FEATURE: A Fairytale Nightmare

By on April 13, 2016

How a reality billionaire’s regime would affect the valley.

JACKSON HOLE, WYO –  Make America Great Again,” reads the glossy and confident bumper stickers on the backs of 1986 rusted out Ford F-150s. The slogan is found on baseball caps, signs, and T-shirts. It decorates front lawns and spots by fireplaces next to a true patriot’s favorite confederate flag. But as close as the slogan is to the hearts of some, few seem to know exactly how Donald Trump intends to accomplish all that greatness. So, to alleviate all the existential fear of accepting something one doesn’t understand, here is an unraveling of the rhetorical Gordian Knot of Trump’s platforms. And under those proposals, a peek into the future of Trump’s America and how it could play out in Jackson Hole.

How did we get here?

Donald Trump is a hard sell with most Americans. His approval ratings rest somewhere around 29 percent with the general populous, with 63 percent disapproving, according to Public Policy Polling data released this month. He currently has the lowest approval rating of any presidential candidate. So how is it that he is still the frontrunner for the Republican nomination months after the vox populi has stopped laughing at his antics?

Top Republican consultant John Brabender told The Guardian that he was not sure if there was just one reason that could explain Trump’s success, saying that “Everybody may have a small piece of the answer, but I’m not sure if anyone has the answer.”

More specifically Brabender said that in our disquieted homeland, Americans are simply fed up with the status quo. They are becoming more frightened by the day as the middle class disappears. “People have got to the point that they want radical change in some capacity and are not even sure they know what those changes are, but they want them, and are willing to sacrifice their votes to make things happen,” he said.

MIT professor and internationally acclaimed academic Noam Chomsky told Aaron Wallis of Alternet that the rise of Trump is largely due to the mogul’s ability to prey on the populace’s fears. “People feel isolated, helpless, victim of powerful forces that they do not understand and cannot influence. It’s interesting to compare the situation in the ‘30s, which I’m old enough to remember. Objectively, poverty and suffering were far greater.”

But even among poor working people and the unemployed, Chomsky says there was once a sense of hope that is lacking now. He attributes that in large part to the growth of a militant labor movement and the existence of political organizations outside the mainstream.

In another interview with the Huffington Post Chomsky said, “He’s evidently appealing to deep feelings of anger, fear, frustration, hopelessness, probably among sectors like those that are seeing an increase in mortality, something unheard of apart from war and catastrophe.”

Jonathan C. Rothermel is a professor of political science at Mansfield University. Rothermel echoed Chomsky’s conclusions in an article for US News and World Report, saying that fear has played a very large role in the Trump campaign and American politics in general this election cycle.

“The fear mongering rhetoric of Republicans pushes voters to reactionary positions, where moderation is taken as a sign of weakness rather than reasonability,” Rothermel said. “Republican voters have become suspicious of career politicians who they see as pandering for votes rather than standing up for the people. Supporting a successful businessman with a celebrity appeal and a large dose of bravado sends a poignant message to the party.”

When trying to explain his mass-market appeal, Rothermel likened Trump to the super-chains his name is synonymous with. “In short, Trump has become the Wal-Mart version of retail politics. His political message is easily packaged and consumed with minimal understanding of the intricacies of the issues. His solutions to making America great again are simple and appeal to voters’ nostalgia to an era where no country dared mess with the USA.”

Under the auspices of fear, Trump has led the charge to reformat America, amassing momentum as the GOP’s frontrunner. But this is hardly a new tactic. General Douglas MacArthur denounced this approach nearly 60 years ago when he wrote “Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear—kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor—with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it.”

Dumping the melting pot

As Trump would have you believe, his America would stand sentinel against these fears, starting with the wily forces of the undocumented worker. On Trump’s website, www.donaldjtrump.com, a parsed out look at what the GOP frontrunner hopes to accomplish as the future POTUS can be found, and the first featured platform is his stance on immigration. Trump has unwaveringly addressed the immigration problem, demanding that the U.S. build a wall along the southern border to mitigate illegal entry into the nation (to keep America pure, because, apparently, none of us are descendants of immigrants). He has also called for the deportation of all illegal immigrants: no amnesty on the horizon for those out to steal our jobs.

Immigration reform has been so fundamental to the Trump campaign it was part of his speech announcing his presidential bid. “When Mexico sends its people,” Trump told the crowd, “they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

“Scary” is a word Estela Torres, executive director of Jackson’s Latino Resource Center, used over and over again to describe Donald Trump’s America. She could hardly break from that description: frightening, terrifying, worrisome. Every synonym she could think of meant Trump’s America was not a welcoming place for the Latino community.

“Even if he can’t deport 11 million people like he wants to, how would you feel if the president thought of you not even as a second class citizen? Not even as that?” Torres asked. “He’s against the [immigrant community]. He’s demoralized them by saying they’re rapists and criminals.”

Mary Erickson

Mary Erickson

Mary Erickson of the Community Resource Center has heard countless stories of how this sort of classification has struck fear into the hearts of folks in the Latino community. When it comes down to it, Erickson says people are not emigrating from Mexico (and other Latino countries) for convenience. It is because they see the United States as a place to escape the poverty of Mexico. “More of our immigrants are economic refugees,” Erickson said, explaining the state of many who are forced to evacuate their homeland. “It’s a very, very poor community that has left Mexico, and as much as we think they’re living in poor conditions [in Jackson] and that they’re not being paid well here, it’s a huge improvement.”

Erickson does acknowledge escalating violence at the hands of drug cartels mixed with violent retaliation from the Mexican government. But the real catalyst for Latino people’s exodus, she says, is “the incredible poverty.”

In what Erickson hopes would be a wildly implausible future, if Trump deported every undocumented worker, she thinks families would bear the worst of it. “I think a lot of families would have to make very difficult decisions about where their United States citizen children would live,” she said. “Would they leave them behind? Put them in foster care? Leave them with family members? It creates a lot of very difficult situations for a lot of people, because these are not just individuals, they’re families.”

The predictions of how Trump at the helm might affect Jackson’s Latino community, and the community at large, are far reaching. Erickson said that the very heart of the Jackson workforce would be dismantled if Trump’s policies went into action.

“I know lots of people who would be affected by deportation,” Torres said. According to her, it’s not exclusively the Latino community either. Jackson as a whole would suffer. “I would know. I’ve worked with the Latino community for a long time,” she said, “and for Jackson, the labor force would disappear. Who do you think the people are that work for hotels? In landscaping? Construction? They’re Latinos. I don’t know what would happen, but that’s their service industry. What do you think it means when the ads in the paper are in Spanish?”

Torres believes that Trump is hungry for power and is desperate to cut down anyone who is “not on his level.” In other words: anyone who is not a successful white male. That is not just relegated to the Latino community. Torres says, with broad strokes, Trump has been demeaning toward women, Muslims, and refugees of all stripes.

No refuge for…anyone

Wyoming is no stranger to religious animosity. In 2015 when Muslims in Gillette opened the first mosque there, anger and fear sprung up around it. A Facebook group, “Stop Islam in Gillette!” is still garnering members. More than 400 people have liked the page so far. According to the page’s creator, Bret Colvin, there are at least two secret “Stop Islam in Jackson Hole!” sister Facebook pages that are not made public because, unsurprisingly, their creators fear backlash.

Colvin “Stumps for Trump,” because of Trump’s anti-establishment persona and for Trump’s stances on Muslims and refugees. Colvin believes in white American cultural superiority that leaves little room for diversity. On his personal Facebook page, Colvin likes to make his hate and bigotry for Muslims known to his friends. When Colvin spoke with The Planet he insisted that his stances on Syria and immigration are not inspired by racism because, he says, Islam is not a race.

Colvin also told The Planet he believes the Quran promulgates “pedophile marriages, female genital mutilation, and spousal abuse.” Muslims, he says, are not American citizens and are not entitled to the benefits of American citizenship.

Like Trump, Colvin would like to see mosques heavily monitored and immigration of Syrian refugees halted. “I think banning until we figure out what’s going on is an important thing,” Trump told MSNBC in December. “And I take a lot of heat for it, and a lot of people like me for it, to be honest with you.” The billionaire mogul continued, “Well, I would hate to [shut down mosques], but it’s something you’re going to have to strongly consider. Some of the absolute hatred is coming from these areas. The hatred is incredible. It’s embedded. The hatred is beyond belief. The hatred is greater than anybody understands.”

But in Gillette, the hatred its citizens seem to fear so much is the very hatred they are propagating. Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King could not stay silent on the bubbling abhorrence spouting from the town’s underbelly. Her public statement was directed specifically at people like Colvin.

“Here in Gillette, we celebrate everyone’s right to worship and live their own way,” the mayor declared. “However, I have taken a number of questions and been privy to comments recently that would indicate that somehow the city should reject certain systems of belief as well as finding a way to not allow certain people to move into our community or operate legitimate business practices in Gillette. Our values as a community reject these notions. To be very clear, the City of Gillette does not support statements and actions of hate. Threatening people and families is not tolerated in this community. My vision as the Mayor of Gillette is to promote a community environment where families feel safe and free from intimidation. I cannot support acting like terrorists ourselves to face the evils of terrorism.”

Trump has been on the fence when asked about how to handle the “Islam situation.” He can’t quite seem to decide if he thinks Islam is the enemy of the United States, or if the U.S. just needs to be prepared for the inevitable transition of all Muslims into terrorists. “Well, I don’t want to close mosques; I want mosques surveilled,” Trump told ABC News’s correspondent George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.”

“…[C]ertainly there are certain hot spots and everybody knows they’re hot spots. Good material was coming out of those mosques. We were learning a lot. And they were stopping problems and potential problems by learning what was happening. I don’t want to close up mosques but things have to happen where you have got to use strong measures or you’re going to see buildings coming down all over New York City and elsewhere,” Trump added.

Aftab Khan is one of Gillette’s few Muslims. He told NPR that the hatred he is currently experiencing is unprecedented in his lifetime. “People have attacked my family and threatened us physically,” Khan said. “I’m not going to sit here and deny the fact that I’m a little bit nervous and a little bit worried.”

Colvin has a podcast called “Wyoming Resistance Front,” that he claims a few thousand people currently listen to. In the next week, he hopes to set up a studio, so that he can start broadcasting his ideology full-time.

Education: Who needs it?

While Colvin is busy hoping to indoctrinate listeners over the airwaves, Trump is spouting his disgust for what he considers government-dictated indoctrination in American schools. The reality television star has come out guns blazing against Common Core, demanding that locally approved education standards replace national ones.

Jackson schools recently went through the long process of adopting the Common Core standards this year. Leading the charge was Teton County Superintendent Gillian Chapman. Chapman was unsettled by the prospect of having the Common Core standards dismantled. “I think it would be a step backwards for the country,” she said. “The state standards are closely aligned, and they are rigorous.”

Trump’s education goals are mainly of an economic nature, spouting that sweeping cuts are in the Department of Education’s future, starting with Common Core. “We’re going to be cutting tremendous amounts of money, and waste, and fraud, and abuse,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “But no, I’m not cutting services, but I am cutting spending. But I may cut Department of Education. Common Core is a very bad thing. I think that it should be local education.”

However, Chapman was not convinced that Trump was entirely wrong about localizing education. “I think there is a lot of benefit to having local control, so that the education of students matches the community. I think that’s really beneficial; but to have any idea of what all would be impacted by any changes, it would be a guess at this point,” she said.

But Chapman’s real issue was Trump’s threat to cut the Department of Education. She simply does not know where the money would come from. “Educating our kids is one of the most important things we do as a nation,” she told The Planet. “And the money we spend now is very wisely spent on our future. If anything, I think we do a remarkable job with what we have. With such a diverse set of needs, and some students requiring a lot of support—in addition to that we’re feeding them breakfast, lunch, and snacks. This is money well spent. I realize reductions need to be made, but education shouldn’t be at the top of the list.”

Let’s not forget that Trump did dabble in education himself for a bit with the construction of Trump University in 2005. However, because his school did not offer degrees of any kind, just instruction “on the art of deal making,” the New York Department of Education objected to its classification as a “university.” The rebranded “Trump Entrepreneur Initiative” closed in 2010 and is currently being sued for fraud.

Estela Torres

Estela Torres

Business trumps the Earth

The Department of Education isn’t the only branch on the chopping block. Trump is out for blood when it comes to the Environmental Protection Agency. When discussing budget cuts, Trump continued, “So the Department of Education is one, Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations. We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”

Trump is also very concerned about the effects of what he feels is the pseudo-science of climate change. “There has been a big push to develop alternative forms of energy—so-called green energy—from renewable sources. That’s a big mistake,” Trump wrote in his book “Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again.

“To begin with, the whole push for renewable energy is being driven by the wrong motivation, the mistaken belief that global climate change is being caused by carbon emissions. If you don’t buy that—and I don’t—then what we have is really just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves,” Trump wrote.

The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance’s Craig Benjamin thinks Trump’s views on climate change are absurd. “It’s disappointing that Mr. Trump ignores the science regarding climate change,” Benjamin said. The Alliance’s executive director said there is little room for negotiation. “The science is settled—climate change is happening, we are causing it from our burning of fossil fuels, and it is already having devastating consequences like monster wildfires, super storms, and historic droughts.”

While Wyoming Governor Matt Mead declined to comment on Trump, he has been a major supporter of the coal industry in Wyoming, and has unabashedly denied climate change is manmade.

In his campaign platform back in 2010 he was already touting the nonsense of global warming. “I am unconvinced that climate change is manmade,” Mead wrote. “But I do recognize we may face challenges presented by those who propose and believe they can change our climate by law with ill-thought-out policy like cap-and-trade.  Energy policy should be based on sound science and not political agendas.”

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, cap-and-trade is an environmentally conscious effort to “cap” the number of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere in order to combat global warming.

Governor Mead’s investment in the idea that climate change is not manmade reached into the education sphere last year when he refused to veto an amendment in the Wyoming state budget that defunded the implementation Next Generation Science Standards. The new standards contained information on manmade climate change, precisely why Mead strongly opposed the legislation.

Benjamin worries that the vehement denial of climate change by both Mead and Trump will contribute to catastrophic consequences. “We have a moral obligation to our children to protect them—that means preparing for and tackling climate change now. This means breaking our addiction to fossil fuels,” Benjamin said. “Unfortunately, Mr. Trump, and our leaders here in the great state of Wyoming, appear committed to clinging desperately to the dirty energy economy of the past, instead of leading the charge toward the clean energy economy of the future.”

A March study by Robert M. DeConto and David Pollard indicates that by the end of this century climate change will have caused glacier melting that could have “the potential to contribute more than a meter [about 3.3 feet] of sea-level rise by 2100.”

According to Dr. Ben Strauss, vice president of sea-level and climate change impacts at the news service Climate Central, this rapid increase in sea-level will have devastating effects on coastal cities, especially those north of the equator. In a Senate testimony on sea-level rise, Strauss said, “In the long term, we are likely to see many feet of sea-level rise, and be forced to redraw the map of the United States. The high end of projections for this century would be enough to turn Miami-Dade County, Florida into a collection of islands.”

Pro-life, anti-women

It’s not just coastal cities that are in danger these days. The waters might be metaphorically rising around Trump for incendiary comments he made a few weeks ago. Trump raised bipartisan disgust when he spoke on women’s reproductive rights on March 30. When questioned by Chris Matthews of MSNBC, Trump struggled to concisely answer questions about the repercussions of his pro-life stance. Trump used to be strongly pro-choice, but had an evolution of ethics, assuming the Republican pro-life platform in 2011.

When Matthews finally got a straight answer out of Trump on whether or not women should be punished for having abortions (should he succeed in outlawing the procedure), Trump said, “The answer is there has to be some kind of punishment.” Not surprisingly, later in the discussion, Trump followed that up with a statement that men would not be punished in the same way.

Trump has since reversed his stance, blaming “a convoluted question” for the answer he gave. The Trump campaign released a statement on Trump’s behalf: “If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed—like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.”

Torres thinks it is just another instance of the inevitable Trump flip-flop. “Look at the way he talks about women,” Torres said. “He looks at them as objects. We would be taking so many steps backward [if we elected him] with his views on abortion, with women’s rights—it would affect us all. He’s scary on all levels, because he can’t keep a thought. He’ll take a position and then reverse it. And I just keep thinking to myself, ‘Wait a minute, this guy cannot keep a thought. He doesn’t really know the issues.’ And it’s really scary to have someone like that in such a powerful position. It’s all about the power: power over women, complete power and control.”

State House Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson, sees inflammatory comments made by the candidate as nigh on unbelievable. “I listen to Trump’s platform and I see it as misogyny and racism. Those are the two first words that come to mind, and there’s no way I can support that.” Schwartz does not see how anyone in the female populace could support such a person as president, either.

Presidential reality?

No matter what Trump hopes to achieve, Teton County School Board Treasurer Joe Larrow does not think the largest threat from the “Celebrity Apprentice” star would be his policies in action; it’s Trump’s legacy of divisiveness. “I think [Trump’s] rhetoric and style of leadership would seek to destroy all of the positive gains we have made in this community.” Larrow said. Larrow also dubbed Trump’s grandiloquence “inflammatory” and said that he had already caused damage that has “obstruct[ed] a cohesive community.”

Boise State University’s Dr. Justin Vaughn raised the red flag on the idea that Trump could even begin to achieve his proposals, saying, “It’s not a question of what Trump wants, but rather to what extent would the representatives in Congress be willing to work with him.” Vaughn predicts policy action would be stifled because Congress and the president would be at such intractable odds. “There would be very little Trump would be able to get done, because he would not have the allies in congress that a more traditional Democrat or Republican would have,” Vaughn said.

Jackson Town Councilman Jim Stanford is not exactly sure which proposals Trump would be fighting so hard for. When questioned about Trump’s stances, Stanford replied, “There is no platform, and I don’t believe Donald Trump is going to be elected president. There is no coherence of awny kind to any of the things he has spouted so far. I doubt there’s much conviction on a lot of the things he’s said.” Like many valley residents, Stanford has a hard time taking Trump seriously. “Where do you separate the TV character from the world leader?”

Vaughn says Trump is perhaps intentionally vague on his political stances. Trump is financially independent of the firms that would traditionally influence a politician’s political stances. He has the ability to rely heavily on rhetorical devices to acquire followers, Vaughn explained. Because of these murky stances, Trump does not need to articulate how he would follow through with his campaign promises.

Under the hopeful light of reality, Vaughn said, “Like his wall on the Mexican Border, his free trade initiatives, access to guns—all of those things would require major cooperation with Congress. They’re only going to happen if a majority of the members of both chambers want them.”

However, Vaughn conceded that because Trump is drumming up press for many of his platforms, they are more likely to be considered by Congress. “As for his agenda,” Vaughn said, “The more a president talks about something, the more likely it will be considered in Congress. However, setting an agenda and achieving an agenda are two very different things.” Vaughn described even executive orders as fruitless if the president has completely lost the backing of Congress. “If Congress holds the purse strings, a president can make an order, but if there’s no money, there’s not really much that can be done.

“I don’t know if he really wants to do these things or not,” Vaughn concluded. “My gut tells me he says these things because he knows what will get a response and how to connect with people who might respond to him on an emotional level.”

People like Colvin, who are responding to Trump on an emotional level, are exactly the folks Torres fears: racists and sexists that seem to have come out of the woodwork since Trump announced his candidacy. “I just shake my head every day,” she told The Planet. “It’s super appalling, and I pray he doesn’t win. But also I think what’s happening with our country—with all of these people who are supporting him—I’m struck by the idea that it’s not just him, and that is very frightening to me.” PJH

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