Analysis

The Unbearable Stupidity of Donald Trump's Election

Who in his right mind hands over the keys to the world to an impulsive, narcissistic know-nothing show-off, just to teach everyone else a lesson?

Donald Trump supporters during a rally in Pensacola, FL, November 2, 2016.
Donald Trump supporters during a rally in Pensacola, FL, November 2, 2016. Evan Vucci, AP

Hillary Clinton was a bad candidate with tons of excess baggage; Barack Obama ignored white middle class America; coastal liberal elites lost touch with America’s heartland; the media ignored white men’s rage; the Obama coalition didn’t show up at the polls; Americans are tired of being pushed around; Donald Trump is a populist genius; Clinton never recovered from the 9/11 memorial ceremony; the Russians hacked, the FBI intervened, Wikileaks never let go; social media; reality show culture; Bernie Sanders.

These and many other reasons have been posited in the three weeks since Trump’s to explain his astounding victory, and they’re all probably valid to one degree or another. But there is one overarching factor that everyone knows contributed most of all to the Trump sensation. There is one sine qua non without which none of this would have been possible. There is one standalone reason that, like a big dodo in the room, no one dares mention, ironically, because of political correctness.  You know what I’m talking about: Stupidity. Dumbness. Idiocy. Whatever you want to call it: Dufusness Supreme.

It’s the principle of Occam’s Razor, which, freely put, means that the simplest answer is usually correct. So, yes, there are a lot of economic, sociological and psychological elements in play, but if it sounds stupid, looks stupid and seems stupid any way you look at it, that’s probably what it is: stupid. It’s the thought that goes through the minds of all the Americans who didn’t vote for Trump when they look at themselves nowadays in the mirror: How could we be so stupid?

Supporting cheering for Donald Trump in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, October 10, 2016.
Evan Vucci / AP

Many readers are up in arms now: how dare you. How arrogant. How condescending. How can you call so many millions of voters stupid? If it was the other way around you’d be outraged, etc. etc. But if you ignore the insult for a moment and don’t mention voters and only relate to the bottom line itself, which is that in seven weeks Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President and Commander in Chief and Holder of the Nuclear Codes, most people would agree that it’s just about one of the dumbest, and therefore most dangerous things America has done. Ever.

Of course, Trump might surprise us, though thus far he hasn’t given any indication that he intends to do so.  And of course he didn’t get to where he got by being stupid. Far from it. I’m not even claiming that everyone who voted for Trump is stupid, though it’s tempting. But even if you acknowledge the hurt, the grievances, the neglect, the legitimate conservative ideology and the less legitimate hatred for Barack Obama, you have to ask yourself what kind of people choose to cut off their own noses to spite their faces. How can one explain the fact that so many people ignored Trump’s lies, his ignorance, his insults, his incitement, his shady business practices, his refusal to release tax returns, his perverse and unexplained relationship with Vladimir Putin? Who in his right mind hands over the keys to the world to an impulsive narcissistic misogynist know-nothing show-off just for the hell of it, to teach everyone else a lesson? What is the logic of getting back at snobby elitists by burning down the house they live in, but so do you? 

“Vox Populi vox Dei” you will say: The voice of the people is like the voice of God, and should always be respected. This may be the contemporary reading of the saying, but go back to the original, and it sounds completely different. As the learned cleric Alcuin of York wrote to Emperor Charlemagne in 798  “And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.” Meaning, as a quote probably misattributed to HL Mencken notes: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

Donald Trump supporters in Manchester, New Hampshire, November 7, 2016.
Charles Krupa, AP

Similar sentiments were voiced by one of Israel’s socialist founding fathers, Yitzhak Ben Aharon, who supposedly said after Menachem Begin’s victory in 1977 that “if this is the people’s decision, we should replace the people” and has been held up by the right wing as an example of intolerable Ashkenazi haughtiness ever since.

What Ben Aharon actually said was “With all the respect that we are supposed to accord the people’s decision, if this is the people’s decision, I am not willing to respect it.” Even this authentic version of Ben Aharon’s words may be deemed inappropriate, but don’t forget that he and many other historic Labor leaders viewed Begin and his Herut party, precursor to the Likud, as illegitimate fascists who would change the country’s values and undo Israeli democracy.  As kibbutz leader Avishai Grossman said in June 1977, “the good old Land of Israel that we represent is going to hell.” He may have been condescending and elitist as many have since alleged, but one can’t deny that he was entirely accurate.

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And let’s not get carried away with the infinite wisdom of the masses, even without mentioning you-know-who, who received a plurality of German votes in 1932 and legitimately rose to power. How about Abdalá Jaime Bucaram Ortiz, aptly known as “El Loco” who won 20 of 21 provinces in the Ecuadorian elections of 1996? After celebrating his victory by singing Jailhouse Rock with a group of scantily clad dancers, he appointed his business friends to high positions in government and packed his cabinet with family members, including his 18-year-old son who was put in charge of taxes? Sound familiar?

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What about Ferdinand Marcos, freely elected in 1965, who, together with his shoe-fetishist wife stole close to $10 billion from the Philippine people? What do you think of Francisco Macías Nguema, democratically elected in 1968, who murdered or exiled a third of Equatorial Guinea’s population before he was deposed in 1979? Silvio Berlusconi? Valdimir Putin? Tayip Erdogan? Richard Nixon, who gave us Watergate? James Buchanan, whose ineptness spurred the Civil War? Warren Harding, whose corruption defied imagination? Andrew Johnson who botched up Reconstruction and, as one historian wrote, “suffered from serious defects of mind and character”? Dare we mention George W Bush?

Whatever one thinks of Hillary Clinton, of abandoned Rust Belt counties, of culture wars and liberal elitism, putting Donald Trump in charge of everything is a reckless gamble, until proven otherwise. One can hope against hope to be proven wrong, but judging from what we know, Trump doesn’t have the minimal experience, knowledge, temperament, judgment, or values to carry out his job of President. Of course we all pray for his success, because the alternative is too unthinkable, but in the meantime, despite the risk that one will be accused of exhibiting the same kind of arrogant condescension that got us here in the first place, there is no other choice but to describe Trump’s election for what it is: stupid. Just plain stupid.