- He strives to keep his campaign promises, unlike other presidents.
- He is a consummate master of modern media, understanding implicitly how to deliver his message to the masses, especially in ways that make for good television entertainment.
- He is very good at out-maneuvering his opponents.
- He is probably enjoying his presidency more than his predecessors, since he doesn't feel responsible for how the world works, and doesn't lose sleep over what fires need to be put out.
- He has addressed some legitimate issues, such as ailing infrastructure, trade imbalances, and the high costs of garrisoning the world.
- He is adept at keeping his name in the news every day, and showcasing the defensiveness and passive aggression of his enemies.
Trump may remind us of the class clowns we knew growing up. In the Washington Post book Trump Revealed from 2016, some remember him being just that. Some want the teacher to get on with the lesson and put the miscreant in his or her place. Others like the break in the action, or welcome some levity in the midst of a dreary lesson. Others take the side of their peer against the instructor and his or her perceived tyranny. For a conservative icon, Trump (and the media culture of the Right) come across as bad boys and girls willing to prod and pummel the uptight liberal establishment, at risk of official opprobrium. This card has been played for many years, even when conservatives have dominated the Presidency, Congress and, increasingly, the judiciary. It is not a simple matter of hypocrisy or deception. This is the narrative the Right promotes, because victimizers like to see themselves as victims, and the loyal base likes to see themselves as fellow sufferers. Wealthy people and corporations striving to avoid estate taxes are seen as peers of the middle and lower classes, since the less fortunate would be rich, too, if they just tried harder. That they also promote policies damaging to the well-being of the general public (like weakened labor, environmental and safety regulations) seems beside the point. Liberals are the nagging sourpusses, the holdouts that the rest cannot abide, who stand in the way of economic prosperity. The confidence in him is so strong among his supporters, they might greet imminent annihilation with a smile on their faces, since they might be he could provide a deux ex machina at any moment. Cognitive dissonance is that strong. Facts will not win them over. On the other hand, as the recent altercation involving Covington Catholic High School students in Washington, D.C. shows, first impressions are not necessarily definitive.
When speaking with someone whose politics are on the opposite side of the fence, one should keep the following principles in mind:
- No one's perception is perfect, and sufficient, in and of itself.
- If one values friendship with another, one shouldn't insist upon being right, or evangelizing another.
- The other person has unique gifts, which should be validated and shared, for that person's own well-being and for one's own. Political or other differences are too slight to merit the exclusion of another's other qualities.
- The degree to which the super rich, and corporations, control our society and buy our political representatives, is a concern for all of us, conservative and liberal. Societal divisions blunt united efforts to address the disparities among us, and the dwindling of governmental services. If we want better schools, roads, public safety, and access to medical care, we need a united voice.
- What is truth, and reality, as some say, is simply an illusion most of us agree upon.
- To change society, one has to work with political rivals, since there are not enough progressives out there to sway the public. One needs votes of all sorts of people to get anything done.
- Many people profit from sowing dissension. Anger stoking is big business these days, as Charles Duhigg pointed out in a recent Atlantic article. We shouldn't let ourselves get played. A good friend, or family member, is too precious to lose over a paltry political, or ideological, argument. People are entitled to their opinions. The key is to not be baited, or be so ironclad about one's Weltanschauung, that one cannot learn from another. Last year, comedienne Sarah Silverman didn't let herself get unhinged over a rude tweet from a troll. Instead, she got to know him better and was actually able to get him some help. Village Square, a national non-profit, is promoting a return to civil discourse and civic engagement.
- No political party, no leader, is immune to abusing power if there is nothing to check their authority and influence. Compromise is crucial to governance. Human polity is simply too imperfect in its implementation to function correctly without it. Tyranny results without restraints.
It takes a lot of practice to de-escalate. It is not easy to reach out to someone with whom one doesn't normally associate. However, as living, breathing members of communities, we are all in this together. We can't afford to let demagogues of any ilk push our buttons and profit from our disunity. Do not presume you, or I, or anyone else has all the answers. Do assume that you, or I, or someone else, can always learn from another. That includes non-citizens, the elderly, and little children. We can learn a lot from the non-human creatures who share our habitat, too. There is only one planet found to be a suitable home for us, notwithstanding centuries of speculative fiction to the contrary. Let's not destroy ourselves over differences of opinion. Our fate depends upon it.