President Trump loves his rallies. His rallies are the time when “real” Americans reaffirm his presidency and position at summit of all US politics. However, outside of these events, Trump has shown a complete misunderstanding of who we Americans truly are. In a recent instance he was forced to play the role of “consoler-in-chief” for victims of the hurricane Harvey floods in Houston TX. In his ill-fitting un-scuffed work boots, his goofy “Made in China” MAGA hat, and tailored suit, Trump was simply at a loss for what to say to people who had lost everything. It’s almost as if he couldn’t conceive a world where so many of us are one illness, injury, or natural disaster away from being homeless. Instead he commented on the size of the crowds that came out to see him; a standard applause line at his rallies. He missed the moment and he missed us. The question is Why? Why is it so awkward for Trump to interact with us? In short, why does Trump not know us?
To answer the question one need not explore the dark corners of Trump’s psyche. One must simply look to his experiences, worldview, and a lifetime of avoiding Americans. There are two main reasons for his lack of understanding: 1) because he has rarely ventured out of his opulent NYC bubble to meet us, he is simply ignorant of the American experience, and 2) he see his core angst (a nouveau riche Queens kid rejected from “proper” Manhattan society) as a quintessential American experience…it is not.
First his ignorance of what it means to be an American. Here’s a short list of instances illustrating Trump’s misguided view of American life:
- He doesn’t know what we do for a living. Here his preference for two types of “manly” jobs is telling; seemingly only Coal Miners and Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund Managers exist in Trump’s world. He doesn’t know that more people work in renewable energy than coal, or at Arby’s.
- He’s never been laid-off or fired. Utilizing tax and bankruptcy loopholes doesn’t come anywhere close to the sting of having to pay COBRA, or being uninsured, or having to rely on food stamps.
- He doesn’t know how much a gallon of gas or milk costs. I don’t know this for a fact, I only know it’s true.
- He’s never taken out a student loan. See his Trump University scam.
- He’s never attended a public school.
- He “feels” like he was in the military because he attended a posh military school, but he received a draft deferment for “bone spurs.” As a veteran, I find this “feeling” to be the least forgivable part of Trump’s ignorance of the American People.
- And on, and on…
The second reason he doesn’t know us is a little more complex: He has a misplaced sympathy for the forgotten American working class. At Trump’s core is a burning rage against the established Manhattan old moneyed elites. This is why his strident tone hits home for many of us who have been left behind by globalization and automation, but it’s an amazing coincidence of aligning attitudes…not understanding, empathy, or a plan. Most of his supporters don’t know of his intense desire for inclusion and ultimate rejection by New York’s elites, or that his tone alone will never produce policies to get the forgotten workers of Rustbelt back to work, but they are waking to that reality.
With all that he doesn’t know, Trump has made one final miscalculation out of ignorance. Even though we can be politically polarized, Americans are polite, charitable, and neighborly. Especially in small communities (like where I live) where his brand of bravado and failure to pay contractors would get you run out of town on a rail. We watch out for each other, because we know what it’s like to be down on your luck in the US in the 21st Century. He has underestimated our unity, and it may be his own undoing.
Trump may not know us, but he is going to meet us soon enough.