None of us sees behind the veil of what Trump truly values. I have spoken with people that gained an audience with the man, and his personal interactions with them were both kind and considerate. That suggests there is something more to Trump than his public persona and political style. Perhaps his supporters sense this aspect of their president. So it demands a closer look at what drives the popularity of Make America Great Again.
His brand of brightly-hued optimism appeals to millions of Americans eager for some sort of renewal in this country. These also tend to be people aggravated by the complexity of life as it has evolved in the American republic. Trump’s slogan Make America Great Again proposes to eliminate the complexity of life by reducing the American experiment to simple actions; cutting taxes, ending illegal immigration, stopping abortion, eliminating financial and environmental regulation and putting religion at the forefront of national policy. Does that cover pretty much of what MAGA fans want to see happen?
The Trump mantra really isn’t more complicated than that. His simplicity is his message. One could just as easily change the Trump slogan to Make Aggravation Go Away and achieve the same objectives. A big chunk of the American electorate craves simplicity. They’re sick of having to think about complex issues such as the lives of transgender people. They’re tired of hearing Spanish rather than English spoken in public places. They’re believers in old-school industries such as coal and oil because they harken to a time before the complexities of air pollution, acid rain, and climate change challenged the status quo. There must be a simpler way. Trump appeals to that manner of thinking.
But first, let’s make the aggravations go away.
Make Aggravation Go Away is a powerful message also to people whose vision of America does not require accommodation of any sort. That means Christians should not have to think about Muslim traditions or put up with people saying Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. That cultural issue alone has aggravated Christians for a decade or so, coaxed on by Fox News chryons pitching the “War On Christmas.”
Make Aggravation Go Away has roots stretching way back to the Confederate cause in which states’ rights were the big issue, but mostly that was a cloak for the right to keep slaves. Indeed, that was the cause of ‘liberty’ back then. Liberty for white Christians quoting scripture to justify selfish aims while treating people of other races as property. It’s hard to read that sentence and grasp that people once truly believed that. Yet that’s what America most needs to do. Come to grips with its own conflicted traditions.
The Civil War was fought over that aggravation. There are still some Americans that wave the Confederate flag as a sign that their aggrieved state has never been recognized.
Tracing these historical grievances from the past to present helps to explain why protestors are now gathering to “liberate” their states from Stay At Home orders issued by their governors. Responding to the pandemic has been an aggravation, which is defined as “an intensification of a negative quality or aspect.” The threat of disease is never a joyful situation. Being encouraged or required to retreat from public life is another layer of aggravation. Those orders are being treated as an infringement on personal rights by protestors who want to Make Aggravation Go Away.
Not that simple
The problem with that belief system is that life isn’t always that simple. Trump’s eagerness to prevent any outside influence from impinging on his prized economy is what directly led to the infection rate getting a head start on the nation’s ability to respond. By trying to simplify the Coronavirus threat to a sound bite and a promise that it would “go away, like magic,” Trump put millions of people’s lives at risk, and tens of thousands have indeed died.
And yet his supporters still seek to simplify the complexities of Covid-19 with even more disturbing sound bites. So desperate are some supporters to protect Trump they have projected blame for the pandemic away from Trump to a more convenient and horrifically simplied target for their ire, Dr. Anthony Fauci. The Fire Fauci meme swept across the Internet with all the resonance and credulity of the Lock Her Up chants aimed at Hillary Clinton. Again, it’s all about Making Aggravation Go Away. Fauci is an aggravation because he’s a medical professional speaking in terms of science, that complex source of often bad news that stands in direct opposition to Trump’s vacuous brand of gut-instinct optimism.
That’s the kind analysis. A more honest approach would be to say that Trump acted stupidly by ignoring clear warnings that a pandemic was brewing overseas and that it would not be confined to arrival just from China. Fauci accurately predicted it would arrive through other channels, yet Trump desperately tried to simplify the threat by calling it the Chinese Virus. That was a clear attempt to politicize the problem with a nationalistic, effectively racist approach to directing blame away from himself. Trump aggressively failed the leadership test of recognizing a genuine threat to our national interests. That is how he approaches every problem he faces. He fails, then bails, and finally assails. It’s all about blaming others. That’s the simplest way to avoid responsibility. But to Trump, it is an art form.
As a result of Trump’s recklessness, our national interests are now bogged in a swamp of economic doldrums wrought by the need to shut down our service economy to prevent rampant spread of the Coronavirus. That requirement has cost millions of jobs and Americans are suffering, big time. The Trump response has been cynical at best. At one point he proudly promised to send Americans what he called a “big, fat check” amounting to about $1200 for most households. And then, Trump held up the distribution of those checks to make sure his name appeared on them.
Big money goes elsewhere
Meanwhile, billions have been snarfed up big money interests all too eager to accept the graft intended for “small business.” That includes Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, whose company gladly embraced more than $800M from the stimulus program. At what point did nepotism become a complete non-issue in this country? How ironic it is that Republicans love to point fingers at the supposed graft of Hunter Biden overseas while Trump’s children blatantly leverage their proximity to the seat of power to pad their present and future interests with promises of profit?
In advance of that flush money going out, Trump promised oversight of the stimulus package to Democrats, then snatched it away after the bill was passed. Of course, his supporters love him for things like that, because it’s just another example of Making Aggravation Go Away.
After all, it was Democrats in Congress that sought to hold Trump accountable for his criminality in seeking to coerce Ukraine into announcing an investigation into his now-confirmed political rival, Joe Biden. The goal of Trump’s digging around in Ukraine was to cast aspersions on Vice President Joe Biden by framing his son Hunter as a symbol of supposed corruption on the part of that family. Those accusations were why Trump’s so-called ‘personal attorney’ Rudy Giuliani spent months mucking around in Ukraine only to turn up nothing substantial. Granted, Hunter Biden does not sound like a prize pupil when it comes to judicious use of family influence or reputation. At one point, neither George W. Bush or John F. Kennedy were paradigms of personal virtue. Even Trump could be forgiven his past transgressions if he weren’t so ardently bent on creating new ones.
Impeachment doesn’t stick
Congress ultimately impeached Trump inaccordance with massive lines of evidence pointing back to Trump’s “perfect” phone call as perfectly corrupt. But the Republican-led Senate made the aggravation go away by refusing to conduct anything approaching an actual trial with testimony and witnesses. Instead, they simply broke the oath to do that and acquitted Trump even while several in the Senate admitted that Trump had done wrong. Once that aggravation was gone, along with the Mueller Report, Trump proceeded on his merry way of mocking his critics and calling everything with which he disagrees Fake News. That’s another tactic for making aggravations go away. Call them fake, or a hoax, and Trump supporters gobble it up like candy.
We don’t even know if Trumpism will allow his removal during a normal election if such a thing exists anymore. By many reports, the Russians are still playing games in the hinterlands of the Internet, posing as Americans and creating fake news sites to pump out pro-Trump and anti-Biden propaganda to divide Americans even further.
But it’s not the Russians that are the real problem. It is the Make Aggravation Go Away attitudes of everyday Americans caught up in the authoritarian, nearly fascist call to defeat all those who aggravate the president in any way. This worldview is further fueled by a religious culture that for decades has attacked all that contradicts its scriptural orthodoxy. As a result nearly 40% of Americans embrace the literalistic, anti-science worldview of creationism that reduces the origins of all nature and humanity to the level of a childhood bedtime story. This is the brand of low information that has turned America into a backwater swamp of anti-intellectual populism.
No wonder so many Americans want to Fire Fauci, a medical professional who embraces actual germ theory and the evolutionary insights upon which it depends. And no wonder so many Americans want to “liberate” their state from medical strictures designed to prevent the spread of a quickly evolving virus.
In fact, Coronavirus symbolizes all the complexities that Trump supporters and their evangelical partners love to hate. In many ways, it is the aggravation to end all aggravations, a perfectly unseen enemy that propagates itself through invisible droplets and forces us to wear masks. It looks and feels like the ultimate liberal conspiracy. And if you can’t shoot it with a gun or crush it like a beer can, it surely must be some sort of Democrat conspiracy to block the ideal world Trump wants to lead us to.
Just Make Aggravation Go Away. That is the dog-whistle call of those protestors toting guns, waving both Confederate and American flags and revealing the swastika instincts of depicting The Other as the ultimate irritation in life. That’s how Hitler convinced so many that the Jews were the aggravation vexing the nation. But that brand of thinking can be applied to any other label and it still works. Immigrants. Gays. Liberals. Muslims. Tree-Huggers. Mexicans. Blacks. Indians. The list goes on forever if you let it. A nation built around eliminating aggravations is not a nation, but something else entirely.
It is evil.