Favoring Unity in an Age of Trump Fueled Division
Every person has strengths and weaknesses. For most, these are placed comfortably within a “normal” range that confers advantages but does not separate one individual from the rest of the population to a noticeable degree. However, a few individuals have entered the media limelight or industrial niche stratosphere through a unique combination of skills, situational merits, and luck. For all his fame, infamy, loyalty, and disdain — President Donald J. Trump is and has been one of those unique individuals that captures headlines, earns the attention of the populace, and stands at the forefront of business and political circles.
Donald Trump’s arc could be likened to another unique individual, Kim Kardashian. Seem a bit of a reach? Consider these truths about both individuals: they are image obsessed, enjoyed a gifted start within the upper echelon of social circles, have cascaded their successes to their family members, and used reality TV show(s) to skyrocket their stardom. Although vastly different in innumerable other ways, it is no surprise that these two have taken a mutual respect to one another (at least enough to work with one another…) https://www.businessinsider.com/kim-kardashian-west-trump-announced-more-criminal-justice-reforms-2019-6).
While you could argue Trump has a real estate empire or that Kim (and the Kardashian family) have make up or clothing empires, it all boils down to the same thing for both — image. This image is a carefully curated glimpse into the high life of luxury that both individuals enjoy. Both individuals also garner mounds of criticism, not the least directed toward how and why they’ve achieved their high standings. But really, image is crafted through marketing and it is through marketing that both individuals and their families display their genius.
That’s right: genius. Putting the Kardashians aside (not the focus of this article), Trump is just one of many successful real estate moguls — and according to the Forbes 400, only the 30th most wealthy from real estate and ranked 339th in total wealth (https://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/). While still impressive, you have to ask why the others didn’t reach his level of stardom and public reach. Certainly some were not interested in taking center stage in the public eye, but Trump has been synonymous with financial success for some time. Nothing could have “escalated” him higher than marketing and image control. The recent article by the New York Times on Trump’s questionable tax returns spells this notion out even further (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/27/us/donald-trump-taxes.html).
You don’t have to look back through thirty years of business dealings, public notoriety, episodes of “The Apprentice”, or beauty pageants to see the whiz at work. From the way he labeled opponents in political races in 2016 and now in 2020 to how he’s avoided serious damage from the countless scandal allegations to how he’s developed and spread his message of fighting for his supporters at his rallies — it’s all marketing and it’s worked better than any political analyst or pollster ever predicted both then and now. He’s baffled the experts, ignored their advice, and is succeeding at greater rates than everyone except for himself predicted. He sees marketing opportunities that others haven’t and has been able to capitalize on these. If only in this one area of marketing, the man’s a genius.
Many of those attributes lending to his success such as hyperbole or stretching the truth is something that enrages the left and burns only hotter the fire of loyalty within his supporters. But in truth, these are items all politicians engage in to some degree. The unfortunate reality is that these qualities only serve to drive deeper the divide amongst U. S. citizens and our country as a whole is paying the price. Have we ever been more vulnerable to foreign exploitation? Have we experienced a more inept or partisan congress?
It would seem that neither side is willing to work with the other or even sit down to talk with them, let alone support something from across the aisle. Do we have goals as a nation? Are our elected leaders seeking to accomplish them?
I would imagine each party (Republican/Democrat/etc.) would answer the first question with their own agenda and advise that they are unable to accomplish those goals because the opposing party is preventing it. I’ve always believed it takes two sides to fight and two sides to come to the table — no one is to blame if not them all. What are the elected officials doing to end this stalemate and seek communication, collaboration or cooperation in search for common ground and ultimately the improvements their citizens desire? If the answer is anything other than promoting unity and common ground, they’re a part of the problem. Finger pointing and negative advertising inflames division — how can we move forward with this attitude?
The deeper truth is that our elected officials are a reflection of the voting populace. Republicans vote for Republicans and Democrats vote for Democrats. It is those in the middle who float between the two that hold the outcome of elections in their hands. Regardless, the behaviors and results on Capitol Hill are implicitly or explicitly approved of by the election and reelection of these officials. So those same behaviors are less a consequence of unique functioning of the political apparatus than they are a reflection of the American population and the current political climate.
Whereas in years past this citizen debate was largely only seen on occasion or behind closed doors, it can now be viewed at any moment by anyone and contributed to by those within and outside of the voting populace. Social media is the new means for communication, whether we like it or not. How many commenters have you seen berating the left or the right? How many individuals are quick to write off opposing views as “stupid” or “moronic”? By tabulating the “likes” and “retweets” it should be easy to see plenty of people agree with these sentiments.
It’s everyone’s right to believe that one side or opinion is correct while an opposing view is wrong. However, it’s a mistake to think that the opposing view or those that hold it are stupid. It’s even worse to find yourself with negative feelings for those individuals. The complaints of division amongst our country have been loud and warranted, but does writing off others help this cause?
You may like or you may dislike Trump, but he’s not stupid. His supporters are also not stupid. Those that oppose Trump and his supporters are not stupid. Those individuals that believe the other side is stupid may in fact be stupid themselves or at least ignorant to the motivations and life experiences that caused those beliefs.
I’m quite certain everyone has their reasons and their priorities. If you have serious concerns about the division amongst us, seek to resolve it. We all have access to those same social media platforms that others have. Be a voice of unity, be a voice of clear convictions, be a voice of reality both when it does and doesn’t support your previously held beliefs — be a voice expressing rational thought. Be a listener, be a learner, be a reader, be a conscious deliberator — be a person that seeks to improve their own understanding. The conversations currently happening are often not conversations at all. If you’re only agreeing with beliefs you already have, you’re really only talking to yourself. A conversation requires a variety of voices with different backgrounds, life experiences and opinions — it also requires the ability for the participants to see things from another perspective. We all need to see things from another perspective if we want our country to survive, to thrive and for lives to continue to improve.
At a minimum, please see that opposing views are not at fault. If you see Trump supporters as dumb loyalists, understand then that they are victims of Trump’s curated image and message marketing that targets them. But Trump’s marketing can only be effective if it is truly reaching a segment of the population. And it can only reach them if the other side isn’t listening. So if conservatives are dumb loyalists for supporting Trump, understand that the left has contributed to this — willing or unwittingly.
The voices speaking the loudest right now (September 2020) are those part of the Black Lives Matter movement, those that oppose Trump, and those that are seeking public office election. The brow beating is of the highest concentration from the left as is the accusations on the right. Just as the momentum appears to be pro-left currently, the momentum was pro-right in 2014 when the Republicans overtook the Senate and in 2016 when Trump won office. The ugliness of the populace rises against those in power for they tend to only listen to those that elect them — today’s climatic ugliness was reversed eight years ago and will reverse again when Democrats retake the White House (2020, 2024, or beyond) unless the populace and our leaders change the tone and attitude we take with those who oppose our views. It takes a range of beliefs gained through intent on listening to keep the country united. We focus on those things that divide us and fail to rally on those that unite us. Surely, our elected officials can do better. Surely, our citizens can do better. Surely, we are better.