Trump Isn’t Really Tough, We’re Just Weak.
Emotionally, mentally and physically, America has gone soft – and has the leader it deserves.
By Christopher Dale
Well past the halfway mark of President Donald Trump’s four-year term, his popularity’s endurance continues to baffle those who instead see a shameless liar, reckless race-baiter and compassionless, amoral manipulator.
The notion that tens of millions of Americans chose to make him president is less alarming than their stubborn support after two years of his blatant cruelty, divisiveness and plain-sight corruption. That four in 10 Americans are satisfied with Trump’s job performance can be difficult to believe and even harder to explain.
Opinions from the left are alternatingly too simple and overly complex. Some say it’s pure racism or sheer stupidity. Others point to a snowballing cascade of factors, including the hollowing out of blue-collar jobs and backlash against the erosion of white male privilege. Most assessments make valid points but are either too broad or narrow to adequately address the secret to Trump’s success.
Most agree that Trump’s followers love his strongman act. But few flip the coin over to fully explore why: America, born of tea-in-the-harbor bravado and forged in hard work and self-reliance, has become a nation of weaklings.
From the easily offended left to the easily misled right, we’ve largely abandoned thick-skinned toughness and independent thought for tribal comforts and extremism. And as hot air pours out of our mouths, high-calorie garbage funnels in, making America the world’s most obese nation. Meanwhile, our crumbling infrastructure and descent into mediocre education standards belies a once-proud bastion of ingenuity.
We are emotional eggshells, mental midgets and physical behemoths. Call it the Diary of a Wimpy Nation: America has gone soft from all sides – left, right and rapidly-expanding midsections.
Let’s start with the left. On college campuses across the country, well-intending individual empowerment has descended into scorched-earth identity politics demanding rigid adherence to safe spaces, trigger warnings and hyper-sensitive language seemingly concocted five minutes ago. Besides not aligning with real world scenarios (shouldn’t that be top priority in college?), this rigidity makes many fellow progressives roll their eyes, and most conservatives foam at the mouth.
Off campus, the left has difficulty discerning the important from the trivial, allowing urgent movements like #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and Antifa to be tainted by those who equate microaggressions with macro problems. The left’s weakness is its inability to overlook any transgression, however minor, to achieve progress rather than perfection.
The result has been the cannibalization of allies while their true enemy – the one in the White House – tramples on the rights of women, immigrants, minorities, the LGBTQ community and more. Self-defeat is a weakness special to liberals.
The right’s issues are more longstanding and numerous. Due largely to right-wing news organizations, conservatives have, for too long, been living in an alternate reality where climate change isn’t real, white people are victims and trickle-down economics works. Ignorance isn’t bliss, but rather a weakness that can be – and has been – exploited by professional liars like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
Lately, though, the softness on the right runs even deeper. As the party becomes increasingly reliant on lower-income white voters, a storyline of the government’s duty to ensure job security regardless of circumstances has emerged. Trump now represents the hopes and dreams of a group of people too inflexible to improve their lot in life without government subsidies and tailor-made jobs programs to prop up dying industries, such as coal.
In this fashion, an historically fiercely independent sect of Americans has gone soft, requiring special treatment to create conditions for their economic viability. Times change, and the ability to adapt is at the heart of survival of the fittest. And the types of people that get scared at the sight of impoverished, imperiled women and children slowly walking toward our border – the so-called caravan – are far from fit for reality.
And speaking of fit… we’re not. We’re fat. More than half of American adults are overweight or obese, an outward manifestation of a nation gone soft. Granted, this figure includes many Americans with extenuating circumstances, such as immobility or other primary health concerns that lead to weight gain. But those reasons run out well short of the 50% mark; far too many of us are, quite simply, eating too much and not exercising enough. That isn’t “fat shaming.” It’s common sense.
Considering this, the question of “Why Trump?” becomes markedly less confusing.
In a nation gone soft, a tough leader – regardless how fraudulent his strongman act, as evidenced by his shameful absence from festivities honoring World War I vets because, well, it was raining – is not only attractive but aspirational. Trump’s admirers don’t just like him, they emulate him. And in their weak-willed, easily led hordes, one way they do so is by seconding the president’s disdain for the type of overblown political correctness transpiring on college campuses and other liberal enclaves. The result has been an endless cycle of the fragile trolling the fragile, with a side of fries.
Ever since Donald Trump descended a faux-gilded escalator in mid-2015 and, in the same breath, declared Mexicans rapists and himself a candidate for president, both the left and the mainstream media have been pointing fingers squarely in his direction. Perhaps we should start pointing them back at ourselves. It’s hard to miss us – we’re the 350-pounder scream-crying in the back of the room while the rest of the world is hard at work.
We continue to hear calls for our nation to come together. Those pleas are unrealistic; our president and our policy differences have divided us beyond near-term repair. Perhaps a good place to start is a solid center of Americans who are able to think, act and properly care for themselves. The first step toward reviving our body politic is a stronger backbone.
Christopher Dale writes on society, politics, parenting and sobriety issues. His work has appeared in Salon, The Daily Beast, the New York Daily News and Parents.com, among other outlets, and he is a regular contributor to The Fix, a sober-lifestyle outlet. Follow him on Twitter at @ChrisDaleWriter.