I heard some Trump supporters being interviewed on NPR recently. To a person, they extolled him for being a “straight shooter” who “doesn’t beat around the bush” and “tells it like it is.”
This reinforced something curious I’ve noticed recently: Trump is perceived as a no-nonsense guy, despite the fact that he’s been proven time and again to be a chronic and habitual liar (e.g., crowd size at his inauguration, millions of illegal voters, accusing Obama of wiretapping, etc.)
Why is this? Clearly, Trump’s supporters find his abrasiveness and lack of polish refreshing. But I’m afraid they’re also falsely equating these attributes with honesty. George W. Bush received similar praise from his supporters, despite the fact that he, too, was frequently less than truthful (e.g., claims about WMDs prior to the 2003 Iraq invasion).
I think people in many pockets of this country instinctively confuse ineloquence with candor. These folks are inclined to trust people who speak in a manner that makes them seem “common” and “like one of us.”
Conversely, they seem to mistrust people who are articulate, well-spoken, and sound like “elites.” This would explain the common misperception during the election that Hillary Clinton was conniving and disingenuous, despite the fact that fact checks of their respective statements have consistently shown her to be more truthful by far than Trump.
Unfortunately, American history is littered with examples of anti-intellectualism. In the 1630’s, Puritans ostracized those who did not conform to their dogmatic religious views. In the 1880s, the “Know Nothing” party gained prominence as an anti-Catholic, anti-immigration movement. The mindless violence of the KKK in the 1920s was followed by the more subtle, anti-intellectual racism of George Wallace in the late 1960s. It still persists to this day when those who question an authoritarian populist like Trump are denigrated as treasonous and unpatriotic.
Americans’ tendency to trust anti-intellectuals is self-destructive and dangerous. We need to continue to call Mr. Trump out on his blatant lies, and to fight his pernicious agenda with every ounce of energy we can muster.
Andy Sullivan is a yoga instructor, fitness guru, writer, and musician. He grew up in Stow, and has been living in Shirley with his wife, Cathy, since 2001.
Opinion blog posts represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Indivisible Groton Area or its individual members. IGA invites input and opinion from among the diversity of its membership.