It’s obvious that the right wing American businessman and politician Donald Trump is either catering to the extreme right wing, or is in fact one of them and does not realise how stupid some of his policies are. Whether or not his policies work, make sense, or are humane is what is generally discussed, but there is perhaps a more interesting question to talk about.
What is Trump’s real goal, and what effect will it actually have?
There are at least two ways to look at this:
- Trump is intentionally catering to right wing extremists
- His real goal is to discredit the increasingly extremist right wing and the “Tea Party” by taking their policies even further and showing how ridiculous they are
- His real goal is to gain power
- Trump is an idiot
- He actually thinks this hate and fear mongering is a good thing, or even that the racism is based on facts
- He just wants power
Let us avoid all the options except the one bolded. If, as there is ample evidence to show, he is knowingly taking the Republican party’s views to their extremes and catering to the racists and extremists, then it is likely in order to discredit people who propose such ideas, return the right wing to a more moderate stance (at least temporarily until people forget again) by scaring them into hiding their extremism (to avoid being associated with Trump or likened to him, and because extremism will be exposed as a bad idea), expose the absurdity of such ideas, and assure a less crazy right wing candidate. If so, then this is a noble, albeit expensive goal.
If that is what he is doing, I’m not sure it will work in the long term. There are two reasons for this:
- While I do think it is reminding people of the dangers of extremism:
- A lot of the people who are open enough to see this likely were not extremist to begin with
- Such an effect will likely be temporary, until people forget and fall back into the easier path of extremism
- More importantly, this presidential campaign where Trump is proclaiming these views that many extremists likely have had for a long time is making them think that their unpopular views are in fact valid. They are only now seeing them as “viable” and “valid” presidential policies, especially since they are being spoken of on television by a successful person who was doing fairly well in the polls.
This second point is potentially dangerous because it makes extremists think that their views are not only valid but also viable. Even the mere fact that Trump, a celebrity businessman with no political experience is running for president shows that “anyone” can run for president, and more broadly that anyone can have, promote, and try to enact their own opinions of government. While everyone should participate in government, irrational radicalism, especially ones based on hate, are destructive and hinder rational discussion of government policies. Elections are supposed to be rational discussions and judgments based on analysis of what candidates say they want, what they really want, and the ability of the candidate to perform what they say they want.
While everyone should be included in politics, everyone should also be responsible and reasonable because it is such an important thing.
This might lead to more ignorant and hateful extremists becoming more politically and militantly active and pushing for their own racist idea of government. While Trump discredits extremists to anyone rational, he emboldens irrational people by appearing to validate and give credit to their extreme ideas. The fact that -someone else- also holds their ideas will make them think that they are right, by a fallacy of believing that the majority is correct, or at least that “if multiple people independently came up with the same conclusion, then it must have some truth to it or be a natural conclusion”. Also the fact that Trump is not only considered successful as a businessman because he is rich, as well as the fact that he is famous both contribute to him appearing to have valid policies.
We often use extremes to exaggerate what we mean in order to show how much emphasis we put on something. This goes even so far as to say that we “destroyed” or even “raped” someone to mean that we defeated them with such skill that they had no chance.
Perhaps because of Hollywood’s extremism in portraying destructive scenarios, it seems to be easy for people like Trump to claim that the current policies are “destroying” America. His counterproposal is to “make America great again”. Both of these points of view are inaccurate, because many right wing people view the US currently as heading to total destruction because of the propaganda they believe, and many people who oppose Trump say he will lead the US to destruction because of hoe bad his policies are, but it is far more likely that even policies akin to Germany’s Nazi party will still leave a country like the US in a stable condition without any “destruction”. People fear what amounts to widespread desolation because they are quick to take something that is very bad and compare it to something far worse. Trump is not Hitler, although his policies are similar. Even if he was though, the US would not become a giant ghetto if he took power. It is far more likely that if an extremist left or right wing candidate took power that the country would structurally stay as it is. What people should be afraid of is not mass destruction, but rather of complacency to a society with close minded policies that violate human rights.
If Trump won, and did not get impeached, and if he erected a wall on the Mexican border and kicked out all of the illegal immigrants and put in place multiple racist policies, the US would not crumble. We should not fear Trump as the end of the United States because that is fear mongering and exaggeration, but rather as a person who does not understand politics and human rights.
What we should be promoting are human rights and rationality. We should not resort to extremism to fight extremism, or to fight hate unless it is needed as a last resort. Doing so will lead to extreme results and often unintended consequences, such as ISIS.
Extremism is the solution people take when they want an easy solution, but to do that they ignore that they are hurting people or lie to themselves by saying that is was the only way.