U. S. election dangers, as explained to Europeans • Tennessee Lookout

I’ve had the good fortune to teach in both London and Prague, and to have presented research in Lisbon and Istanbul, and  I recently tried to explain our national politics to some baffled Europeans, with the following result. 

As we enter the heart of the U. S. election season, I understand how it can seem confusing and bizarre. Even the most informed European rightly can and should be baffled by American procedures and a system that can yield so alarmingly unqualified a major presidential candidate as Donald Trump.

I offer a few clues and perspectives that may help add to understanding, stemming from my credentials: I speak to points about the U. S. media as a professor of journalism and media and I’ve studied American media for more than 40 years. I’ve also been a radio reporter and host, a television news producer, and a newspaper columnist. On the political side, my name has been on a public ballot ten times, and I’ve won eight of those contests.    

I’ll approach these matters as a series of three questions.

What explains the popularity of Donald Trump?

Trump is a political gadfly with a thin skin and no self-control. He nearly squandered the large inheritance from his father when he was saved by the reality television program The Apprentice. He fits the idea many people have about what a rich guy is: brash, crude, and taking no guff from anyone.

His political inexperience when he entered the race for president in 2015 was no concern. He didn’t understand governance or public policy but it didn’t matter. He and his supporters in the Republican Party reconfigured it into the Trump Party, an inchoate rage party. Lingering traditionalist Republicans thought they could ride the tiger, and found themselves swallowed by it.

Trump devotees overwhelmingly are white, male, rural, call themselves conservative and Evangelical Christians — even if the actual things they are told to favor often may be at odds with those labels.

There is a long tradition in American politics of pitting poor white people against poor Black people. Power brokers and their lackeys craft works to obscure the more meaningful divide, the wealthy and their corporations squeezing and exploiting everyone else.

Who better to lead the downtrodden to vote against their own interests than a narcissist and habitual liar like Donald Trump? He stumbled into this grift, but now exploits the crowds for cash needed to pay for his mounting legal bills.

The Trump voter for years has been conditioned (by talk radio and Fox News) to think of all discourse on a left-right scale, and all politics as merely about sides — them as hard-working true Americans (read that also as white patriarchy) versus an influx of lazy, dark moochers. In this formulation, American exceptionalism takes the form of a stern father harshly teaching our own to behave, but caring only for America, walling ourselves off and leaving the rest of the world to wallow in their benighted inferiority, unblessed by God.

Continuing this bizarre construction, the enemy other side may be led by globalists or a group of over-educated smarty pants — the…

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