Sunday, November 6, 2016

Why Donald Trump scares you so much — and why it matters

For many people, this presidential election is triggering a visceral fear response hard to put into words. Here are the words you might have been looking for: We are born to fear predators.

There are many tangible or visible indicators of why people have every right to be scared about a potential Donald Trump presidency. These include Trump’s pattern of misogynistic and overtly racist behavior. One cannot look at how Trump has treated women and not feel deep qualms about how his decision-making as the most powerful leader in the world would impact women and girls and those who love them. One cannot look at how Trump has discriminated against black people or encouraged hatred of immigrants and fear of Muslims without understanding that his policies would almost certainly be discriminatory on a scale we haven’t seen in the United States since Jim Crow. One cannot look at how he encourages violence and targets freedom of the press without getting chills about how, were he to gain power, Trump would institutionalize those tendencies. 

But awareness of potential increases in systemic ills like misogyny and racism alone – which would be significant in ways I won’t attempt to address here – do not fully explain what many people are experiencing: a sense of foreboding and feeling of imminent danger unlike any we have known in our previous political lives.

Some people have used a historical lens through which to try to explain this fear, citing Trump’s evident similarities to leaders of the past like Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini. Making the conscious connection between Trump and fear, others have written about how Trump himself leverages fear in his approach to campaigning. Still others have documented what one author called “Trump-induced anxiety,” or suggested that Trump has suppressed our national sex drive. All of these are valid and even important perspectives, but none fully explains the uniqueness of the phenomenon many are experiencing – personally and viscerally experiencing – with regard to their reactions to Trump.


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