Wissot: If you think Trump’s minions are morons, you’re wrong (column)

Jay Wissot
Valley Voices
Jay Wissot
Special to the Daily

I can’t remember how many times I thought it; it began right after he was elected more than two years ago and continued until I began questioning it.

It generally went like this: “The stupidest people in America elected the stupidest person to be our president.” Part of it seems to be true. Donald J. Trump is uniquely unqualified for the office. He lacks a fundamental understanding of government, the constitution, the courts, history, diplomacy, the importance of a free press and any other subjects that do not pertain to real estate and reality television. What’s worse is he shows no interest in wanting to learn.

He suffers from what one commentator on MSNBC referred to as “galactic ignorance.”

While that may be true of the president, why should we believe that it is true for upwards of 40 percent of the electorate? We shouldn’t. They are not all sticking with this president because of mental limitations.

Trump’s base is too diverse to be lumped together and stereotyped as dumb. I separate them into the really religious, the really rich, the really rural and the really scared. Yes, they are mostly white and a certain percentage of them are racists. But blatant bigotry is not the only factor that got Trump elected and keeps his followers loyal.

Let’s begin with the white evangelicals who have overlooked his impious and unethical behavior because he has delivered on what is most essential to them: two conservative appointees to the Supreme Court. You can accuse them of having made a grand bargain with “Devil Donald“ to get abortion banned and roll back the normalization of gay rights but calling them morons is unfounded. Selling your soul does not mean you have lost your mind.

One may have many harsh things to say about the very rich but low IQ is not one of them. You stay uber-rich in this country by gaming the tax code in your favor. The wealthiest of the wealthy have to be smart enough to hire the best accountants, lawyers and lobbyists to do that for them. Trump gave them a windfall tax cut that made all of his wacky, loony behavior tolerable.

The clash between urban and rural America dates back to Hamilton and Jefferson. In today’s politics, it is referred to as the divide separating the coastal elites from the large swath of people living in flyover country.

The basis for their conflict is a difference in values. Rural folks don’t lack smarts. They simply vote their values. A strong belief in God, family, country and a constitutional right to gun ownership is not a sign of stupidity. Supposedly, more educated and sophisticated urban liberals vote their comparably fervent feelings for greater social justice and economic equality without having their intelligence questioned.

Trump tapped into critical rural values during the campaign and continued to do so for the first two years of his presidency. There is a reason he loved campaigning in places like Alabama and West Virginia. Finally, I have acknowledged that there is an underlying bigotry in Trump’s appeal to some members of his base. He has railed against immigrants and immigration from the beginning of his rise to power.

But hatred towards others, while obviously deplorable, is rooted in fear, not dumbness. The irrational fear of not being in the majority, of experiencing what racial, cultural and religious minorities have always experienced, is real for many white Americans. The demographic time bomb is set to explode by 2045. (“The US Will Become ‘Minority White’ In 2045, “ William H. Frey, The Brookings Institute, March 14, 2018 )

Trump is a master at stoking his base’s worst fears. He does with his wild claims that hordes of criminal immigrants are illegally entering the country what the NRA does by scaring its members into believing that gun control legislation will inevitably lead to government confiscation of all their guns.

Both allegations are untrue. But that doesn’t matter to irrationally fearful people who believe otherwise.

I personally find Trump obnoxious. But my extreme dislike for him doesn’t give me the right to think that everyone who doesn’t share my disapproval is a moron.

We differ in our values, not our intellects.


Support Local Journalism