I was sitting by my lonesome, and wondering -- as I suppose many have been -- about how many people consider Hillary Clinton as dishonest while they glance hardly at all at Donald Trump's impossible claims about many things. Clinton's less than virtuous performance a propos of her email scandal, which revealed her as using a private server for some of her official business, is no doubt troubling. On the other hand, there is the Donald Trump who has been revealed as making false claims about his university that apparently trampled students who were less than positive in their evaluations.
So I was wondering: why is it that so many people are loathe to question Trump about his serious discrepancies, while people in general seem to flock in droves to judge Hillary Clinton as sleazy, untrustworthy, dishonest, a liar.
I have been reading and listening to articles pointing to Trump's appeal to white people who are feeling they have lost importance and possibility. He has been coming out against immigration and he has taken strong positions about bringing America back to its former glory. When there is this kind of nostalgia -- which is often a testimony and even worship of times that are never what we imagine them to have been -- it is often accompanied by a dissatisfaction that may seem curable only through simplifying. In this case the simplification seems to move along racial divides. And if this were the case here, it would explain a great deal about Trump's popularity at this point in time.
The white anti-racist writer and speaker Tim Wise spoke on tape several years ago about an alternative interpretation of the claims made in What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank (2005). The book spoke about the trends of much of the working class population to vote against their best economic interests. They tended to be Conservative despite Conservatives not being all that equitable when it came to the rights of working and lower class (economically) people.
Wise made the point that in fact the people that were described in the book, were not voting against their own interests. That is if one considered the fact that there was a racial issue that was the river that ran through the situation at hand. The same people who didn't make that much money, could on Sundays go into their churches and identify, not as poor people but as white people. The same person whose economic situation was compromised could fill the role of deacon in church, clinging to that very important difference between black and white (obviously this would be in a white church).
Wow, it came home to me. Trump may be lying about many things but he is telling the truth about one important thing. He is targeting the emotional truth that many white people are somehow fed up, and lo and behold the target of their being fed up -- is darker skinned people who are trying to invade our country or who have already become the class seen as takers, as criminals, as inferior and at the same time demanding.
The fact is that this connection may be emotionally true for many people while it is actually quite false in actuality. But in order to question this emotional truth, someone has to be willing to talk about these assumptions out loud. Does Hillary Clinton speak to any emotional truth of a large segment of the population? And does she have the courage and the depth to expose just how much Trump is playing with racist sentiment so he can win people over? And can she pose a real alternative if she is less than willing to expose the destructive role of big banks?
We have seen in this campaign situations in which emotions and prejudices overrun facts and flood possibilities of discussion with the crassness of snide comments and demeaning accusations. We have seen the dishonesty of Donald Trump, if only in his brashness and quickness to answer impulsively what would be, should he be president, things he would have to think about. He lies when he makes believe he has quick answers to complicated questions.
Part of the problem in decoding the messages we are given by politicians and in how we interpret them, has to do with the fact that we generally leave the emotional quotient out of our conversations. We can't fix what we don't see, and we need help and leadership to turn the discussion to just how much emotion is running the voting decisions. We need help in becoming emotionally more fluent and to risk talking about loud about the feelings that motivate our actions. Otherwise we too are in a make believe state, where the real driving forces are ignored in conversation.
In this climate of divisiveness in which Trump might be winning the unspoken discussion that is racially tinged, my question would be posed to Hillary Clinton, and to those of us who are listening and interested. Is there a truth you speak to; is there an answer to the pulls of Trump towards an increasingly torn racial divide? Do you have a passionate statement in which you are willing to acknowledge your opponent's message in ways that help us articulate your choices and ours?
It is hard to stay out of the hysteria -- about the emails, about Trump being a disaster, about immigration being the one and only topic. But it feels important to ask the question: is there an alternative that addresses the racist message Trump is giving? And one that clarifies that racism is not the answer? Where is Hillary Clinton in terms of helping people see that hate will not cure what ails them?