. This was not my intention. Personally, I find his policies as reprehensible as you do. My intention was to try to see Trump’s policies through the eyes of the tens of millions of people who do support his policies, as a way to prepare the way for dialog. I may not be able to have a reasonable dialog with everyone, but I am willing to try, as long as that person grants me my right to exist and have my own opinions. If there is one person out of a million Trump supporters who is willing to sit down and exchange points of view, than I believe the effort is worthwhile. But the first step for each of us is to try to see things from the other’s perspective. This experiment would probably not include the white supremacists who would deny the right to exist or have opinions of my friends of color (which would include my biracial children), but I believe that is a small minority. I have to believe that the vast majority of Trump supporters share many of the basic values and motivations that I have and would be willing to engage in dialog if I were to show them that I am willing to listen.

  4. Chuck says:

    Well done Professor!

    Shocking, but I applaud your experiment.

    If only more people would try to see things from their “adversary’s” perspective perhaps there would be more understanding and constructive discussions and less of each side calling the other morons – perhaps also the Dems would have a fighting chance to get him out of office too.

    I don’t understand why seemingly intelligent people can only assume a short sighted “holier than thou” attitude and can’t appreciate there are a lot of other points of view out there; who of course are all morons.

    Well done.

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