Before you all egg my townhouse and plot to murder me, I’d like to clearly state that I strongly dislike Donald Trump. He harbors values that I vehemently oppose (i.e. dividing a nation, empowering white supremacists, and acting sporadically). In my view, he’s legitimized illegitimacy. As a former Speech and Debater, Trump has also triggered my sensitivity to factual inaccuracy. Alternative facts? Seriously? The last time I heard something so academically insulting was when one of my debate opponents told me that a gossip magazine was more trustworthy than a foreign policy periodical on the topic of drone strikes.
Even though I have liberal tendencies, I feel that a lot of people with liberal views are unfair and, at times, notably irrational. Believe me, I’ve fallen into similar traps. It’s so easy to just hate and speak strongly against something you reject at face value. I’m sure you all remember the innumerous Facebook posts during the election raining death upon anyone that supported “The Donald.” Initially, the same anger shot through my hands as I typed furious rebuttals and posts on social media, hoping to change some minds (and get some echo-chamber likes). I was certain that Trump was the incarnation of Satan himself trying to wreck a recovering America. Several days after the election, my anger waned; I became suspicious of the fact that nearly half of all voters preferred someone who was supposedly so terrible. If he was really so bad, how could he get so many votes? Many of my friends and family members jumped to the conclusion that America was filled with bigots and that we were ultimately doomed. Oddly, my investigations led me to empathize (NOT SYMPATHIZE) with Trump supporters.
To be sure of my views, I did some digging. I found, like how much of mainstream media is reporting today, that some Trump supporters were too fraught to consider racism and sexism as voting factors (which is morally problematic). Sans the trailer trash, there were people who were terrified of losing their jobs. They wanted someone who was like them – someone without the “coastal elite” pretension. After spending several semesters at Cornell surrounded by the Exeters and Andovers of the world, I could see why (no offense people, I love you all). Then, much to my own shock, a couple of friends and acquaintances told me in confidence that they had voted for Trump.
This isn’t an article about how I suddenly started supporting the current President (again, please don’t set out ruining my life). All the exposition above is why I decided to purchase the incredibly comprehensive book, Trump Revealed. Trump Revealed, a well-researched journey written by Marc Fisher and Michael Kranish, features in-depth details on Trump that everyone should know. Over Winter Break, I decided that if I wanted to dislike someone so immensely, I would have to make an effort to actually understand them first.
Surprisingly, reading the book enabled me to respect the President more than I ever thought I would (I’m also more terrified about the future). Many of the details within are unsurprising and confirming – the brash and overly aggressive attitude of Donald from his childhood to his current state is painted with terrifying anecdotes. Though courageously risk-seeking (defying timid human nature), he mismanaged several real estate properties, resulting in multiple bankruptcies. The lack of due diligence was even more concerning: shouldn’t a President thoroughly review his decisions before execution? Trump Revealed subtly builds a narrative that our next leader would be one guided by complete and utter chaos (though the book was written before the election). Yet, despite the shortcomings, many portions of the book display Trump’s remarkable personal and business capabilities. From his time at the New York Military Academy, Trump’s discipline and academic and athletic prowess led him to a meteoric rise to the top. As a new real estate developer, his skilled approach at negotiating early deals and his willingness to depart from his father’s focus on middle class properties launched the beginning of his infamous empire.
The aforementioned tidbits are already a mouthful to be objectively impressed with. However, one more aspect of Trump’s life was and still is more enthralling: brand cultivation. To understand Trump is also to understand his marketing savvy – the book spends much time discussing the Trump brand and how Donald sculpted it with careful manipulation.For instance, he would make sure he was seen with many models, but in reality, he felt personal attachment to few of them. Many of Trump’s model friends were never seen with him in less public contexts – Trump was more concerned with his work, and was actually known to treat women with a more paternal spin (for clear reasons, this is under debate). I think everyone should, albeit grudgingly, respect the man as a media master. How on Earth did a wealthy and privileged white businessman build such a powerful image as the epitome of the American Dream? Blue collar white folk look at him as if he truly understands their struggles. The mixture of limited vocabulary, brutal honesty, excessive wealth, and association with attractive women clearly resounds with segments of struggling America. Contrarily, in private (and in some other scenarios), Trump has shown East Coast class with a combination of elite sophistication and insight. Low-income America got played.
So, in certain respects, Trump is smart, and I respect smart. But there’s something else that commands my respect and the POTUS has that too: drive. Hate him or not, Trump works hard. He is reportedly a workhorse, and has always maintained respectable ambitions. From his aspiration to create a global real estate empire (which he arguably did) to his recent aspiration to become President (which he absolutely did), Trump’s ambitions and work ethic rival the smartest Ivy League kids I know. While he has the whole sleep schedule thing wrong (sleep more than 4 hours a day, kids), it’s no secret that he gives what he does his all. Even as an actor on The Apprentice and a variety of other shows and movies, Donald has shown all but total dedication. To my fellow liberals, the acting quality is a whole different story.
I think it’s pretty weird that I can respect someone that I wholly reject, but I’m glad I feel this way. People are naturally susceptible to bias – our own minds are also echo-chambers (see confirmation bias). These biases are then underscored by the whole issue of social echo-chambers, both physical and electronic. As I’ve mentioned in some of my other writings (not through the Sun), a lot of growth comes with pursuing seemingly unrelated challenges and activities. This Trump learning exercise followed the suggestion. Understandingly, most people don’t go about empathizing with the opposition. Algebra involves solving for unknown variables in an equation. Think about the opposition like an algebraic equation. You know the outcome of the equation – the election of an apparently unfit man for President. By spending some extra time to decipher the unknown variables that contribute to said outcome, you will then not only be less baffled by the original equation itself, but also less baffled by other tangential equations like it.