On August 4, The New York Times reported that small donations are helping Trump close his campaign funding gap. Two days prior to the article, one of Trump’s solicitations arrived at the wrong house. It was addressed to my husband. I read it, made edits and comments, and put it back in the response envelope. I did not affix my own first class stamp to the envelope as requested, because I want Donald to pay the postage.
I was puzzled that we received the letter at all. Most campaigns purge mailing lists of persons who vote consistently for candidates in the other party—why waste the time and money sending solicitations to people who will never, ever send them money? Why further energize them to go to the polls to vote against them? My husband’s and my voting records are quite clear: he has never voted for a Republican; I voted for one in 1988—Minnesota Senator David Durenberger, who is my idea of a thoughtful, moderate, compassionate Republican.
Everyone knows Trump is desperate for money. But are Trump’s people so dumb or lazy as to simply broadcast solicitations to every Tom, Dick, Harry, or in our case David, across America? But then I thought, perhaps that’s it. Segmenting by gender! Perhaps Trump’s people are purging females, or least female Democrats, from the lists and retaining males regardless of how they have voted in the past, and then further segmenting the lists by zip codes where mostly white males live on the bet that the white-male sector is Trump’s most fertile field for fund-raising.
Our deeply rural zip code—55732—is on the Iron Range in the northeast corner of the largely Caucasian state of Minnesota. This is Democrat Farm Labor Party country, but a lot of white males up here are understandably disillusioned and disgruntled about the regional economy, which for more than a century has been driven by the boom-and-bust cycles and exploitive labor practices of mining.
If indeed Trump’s people are segmenting voters by gender and race—men versus women, white men versus all men of other colors—the strategy would be right in step with Trump’s divide-and-conquer philosophy. The other even sicker way (in my opinion) Trump and his operatives (and for years the conservative news media) are slicing and dicing the American electorate is with the bombast of “the elites” versus “you.” To quote from his letter (with underlines by me): “P.S. Hillary Rodham Clinton and all the elites who support her are the same people who sent our jobs overseas, left our border wide open, and built up a lot of corruption and incompetent bureaucracies in Washington. They want you to stay on the sidelines and not vote in this election, but I want you in this fight for your country.”
To whom exactly is Trump referring? Who are the elites? Who is the you?
It is biologically and genetically possible to distinguish between male and female and white and non-white males—as divisive as it is to exploit those differences in society and politics—but there is no way to differentiate an elite from a you. To attempt to set up some conspiracy of “the elites” versus “you” is to trade in smoke and mirrors and snake oil. It also admits to no understanding of how the English language works.
“You” is a utilitarian part of the English language, a second-person singular or plural pronoun. “You” is not a gender, not a class, not a race, not a voting bloc. To repeat, “you” is a pronoun.
As for “elite” it is a noun (which can be used as an adjective) with two clear, concise definitions:
- A group that is superior to others in terms of abilities or qualities (e.g., all athletes performing in the Olympics who are not taking performance-enhancing drugs)
- A group or class seen as possessing the greatest power or influence in a society, especially because of wealth or privilege (e.g., gee, that sounds a lot like Donald J. Trump—something he surely doesn’t want his “you” to discover).
The 2016 presidential election—indeed all free elections in all free countries as well as all the daily decisions families, friends, communities, and societies make—comes down to language and to what people chose to hear and read or chose not to hear or read.
If I take any solace and hope in the last painful year and last 94 days (and counting: http://www.timeanddate.com/countdown/election?p0=401&iso=20161108T00&msg=Next%20Presidential%20Election) of this presidential election, it is in the power of language and in our freedom as a nation to use it. For every nonsensical and appalling thing that spews out of Trump’s mouth, scores of investigative reporters, writers, speakers, commentators, satirists, editorial boards of many newspapers, President Obama and many other elected leaders and their family members who spoke at the Democratic Party Convention, Gold Star Family members Khirz Khan and his wife, Ghazala (whose eloquent silence spoke volumes), one Supreme Court justice (but Ruth Bader Ginsburg, why did you later apologize for dressing down Trump? Scalia never apologized for anything), and even ordinary citizens have countered Trump and his machine of hatred and obfuscation with the very gift he lacks: beautifully crafted and courageous words.
Just a few reading recommendations:
Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/05/opinion/campaign-stops/i-ran-the-cia-now-im-endorsing-hillary-clinton.html
Timothy Egan on Trump as a national security risk: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/opinion/the-real-plot-against-america.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Ftimothy-egan&action=click&contentCollection=opinion®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection
Houston Chronicle editorial board endorsement of Hillary Clinton:http://www.chron.com/opinion/recommendations/article/For-Hillary-Clinton-8650345.php
Jane Mayer on the ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all
Michael Arnovitz’ defense of Hillary Clinton: https://thepolicy.us/thinking-about-hillary-a-plea-for-reason-308fce6d187c#.qeoikpidp
A special commendation to Mark Singer, who before his 2016 book Trump and Me has followed the nefarious Trump for two decades: