5 Reasons (Almost) Everyone Was Wrong About Trump
You jerks! I said this was going to happen. I told you months ago that Donald Trump was going to be the Republican presidential nominee. I wrote about it in my column (a lot), I recorded podcasts about it, I serial-texted friends about it. I wouldn't shut up about it. For at least the first few months, when names like J.E.B. Bush and Ted Cruz still seemed like candidates the public might not completely hate, most of what I got in return, be it on the internet or in real life, was comments like these:
That last guy wasn't wrong.
The nomination wasn't the only thing I said would definitely happen, though, and a lot of those other things came to pass as well. So now I get comments like this:
Also not wrong.
I should probably follow that guy back. What an asshole I am. Anyway, we talk about some of the other things I got right on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by my Cracked co-workers Tom Reimann, Randall Maynard, and Josh Sargent. I'm going to take a slightly different direction with the column. Instead of dwelling on the details I got right, I want to talk about a few of the things I learned from accurately "predicting" the course of the Trump campaign.
The "Media" Doesn't Read Anything
Right off the bat, the first thing to know is that, apparently, the media doesn't read shit. I didn't actually predict anything. I'm not Miss Cleo (RIP), you know? Instead, when Trump released his first batch of policy papers online in September (the immigration plan was posted in April), I just read them. I'll note here that I read them from beginning to end, while also acknowledging that, as a complete set, they still amounted to less reading than the average Cracked article.
I will accept your medals, though.
Nevertheless, I did read them. I highly doubt that I'm literally the only person who read them, but there were definitely times when it kind of felt that way. What bothered me the most about the media coverage that followed after Trump unveiled his immigration policy is that, for the most part, the "reporting" just kind of conformed to whatever his favorite talking points on the subject happened to be at the time. Most news stories pointed out that the policy included a section about building the wall and making Mexico pay for it. There were plenty of outlets whose coverage included detailed statistics about the impact deporting millions of undocumented workers would have on our economy. However, to this day, not a single news outlet has even casually mentioned stuff like this:
I mean none. No one. Go ahead and Google it. Run the phrase "refugee program for American children" through your Google box and see how many stories you get about intrepid reporters cornering Trump and asking him to explain exactly what this program would entail or why it's in the middle of his immigration policy. You won't find any. You'll find a ton of links about Obama's refugee program for Central American kids, but the only evidence you'll find of Trump's plan is a link to his site.
That's a problem, right? You don't come to me for news. There is an entire wing of society whose job is to deliver news and information. Not a single one of them have even brought up what, at least to me, seems like a pretty big deal -- especially when you consider it in the context of his immigration plan as a whole. That leads me to the next point ...
We Wait For The Candidates To Tell Us Things
Deporting millions of undocumented workers would leave a huge hole in the workforce and ultimately cripple our economy. At no point during this campaign has Donald Trump told us how he'd address that problem. Except he has. He totally has. Goddammit, people. He has.
The problem is that he hasn't said it during a speech or an interview, and that's all that gets analyzed on your nightly news and late-night talk shows in any kind of detail. Meanwhile, do you remember any point in time when a legitimate news person sat down and went through any of the candidates' plans point by point, on the air? I don't, and I imagine it's because that would be insanely boring to watch, and the subsequent ratings drop would lead to the producer who decided to green-light that segment getting replaced with someone who isn't afraid to get some titties on the screen during an election cycle.
Or leg titties!
The problem is, that kind of detailed analysis is exactly what we should be getting from our legitimate news sources. Not everyone has time to read every candidates' policies in detail. If they did, there would probably be a lot fewer of us wondering how Donald Trump plans to fill all those holes in the job market. Unfortunately, covering speeches, town hall appearances, debates, and anything else that isn't a long-winded document on a website is way more pleasing to the eye.
So because Donald Trump hasn't explicitly said in public how he he'll address that concern, we just assume he doesn't have a plan and write off his deportation talk as something that's too crazy to ever happen. Well, like I've been saying for months, a perusal of his immigration plan should tell you exactly what he has in mind when it comes to filling the jobs that mass deportation will leave behind. Here's another clue:
Please read that slowly and as many times as you need to for it to register. This is at least the third column in which I've included that passage from Trump's immigration policy. It could not be written any plainer. I've been saying for as long as anyone would listen that Trump's plan is to take jobs from immigrant workers, undocumented or otherwise, and give them to inner-city residents. I didn't say it because I was guessing. It just literally says on his website that this is his plan.
Nevertheless, when Trump's RNC acceptance speech at several points veered off into promises of all the good things he'll do for inner-city residents, specifically naming places like Baltimore, Chicago, and Ferguson, people were still surprised for some reason.
This marks the first time in history I've wanted to use an emoji as a caption.
This should not have caught anyone off-guard. At the very least, I hope it wasn't a shock to the Clinton campaign. He put his plan in writing a long time ago, and a requirement of that plan involves directly addressing inner-city residents. But it still took Trump saying it on television before anyone believed he would.
Also, please note that the foreign workers in question in that blurb I posted above aren't even in the country illegally. In fact, the J-1 visa program makes for a fine segue into the next point ...
We Focus On The Wrong Details
So now that Trump is on record as saying he intends for his wacky plans to benefit inner-city residents, the legitimate news sources of the world have surely started looking into what he might mean by that, right? If you've been reading Cracked for any length of time at all, you should know by now that when we put "right?" at the end of a sentence like that, it's because what we're saying is definitely wrong.
Instead of wondering what he might have been implying with his words, as usual, the speech was turned over to the fact-checkers of the world, who immediately decided that some of the statistics and figures Trump cited were actually incorrect. Don't get me wrong -- truth and accuracy are important -- but it strikes me as borderline insane that the conversation seems to have stopped there. Is no one in the media the least bit interested in how Trump's seemingly weird shift toward caring about black people for the first time in his entire fucking life might relate to his dastardly deportation plans? Are we not at all curious if this bit from his speech ...
... might be a reference to Chris Christie's terrifying claim that Trump said his first Hitler-esque order of business upon taking office will be to purge the government of anyone who doesn't agree with him? None of that is important? Just the accuracy of the statistics he quoted? I'm positive that's not how any of this is actually supposed to work.
The release of his immigration plan represents another example of the media as a whole focusing on the wrong thing. All of the talk and column space was dedicated to how catastrophic deporting undocumented immigrants would be for the country, but they aren't the only target of his plans. The entire last third of his proposal is all about workers here legally under various visa programs. Take the J-1 program, for example. Here's a rundown of the jobs and opportunities available to participants in that program:
They run the gamut from au pair (professional babysitter) to physician (professional doctor), and there isn't a single farming job in the bunch. He has similar plans for the H-1B visa program, which covers STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) jobs. But bring up that Trump is planning to take jobs from immigrant workers and give them to inner-city workers, and you're almost guaranteed to get a smug reply about how those are jobs Americans don't want and would never do. Hell, that's not even true of all the jobs undocumented immigrants will leave behind, much less workers who are here legally.
So when I said way back in October that he'd sell his hate as hope for the poorest citizens in this country, it wasn't a guess. Anyone who read his immigration plan thoroughly enough could have connected those dots and written their very own article about all the ways Trump mirrors Hitler. Oh, and speaking of that ...
We Use Internet "Laws" As A Crutch
Arguing has been our favorite thing to do with each other online for damn near as long as the internet has existed, so much so that we eventually had to come up with a series of rules and regulations under which all web-based arguments are to be governed. When I got on the "Trump is Hitler" train way back in October, I was accused of falling afoul of one particularly beloved e-law on a damn near daily basis. I'm referring, of course, to the mighty Godwin's Law.
That name sounds official as fuck, so it's tempting to assume it's something that comes from that golden age when growing a long beard, getting high on a daily basis, and then just kind of sitting around trying to think of deep shit to say meant you were a philosopher, and not just a garden-variety drug abuser like you'd be labeled as today.
Nay, it truly is a creation of the internet age. That would be obvious to anyone familiar with the origins of the law. It was first put forth in 1990 by a writer and attorney named Mike Godwin.
He doesn't look like Hitler, but let's argue about it until he does.
Specifically in reference to Usenet newsgroup discussions, he theorized that, given enough time to carry on and fester, any online argument will eventually result in someone comparing something to Hitler.
However, over the years, it took on a different meaning that was more along the lines of "Whoever brings up Hitler first in an online argument automatically loses the argument."
Here's the thing: That's total goddamn nonsense. Some things in this world are going to be Nazi-like. I'm sorry, that's just where we are as a planet right now. By that bullshit logic, if you were trying to convince someone on a message board that white is the superior race and they said you were acting like Hitler, you could claim victory right then and there.
Everyone knows that's only true for gummy bears.
This Salon article about the "odiousness" of Godwin's Law reminds us that half the objective of the Nuremberg Trials was to form a set of guidelines by which future leaders could be judged to determine if they were maybe getting a little too Nazi-like. According to the warped version of Godwin's Law that's been adopted by so much of the internet, if that trial happened online, the war criminals could claim an immediate victory.
Even Godwin himself said in an article he wrote for The Washington Post that comparing Trump to Hitler is perfectly acceptable as long as your history and facts line up properly.
Eventually, the professional media types and political experts got comfortable with acknowledging that Trump was eerily reminiscent of Hitler, but it took a long damn while. There's no way to prove it, but I'd be shocked if Godwin's Law didn't have some role in that delay for a lot of people.
Even something as beloved and time-tested as Occam's Razor isn't as foolproof as people like to pretend it is.
I think that's Occam there in the middle?
If you're unfamiliar, it says that, when presented with competing hypotheses, you should choose the one that requires the fewest assumptions. Sounds great, but in this case, those really are the words of someone living that 1300s life. It's not quite as applicable to modern life. You know who doesn't view Occam's Razor as a problem solver? Science. The scientific method doesn't view Occam's Razor as an irrefutable rule that can be used to make decisions. You probably shouldn't either.
What I'm getting at is that your internet rules are meaningless when a guy who slept with a book of Hitler's speeches on his bedside for a decade is running for the highest office in all the land.
Politics As Comedy Is Ruining Us
"This isn't funny anymore." That one sentence sums up not only this election, but kind of the entire world's approach to politics these days, almost perfectly. Nigel Farage and his Brexit talk was funny at one point. A comic was on top of the Rodrigo Duterte story well before any of our traditional news outlets even bothered giving it the scant amount of attention they did. Now they and everyone else has gone back to not caring, even though he's legit unleashed the Purge in the Philippines by encouraging police and citizens alike to murder drug dealers and drug users. Hundreds have died, while thousands more have surrendered to avoid being killed -- which could very well be all for naught when you consider that we're talking about a guy who campaigned on a promise to execute 100,000 criminals and dump their bodies in Manila Bay within six months of taking office. That kind of thing sounds like movie villain evil that could never be real, right up until you realize he's already got 60,000 "criminals" in custody. Oh, hey, while I have you on the line about Rodrigo Duterte, have a gander at this passage from Trump's Second Amendment policy:
Probably nothing to worry about, right?
I get it. Comedy has always provided a means to question and challenge authority and all that, and I'm certainly not saying that should ever stop. That said, it's borderline insulting to suggest that Trump's run for president has been hilarious at any point. Fine, maybe like in January of last year or something. I don't know. The exact moment he said he was running for president again. Whatever, he tried that before and it went nowhere, he just wants publicity, etc, etc, etc. Maybe then.
A few short months later, which is still over a year ago, he was suggesting that we should deport Mexicans because they're disease-carrying rapists. That was not funny. It stopped being funny at that exact point, if nothing else.
If you disagree, consider this: If some Hollywood A-lister said that kind of thing in a very public way pre-2015 Trump, the ensuing outrage probably would've ended their career. Now, we'd just all be disappointed to find out they support Trump.
You're a crook, Tom Brady!
He's taken fringe ideas like mass deportation and scapegoating an entire race (or religion) for all of life's ills and made them mainstream issues. They're on the ballot now. We, as a country, legitimately get to say "yes" or "no" to very obvious racism this November. I so very wish I was more confident about how that's going to go.
Again, this aspect of his campaign started taking shape back in April, but even as recently as a few weeks ago, well-respected media outlets like Esquire were only just coming to terms with the fact that Trump isn't funny anymore.
There is no point during Trump's current run for office when jokes were in order. He's gotten the most attention right out of the gate, and he's done it by suggesting things that only a person who's never read a single history book or ever watched a single History Channel documentary would fail to realize are uncomfortably similar to things we associate with the one of the most brutal killing machines of all time.
Trump should have united us. Trump should have done for Republicans and Democrats what conspiracy theorists think aliens will do for the world's religions -- unite them in defense of what is clearly a common enemy that threatens the existence of everyone. Instead, he united both sides in hoping that his seemingly unstoppable success was some sort of anomaly or glitch that would work itself out soon enough while we all stood on the sidelines and laughed.
It didn't, and as of his RNC acceptance speech, he's still on some Nazi shit, even if he's stopped being so blunt about it. That's not good. None of this is good.
Adam needs some rest. Follow him on Twitter.
Want to know how to go mano-a-mano with a president? Daniel O'Brien can help with How to Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against the Badasses Who Ran This Country!