July 13, 2018 by Chris Kite
President Trump is generally considered to be a populist president. He claims he is against the elite and wants to drain the swamp. The trouble is, most of those that are not captivated by his Reality TV personality recognize that he IS an elite and he and his administration ARE the swamp. He is wealthy and privileged. He is profiting off his position as president. His administration is loaded with industry insiders that are out for themselves and the industries they represent.
As he embarrasses the United States with his ignorance about the history of trade, alliances, and about the complexities of the real world, he is making a big hit with his base. They eat it up. They worship him. He can do no wrong.
Because he “tells it like it is,” his base loves what he does. They love that he has no filter and uses hateful speech. They love that he views the world as being against us. They relish his attacks against immigrants around the world. And they believe his lies as they stream from his mouth.
Some of what he is trying to do could move us in the right direction, if only he could do it sensibly and with some level of tact and diplomacy. Trade deals could be better. Our immigration system is broken. Peace with North Korea would be wonderful.
But he is moving us in the wrong direction by taking the wrong approach, ignoring facts, and refusing to prepare for his meetings and understand history. His approach sits very poorly with most of us, but with those that are itching for a populist president, he is perfect.
Are his supporters really as equally ignorant of history and facts as he is?
After meeting with North Korea, he told us the remains of 200 Korean War soldiers had been returned. They have NOT been returned, but North Korea agreed to return them. The problem is, when there was a scheduled meeting to discuss return of the remains, the North Koreans didn’t show up. Why would they? The President of the United States of America stood on the international stage and told the world that the remains had been returned. In wanting to make himself look great, he made North Korea look good, too. Even though all North Korea has done so far is destroy a nuclear test site that experts say was unusable anyway.
The president also continuously lies about immigrant children separated from their parents and put in cages. He tells us it is the Democrats fault. That he is just following the law. Despite the fact that every reputable news agency has debunked his lies, his followers still hang on his every word and continue to argue that he is right. He and the Republican party tell a simplistic story that uses lies and mistruths to try to frighten Americans about immigrants. We need a wall! They’re taking your job! They’re criminals! They’re terrorists! They’re costing tax payers money! These things are all over simplifications that cherry pick rare cases and use them as if they are representative of the situation.
His meetings with NATO were nothing short of disastrous. He continues to talk about how Europe owes us money for NATO. There is no truth to this whatsoever. All NATO members are current on their payments. He also continues to drone on about how NATO members aren’t “paying their fair share” by spending 2% of their GDP on their military. While it is true that many countries are not spending 2%, many of those that are not have contributed larger contingencies of forces (by percentage of their total force) in Afghanistan and toward battling ISIS. He is giving them no credit for that. Then he stands up after the meetings and says he secured their agreement to spend more than 2%. But he did not. The 2% agreement was created during the Obama Administration and countries are working toward that target. Meanwhile, he damages NATO and makes the world a less safe place. The success of NATO and the EU is unpredicted. We have all these rich and powerful countries that are working together instead of competing and building bigger armies to intimidate each other. If you know your history, you know it wasn’t that long ago that Europe was a very different place!
So what is so bad about populist politics?
It relies on an overly simply view of things with incredibly simplistic solutions. It ignores causes and effects. It ignores history and the reasons why we have these agreements in the first place. It ignores complexity, intent, and realistic approaches.
So while his supporters may be eating up his over simplification, lies, and misdirection, he is doing short and long term damage to a peaceful and stable world.