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So I've been spending a lot of time watching the media and listening to the various presidential candidates lately and every time I get fed up and turn off my TV I seem to ask myself the same questions -- What the hell is Trump thinking? Is he really the GOP front-runner? Is it possible he could actually get elected? And, When exactly did I get sucked through the vortex into this "BizarrO" version of America where Superman is a villain, baseball, mom and apple pie are bad, and Donald Trump could actually become president?

I don't get it. I do understand people's frustration with traditional 'politicians'. I even understand how someone who says what is on their mind could be found appealing. Just not this guys mind. The crap that comes out of Trumps mouth is mind-blowing. Yet, they seem to love it.

And the truly remarkable thing is he's running as a republican! This is the party that was so morally outraged by Bill Clinton they spent 8 years and $80 million dollars trying to prove what a terrible person he was and how he was going to destroy this country by leaving us with budget surpluses and a strong economy. Then introduced us to Geo. W. Bush and told us he was the man to restore integrity to Washington DC and rebuild our reputation oversea's. Now, simply because we elected Barack Obama as president they have lost their freakin' minds and are backing Trump as their new messiah?

Where the hell did that come from?

I think it's safe to say that Trump's popularity as a Presidential candidate is indicative of a larger scale cultural failing in the US today. But that's not a sexy click-able headline. It, like so much in this country, needs to be simplified for people to 'get it'.

And that's his secret. Trump resonates with people because he has a simple solution for everything and projects confidence that he can get it done. China? Beat 'em. ISIS? Destroy 'em. Immigration? Send 'em back. Homeland Security? Build a wall. Jobs? Take 'em back from overseas. Infrastructure? Build, build and rebuild. Ect... ect... ect.

It couldn't be more simple (and we Americans do love it simple) which is really the point. As a society, we don't acknowledge that the world is a terribly complicated place, and that big hairy problems don't usually have simple solutions. The entertainment industry has taught us that all manner of crime, political crisis, or family shenanigans can be resolved in roughly 47 minutes. Larger problems -- like epic natural disasters and alien invasions -- may take upwards of 2 hours to get sorted out. But that's the top end. If your problem requires more time that that, then you're a mini-series or just milking the press opportunity.

But the problem goes way beyond any one candidate. The real problem with American politics is the growing tendency among politicians to pursue victory above all else, which runs counter to the basic democratic values this country was founded on. The fierce competition between opposing views of government now seems to be degenerating into something toxic. Politics in America is all-out war, where victory is paramount, "compromise" is a dirty word, and virtually any issue or development can become a weapon for bludgeoning the other side. This is the sort of environment that allows a Donald Trump to become a viable candidate.

Unfortunately, there is no consensus on what's driving this increased polarization. Analysts point to everything from the rising role of money in politics to partisan gerrymandering to changes in the way news is covered in the age of cable television and the internet. But whatever the case, it is probably useless to focus on any single cause at this stage because many factors are now at play, all reinforcing one another. The phenomenon seems to have taken on a life of its own, and it is threatening the nation's capacity to solve critical problems, from employment to energy to entitlements to education. Heck, its even spread to issues that don't start with the letter E!

What's needed is something basic but demanding: a renewed sense of commitment to the health of our democracy -- above party, economic interest and ideology. This is critical. Because the competition between opposing views of government proves most fruitful when it takes place in the context of such a shared commitment: Disagreements may be intense, but they are only taken so far - like in a family. Which is what we are: the American family.

I guess what Trump's candidacy proves is that we are a family. In fact, we're so much like a family, we put the 'fun' back in Dysfunctional! Anyway, I don't know about you, but if Donald Trump was part of my family, I'd consider changing my name. (That is, after I hit him up for a loan. He is very rich, you know.)

~ EJK

Eric J. Kiser

Eric J. Kiser

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  • Simple- that is it. So many want a very simple answer to a problem and he has that in abundance. Nothing real or concrete, just one word answers and people are gobbling it up. Recently I had a disturbing conversation with a friend, she thinks he is great. "I think he really speaks his mind and that if he becomes president, he will probably get this nation back on track to being great again". The thing is that's code for: "He says what I think but I know I am not supposed to say such bigoted ignorant things out loud." He is not speaking HIS mind he is speaking the mind of people who consume a steady diet of FAUX non-reality. My friend went on to say: "I am repulsed by Clinton's lack of respect for the American people and our country. The way she tried to make jokes about her emails and the server being wiped clean. Obviously she is trying to hide something. I am also repulsed about Saunders wanting to give everything away for free. I've worked more than 40 hours per week most of my adult life, I put myself through school, I've never been on unemployment, welfare, Medi-cal or had any kind of government assistance. I'm tired of seeing people exploiting the system. They need to get up off their asses and work.” Recognize any FAUX talking points?

  • Hi Deborah,
    Sorry for the delayed response. Spent some time under the weather recently.

    Thanks for the great comment. I have a bunch of friends who are telling me similar things as your friend. And I agree with your thought regarding a 'code'. It is a bit wierd to see a different side to some of these folks than what we normally see. Some really came from left field and I have had to come to terms with that.

    As far as Trump goes, I don't think he is a stupid man - but he sure says stupid things. And is getting away with it. After his announcement, and the results of the first debate came in, I spent some time considering how and why he wasn't kicked to the curb by comments that in prior elections would have ended others careers. Then I hit on the 'simple answer' answer. It was the only thing that made sense. Americans love simple...