On the news last night a reporter asked a male forty-something from rust-belt Ohio why he was voting for Donald Trump. The man replied, “because he’s like me.” The reporter gently reminded him that Trump is a billionaire, but that fact did not faze the man in the slightest. Instead he offered a slight paraphrase of his first comment. “He’s me,” he said.
No, sir, he is not you. He doesn’t know you, nor does he want to know you. In fact you are exactly the kind of American Mr. Trump has stepped on, over, and around for his entire life. He has no clue what your daily life comprises or that you sometimes travel from point A to point B without benefit of two jet engines or a rotor—that sometimes you even have to drive yourself, cook your own meal, mow your own lawn, raise your own children.
He is not you…unless of course you’ve both become disenchanted with black people claiming that their lives matter, or women claiming that theirs do, or Muslims, or Latinos, or the impoverished, or children, or anyone else that Trump has never encountered until now and whom, even now, he sees as no more than votes in a tally.
He is not you, but if you aspire only to be you, then the Trump presidency will honor that request, for while billionaires reap the benefits of his new tax plan, you will remain where you are, a citizen of middle America with a new and even more insidious forlorn hope, paving the way for the affluent and privileged to step on, over, and around you.
Why would an otherwise down-to-earth citizen claim that Trump is like him? Because they share one commonality: they hate Hillary Clinton.
In truth I thought George W. Bush was a lousy president, lacking in ideas and initiative and too easily led by politicos who exploited his power for their own personal gain: Rove, Cheney, etc. But I never hated him. In 2008 I thought McCain was a political lightweight and his running mate was a cipher, but I never hated them. In fact I can’t remember hating any presidential candidate, even the ones I really didn’t like. And that’s why this unconstrained animosity toward Hillary Clinton is so disturbing—almost as disturbing as the lengths to which Trump goes to fan it.
Trump didn’t cause this; he merely exploits the new era of hatred. You know, that word hater dates to the fourteenth century, but nobody used it much until Twitter became popular and anonymous malcontents could express themselves with impunity. Haters, trolls—they dominate the Internet and drag along the like-minded, none of them ever encumbered by a need to defend generalities or verify beliefs. The vitriol generated for Hillary Clinton is well beyond the pale, much of it frightening and repulsive, more and more of it sexist and misogynistic, most of it only slightly different from a Trump speech, but it’s what we have.
“He’s me,” that man said of Trump.
“Then I know you,” I’d like to have said. “I’ve read your tweets. And if I might quote Joseph N. Welch when he questioned Joe McCarthy back in 1954, ‘Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?'”
But a quote from sixty-years ago won’t carry the day any more, not when someone can tweet he’s me and still have 133 characters left.