I’ve been nearly invisible here on CleanTechnica for the past few weeks because our 2nd daughter (Julia) was just born on September 9 and I’ve been playing mommy + daddy to our 2-year-old daughter Lily for a few weeks, while also trying to help mommy + the newborn as much as I can. But US political insanity and a sense of civic duty have pulled me to write a “quick” article about Donald Trump and American society.
Donald Trump’s decision to jump into the presidential race was initially seen as a joke by many people, probably most people aware of his entry into the contest. After all, he’s a “reality TV” star, a real estate developer, and a casino owner, not a politician. He’s not even someone who has been very involved in political matters through business or charitable work, and his main entry into political discussion prior to the election was claiming for years that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States (something I’ll come back to later in this article). Even Donald seemed shocked when he actually started winning the GOP nomination.
No doubt about it, this presidential election season has been an anomaly. Candidates, campaigns, fundraising, media coverage, and Twitter battles have been stranger than any election season any of us have lived through — perhaps stranger than any in US history, but I’m sure there are a number of odd elections back there that could compete for the title.
There are several reasons why Donald’s political rise has been a surprise to many of us, but I’ll start by more pointedly highlighting a few of the most obvious ones (which I think are basically beyond debate):
- Donald has no experience in a public, elected office — not as a Congressman, not as a Governor, not as a Mayor, not as a City Councilor, and not even as a Mosquito Control District Board Member or Mobile Home Park Recreation District Trustee. Can you think of any US president in history who had never held a public office before becoming president?
- Donald’s big business focus for decades was developing or buying expensive buildings for rich people and plastering his last name on them. He also got into the casino business, golf resorts, fake universities (regarding which there are pending lawsuits from former students claiming Trump University defrauded them), doomed airline and mortgage and magazine businesses, and other smaller endeavors along the way. (Note that Donald got his start via millions of dollars from his father and his father’s strong political connections — he went on to make less money with those millions than if he had simply invested it in index funds.)
The point in bringing all this up is to highlight that Donald’s work wasn’t focused on improving the lives of the common person or society as a whole. It was focused on serving rich people and making Trump richer and more famous along the way. This is really not the kind of career work you expect from a presidential candidate.
- Donald, long focused on his image (a narcissist as psychologists keep labeling him), is recently most famous (or infamous) for a “reality” show in which contestants must treat him like a king in an effort to get chosen as an actual high-level Trump employee. (Note: reality shows are often not at all candid affairs, and that’s certainly true about this one — I’ll get back to that matter in a minute.) Reality show stars don’t often go on to become presidents, so count me as one of the surprised bystanders observing this potential first. However, I think the reality show bit is actually a big part of the story, not just a sideshow coincidence, so I’ll be coming back to it for broader reflection further down in the article.
- Donald is widely known for being superficial. Money, image, image, image, sex, hot or not, Trump this, Trump that, etc. Read this article from the actual author of The Art of the Deal for more on that topic. Again, it’s a bit odd for a presidential candidate to be so focused on superficial matters for so much of his career and life before running for president.
- Did I mention that Donald has no background in political office?
Despite all of the above (and, in some cases, because of it), Donald won the GOP nomination and has a decent chance of winning the US presidential election. Even if he doesn’t, though, his support among a large portion of the public brings up many red flags (for me at least) about the US population. After all, Donald hasn’t simply hypnotized the voters who support him — and that tells us something about out country and the humans who currently populate it.
Since this is CleanTechnica, not CleanPOLITICO, I’ll start off by focusing on some energy and environment matters. However, I will jump into other matters further down in order to try to be a bit comprehensive, so feel free to stop reading once you hit “Are we really so duped by fake ‘reality’ shows?” if you aren’t interested in the other matters.
Apologies if anyone here supports Donald Trump. However, if you do, read on and please consider these matters with an open mind.
Energy — oil & gas, stealing oil, & clean energy ignorance
It seems dubious to say Donald has any detailed policy plans — his campaign has basically just been soundbites, contradictory soundbites, and then a return to the original soundbites. However, going by who seems to be in line to run energy matters under a Trump presidency (as well as his own energy soundbites), Trump’s focus seems to be on providing more access to oil & gas companies and cutting regulations that protect US health and the climate.
As reported previously, fossil billionaire Harold Hamm is a top option to be offered the “Secretary of Energy” office. That would surely mean more oil drilling and natural gas fracking, and probably less support for renewables.
POLITICO also now reports that, “Forrest Lucas, co-founder of oil products company Lucas Oil and an outspoken opponent of animal rights, is a leading contender for Interior secretary should Donald Trump win the White House, say two sources familiar with the campaign’s deliberations.” Lucas reportedly gave $50,000 to VP candidate Mike Pence’s gubernatorial campaigns.
As Sierra Club political director Khalid Pitts nicely summarizes, “At this rate, Donald Trump’s cabinet meetings will be so oil-soaked that they’ll need fire retardant carpeting installed in the White House out of fear of setting the place on fire.”
Now, Trump has just unveiled that GOP energy lobbyist Mike McKenna and global warming denier Myron Ebell would lead his energy transition team. Here’s a short summary of these anti-cleantech, fossil-focused men:
McKenna, is a well-connected energy lobbyist with ties to the industry-backed American Energy Alliance and Institute for Energy Research. McKenna has lobbied for the Dow Chemical Company, Southern Company and Koch Companies Public Sector, which terminated his contract in May, according to public records. According to his website, McKenna previously served as an “external relations specialist” at the Energy Department.
Ebell is the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He is a prominent skeptic of climate science and a regular critic of the Obama administration’s environmental policies. But he has never worked at the EPA.
If you’re concerned about energy and climate matters, that should be enough for you, but in case it’s not, please keep reading.
As noted in a previous article about Trump and GOP “leadership,” here are some other concerning points:
- Donald claimed that global warming is a hoax “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
- Donald claimed that wind and solar are very expensive (as you know, they’re actually very cheap).
- (Note that Trump has demonstrated a history of dislike for wind energy, and has made crazy claims about it for years.)
- Donald insinuated that solar energy has something like an 18-year payback time(it often actually has a much faster payback time for rooftop solar and a much, much, much faster payback time for utility-scale solar power plants).
- (Note: In 2012, Trump claimed on Fox News that solar has a 32-year payback. Donald also said, “You look at the windmills that are destroying shorelines all over the world. Economically, they’re not good. It’s a very, very poor form of energy.”)
- Donald also simply said that solar energy is “not working so good.”
- Donald ridiculously claimed, “The wind kills all your birds. All your birds, killed. You know, the environmentalists never talk about that.”
— American Clean Power Association (@USCleanPower) August 2, 2016
- Trump claimed in May that “The administration fast-tracked wind projects that kill more than 1 million birds a year.”
- Trump pledged to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement, which is an agreement between 195 countries.
- Trump has claimed he and his team would “put our coal miners and steel workers back to work” (even though coal power is absolutely uncompetitive).
- Trump has claimed that he would allow oil & gas drilling on federal lands.
- Trump tweeted, “If I Am Elected President I Will Immediately Approve The Keystone XL Pipeline. No Impact On Environment & Lots Of Jobs For U.S.”
- Trump compared wind power to oil and ethanol, even though wind power is for electricity and oil & ethanol are basically for transportation fuel. (LOL)
What does all of this tell me about the US? It tells me that approximately half of the population doesn’t care that Trump’s energy agenda is ~100% focused on human-killing, climate-destroying fossil fuels and that Trump is woefully ignorant of current solar & wind energy prices and trends.
The scary thing is, Trump seemingly believes anti-science conspiracy theories
Well, it’s scary either way — whether Trump actually believes the conspiracy theories or simply uses them to get his way. These conspiracy theories cover a wide variety of topics — global warming (which Donald claims is a hoax created by the Chinese), Obama’s birthplace (which Donald claimed for 5 years was not in the USA), (in 2012) that Obama may start a war to win re-election, that Obama didn’t attend Columbia University, that Obama didn’t write Dreams From My Father (ironic, since Donald didn’t write The Art of the Deal), that Obama is aiding ISIS and founded ISIS and didn’t stop the Orlando massacre even though he knew about it, that Justice Scalia may have been murdered, that thousands of Muslim-Americans celebrated in New Jersey when the World Trade Center came down, that the Mexican government deliberately sends the US its criminals, that ISIS (rather than a simple protester) tried to attack him in Ohio, that Syrian refugees bill ISIS for their phones, that Syrian refugees are only sent to GOP-led states, that immigrants are being permitted into the US with Ebola and the CDC is lying about it, that the US unemployment rate is 42% and that is being covered up, that Obama won re-election by making a deal with Saudi Arabia to flood the market with cheap oil, that Christians can’t come into the USA … and plenty of other nonsense.
The point is that Trump is prone — very prone — to either believe in or parrot conspiracy theories. How that would turn out if he became leader of “the free world,” I don’t know, but I’m not confident it would turn out well. On this topic, by the way, I recommend: “In Poland, a preview of what Trump could do to America.”
What does all of this tell me about the US? It tells me that approximately half of the population is either onboard with ridiculous conspiracy theories or at least doesn’t mind putting a routine conspiracy theorist into the highest political position in the country, and perhaps the world.
Hey, what does it matter if the president spends 4 years chasing innocent people down, screwing up policy, and embarrassing the United States because of conspiracy theories?
Are we really so duped by fake ‘reality’ shows?
Maybe Donald is so drawn to conspiracy theories because he’s so accustomed to misleading people. There were his completely false claims about the financial solvency of his businesses, there’s Trump University, and then there’s his whole “reality show” life/fame.
I sometimes wonder how many people think outlandish reality shows are actually candid affairs. Some are so ridiculous that it’s obvious the whole thing is staged, while others are more subtle about it.
However, even if you’re a contestant on an obviously framed reality contest with Trump as the big boss, you can get sucked in by the brainwashing nature of it. What of the millions of viewers? Some are surely aware that the show has a few purposes and isn’t completely (or even mildly) realistic, but most of them they may still be influenced. Other people may assume the whole thing is 100% genuine. They would be massively mistaken, as people behind the show can explain.
What does all of this tell me about the US? Unfortunately, it tells me that crappy media is probably more powerful at shaping perceptions than I thought, and that Americans are maybe also a very gullible bunch, with people not looking far beyond the surface. I guess this was already obvious, but it is being emphasized to an insane degree now.
Destroying America to “make it great again”
The United States as we know it today was built by immigrants, for immigrants. There’s a strong focus on freedom of religion, freedom of thought, and freedom of movement in the country. The founders and early shapers didn’t have everything right, but they seemed to get that right. Trump’s campaign is built on the idea of blocking people out and being closed-minded — it’s the antithesis of US principles and values.
As Bono recently stated, “America is like the best idea the world ever came up with. Donald Trump is potentially the worst idea that ever happened to America. … America’s not just a country. Ireland’s a nice country, great country. Great Britain’s a great country. It’s not an idea. America is an idea and that idea is bound up in justice and equality for all — equality and justice for all, you know. I think he’s hijacked the party. I think he’s trying to hijack the idea of America. And I think it’s bigger than all of us. I think it’s — it’s — this is really dangerous.”
For more on how Trump’s campaign is built around destroying what made America great in the first place, see this John Oliver clip:
What does all of this tell me about the US? A lot of Americans are really bad — really, really, really bad — at understanding what is special about our country and what should be praised and protected. Heck, even simply about understanding some of the most basic tenets of the US Constitution has proven too much for many people!
How do people so hugely ignore or misunderstand their own grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ histories.
Bullying is rewarded
Trump has demonstrated, perhaps more than anything else, that he’s a bully. He worked his way through the Republican contenders for the nomination by bullying the others — not by talking about realistic policy proposals.
Long before that, he built his career on bullying people as well — threatening lawsuits like this was his favorite hobby.
Regarding another candidate for the Republican nomination, he said, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!”
Regarding a popular female TV anchor for Fox News, he said, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
Regarding a New York Times reporter with a congenital condition called arthrogryposis, Trump physically mocked his arthrogryposis.
Donald labeled top opponents Little Marco, Low-Energy Jeb, Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary, Pocahontas (for Elizabeth Warren), Crazy Bernie (that one might have actually won Bernie some points, imho).
At one of his rallies, Trump encouraged violence among his supporters, saying, “So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ’em, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.”
Implying that someone shoot political opponent Hillary Clinton, Trump said, “If [Hillary Clinton] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Speaking about Senator John McCain, Trump shocked the political world and claimed, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
Speaking about Rosie O’Donnell, he said, “I was never a fan. She came to my wedding, she ate like a pig.” Here are more quotes on women:
That’s really just the tip of the iceberg for Trump.
What does all of this tell me about the US? Sadly, this tells me that much of the US public doesn’t mind electing someone as president who acts in this lousy way, and that they may even support the racist, sexist, xenophobic bullying.
Better to say something untrue but grand than to say nothing at all
If we honestly look at why Donald Trump has garnered as much success as he has, it comes down to just a few things — one of those things is grand, hopeful promises. The problem is, Trump’s promises are often completely ridiculous, completely ridiculous. They are so impossible, they’re laughable.
But all of these grand promises seem to add up for people. Despite having horrible, horrible policy proposals, many people somehow think he would help them. It’s nothing new for presidential candidates to promise more than they can deliver, but The Donald has taken it to another level. Rather than be laughed out of the room or identified as a lying sack of cheese, however, he is being rewarded by pulling more and more potential voters to his side. It makes no sense, yet it makes a lot of sense — it’s a lesson in how poorly informed the public is and how embarrassingly lame we are at holding politicians (or potential politicians) responsible.
Is anyone else here expecting a sorely disappointed public a few years from now if Donald becomes president?
What does all of this tell me about the US? That we really aren’t fulfilling our responsibilities as citizens, and we may pay dearly for it.
Racism runs deep
As noted previously (following Peter Sinclair’s insights on the matter), racism and global warming denial seem to go hand in hand.
Unfortunately, the Republican Party — from the heads of Congress to the voters supporting Trump — are basically accepting and institutionalizing Trump’s racism and his global warming denial.
The article linked directly above starts out like this: “So it’s come to this: The institutional position of the Republican Party in the great birther controversy roiling the 2016 campaign — a consequential chapter in our political history — is now essentially that Donald Trump did the nation a service by forcing the first African American president to finally show his papers.” Yikes. The racism runs deep, and wide.
To keep going on this topic, though, here’s a recent line from Trump: “We’re going to rebuild our inner cities because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. Ever, ever, ever.” Worst ever? What the heck is Trump smoking — racist lying powder?
As Rep. John Lewis responded, “I don’t know what Mr. Trump is talking about to say that the situation for African-Americans is worse than it’s ever been. Is he talking about worse than slavery? Worse than the system of segregation and racial discrimination — when we couldn’t take a seat at the lunch counter and be served? Worse than being denied the right to register to vote, to participate in the democratic process and live in certain neighborhoods and communities?”
You might try to be generous to Trump and assume he didn’t mean “worst ever,” but he specifically emphasized “Ever, ever, ever.” Remember, Trump’s tagline is “Make America Great Again,” which presumes it was greater in the past than it is now. What past is that? The times of slavery, of segregation, of black people not being allowed to sit in the front of the bus? One really has to wonder at this point.
Of course, Trump’s long contention that Obama isn’t a US citizen isn’t a great sign either.
What does all of this tell me about the US? That much of the country is still racist or doesn’t mind if their president is … or they are just completely out of touch with one of the two main candidates.
It’s a little bit beyond concerning that none of the above raises enough red flags for ~50% of the country to swear off voting for Donald Trump. Many prominent, lifelong Republican leaders have done so, but apparently not tens of millions of people.
We’ve ordered up a large serving of “Oh no, what have I done?! …” and that must go far beyond Trump. Otherwise, Trump wouldn’t be on anyone’s mind right now, let alone a debate stage with Hillary Clinton!
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