What the Pundits Don’t Explain About the Trump Phenomenon

What the Pundits Don’t Explain About the

Trump Phenomenon

By: Jim Lafferty, Executive Director Emeritus, National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles

and host of The Lawyers Guild Show on Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles.

       The Pundits have barraged us with endless explanations for the “Trump

phenomenon”. Here’s a few.

 “It’s the fact that he was a reality tv star before he was a candidate.”

  “The people are fed up with those running the government and want an

‘outsider’ to run the country.”

 He’s a creation of the media which gives him endless coverage, especially

coverage of the most shocking things he says. It’s good for ratings.”

 “He says what the people are already thinking, but don’t say.”

 “Unlike other politicians he speaks his mind honestly, and that’s


 “He’ll be tough on immigrants and foreign governments and keep us safe.”

 Or, “he’s a tough negotiator and will make better deals between us and

foreign companies and governments and bring our jobs back.” And on and

on it goes.

       Now don’t get me wrong. All of these explanations, and others along the

same lines, are certainly true. But what they all have in common and, at the same

time  all fail to explain and acknowledge, is what brought the American people to

this point in our history. They fail to explain the underlying reason why so many of

our people, during this presidential election cycle, are not bothered by candidates

who don’t think twice before calling each other “liars” and “frauds” and “stupid,”

and make not so subtle references to the size of a candidate’s genitals and the

targeted candidate feels it’s ok to assure us that he’s fine in that department.

         What the pundits neither explain nor explore, is the underlying reason why

so many Americans resonate with a candidate that spews forth racist and sexist

policies; who talks blithely of bombing women and children to death and using

torture, all on behalf of making us “great” again. They don’t explain why Trump

the billionaire business man is so appealing to so many of us, including most

tellingly, the least advantaged of us. That is, they don’t explain the underlying

“why of the why.”

         I think the why of the why is obvious. This is a capitalist country. And after

generations of capitalism’s impact on the lives of the American people, it should

surprise no one that a sizable portion of them resonate with Trump’s racism and

militarism and fear of the other and believe in the wisdom and capabilities of a

billionaire tv star who’s good at appealing to the worst in people; good at conning

them into believing in his vague tv-commercial-styled solutions to real life

         Think, for a moment about what, per force, capitalism has created in this

nation. Think of how it has pitted one race against another to advance its own

profits. Remember that it is capitalism that is responsible for the out of work

factory worker as surely as it is responsible for the out of work college professor.

Think how it has produced so many single mothers wondering whether to pay the

rent or buy baby food, without ever realizing that it is capitalism that has caused

them to face such a terrible choice in the first place. And how it’s created millions

of college graduates with student loans of one hundred thousand dollars, and

         No, the pundits don’t discuss the fact that it is capitalism that has produced a

21st Century America where 47% of the people live below, at, or just above the

official poverty line. Where no one really knows how high unemployment is save

for the legions of no longer counted unemployed who live it every day. They don’t

explain the lies behind the capitalist fantasy of the “American Dream.” The dream

of a job and a home and two cars in the garage for everyone. The dream where

our kids would do better and live better than their parents did, and where if you

wanted an education you could afford one. The dream that you would always be

able to  walk the cities’ streets safely at night. The dream of the small farmer who

bought into the lie that he could work and live decently off of the same land his

grandfather and father did before him. Or the dream where you would always be

able to safely breath the air and drink the water. All of this has, for oh so many of

us, proven to be nothing more than a fantasy promoted by the capitalists who

own most of our nation’s wealth and who are, collectively, responsible for the

end of the American Dream, the end of what was really nothing more than a

fantasy dream in the first place under any “free market” capitalist system.      

           Because it is, of course, capitalism that has sent the jobs over-seas, made a

house beyond the reach of most of us, and caused us sleepless nights wondering

how our children will prosper and survive in this cut-throat world. It is capitalism

that has put higher education out of the reach of most of us. That has replaced

the family farm with giant agribusiness. That has left hundreds of thousands of us

to sleep on the streets and scavenger for food.  It is capitalist industry that has

poisoned the air and the water and the very earth we stand on to a point where

the end of livability on Mother Earth may be right around the cosmic corner.

       How has capitalism done this? By crushing unions, and sending good jobs

overseas where labor is cheaper. By stripping our public schools of the resources

needed to provide a decent education, and all the while white-washing the

curriculum so the public school kid will never learn the truth about where her

country comes from, and why it is as it is. By creating a manner of governance

that has removed any real connection between the needs of the people and the

rapacious desires of the Capitalists that run this country. It’s done it by waging

imperialist wars for other nations’ oil.

          And capitalism has done away with anti-monopoly laws, which among other

evils, has allowed the national media to become nothing more than a corporate

conglomerate that serves as the propaganda arm of the capitalist oligarchy now

running this country. By creating a corporate controlled media that mis-educates

us, and devotes its’ time to selling us products we don’t need. And by getting us

hooked on endless reality shows and sporting events and sit-coms designed to

keep us happy and stupid. And to make us look up to and idolize those on tv who

are rich and live glamorous lives. Or, as the late author Neil Postman’s book

entitled, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”, explains it, by fostering a media that is

designed to distract us from what is really going on, and why it is going on, so that

we have become a tv addicted nation that is, as Postman argues, “amusing

ourselves to death.”

            It’s no wonder barely half of those who could register to vote and then

vote even bother to vote in presidential elections. And far, far fewer turn up at

the polls for local elections. Most people in this country have given up on their

government. Less than a third think the country is on the right path, or that the

government can solve their problems. That’s why so few vote. That’s why so few

trust the “insider” politician and, instead, pin their hopes, virtually blindly, on the

first fast and sweet talking con man who comes along and tells them in the most

general terms possible, how he’s going to make it all “great again”.

          So, then, why not Trump? After all, he’s a guy who’s “made it” and assures

us he can help us make it, too. And he’s not a member of the old governing class,

so we believe him when he says he will build a wall, a tall wall, and it will all be

just “great” and keep us safe?  And when, despite his record of hiring foreign

workers for “American jobs”, he promises to bring jobs back to America, why not

give him a chance? He’s new. He’s great. After all, as the traditional way of our

capitalist governing system goes more and more wrong, more and more off the

tracks, produces more and more poverty that can’t be hidden from the people,

and by its rapacious and xenophobic foreign policy gives rise to more and more

attacks here in America, of course, the people, understandably, begin to lose

confidence in the “old ways” of governing. It’s no wonder the approval rating of

congress is barely in the double digits. And when you mix all of the above

together in one big political pot, and let it boil and stew for a few generations at

its hottest, foulest level, and then mix in an ego maniacal thug who’s only goal in

life is to make money, see his name on a hotel or a college or a brand of liquor or

a casino—or, on the door of the oval office--you’ve got a people hungry for

Donald Trump and his neo-fascistic ideas on how to make America “great” again.

No, I don’t really think we should be surprised at his success, at all. But we sure as

hell should be frightened to death by it. Or, better yet, frightened into action by it.