What do Donald Trump and Charlie Manson Have in Common



I’ve spoken with, argued with and eavesdropped on quite a few Trump supporters.  I’ve had more than a few of my college students express their admiration for The Donald during class discussions.  I must admit to a certain nausea whenever I hear such devotion given to an obvious demagogue. However, I try to swallow my bile, ask why and listen to their answers with an open mind.

I never hear a policy rationale for supporting Trump. Even the few clear policy plans he’s put forward are absent in the conversation. I’ve yet to hear someone actually admit that they want a yuuuuuge wall built along the Rio Grande. Nobody comes forward to elaborate the nuances of Trumps economic policies.

Ask a Bernie supporter and they’ll often respond with support for single payer or publicly funded college. Admittedly, there are some who support Bernie because of his class based message and his assaults on Wall Street millionaires and billionaires. After all, the cult of personality is not exclusive to the right.

Among Trump supporters, however, the cult of personality dominates. The closest one might get to a policy reason for supporting Trump is the assumption that, “as a successful business man, Trump knows how to run a large business. Therefore, he’ll effectively run the country. He’ll balance the budget, eliminate the debt and be a fierce negotiator of international trade, putting those Chinese in their place.”

Well, okay. Granted, there are some good counterclaims bringing Trumps business acumen to question. Regardless, there is no historical justification for assuming that business success translates to success as president. In the last hundred years there have been two presidents who were unqualified successes in business–Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter.  Hardly examples of presidential success.

Another reason given for supporting Trump is the ludicrous claim that he is an anti-establishment candidate. So, by this reasoning, a multi-millionaire real estate mogul from New York, a major contributor to both parties, a man who boats about all of the national politicians on his speed dial, is,  somehow, anti-establishment. Come on! Perhaps there’s a definition for anti-establishment for which I’m unaware. Just a little note. Presidential candidates are not willing to get down on their knees for an endorsement from someone who is “anti-establishment”. Look, when you show up to the Iowa State Fair in your own helicopter, you can no longer consider yourself anti-establishment.

So the next justification for supporting Trump is the comical assertion that Trump “tells it like it is.” Really. In my mind, to be qualified as one who tells it like it is, the minimum requirement is to describe things in such a way that it reflects actual reality. Trump does not do this. I don’t need to go through a litany of Trump lies to prove this claim. Just look at the chart below from politifact.com.

Trump Politifact
Donald Trump’s Politifact Ratings to date: 82% of statements are at least mostly false.

Okay. I know that there are some methodological problems with using Politifact or any fact checker. Regardless, of methodology, however, Someone who “tells it like it is” should have more than 8% mostly true statements in any given data set no matter how slanted the reporting. I rate any claims that Trump tells it like it is as Pants on Fire with not enough Pinochios to give it justice.

But, really, when someone states that Soandso “tells it like it is,” that translates to “Soandso confirms my pre-established biases and prejudices.” So it depends on what you mean by “is“, to borrow a phrase. Factchecking only gets in the way.

So that leaves the final, perhaps most defensible, rationale for supporting Donald Trump. This is, in essence, a hedge against the “tells it like it is” claim. Instead, the claimant admires Donald Trump for “calling it as he sees it.” Ah. There you go. Maybe The Donald’s statements do not hold water in the context of, you know, factual evidence and data, but he believes what he is saying and has the courage to defy the PC police by proudly and loudly calling it as he sees it. It’s not like he’s a liar or anything.

That’s what we need more of in Washington!

Perhaps Trump really believes his own blather. This, however, does not elevate the claim. If we concede that Trump holds to claims that are empirically and definitively false means that he must be delusional. Calling it as one sees it is of absolutely no value when that person’s perceptions are distorted by, oh let’s just speculate and say, a megalomaniacal god complex.

If you want to test this, just go on YouTube and check out a Charles Manson parole hearing. It is likely that Charlie is calling it as he sees it when he responds to his interrogators. The problem is that his grasp of reality is distorted. So would the same people who support Trump because he “calls it as he sees it” also willing to approve Charlie Manson’s parole because of his equally laudable quality?

The bottom line is that there is no good policy reason to support Donald Trump. The most prevalent non-policy reasons are also bunk. Those who support Donald Trump do so because they agree and approve of his perspective, his prejudices and his worldview. That such a worldview does not conform to reality is just as irrelevant to his followers as it is to Trump himself.


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