Supporters make explicit what Trump tries to keep ever-so-slightly unstated

REUTERS/John Sommers II
Many Donald Trump critics believe that his whole shtick relies heavily on thinly coded appeals to various forms of racial, gender and religious prejudice.

A cynical old joke goes like this. Question: How can you tell when politicians are lying? Answer: Their lips move.

Another version, sometimes told about politics, sometimes about acting, sales work or life in general, goes like this: The secret to success in politics is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

Notwithstanding the need to fight against excessive cynicism, and acknowledging the widespread perception among her detractors that Hillary Clinton is a liar of epic proportions, Donald Trump’s success at faking sincerity is a staggering achievement.

To my eyes, Trump has elevated lying and doubletalk to new heights. He lies, then he doubles down on the lie, then he changes it to a slightly more convenient lie.

The journalistic sites that check the accuracy of politicians’ statements are full of examples. Yet Trump dispatched his last Republican rival by labeling him “Lyin’ Ted,” and moved on to attacking “Crooked Hillary” as a “world-class liar.”

And it works for him. There is little doubt in my mind that, to those who admire and support him, part of Trump’s appeal is that in an age so-called “political correctness,” when certain truths are censored, Trump tells it like it is.

To me, this isn’t right at all. Telling it like it is means, for starters, getting your facts right. Trump’s relationship to factuality is casual at best, contemptuous at worst. Telling it like it is also means that when you get your facts wrong, and this is called to your attention, you retract, apologize if necessary, and try harder to get your facts right in the future. Trump has made a virtue of never retracting or apologizing. I gather that, among some of his supporters, this passes for some kind of strength. To me, it’s the opposite.

Anyway, not to dance around the point too long, many Trump critics believe that Trump’s whole shtick relies heavily on thinly coded appeals to various forms of racial, gender and religious prejudice, the kind of not-quite-explicit but easily decoded messages that in past cycles have been called racist “dog whistles,” referring to the kind of whistle that dogs can hear but humans cannot. To me, communicating in dog whistles is also the opposite of telling it like it is.

So I just wanted to call attention to a smart piece in Wednesday’s New York Times that explores this. Times reporter Nicholas Confessore makes the rude connection between support for Trump and racism, sexism, Islamophobia. Trump, who has publicly claimed to “the least racist person,” courageously declined to be interviewed for the story, so the piece lacks his input, which would surely have clarified everything.

But the cool thing Confessore did was talk to people in the alleged target audience, white males who not only harbor resentments over the perceived decline in white male dominance of America, but who were willing to make explicit what Trump tries to keep ever-so-slightly unstated, including some who appreciate his knack for sending out a message that they take as sympathy for their grievances but for  maintaining a level of deniability necessary to remain politically viable.

For example, from the Confessore piece:

This year, for the first time in decades, overt white nationalism re-entered national politics. In Iowa, a new ‘super PAC’ paid for pro-Trump robocalls featuring Jared Taylor, a self-described race realist, and William Johnson, a white nationalist and the chairman of the American Freedom Party. (‘We don’t need Muslims,’ Mr. Taylor urged recipients of the calls. ‘We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.’)

And

Some are elated by the turn. In making the explicit assertion of white identity and grievance more widespread, Mr. Trump has galvanized the otherwise marginal world of avowed white nationalists and self-described ‘race realists.’ They hail him as a fellow traveler who has driven millions of white Americans toward an intuitive embrace of their ideals: that race should matter as much to white people as it does to everyone else. He has freed Americans, those activists say, to say what they really believe.

And:

But on the flatlands of social media, the border between Mr. Trump and white supremacists easily blurs. He has retweeted supportive messages from racist or nationalist Twitter accounts to his nine million followers. Last fall, he retweeted a graphic with fictitious crime statistics claiming that 81 percent of white homicide victims in 2015 were killed by blacks. (No such statistic was available for 2015 at the time; the actual figure for 2014 was 15 percent, according to the F.B.I.)

In January and February, he retweeted messages from a user with the handle @WhiteGenocideTM, whose profile picture is of George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party. A couple of days later, in quick succession, he retweeted two more accounts featuring white nationalist or Nazi themes. Mr. Trump deleted one of the retweets, but white supremacists saw more than a twitch of the thumb. ‘Our Glorious Leader and ULTIMATE SAVIOR has gone full wink-wink-wink to his most aggressive supporters,’ Mr. Anglin wrote on The Daily Stormer.

And:

The discussion that white Americans never want to have is this question of identity — who are we?” said Richard Spencer, 38, a writer and activist whose Montana-based nonprofit is dedicated to “the heritage, identity and future of people of European descent” in the United States. “He is bringing identity politics for white people into the public sphere in a way no one has.”

Here’s another link to the full Cofessore piece.

Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 07/14/2016 - 09:39 am.

    Well, Eric

    You do continue to write about him. Until you and others begin to misspell his name, Trump is likely quite happy to receive any value for no money, apparently believing there is no such thing as bad press.

  2. Submitted by Nancy Beach on 07/14/2016 - 10:50 am.

    Trummp’s lies

    On a related matter, Michael Issikof (sp?, interviewed on NPR today, talked about the long history of failed Trump businesses, his bankruptcies, etc., and his denials and refusals to talk about them. He continues to assert that he is a billionaire and an enormously successful businessman when the evidence seems to contradict that. Issikof is not the best, most articulate messenger for this info, unfortunately. I would hope you would take this on or link to someone who is writing intelligently about it. At the very least, Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns and permit the unsealing of court records about his finances should be more a part of the public conversation than it currently is.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/14/2016 - 12:19 pm.

      Trump at Work

      Trump has a long and well-documented history of stiffing people he does business with. They are not paid, then underpaid, then told in no uncertain terms that they can probably get a judgment for the full amount due, but only after a long, drawn-out legal battle that will cost more than what they are owed, so why don’t they just take this pittance and be done with it?

      A friend who is an architect in New York says that design professionals in the area know better than to do business with Trump. If someone comes to your office and says he is from the Trump Organization, you, run, not walk, away.

  3. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 07/14/2016 - 11:10 am.

    We ignore him at our peril

    If this was just some typical Republican politician I could see the point of ignoring him. But what he represents, I think, for America is so dangerous that we can’t ignore him. Besides that, he is so outrageous that he is hard to ignore. If Hillary starts re-tweeting things from NAMBLA or some anarchist web site, I’m sure she’ll start getting more free press like Trump does. When a major-party presidential candidate tweets white supremacist propaganda as something he agrees with, that is news in my book.

  4. Submitted by charles thompson on 07/14/2016 - 12:15 pm.

    wackdoodle

    Here are a couple of thoughts on the Donald. He’s a New Yorker, even tho he postures like a Jersey guy. Everyone knows you can’t trust those fast talking East coasters. But you can keep a lid on the cognitive dissonance because he’s going to bring back your old (union) job at the Rambler plant. This time run by Romney the youngers’ private equity firm (forget the union thing). Then he will deport 10 million people you don’t like without disturbing you, or the sunscreen industry. And finally, he will build a huge wall, greater than the great wall of China. We’re better than them, always have been. Following these precedent setting accomplishments, Don will storm into gridlocked DC, where he has no connections and be stonewalled by Democrats, that’s obvious, but moreover by tenured Republicans, who don’t need Donald to keep themselves in cash or in office. Vote Trump!

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/14/2016 - 07:09 pm.

      As a born and bred Noo Yawkah

      I resemble that remark
      (as another New Yorker once said).
      And real New Yorkers know better than to trust him, which is why (unlike his father and grandfather) he has never been a real power in NY real estate.
      The fact that Ginsburg’s (she was born in Brooklyn) remarks were inappropriate doesn’t mean that they weren’t true.

  5. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/14/2016 - 12:19 pm.

    It is not Trump I’m worried about

    It is the 14 million Americans who have voted for him who think he is acceptable. That worries me. They see him as the American way, which is disturbing.
    If you ask anyone of the 14 million what Donald Trump is for, they won’t be able to give you Trump’s answer. He doesn’t have any concrete positions. Trump gives out three different answers to the same question within days of each other. Essentially, the 14 million plus in the general election will be voting for a blank slate believing he will do good for them.
    We have seen the real Donald Trump during the primaries. He can pretend to be presidential by reading ever so poorly from a teleprompter, but at any moment will give one of his off the top of his head remarks that wipes out any decorum he has faked.
    There won’t be any need for a Vice President because there won’t be enough oxygen in the White House to support anyone but Trump’s narcissism.
    I hope Ohio has their National Guard on alert to quell violence at the RNC convention. If there is violence, you can blame it on Trump’s words of incite during his campaign. There are Republicans that won’t even attend the RNC Convention because of their total dislike of Trump and yet, they want you to vote for Trump.
    Paul Ryan was interviewed on CNN and there was only an awkward, lukewarm, wishy-washy endorsement of Trump at best. It sounded more like his first speech for his presumed presidential run in 2020, but he wants you to vote for Trump. Nothing the Republicans are saying or doing makes any sense. Voters, it is time to clean house. Your chance will be here in November.

  6. Submitted by joe smith on 07/14/2016 - 03:33 pm.

    Trump is surely flawed but voters trust him

    much more than Hillary. The main stream media goes out of their way to point out his many flaws and still he has higher favorables in trust/honesty than Clinton. Both Clinton and Trump have been in the public eye for decades, so neither are new comers, yet overall folks trust him more. I believe people will accept a person that has success in the private sector much easier than career politicians that have become multi millionaires off the public dime. Also, having the FBI director basically refuting many of her talking points about her email debacle, doesn’t help either.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/14/2016 - 04:25 pm.

      Higher Favorables?

      “I believe people will accept a person that has success in the private sector . . .” Maybe. It’s a pity no one like that is running, so we could test your hypothesis. Trump has had success in the private sector the same way the Kardashians have: Convince a bunch of rubes that you’re hot stuff, and make money because they will throw money at you.

      “Also, having the FBI director basically refuting many of her talking points about her email debacle, doesn’t help either.” But a raft of civil lawsuits for fraud will be overlooked? How about his general dishonesty in business? That’s how we build trust?

      If you could get over your innate Clinton hatred, you would see that Trump is a charlatan and a fraud, as well as an authoritarian bully and bigot. I don’t expect you to like Clinton any better because of that, but at least wake up and see what a loathsome specimen the Republicans have in Donald Trump.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 07/14/2016 - 08:41 pm.

        You can say many things about Trump that

        are not flattering and true but to say he is not a successful business man is not one of them. I don’t understand some folks who won’t admit that Trump has done well for himself. He does enough off the wall stuff to be critical of without trying to create a narrative of him being a failure in the business world. For those who have started up numerous companies you understand you will fail in some. That is why I admire anyone who starts companies and employs folks.

        If my choice is between 2 loathsome specimens, I will take the one who has employed thousands, had to make payroll, wrote checks to workers & paid millions in taxes over a career dishonest millionaire politician.

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 07/14/2016 - 09:27 pm.

          Sucess?

          If one considers numerous bankruptcies success! In these eyes “zero” is success. When declaring bankruptcy, one is reneging on ones obligations. I.e. you made a deal and are now backing out and more or less walking away with someone’s money, talk about untrustworthy! And then to brag about all the people you legally screwed!
          Yes, please do case and point about.
          A. Career Politician and B. Dishonest.
          Agree with the former poster, some folks are so filled with years of percolated hatred, they can’t see past their own irrational warped reasoning. Going on years now, everyday Fox posts something evil about Hillary Clinton, they take a grain of salt on a beach of sand and convince you it is the Utah Salt Flats, folks you have been spoon fed propaganda for years, and now try to spit it back out as truth.

          • Submitted by joe smith on 07/14/2016 - 10:02 pm.

            Dennis

            I am not sure if you ever went through a bankruptcy but all remaining assets go in an order laid out by federal law to anyone owed money by the company that declared bankruptcy. The person or company declaring bankruptcy does not become a billionaire by having a failing business. The person or company becomes wealthy by having winners not losers in their chosen field. If you start up 100 companies and 10 fail, are you a failure? If you think the answer is yes, you definitely never started a business. Most successful folks have some losers on their record, that doesn’t make them bad business folks it just makes them human.

            The war on businesses in America (remember you didn’t build it) the last decade has really jaded folks towards the folks who employ most of us. As my dad told me, he was a miner, don’t talk bad about people willing to fail by starting a business that employs people like me, admire and thank them.

            • Submitted by Jim Million on 07/15/2016 - 03:29 pm.

              Joe

              It seems necessary to delineate Chapters 7 & 10. One is reorganization, the other liquidation. Perhaps you should be more clear in order to establish Trump’s history for other commenters here.

              • Submitted by Jim Million on 07/16/2016 - 03:11 pm.

                Sorry…

                Just caught this in looking for new comments. That of course should be Chapters 7 & 11. It’s that old guy right-left neuropathy thing, or maybe worse, as some readers no doubt wonder.

        • Submitted by Bill Willy on 07/15/2016 - 02:26 am.

          What Dennis said . . .

          “Bankruptcy 1: The Trump Taj Mahal, 1991

          “The first bankruptcy associated with Trump was perhaps the most significant in terms of his personal finances, according to news reports at the time. He funded the construction of the $1 billion Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, which opened in 1990. By 1991, the casino was nearly $3 billion in debt, while Trump had racked up nearly $900 million in personal liabilities, so the business decided to file for Chapter 11 reorganization, according to the New York Times. As a result, Trump gave up half his personal stake in the casino and sold his yacht and airline, according to the Washington Post.”

          http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/sep/21/carly-fiorina/trumps-four-bankruptcies/

          And that was just bankruptcy number one. There have been three other similar bankruptcies since, totaling somewhere around $5 billion. (The others are described at the address above.)

          He hasn’t released his tax returns (because he’s special) but, last I heard, I think he said he’s a stupendously successful business person who’s worth $10 billion.

          Like Dennis said, bankruptcy is just a fancy “legal” way of reneging on a deal and “backing out and more or less walking away with someone’s money” and, in rough terms, those bankruptcies would account for about half of his money (and however much financial misery he caused all the people — investors, contractors and regular, everyday working people — when his billions worth of “elite business practices” left THEM high and dry, bankrupt, out of business, extra far behind on THEIR bills, but too bad for them, eh? — after all, he had to give up 50% of his stake in the Taj Mahal AND sell his yacht and airline, so he knows what suffering is).

          If that’s your idea of a successful business person who’d be the kind of President of the United States of America you could get behind, well, okay . . . That’s the way you see things. But if you believe he’s the kind of guy who’s going to “make America great again” (if he could just get his hands on the U.S. Treasury!) I’d recommend you keep checking (closely) for the smell or taste of Snake Oil.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/15/2016 - 09:32 am.

          “Wrote checks to workers?”

          Sure, he does. And I’m the Tsar of Russia.

          Trump stiffs his suppliers and contractors about as regularly as most people brush their teeth. “Wrote checks to workers” will go down as the funniest thing I’ve heard all week.

          • Submitted by joe smith on 07/15/2016 - 03:08 pm.

            Wow, RB if going bankrupt made you rich

            everyone would do it. Trump has employed 10’s of thousands over the years, made a lot of money and put steel workers, service industry folks, maids/house keeping, carpenters, electricians to work (yes, and wrote them checks). I would love to know what business world you lived in or industry you worked in where failure/bankruptcy made you rich? The left can claim many things on Trump but to say he is a failure at business is not one of them.

            I have news for you, when you are in the business world and “stiff suppliers and contractors as regularly as most people brush their teeth”, they stop doing business with you and you go broke. Are you claiming Trump is broke? Only in Government can you constantly under achieve and stay in business, everyone else has to made payroll, be on budget and provide a service folks want. To think anything different is living in an alternate universe.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/15/2016 - 04:49 pm.

              “Are you claiming Trump is broke?”

              I guess we won’t know unless/until he releases his tax returns, will we?

              It’s an interesting thing about Old Moneybags: Except for the requisite lip service to the 2nd Amendment, we seldom, if ever, hear him talk about the Constitution. It’s always what a rich, successful, straight-talking guy he is. There is nothing about the heritage of America or Americanism, except some vague promises on a hat to return to some unstated time of “greatness.” Why is that?

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/19/2016 - 10:31 pm.

      There’s a real flaw–and a common one–behind your reasoning

      One of the favorite right-wing talking points is that “government should be run like a business.”

      But it’s not like a business. The purpose of a business is to make a profit for the owners. If customers don’t like what a business is selling, they go elsewhere. Look at all the cord cutters who have abandoned cable TV. Furthermore, businesses can hire and fire people pretty much at will. If the employee responsible for writing the corporate handbook or the contractor charged with building the new plant fails on the job, they’re out. If the person above you in rank takes a personal dislike to you, you’re out.

      The purpose of a government is not to make a profit but to provide services to the entire population under its jurisdiction. While it has employees, the major figures are elected by the “customers” and can be “fired” by them. Every elected official has to balance competing interests and is prevented from playing dictator like the Babbling Billionaire. The president cannot fire Congress or the Supreme Court (although Congress can impeach the president and the Supreme Court can strike down the laws he signs), nor can a governor fire the legislature nor can a mayor fire the city council. I’m not sure that the Swindler of Students really understands this on a gut level.

      No, he just brags about his money and his women and seems to think that he can make things happen just by issuing commands. Translated into an urban African-American speech pattern, his speeches would sound just like gangster rap lyrics.

      I would hate to see him become president. (I don’t like Hillary either, but at least she knows how things work in Washington.) However, it would be amusing to see him explode into a million pieces the first time Congress–made up of Democrats who hate him and Republicans who think he’s an upstart–told him “no.”

  7. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/14/2016 - 05:06 pm.

    The flaws are too much

    This independent voter would love to see the country with a female president. I’d much prefer that the candidate NOT be Hillary Clinton. I’d also much prefer to be half my age, with twice the income and much, much better looks. It ain’t gonna happen.

    Mrs. Clinton is a flawed candidate, but it’s worth noting, since the Clinton emails got Mr. Smith’s attention, that the Republican director of the FBI decided that, while she was “careless,” there was nothing prosecutable in her actions (or inactions). She’s inclined to cut corners and triangulate, and, in concert with her husband, has had decades in which to hone those political skills. We all knew that when the campaign began.

    Flawed she may be, but Hillary Clinton is an adult. She has more Washington experience than the Republican presidential field could collectively muster in March, much less July. There has not been, in at least half a century, a candidate with more successful government service at the highest level, and done under greater critical scrutiny, than she has displayed.

    I have to side with Tom Christensen. As I’ve said in these spaces before, Trump is a petulant, vindictive child whose knowledge of public policy and the fabric of America might, in the right lighting, fill a thimble. He has no business being in public office at ANY level, much less in the Oval Office in Washington. Like Mr. Christensen, what worries me more than The Donald, who, if elected, I expect to see throw multiple tantrums when things don’t go his way, is the fact that there ARE sizable numbers of people – as Eric’s headline points out – whose prejudices are being given voice by perhaps the most dangerous demagogue to run for public office in this country in the past hundred years.

    I don’t know him personally. What I’ve read and heard, sometimes in his own words with his own voice, is that he’s a misogynist of the first order, a xenophobic racist, and a man whose business trustworthiness – perhaps a better barometer than political statements – approaches zero. If Hillary triangulates, Trump creates rhomboids. That there are voters who find him trustworthy boggles the mind, and the prospect of a foreign enemy doing harm to the United States seems far less likely to me than a President Trump doing harm to the United States.

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