Why I Trust Trump
(Originally published in March 2016)
“Trump will do what he says.” “Trump isn’t a lying politician.” “Trump promised to do it, and he will.”
So say thousands of supporters of The Donald throughout the internet. Old and young, male and female, they say it vehemently, without reservation. I confess that for the longest time I thought I detected a note of protesting too much in their assurances, as though they were saying these things more as a talisman against their own doubts than as a counterargument to anything Trump’s critics were saying. This seemed the most reasonable interpretation, because it was apparent that these people had nothing substantial to say against the criticisms themselves.
But on the Lewis Carroll principle that “What I tell you three times is true,” it follows that what hundreds of people tell you thousands of times must be super-duper true. So, to make a long story short, I’ve decided to stop denying the obvious, and start trusting Donald Trump to do exactly what he says he’ll do.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I trust him to do what his followers say he’s going to do. They have invented their own weird category of campaign promises, namely promises they make to themselves in Trump’s name. Wish-fulfillment promises. Projection promises. “If I were the candidate, I would do X” promises.
These supporters have stocked their weird new category with all kinds of amazing ideas, but the most commonly cited are probably these three: “He’s going to deport all the illegals so we can have our country back.” “He’s going to clean out all the cronies and hacks in the Washington establishment.” “He’s going to deal mercilessly with the Muslim threat.”
I suppose these three promises Trump’s supporters make to themselves are the most commonly repeated for the simple reason that they can’t find anything he actually believes that they could, in good conscience, cite as a reason for supporting him.
Would these people—and I say “people” to clarify that I’m talking about the patriotic Americans among his followers, and excluding the progressives, white supremacists, reality TV junkies, and ex-Obama cultists looking for a new god—but would these decent people have the nerve to defend Trump for saying he wants universal healthcare? For saying people who don’t support socialized medicine “have no heart”? For saying an old lady who doesn’t want to give up her “terrible house” to a private real estate development project should be forced off her property by the government? For saying a sixty year old Republican woman is too unattractive to be president? For saying a senator is an unlikeable candidate because he hasn’t ingratiated himself to Mitch McConnell? For donating more than $60,000 to McConnell’s 2014 fight against a Tea Party challenger, and publicly endorsing him for Senate Majority Leader? For saying he likes and looks forward to making “great deals” with Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and other socialists? For saying that not only were the bank bailouts a good idea, but that even nationalizing the banks would be acceptable in the event of an economic crisis such as the one in 2008? For finding freedom of speech objectionable and unworthy of defense when people use it to say things he doesn’t like? For casually supporting unlimited NSA authority to collect everyone’s private communications, or proposing to “call Bill Gates” and shut down parts of the internet? For promising to use presidential authority to punish companies that send jobs overseas, while he has done the same himself, or for hiring foreign workers rather than qualified Americans, while he does it himself?
Of course his rational supporters could not cite any of these positions or promises in his defense. After all, they might as well vote for Hillary Clinton if they agreed with any of those ideas. How different are they from her positions? And Hillary too, like Trump, supported both Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale against Ronald Reagan. She too, at the end of Reagan’s presidency, would have written, as Trump did, that he was a con man whom “people are beginning to question” concerning “whether there is anything beneath that smile.” She too believed in 2008 that she would make “a great president.” She too, like Trump, would have said, during Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, that she was doing “a good job” as secretary of state.
So it stands to reason these Trump supporters would cling to their three big wish-fulfillment promises noted above—deporting all the illegals, cleaning up Washington, fighting Islamism—even though none of them represent Trump’s actual positions.
Trump, like all progressive-spirited sophists, is a master of the rhetorical skill we might call “far side of the moon” campaigning. He deliberately embraces positions that, if looked at from different angles, seem to be saying almost contradictory things. Thus, by carefully emphasizing the half of the position that his given audience prefers to hear, he convinces them that he believes what they believe. The next day, when he is called on it by the opposing side of the debate, he (or a surrogate) simply restates the position with emphasis on its other half, which was left in the dark when speaking to the previous audience.
Hence you get “a big beautiful wall”—with a “big beautiful door.” You get “free market solutions” on healthcare—with universal coverage paid for by the government. You get a ban on Muslim immigration (whatever that means)—for an unspecified brief time.
But if you focus only on the first part of each of those positions—the part a person in despair at the thought of losing his country might prefer to hear—you can almost believe Trump really took the position you wished he had taken. Once you have convinced yourself that what you wanted him to say is what he actually said, no one can talk you out of that dead certainty. In fact, not even Trump himself can dissuade you from trusting what you believe you heard him say.
Trump seems to have intuited this weakness of desperate human beings—their willingness to see what they need to see, in defiance of the truth that is before them—and he is exploiting it for his own short-term advantage. I say short-term because it is obvious that once he is the GOP nominee, he will, as he has promised, change his tone and become something completely different for the general election. In saying this, Trump is merely telling you the truth, namely that he is not a man of principle or a real leader. He is a professional salesman who is adept at winning over an audience by quickly divining what that audience wants to believe, and then giving it to them with both barrels. That is, he is a sycophant who has the dubious skill of bluffing his victims into feeling he is leading them, rather than merely flattering them with imitation.
This modus operandi is obviously the opposite of what people want in a political leader, because it guarantees that he will betray you the moment he is speaking to an audience with different priorities. (And is there a public figure on Earth with a clearer record of such betrayals?) But because his sales pitch is so blunt and vigorous, even his promise of hypocrisy tends to get absorbed into the audience’s admiration: “Of course he has to speak differently in the general election. That’s what he needs to do to win—so that he can then fulfill all the great promises he made to us!”
We see this convenient delusion regularly among Trump supporters. Every time you mention all the large contributions Trump has made to leading progressive establishment politicians of both parties, right up to the year before his candidacy, his fans enthusiastically recite his own revealing rationalization, which boils down to “I’m a businessman, and I saw my personal advantage in propping up the socialists and other soft despots of the Washington establishment, so naturally I supported them in exchange for influence and favors.” In other words, he’s a poster boy for crony capitalism—but that’s okay, in his case alone, because oh boy, when he’s elected, “Trump will do what he says.”
I give up. It works for me now. Trump will do what he says. He’s not a lying politician. He promised to do it, and he will. Please allow me to explain my new faith.
He promises to send all the illegals to Mexico, and then bring almost all of them back on an expedited path to legalization. This is called touchback amnesty; it was endorsed many years ago by The New York Times, and supported by a large majority in an LA Times poll of illegal immigrants. When Trump was accused by his useful idiot media of being a troglodyte for wanting to deport twelve million law-abiding criminals, his son was quick to shine a light on the far side of that moon:
The point isn’t just deporting them, it’s deporting them and letting them back in legally. He’s been so clear about that [– when speaking to certain audiences –] and I know the liberal media wants to misconstrue it, but it’s deporting them and letting them back legally.
He promises touchback amnesty, and I believe him.
He promises to get along with everyone in Washington, to make deals with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, to support Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader (unlike that guy everybody hates, Ted Cruz), and to “take the calls” of all those members of the establishment he always worked with back (eighteen months ago) when he “was a member of the establishment—meaning a giver, a big donor.” In other words, he promises that his anti-establishment, burn the place down rhetoric is just rabble-rousing talk, but that in truth he will be a model Washington establishment back-scratcher.
He promises to continue his lifelong friendship with the progressive status quo, and I believe him.
He promises that his much-loved (by his supporters) “ban on Muslim immigration” is merely a temporary “pause,” which was presented with the light shining on the “ban” side of its moon in order to appeal to the nationalist sentiment of his crowds, but which was really just a call for administrative adjustment of immigration procedures from a candidate who had, a few months earlier, supported the acceptance of Syrian refugees.
When free speech activists, including Geert Wilders, gathered in Texas for a “Draw Muhammad” contest in 2015, to show solidarity with European artists and journalists living (and dying) under threat of attack by Islamists, the gathering itself was attacked by Islamists who have since been connected with ISIS. Donald Trump held the event’s organizer, Pamela Geller, responsible for the violence and loss of life, on the grounds that people shouldn’t speak in a way that might aggravate Muslim jihadists:
What is she doing, drawing Muhammad? It looks like she’s actually taunting people…. Isn’t there something else they can draw?… They can’t do something else? They have to be in the middle of Texas, doing something on Muhammad and insulting everybody?
He recently said he wishes to remain neutral for the moment regarding negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, basically in order to retain the element of surprise should he end up involved in those negotiations. That is, he seeks to maintain neutrality between a long-time American ally under siege by jihadists, and a terrorist-electing faction supported for years by the mullahs in Iran.
He advocated using American military assets to support the Islamist uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, actually proposing that U.S. troops be sent in to “knock this guy [Gaddafi] out very quickly, very surgically.” (That this is the far side of the moon that he is hoping to hide in front of his current audience is proved by his outright lie, during the February 25 debate, when he claimed he had never discussed Libya before.)
Few American public figures have been more deeply involved in offering aid and comfort to the global Islamist movement than Hillary Clinton. Trump’s support for Clinton continued through to the fall of 2013, after her tenure at the State Department was over, when he told Larry King, “I know her very well. They’re members of my club, and I like both of them very much.” This, you may note, was a full year after the Benghazi attack, a year after Hillary’s “offensive video” cover story to protect herself and Barack Obama from culpability, months after she responded to questions concerning her lies about the causes of that terrorist attack by screaming, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
Though Trump has since called her “the worst secretary of state,” he has not tied that convenient and sudden flip-flop to her role in enabling the rise of Islamic extremism in the Middle East (a policy he supported, at least in Libya) or her questionable associations with the caliphate movement within the U.S.
So Trump promises to pause Muslim immigration for a short time—a weaker position on restricting Muslim Islamist infiltration than those both Rand Paul and Ted Cruz were advocating long before Trump’s headline-grabbing announcement; he promises to shout down free speech that might offend Islamists (except, apparently, when he finds such speech useful to himself during a campaign); he promises to claim neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and he promises to ignore global caliphate influence in Washington when his old friends are involved.
He promises to talk tough, but act weak, on Islamism, and I believe him.
Give in to the magic, ladies and gentlemen. Trump will do what he says—and America’s last glimmer of hope to save herself from Reagan’s famous thousand years of darkness will vanish.