Soli Foger

The all-too-real Trump effect

No, I haven’t become a Trump lover. The president’s pathological narcissism continues to irritate my sensibilities, but I feel that we need an honest examination of the Trump hysteria.

Rodney Dangerfield said, “I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous, everyone hasn’t met me yet.”

But everybody has met Trump, in person, on TV, or through his tweets. He is everywhere, seemingly occupying far too much of our time and space in our minds on a daily basis.

We cannot open a paper or turn on a TV without daily reports of Trump’s latest twitter rant commanding our attention, making it all sound like doom and gloom is right around the corner. Let’s be frank, while some of his decisions may affect us, I think that the predicted calamities brought by him are more of a myth that we are busy perpetuating. The cold spell in the Northeast and the fires in California are true calamities that have affected large numbers of people, yet Trump, with his tax plans and his infamous wall, will not alter our lives, as much as we love to be enraged about — unless we are Salvadoran immigrants or DACA Dreamers.

When Ronald Reagan was elected, I recall rampant jokes about having a cowboy in the White House. We ridiculed his unsophisticated intellect and his simplistic Hollywood deliveries, but in retrospect, whether we agree with his philosophy or not, he is considered by many on both sides of the aisle to have been an important president.

Trump is not Reagan, but after a full year in office, he is the president most of our country loves to hate. And hate him they do — according to Quinnipiac University and other pollsters, more than 55 percent of our population not only disapproves of our president, they outright despise him.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes.” Another similar quote suggests: When you hate you feel miserable, when you love you feel wonderful, it’s your choice. And famously, the Torah explicitly prohibits hatred of our fellow man in the verse: “Thou shall not hate thy brother in thine heart.”

I agree with many of the descriptions about his personality, his attitude, his tweets, his arrogance — but why bother investing so much of our energy in hating Trump? Just as he continues to undo President Obama’s legacy, Trump’s policies are likely to be reversed by the next president.

Neither Nancy Pelosi nor Mitch McConnell, both old-fashioned and irrelevant to millennials, stir up nearly the same emotional attention. Simply put, hating Trump has become a national pastime, though I doubt that it helps anybody feel better.

Worse yet, American politics has deteriorated in recent years into an openly hostile sport. Unfortunately, fringes of both the Democratic and the Republican parties dominate politics. They’ve been raising their vocal hatred to dangerous levels against Presidents Bush, Obama, Clinton, or Trump, and are adamant in imposing their views about immigration, welfare, international involvement, trade, and environmental policies. This disrupts governance, which is perilous to our democracy. What began as open hatred for Trump during his candidacy has morphed into hatred toward his supporters. Millions of Americans have been openly called ugly names, just for being Trump’s political base. It is not only prejudicial and divisive, but the journalists who engage in such name-calling have both a greater moral responsibility and a limited view of our political process.

Politics are dominated by what social theorists call political opportunity theory, which argues that our political structure is the outcome of social movements whose success or failure is affected by political opportunities. Many groups, including the middle class, minorities, women, evangelical Christians, and other groups, fight for representation. It is a healthy process, whereby our politics are dependent on compromises and give-and-take. It is only through their peaceful resolution that we arrive at a higher plateau and feel a unity of purpose as a country and as a civic society. But when we deteriorate to a zero-sum game and winner-takes-all divisiveness, we feel hopeless, and such dissension becomes the breeding grounds of disruption in our society. The distance between discord and violence is getting smaller, and we may find more riots and unrest in the upcoming future.

I disagree with many of Trump’s policies and I welcome protests and divergence of opinions, as long as they are based on civil disagreement. However, we need to understand that when we devolve into hatred, and when we ridicule our opponents, we become part of the same destructive process that we abhor.

I recently listened to Professor Alan Dershowitz’s comments about how the very drive to diagnose our president’s mental condition, without ever meeting him in person, is undoing democracy itself. It is no different than the way Russia, China, or the social policy of apartheid in South Africa used to segregate people they disliked. He said, “Everybody knew who Trump was. I voted against him, but he hasn’t changed.” After all, people did the same to Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, and as such, the left’s record of trying to undo the country’s choices is not something to be proud of. It is getting quite tiresome. The 25th Amendment cannot be invoked because we don’t like the person, his politics, or his style. “Vote against him, fight him politically, but don’t try to undo his personality on which basis he was elected,” Dershowitz concluded.

In his book “The Complacent Class,” Tyler Cowen argues that Trump may be responsible for the greatest political awakening in this century, possibly as great, if not greater, than the one during Obama’s election in 2008. Cowen saw complacency as the greatest enemy in our country, with the millennial generation disillusioned and avoiding participation in the political process. However, after Trump assumed power, millennials and other groups have become more involved than ever, mostly in order to stop him, thus reinvigorating the democratic process. When we talk about stopping Trump, it is popular to compare him to Hitler or Stalin. But let’s be honest — while some of us many not like him, Trump is neither.

And finally, we should discuss the Jewish implications. Many of us appreciate Trump’s stand on Israel and his recognition of Jerusalem as its capital, but that doesn’t mean that all Jews or Israelis accept everything that Trump says, or that we approve of his many horrendous expressions. Still, we need to be honest and sensible. Today, I read some Israeli feedback to Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury,” and their reactions were sobering. They raised doubts about the author’s credibility and showed skepticism that the White House was drafting a plan that considered putting Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip under Jordan and Egypt’s control. “I guess it’s possible that Bannon may sit in a dark room with a board and Middle East map and think that’s how things work,” read one of the comments.

I was especially surprised when I read one commentator’s list of Trump’s accomplishments: “Biggest tax reform in 30 years, strongest stock market ever, recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, support for the Iranian people in their confrontation with their tyrannical government, military defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and reinstatement of US support in the Arab world. That would be a solid first year record for any president.”

I disagree with some of these accomplishments, or their political sensibilities, such as throwing 22 million Americans out of the health care system, increasing taxes on the middle class, and raising the deficit. All of these policy changes are designed to lower taxes on the wealthy and large corporations, repeating the foolish benediction of previously failed trickle-down economics. I also have no idea how his support of protesters in Iran has helped them. The fact is that they’ve been crushed, with many dead and imprisoned. But we cannot deny that this is a remarkable list. Even if he were to accomplish only half of it, it would still be a notable record.

I read the New York Times and the Washington Post daily, and their repeated personal attacks on our president make me feel embarrassed by this obsessive culture of hatred. Sure, Trump is the proverbial bull in a china shop, although Washington has long become a bullfighting arena rather than a civilized sanctuary. Nevertheless, Presidents have always done their job, in the way they see their mandate. Trump definitely has a unique vision for America, with which many of us may disagree, but we need to remember that democracy is built on the wide swings in our political sensibilities. We keep making up and changing our collective mind over our costly involvement as the policemen of the world, our trade policies, and our economic priorities.

Whether we like it or not, Trump is going to be our president for the next three years. He is not likely to get impeached or re-elected, but if we want to have an impact on his decisions, it will not happen by expressing our abhorrence. My father once told me: “You don’t bark back at a barking dog.” I don’t mean to call our president names, but even if he’s a proven liar, what will we gain from continuously attacking him? Taking the moral high ground might be the only to stop this downward spiral and give cooperation a chance. We need to start building trust in this country, no matter who is in office.

Our anathema to our president reminds me of the comedian Andy Dick’s famous line, “People love to hate. I have a love-hate relationship with the world. The world loves to hate me.” I wonder if we’ve gotten ourselves a little too mired in a destructive cycle from which there are not likely to emerge any real winners. As a matter of fact, we may out-Trump Trump himself with our own unpleasantness.

About the Author
Soli now lives in the US, but he was born in Romania and later lived in Israeli boarding school Hadasim, as part of the Aliyat Hanoar. He served in the Israeli Air Force, and graduated with a degree in architecture from the Technion. After settling in Jaffa, he moved to the US and had several businesses. He has been married for 40 years, and is the father of 4 and grandfather of 7.
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