Donald Trump: Why The Tell-It-Like-It-Is President Is Hated By Most

  • What seems to really get to those who hate him is that he can talk out loud each of his unfiltered, raw thought, and not only get away with it, but also remain the President.
  • Kartikeya TannaFriday, July 10, 2020 6:58 am IST
    US President Donald Trump.
    US President Donald Trump.

    “I don’t hate Trump”.

    Those four words, almost always a response to someone who asks me about my political views, invite hyper-responses.

    “What? How can you be a Trump supporter?”
    “You are a minority, an immigrant. How can you like him?”
    “You have a daughter. Do you understand what a leader like him means?”
    “Your boy [referring to Trump] just tweeted something that makes a middle school child look smarter.”

    Back in 2017, I would get a little defensive while enunciating my position. I would try to explain how hate is a strong word, how I focus on what he does rather than who he is, why I fully support some of his policies, partly support others and disagree with the remaining, and how that did not amount to him being “my boy” and me being his “supporter”.

    Lately, however, I have been letting these hyper-responses from friends, family and acquaintances run their full course. I truly wanted to ponder why any point of view on Trump or his policies, even slightly dissonant with theirs, riled them up so much to the point that they would lose all nuance and dive into a bottomless pit of Trump hate.

    To those who I sensed could provide me articulate, elaborate reasons, I would probe — “Why do you hate Trump?”

    The common responses were — “he is racist, anti-immigrant, liar, rude, offensive, a joke, a reality show performer”. And so on.

    I, then, put a different emphasis.

    “Why do you hate Trump?”

    This question, focusing on the hater, would be met with similar responses.

    This got me thinking — why is it hard to transcend these personal qualities of the man as perceived and, instead, focus on policies, governance and delivery?

    Why is Bill Clinton never considered anti-immigrant despite the fact that he voiced similar concerns against illegal immigration?

    Why is he so loved even today despite the scandalous events which happened during his presidency?

    Why was Barack Obama not vilified to the extent Trump was when the former used the word “thugs” for violent rioters in Baltimore, a description which was later defended by his White House aide?

    We can get juxtapose countless such examples to either point out hypocrisies (those who find these comparable) or split hairs (those who reject such comparisons).

    And, yet, it would not provide a meaningful insight into why Clinton and Obama are widely ‘loved’ when none of the large number of people I have spoken to have once met them in person, leave aside knowing them intimately. And, conversely, why Trump is so ‘hated’.

    While ambitious, ladder-climber politicians predominantly portray strong leadership skills, on occasion, however, strategically or naturally, they let the country and the world see their softer side. They let tears roll, they deploy disarming honesty, their speeches often tug at our heartstrings.

    What this does is that it allows us to momentarily feel pity or sympathy for that mighty leader sitting in the White House, who otherwise possesses the power to control destinies of millions of countrymen as well as much of the world. Most of the times, we are in awe of the power that person represents — the one who walks around with the secret service arming him and dictates American interests to the world.

    In a strange sort of power play subconsciously operating within us, that occasional vulnerability makes us feel victorious over him, temporarily balancing the mightiness of the position of the president in our psyche. Our lives, often spent around a small circle of work, family, close friends and the few hundred people who know of us through social media, suddenly seem relatable to that of the president’s.

    Trump is one of those rare leaders who has not shown, or even pretended to show, his vulnerabilities, his ‘softer’ side, his relatable persona. His one recent attempt — oft mocked — is how he lamented that his father gave him a ‘small loan’ of $1 million.

    In that sense, Trump represents the quintessential aggressor — the one with the go-getter attitude — always on the hunt for a deal. Photographs of him shared on official media are aimed at showing that machismo. His campaign videos show just that side — for example, how he has taken on China and how he has started draining the swamp.

    His approach in doing so comes across as that of a classroom bully, trampling over those he considers weak or inefficient, while always finding routes to self-aggrandisement through aggrandisement of America (the stock market being one of his choicest go-to indicators).

    This isn’t to say that one can’t criticise this approach just as there are many valid criticisms of approaches of previous presidents (‘too soft’, ‘slippery’ and so on).

    However, what seems to really get to those who virulently hate him is that he can talk out loud each of his unfiltered, raw thought and not only get away with it, but also remain the President, constantly reminding everyone of his greatness.

    Maybe, he represents something which exists deep down in many of his haters — something they leave unexpressed.

    A common principle in human psychology is that we often deride weaknesses in others. Weaknesses which we are all too well aware of within ourselves but would rather ignore. Or, if unaware, weaknesses which come to the fore each time we spot them in our object of hatred.

    Maybe, those who hate him have some of the same inclinations — to be brash, aggressive, self-aggrandising, the classroom bully (the id, as Sigmund Freud explains) — but have had to tame down those impulses because of their self-regulated sense of appropriateness (the ego, in Freud’s exposition) or to ‘fit in’ this social world (the superego, as Freud describes).

    How dare Trump get away with it all the time!

    And, he knows that the more the hatred brews for him, the more myths about him emerge from what he leaves unsaid as opposed to what he actually says and, more critically, what he and his administration actually execute on the ground. That, in turn, exacerbates the hatred within his haters.

    Make no mistake, these myths do have the serious potential of perpetuating the existing faultlines in American civil society.

    However, they also help entrench an image about him that makes him wildly attractive to that near-half which votes for him. The anatomy of Trump hate is a significant factor in his political appeal.

    However, to narrow his victory down solely to bigotry — the ‘deplorables’ his 2016 opponent notoriously labelled his voters as — would be myopic. May be, there is a constituency for plain speak. May be, people don’t want to be burdened with restraints on their thoughts as this survey shows [some black voters are attracted to Trump’s tell-it-like-it-is demeanor] and, in that sense, Trump provides an inspiration for their outlet.

    In sum, either the fact that Trump — the ‘megalomaniac’, the ‘narcissist’ — is the President can signal such a danger to our well-being that feelings of hate envelop us. Or, he can be objectively analysed through his actions which, coupled with meticulous research of facts, can open our minds up about the effects of his administration’s policies and execution on the ground in order to give praise where it is due or criticise in a more informed manner.

    I have chosen the latter. In that regard, I don’t hate Trump.

    I have realised over the years that, if we learn to accept and tolerate (and not admire) these less desirable characteristics — many of which exist within ourselves — we may save ourselves from feeling uneasy or reacting agitatedly when faced with them in others.

    This article first appeared on Medium, and has been republished here with permission.

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