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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/19/16

Local Fear And Ignorance In The Rise of Donald Trump

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From To The Point Analyses

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Part I -- The Thirty-Mile Phenomenon The election of Donald Trump as president was motivated by a popular rejection of party politics as it had evolved over the decades. There was a rejection of politics that only responded to special interests and not to millions of increasingly disappointed and frustrated citizens. However, there was something else underlying this, and that was a prevailing despair as to how to change the system. Most people who said they wanted change (with the possible exception of the Tea Party loyalists) apparently just sulked and waited for a "strong man" to come along and then, again apparently giving little thought to who this guy really was and what he really stood for, voted him into office. Why was there a passive acceptance of, first, a dissatisfying status quo and then, second, a very problematic agent of change? One way of understanding this situation is to see it as a consequence, at least in part, of what I call the "thirty-mile phenomenon" -- the fact that a majority of people, any people and not just Americans, can observe relatively accurately what is going on around them within a 30-mile radius. This is where they live and work, where their friends are and the other people they interact with. If something unusual is going on within this zone, it is possible for an individual to "check things out" and make a more or less informed decision. However, go beyond this 30 miles and things quickly get fuzzy. In this wider zone most people come close to "knowing nothing." That does not mean they are stupid or incapable of understanding the outside world. It does mean that they are largely ignorant of it and therefore are dependent on various forms of media to inform them, perhaps reliably, perhaps not (Fox News comes to mind). As we have just found out, such dependence puts us all at great risk. It may well be because of this ignorance that it took so long for anger at the status quo to build to a boil. That same ignorance can account for why Donald Trump was able to get elected while speaking nonsense, while presenting himself as someone who was literally the very opposite of who he really is, and while blatantly lying with shocking regularity. Part II -- Trumpian Misrepresentations Edward Graydon Carter, a Canadian-born American journalist and editor of Vanity Fair has put together a list of Trumpian misrepresentations. I paraphrase some of them below. After each of Carter's statements about Trump, I describe how it could be readily accepted by an ignorant public. Carter: Only in America, a nation built on a history of immigration, could a man who married two immigrants -- one of whom is alleged to have worked illegally when she first arrived -- run on an anti-immigration platform. -- Trump can marry, and also employ, "his" immigrants as long as he promises to deport the millions of others who are the focus of local misconceived and irrational fears. Carter: Only in America could a man with a legendary reputation for stiffing small-business owners and wage laborers be able to pass himself off as a champion of the little guy.

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Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign
Policy Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest
; America's
Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli
; and Islamic Fundamentalism. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.

His blog To The Point Analyses now has its own Facebook page. Along with the analyses, the Facebook page will also have reviews, pictures, and other analogous material.

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