Dec 2016

Trump and the Fear Factor

by Anna Rosmus

During the election, many took a closer look at nationalism, provincialism, globalism, free trade, immigration, populism and the urban-rural divide inside of the Unites States. Whereas previously by default most Americans were deemed to be “middle class,” Fox News began to embrace the concept of a “working class”. The devastation in Libya and America’s responsibility, cast a long shadow, too.

In November 2015, when Ohio Governor John Kasich battled the GOP front-runner, a video featured retired Air Force Colonel Tom Moe, a Vietnam POW, paraphrasing the late German pastor and concentration camp survivor Martin Niemoeller:[i] “You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims must register with their government because you’re not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump says he’s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you’re not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump says it’s OK to rough up black protesters, because you’re not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you’re not one. … But think about this: if he keeps going and he actually becomes president, he might just get around to you. And you better hope there’s someone left to help you.” When Ali Vitali reported about that video, he added Trump’s dry comment: “We’re killing him. We’re beating the governor of Ohio in his own state.”[ii]

Puzzled over the fact how many Americans seemed unable to see where they were heading, Zero Anthropology tweeted on January 14, 2016:  “No need to stay up late on Nov. 8, 2016, I am calling the US presidential election right now: It’s Donald Trump, by a landslide.” In May, when Zero Anthropology published “Why Donald J. Trump Will Be the Next President of the United States”, we were reminded that “It is now a standard feature of those comfortable with the status quo, who have benefited from the neoliberal world order, to regularly confuse what they think ought to be reality, with what is actually reality.”

Donald Trump loved presenting himself as unpredictable, and the prospect of his presidency resurrected nuclear anxieties and fears of another world war. In early June 2016, when Patrick Henry posted excerpts from Trump interviews since 1980, he attempted to show a steady core and predicted: “This Video Will Get Donald Trump Elected”.[iii] More than 15 million watched it on YouTube, and more than 94,000 commented there.

By early October, a retired teacher in Ohio confessed: “Gosh, this election has me so worried. I’m terrified that Trump will win. I see mostly Trump signs in this area, and Donald Jr. and Pence were in Ashland. … Non-Trump voters have to whisper to each other in this area. We live in interesting times.”

Other people feared repeating recent history. A recently retired professor from Kentucky stated: “I would vote for Trump under one condition: If he were running against Adolf Hitler. Trump’s advantage over Hitler is that we know what Hitler would do but we don’t know what Trump would do.“

Charles Albrecht, who “grew up in southeastern Wisconsin and had no appreciation of the casual anti-Semitism and racism embodied in the culture” until he started his residency in Kentucky, felt: “He reminds me too much of January 1933. I’ve always felt that Americans of German heritage have a moral duty to have an awareness of the Holocaust.”

Referring to anxieties in Germany, where the arrival of more than one million (mostly Muslim) refugees divided the nation, Andrea Muehlebach began her “Time of Monsters” with the following words: “When Hans Fallada’s Little Man, What Now? was published during the last days of the Weimar Republic, his tale of economic depression and shattered petit-bourgeois aspirations made him famous in one fell swoop. In the novel, the daily humiliations of Johannes Pinneberg, a precariously employed department-store salesman failing to reach his monthly quota, intersect with specters of a self-cannibalizing working class, Communist radicalism, and rising National Socialist violence. When Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theater staged Little Man in January 2016, it was almost impossible to get tickets. I was not surprised. After all, the Turkish-German owner of my local convenience store … had just asked me whether I also had the feeling that we were back in the 1930s.”

Some fear Trump’s social philosophy. For Cultural Anthropology online, Dominic Boyer referred to “the perverse spectacle of Donald Trump”,[iv] an “orange man’s narcissism”, “a seething, leering, glowering hypersubject radiating twentieth-century white male Northern privilege and dominion”. Lilith Mahmud concluded: “Trump winning the presidency would not be a sign that democracy works, … Rather, it would be a sign that the whole political system of liberalism is doomed. … At a minimum, the injection of racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic language into legitimate discourse threatens to undo strides made toward social equality”.

On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump was elected as 45th President of the United States.

Although Trump previously denounced David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, on election night, the former grand wizard tweeted, “Make no mistake about it, our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump!”[v] Alt right-wingers at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C. cheered their “hail”.[vi]

In a letter of congratulations, Bavarian minister president Horst Seehofer[vii] invited Donald Trump to visit, possibly in mid-February for the Munich conference about international security.

Some fear the unraveling of America’s social fabric, and the resulting wrath. A rebellious Canadian anthropologist concluded that “Class is back, and particularly working class. The era of denial is over. … the most fatal error of neoliberal globalism was to dispossess the citizenry at the base of the electoral democracies of key states that had been appropriated by the transnational capitalist class.” He wondered: “Why [his US colleagues do] not include the ‘economic crisis’ that has shut down tens of thousands of factories and removed tens of millions of workers from participation in the labour force? .. the crisis that sees many unemployed men ending their lives with drugs, alcohol, and suicide?… life expectancy… has gone in reverse and is declining among non-college educated whites?”[viii]

In the United States, big money took a front seat. Although Trump could pocket an extra $400,000, he indicated to forego his presidential salary.[ix] After he told 60 Minutes that he would work for 1 Dollar instead, a bi-racial nurse from the Caribbean wondered instantly, how much it would cost to safeguard all his properties.

To protect Trump Tower and its surroundings, West 56th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues is closed to traffic. Shoppers have to go through a security cordon and are subject to bag checks.[x] According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, nearly 50 officers equipped with heavy weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs were already assigned to work at the 58-story tower.[xi] If needed, more officers would be added. The media also announced that Secret Service agents will be assigned to Barron and Melania Trump. In addition to a driver and armored vehicle taking the boy to school, an advance team of agents will swoop down every morning to make sure it is safe.

Referring to the people running the Trump Organization[xii] and selecting the highest-ranking members of the Trump administration, Judd Legum, Editor-In-Chief of ThinkProgress, commented: “The merger … took 6 days[.] The first truly corporate presidency. … President Trump, meanwhile, retains ownership in all his companies. So every ‘win’ for Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. is money is his pocket.” On November 18, picked it up with the opening lines: “Shredding democratic traditions, one image at a time. Trump is leveraging his new position as president-elect to empower his business empire — and he’s doing it publicly. “[xiii]

On the same day, New York Attorney General announced that Trump settled lawsuits for $25 million. “In 2013, my office sued Donald Trump for swindling thousands of innocent Americans out of millions of dollars through a scheme known as Trump University.” Reminding the public that during the campaign Trump had repeatedly attacked the U.S.-born judge as biased due to his “Mexican” heritage, Michael Isikoff added that “the school is no longer in business”.

New tax filings acknowledged that the family-run Trump Foundation engaged in prohibited “self-dealing.” They also showed Ukrainian steel magnate Victor Pinchuk[xiv], whose father-in-law was president of Ukraine from 1994 to 2005, as a donor.[xv] As concerns emerged about settlement talks between the U.S. Department of Justice and Deutsche Bank which has lent Trump more than $300 million, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a former federal prosecutor, told ABC News, “what’s needed here is clearly an independent prosecutor, without any connection to an Attorney General who likely will be someone who is a personal confidant and campaign surrogate for Donald Trump.” Amidst concerns that Trump may “never fully leave the corporate suite for the oval office,”[xvi] pressure mounts on how he might avoid mixing business with politics when in office.

Laurie Baron, professor emeritus of history at San Diego State University, was mocking that Trump’s “biggest infrastructure project will be building a teleportation system from the White House to Trump Tower so he doesn’t have to spend his evenings slumming in D.C.”[xvii]

Shortly after Melania Trump announced not to move to the White House any time soon, Jack Shafer, Politico’s senior media writer, suggested to “defund the [First Lady’s] ridiculously large staff that currently earns upward of $1.5 million a year …. The hairstyles, fashion choices, vacation destinations and pet projects of the president’s spouse are newsworthy only to the mentally vacant. Other democracies, such as the United Kingdom, bestow no such honors upon the spouses of their leaders and are better for it.”[xviii]

Jared Kushner’s family gave multiple millions to political, charitable and pro-Israel causes. His grandparents were Holocaust survivors. And as Jared started to fill out college applications, his father allegedly pledged another $2.5 million to Harvard.[xix] Trump indicated to the New York Times that his son-in-law might keep his role as an informal counselor and envoy to the Middle East.

Leaders of minority groups tried to highlight discrimination against religious and ethnic entities. On November 21, 2016, New Yorkers were reminded that “hate crimes against Muslims spiked last year to their highest level in more than a decade, while recent cabinet appointment Steve Bannon has said on tape that he doesn’t want his kids to going to school with Jews.”[xx]

Rabbi Dolinger, who wears a kippah when he walks 2 miles to the synagogue each Saturday, leads a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Providence, R.I.. He reported that he and his congregants are growing accustomed to anti-Semitic taunts that became a “not irregular feature of life” before and after the presidential election. On November 12, a car pulled over and young men yelled “Heil Hitler,” before driving off. Another time, he was told he “should have been burned in the ovens.”[xxi]

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution, that states “That no matter the threats made by President-elect Trump, San Francisco will remain a Sanctuary City. We will not turn our back on the men and women from other countries who help make this city great, and who represent over one third of our population. This is the Golden Gate—we build bridges, not walls; …”[xxii]

A youngish, blue-eyed cafeteria manager in Maryland confessed his regrets about voting for Clinton in the primary and general elections. “I liked some of Bernie Sanders positions better”, he explained, but for fear of him being unable to beat Trump in the general election, he opted for Clinton instead. “Many others may have done the same. And many Republicans may have voted for Trump – out of fear that another candidate might not be able to defeat Hilary in the end. If we all would have voted for your favorite candidate instead, we might not be in that position.” Hoping to ameliorate daily encounters with diverse customers, he now wears a safety pin[xxiii] on his shirt as a symbol of solidarity against discrimination.

On November 25, Rabbi David Sandmel, director of interreligious engagement for the Anti-Defamation League, announced: “Hate is in the air. The campaign for the presidency was filled with racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, and homophobic rhetoric. Since the polls closed, there has been a spate of hate crimes — over 700 and counting. The 2016 race did not invent these expressions of intolerance, but it certainly has given them oxygen. When white supremacists and neo-Nazis hail the election of an American president as a victory for their cause (regardless of whether it is or not), something is fundamentally wrong in our society.

Fear is in the air. Friends are scared to go out wearing clothing or symbols that identify them as belonging to a particular religious tradition. Most heartbreaking are the stories I have heard from friends from minority communities about the fear their children are feeling and expressing. When children are made to feel afraid, something is fundamentally wrong in our society.

The voices of hatred are loud and have grabbed the media spotlight for this moment. They cannot be ignored or go unchallenged. History has taught us the consequences of underestimating the power of an extremist fringe. … We can and must work together to create a society in which all can sit under their vine and fig tree, with none to make them afraid.”[xxiv]

Two days later, when the Passauer Neue Presse in Germany reported about Horst Seehofer’s liking Trump’s way of talking, one of the readers commented: “It is simply unbelievable that Seehofer now wants to ride that wave as Trump’s poodle.” Another replied: “Trump is the mightiest man on earth. Seehofer acknowledges that. This distinguishes a statesman from “small minds”.[xxv]








[vii] Seehofer’s CSU and Merkel’s CDU, which form a conservative bloc in the German parliament, have sparred over Merkel’s policy, which enabled some 900,000 refugees to enter Germany last year.


[ix] Although U.S. law forbids the government from accepting the services of unpaid volunteers, previous US presidents Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy both donated their salaries, and CEOs such as Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have accepted $1 for a year of work. During WWI and WWII, such executives helped the government mobilize and manage America’s industry. Recent one-dollar salary earners included the former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

















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