Drowning in Stupid
From Just sayin’…by George Duncan
Bill Clinton is a Papist.
Hillary Clinton is a degenerate alcoholic.
The Clintons have killed at least twenty people.
These are some of the conspiracy/rumors that we’ve heard expressed by people at various Trump rallies over the last 15 months. In fact, more than 40% of Republican voters, encouraged by Trump’s despicable “birther” scam, still believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim, born in Kenya.
It’s been well documented that Trump’s major support came from non-college educated white males, but it has felt to me that those stats are far more significant than a mere data point, with ramifications that effect many aspects of our lives. But to underscore the point of Trump voters’ lack of general awareness, PoliticusUSA (PPP) has conducted a poll of US voters and Trump voters to compare their general knowledge and awareness of salient facts. In all cases, US voters got the facts right while Trump voters got them consistently wrong. For example, Trump voters believe Trump won the popular vote. In fact, Trump seems to believe it, too! As we know, Hillary won the popular vote by almost three million votes. Trump voters told pollsters that the US stock market has gone down in the last ten years when in fact, and as US voters knew, it has climbed more than 12,000 points. The unemployment rate, most US voters know, has gone down from 7.8% in January 2009 to 4.6% today, while Trump voters are convinced it went up. And lest you think it’s just a matter of unfamiliarity with numbers, get this: 73% of Trump supporters believe that George Soros has been paying Trump protesters. (No finding on how many know who George Soros is.) And, the kicker in this poll, 53% of Trumpians think that all votes cast in California should be excluded from the final tally. About all I can say to this is…yikes! It appears to me that democracy is in danger of drowning, not in Grover Norquist’s famous bathtub, but in rank stupidity.
PoliticusUSA says the results “show what Donald Trump’s conspiracy-driven campaign has done to our politics and how he has convinced his supporters that the world as it is doesn’t really exist.” OK, that’s one contributing factor, but I find myself wondering, what is it that allows otherwise reasonable people to accept the blatant crap he has been dishing out without question? Yes, workers, underemployed or unemployed, are pissed. I get that. I’d be too. But I don’t think it would motivate me to abandoned 30, 40 years or more of democratic values to accept the racism, misogyny, blatant lies and arrogant opportunism of Donald Trump. Maybe that’s because I can recognize these traits and measure them against my understanding of what this country stands for. As a letter writer to the NewYork Times put it, “American democracy absolutely cannot survive a citizenry that can’t tell the difference between what’s true and what’s false, that can’t be bothered to find out, and that doesn’t even think it matters. It just can’t.”
But how explain Trump supporters’ eager acceptance of a wide range of outrageous “fake news” stories being churned out by right wing radio nuts like Alex Jones, alt-right websites like Breitbart News and various other white supremacy sites, including what appears to have become a cottage industry in Macedonia, of all places. One was even floated by the son of General Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor. It resulted in some moron taking a gun into a Washington D.C. pizza parlor because he believed there was some sort of Hillary Clinton connected child sex trafficking going on in the basement! (Flynn senior is no stranger to this kind of fake news, either.) Time after time, we’ve witnessed reporters asking Trump supporters if they believe this stuff, and they do – rejecting mainstream media out of hand. Indeed, fake news has become so rampant that PolitiFact named it “The Lie of the Year.” How to explain this phenomenon, understanding that Donald Trump has poisoned his followers’ relationship with the media, calling them dishonest and terrible people, etc. from the podium. An even more dramatic example of Trump’s poisonous effect on his voters’ thinking is an Economist poll that shows that in a matchup, 35% of Trump voters prefer Vladimir Putin while only 9% favor President Obama.
Perhaps an answer to at least some of this increasing lunacy is contained in an editorial cartoon reprinted in The Week magazine. The woman asks, “How do you know if a news story is true?” The man answers. “If I agree with it.” Sadly, that may be where we are today.
# # #