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Explaining Donald Trump

In a word, we tend to “respect” the wrong people

Maybe it’s time we acknowledge the fact that the people whom Trump is habitually addressing with his signature, “Fuck you” is us. (Photo: AFP/Timothy A. Clary)

Maybe it’s time we acknowledge the fact that the people whom Trump is habitually addressing with his signature, “Fuck you” is us. (Photo: AFP/Timothy A. Clary)

“Unlike the Europeans, Americans have never hated the rich, only envied them.”—Gore Vidal

There was a sociology experiment conducted some years ago to illustrate “class distinctions.” Of course, it’s always been taken as a matter of faith that we egalitarian Americans, unlike our snooty British cousins with their monarchs and powdered wigs, take pride in being a “classless” society. While that makes for a tidy, self-aggrandizing fable, we all know it’s not true.

This was the experiment.  Using two cars as props—one a shiny new Cadillac, the other a rusted-out Ford station wagon with chrome missing, and broken tail light—they measured the amount of time it took for a driver to begin honking at the car in front of them when the traffic light turned green.

The results were revealing but not surprising.  The experimenters found that the overwhelming majority of drivers began honking at the “poor” car almost immediately.  Indeed, only a few seconds elapsed before the drivers began honking impatiently at the beat-up Ford. By contrast, the motorists waited, on average, more than twice as long before politely honking at the “rich” car. 

Here is another experiment, this one a bit more open to interpretation.  The venue was an informal real estate seminar. After lecturing the class (approximately 30 students) for an hour, the seminar leader passed out a quiz, and asked the class to answer the questions as best they could.  She urged them not to look up the answers in their booklets, and then left the room.

During these seminars, two male students were used as props.  They stood out from the rest of the class by (1) sitting in the front row, visible to all, and (2) by asking questions.  In Scenario A, the student doing the asking was poorly dressed, poorly groomed, coarse, and inarticulate. In Scenario B, the student was well-groomed, well-dressed (he wore a coat and tie), handsome, and exceedingly well-spoken.

Both of the student “props” were instructed to begin leafing through the booklet, searching for answers, the moment the seminar leader left the room.  The experimenters were curious to know which student, A or B, exerted the most influence on his classmates.

Maybe it’s time we acknowledge the fact that the people whom Trump is habitually addressing with his signature, “Fuck you” is us.  It’s the American public. Not only is it us, but we were his intended target all along.

Again, the results were revealing but not entirely surprising.  Whenever the unkempt Student A began openly cheating, two or three other students could be depended upon to follow suit.  The results were consistent. Two or three others would began cheating as soon as they saw him do it.

But when the “refined” Student B, opened his booklet and began hunting for answers, six or seven others invariably did the same thing.  The results were consistent. More than twice as many students were persuaded to cheat when they saw it being done by someone they “respected.”

Granted, it’s a flimsy premise, but I think the argument can be made that the dynamics illustrated in the preceding experiments go a long way toward explaining how Donald Trump got elected president.  In a word, we tend to “respect” the wrong people.

An acquaintance of mine, an executive with a Fortune 200 company, told me that the reason he was voting for Trump was because Trump was so rich and independent, “he didn’t have to answer to anyone.” By “anyone” it was clear he meant special interest groups, the very groups that have, in his view, resulted in the paralyzing political gridlock we now witness.

Perhaps thinking it would help us bond as men, he resorted to crude locker room vernacular.  He said that Donald Trump possessed what is referred to as “fuck you” money. Which is to say, Trump is so wealthy and independent, he can say, “Fuck you” to any person, organization, or country, and get away with it. 

Although I haven’t seen this fellow since the election, I’m curious where he stands today.  While I can understand why some naïve pilgrim—someone unfamiliar with Trump’s bullying, lying, and near pathological insecurity—might choose to vote for a “political outsider,” I cannot fathom how anyone could continue to support this preposterous man-child. 

Maybe it’s time we acknowledge the obvious.  Maybe it’s time we acknowledge the fact that the people whom Trump is habitually addressing with his signature, “Fuck you” is us.  It’s the American public. Not only is it us, but we were his intended target all along. Viewed solely on “degree of difficulty,” it was a classic takedown.

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David Macaray

David Macaray

David Macaray, a former union rep, is a Los Angeles-based playwright and the author of It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor and Night Shift:  270 Factory Stories.” His latest book is “How to Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows:  Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About India But Were Afraid to Ask.” He can be reached at Dmacaray@gmail.com

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