It may seem like an odd title for a post, but I can think of little that is more apropos when evaluating Trump’s rise (pun intended). The very foundation of religion relies on faith, and the deeper the faith one has, the greater the ability to dismiss contradictory evidence. Some Christians argue the world is 6,000 years old, others state that time in the bible is relative and not intended to measure actual years. As an aside, only one in five Americans has actually read the bible, and 20% of those are non-believers or became non-believers after reading it. I digress. The theme remains constant for those who subscribe. God created the Earth and all living things, and that belief is based on a book. The book may vary from one religion to another, but the idea is constant. That book, whichever it is, is considered by those who believe, to be the ultimate authority on creation and morality. Any evidence to the contrary is either dismissed or explained through a complex narrative. If you are born into one of these religions and conclude this authority to be invalid, you are called a heretic or an apostate. It is a harsh penalty for the intellectually curious seeking to explore different avenues of thinking. In fact, some of the greatest scientists of earlier centuries were put to death for these practices, presumably because they created an existential threat to the religion. The belief by these followers was either so deep or so insecure, that any challenge to it had to met swiftly in order to ensure its sustainability. My intent here is not to indict religion, but merely to draw the analogy to what we are seeing today in our political climate.
Anyone in the GOP who has not supported Trump knows this all too well. Threats of banishment from the party have become commonplace for those who spoke freely. Which raises the question, how has such a polarizing figure garnered so much support? While no one can conclusively answer this question, there is a great deal we can learn from history and sociology, and much of it ties to how people of faith subscribe. Trump’s platform is almost ingeniously simple. We are going to make America great again by putting America first. He claims he will do this through ambiguous statements like bringing jobs back, renegotiating trade, controlling immigration, and fighting terrorism. At face value, these sound fantastic, and if you’re struggling economically it sounds like a dream come true. You want to have faith in this guy. So much so, that you’re willing to dismiss statements and positions that no other public figure would be able to persevere through. Especially, when your alternative is a career politician who has been under scrutiny and investigation since the earliest part of her career.
The problem is that the vast majority of Trump’s claims are not based on evidence or experience. How many people in this country are truly qualified to know what the impact would be if we deported 11,000,000 immigrants? Even if you are the most ardent supporter of border and immigration control, how can you even begin to assess what this would do to our economy and our country? The challenges this would create are endless. The humanitarian crisis of splitting up families, abandoned jobs, foreclosures and lease terminations, construction stoppages, the list goes on. This doesn’t even take into account that the very person proposing this is a large employer of immigrants (many undocumented) himself. But when you tie these statements to national security, it makes for a compelling message to those only looking at the surface. The facts fall by the wayside as hopes of a more promising tomorrow are painted.
Immigration is just the beginning though. Let’s look at jobs. Trump claims he’ll be best jobs president ever. His organization employs roughly 24,000 people and if you consider jobs his company creates through suppliers it is estimated at roughly 35,000. However, you also have to account for jobs he’s lost. In one bankruptcy alone, nearly 5,000 people were left out without a job. Put that against the 24,000 number and you have a 21% unemployment rate! Even going with the more generous estimate of 35,000 it yields a 14% unemployment rate. That is almost 3 times what it is today and still 50% more than our worst figure in decades. That is only accounting for one of his bankruptcies. However, supporters don’t count the losses, only the wins.
Then there’s national security and the military. Of course it sounds appealing when a candidate says he wants to “rebuild the military.” But that it implies it needs rebuilding. In 2015, the US spent more on our military than the next 13 countries combined. The biggest problem with our military isn’t our offensive or defensive capability, it is our inability to take care of those who served after they come home. If you want to fix an actual problem, focus on that one. Our ability to annihilate the entire planet multiple times over is not in question. Which brings to light the most important question, what is the most effective way to defend our country? While our military might is a huge deterrent, our biggest asset is our allies. Any potential adversary knows that if they attack the US, they are also attacking France, Germany, Japan and dozens of other countries that would make any offensive logistically impossible. In Trump’s never ending quest to demonstrate his complete lack of understanding in foreign relations, his campaign wants to charge our allies for services. Again, his supporters dismiss this because he will “rebuild” the largest military in the world.
None of this brings into account his treatment of people, the example he would create for our children, or the symbol he would represent for our country on a national stage. A person who denies statements he makes on his own twitter feed, and needs staff members to explain why what he clearly stated is not what was intended. If ever there was a job where words matter, it is the presidency. While it may drive us crazy that every statement from former presidents is carefully crafted, there is a reason. These quotes will be clipped, shared out of context, and used by opponents and foreign adversaries. Statements about the appearance of a female foreign leader will have consequences on a global stage. If you wouldn’t trust this man alone with your daughter, how could you trust him to represent our national interests? Faith? Is that really enough?
I’m more than happy to concede any individual’s religious belief, no matter how absurd it may be at face value. If Mormon’s believe special underwear provides them protection, so be it. Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead, fine. Hindu’s believe we are reincarnated, fantastic. However, when masses align behind beliefs that are not based in reality, and those beliefs serve to undermine and even threaten the fabric of country, it needs to be called out in the most critical fashion. Non-evidenced based beliefs by masses lay the groundwork for the Holocaust, internment camps, and the very terrorism we speak against so vocally. There is data point after data point that demonstrably shows Trump’s statements and positions to either be false, grossly misleading, or unproven. This is a man that will profit from his brand at any expense, including a fraudulent university, and stiffing contractors with the rationale that saying you did work from Trump is payment enough. Have faith when deciding what school to send your child to, or what career you take, but basing a decision on faith when the livelihood and well being of 300 million citizens is at stake is not defensible. In fact, its lazy. It is an excuse at best, and at worst it is an attempt to remove accountability from the decision. Be skeptical. Weigh the facts. If after all that, you decide that you want to vote for PT Barnum in lieu of someone who has actually governed, I can only assume that given the proper persuasion I can get you to believe; the world is 6,000 years old, people can be resurrected, and that underwear can protect you from evil. Oh wait. If you already believe in one of those, facts and reality aren’t going to persuade you anyway.