This is a topic that has been on my mind recently. In the course of casual conversation with close friends and family, it occurred to me that a significant amount of our parents are not only Trump supporters, but are also serial Fox News watchers (the two seem to go hand-in-hand). I should state that all of the people mentioned in this post are residents of various “liberal” New England States. How did this political chasm split our family trees?
Children often share their parent’s beliefs in multiple facets of life including faith and politics. I certainly felt like I fell into this category most of my childhood and into my early adolescent life; that all changed with the election of Barack Obama.
The election of 2008 was my first, and I voted for Senator John McCain. I tell myself that this vote was not based on racism but looking back, I am not so sure. I was neck deep in right-wing propaganda and “scare tactics” brought to me by Glenn Beck and others. Now I am not saying that I am or was a “racist;” unfortunately labeling someone as such is not so…black and white. However, I did fall for the lies and deception that poured out of Fox News during President Obama’s first term (See Glenn Beck On Van Jones). Now in Glenn Beck’s defense, he has come out and denounced many of the opinions he had during these years. I was watching Fox News because that is what was watched in my household. CNN was referred to as the “Clinton News Network” and was hardly viewed, if at all. In my defense, I am hardly a racist. As a musician, the majority of my “heroes” or “influences” are black American jazz musicians (e.g. Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, etc…). I would hardly call myself a racist. But back in 2008, I was buying into the fear as it pertained to Obama.
My political viewpoint began to morph as I began studying international politics in college. The timing of this change is frequently cited by conservative family members because everyone knows that college “brainwashes you into becoming a liberal.” However, political leaning is not so clear cut; I have liberal, conservative, and libertarian viewpoints on various domestic issues. For example, I am a proponent of the Universal Basic Income which, in a nutshell, is a federally-funded payment issued to every citizen of the country. This policy would consolidate and replace most, if not all, of the social entitlement programs in the United States. A pretty radical idea, huh? Well, one of its strongest proponents was a well known libertarian economist by the name of Milton Friedman (conservatives worshiped the ground on which he walked).
My shift was not from the right-wing of the political spectrum to that of the left; it was a gradual shift to the center of the spectrum. I allowed myself to believe in liberal ideas, conservative ideas and everything in between. Sure this was shaped by my experience in college but not in the way my family assumes. They assume that I was bombarded with liberal professors pushing their radical left-wing beliefs onto their students (as if we were all in Jonestown). This is far from the truth. As a matter of fact, we rarely discussed domestic politics in IR classes. My political beliefs were shaped by learning how the world functions politically, militarily and economically. A fundamental understanding of the world would pull anyone away from the political fringes especially those who support Donald Trump.
President Trump and his closest advisors have a distorted view of the world. It is not based in reality, and that fact is a direct threat to the strength and prosperity of the United States. I am and always will be a patriot…not a globalist (Alex Jones anyone?) in the negative sense but being a patriot and globalist go hand-in-hand. These two words go together because nation-states operate in economic, political and security spheres created by the west…a.k.a…the United States. President Trump misses this important macro view of the world and this false reality, that of which fuels his beliefs and policy proposals, is damaging to the United States in the long term.
“Long-term” is the key phrase here. After analyzing the statements made by the Trump supporters close to me, it is clear that most have little time to worry about the future…excluding their retirement and various investment accounts of course. This tunnel vision is, to me, an unfortunate development. In my environment, supporting Trump is not based on a fear of immigrants, it is purely based on soaring stock prices and lower taxes, nothing more, nothing less.
What is the problem with this viewpoint? Well, the economy is extremely globalized (dirty word) which means that international relations matters to every US citizen’s investment account. That’s the kind of information you learn at Jonestown…I mean…college. But maybe I am just the epidemy of that famous saying, “if you’re not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative at 40, you have no brain.”
Either way, I can tell you a naval conflict in the South China Sea is dangerous for everyone’s wallet. That’s why international politics matters and why these next four years has the potential to damage US influence and strength abroad.
For some insight on Fox News watchers, check out Monica Hesse’s recent article in the Washington Post: I tried to watch as much ‘Fox & Friends’ as the president. Here’s what I learned.