Opinion Column

Are Americans idiots? Actually, no

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Donald Trump at a campaign rally.
REUTERS

Donald Trump at a campaign rally. REUTERS

“Don’t wanna be an American idiot/Don’t want a nation under the new mania.” — Green Day

Are Americans idiots?

It’s a question many Canadians are asking as they watch Republican presidential nominee candidate Donald Trump gain more popularity with each more outrageous statement.

Or when a bunch of ornery yahoos occupy an Oregon wildlife refuge with guns aplenty, but not enough food to last any longer than the Alamo.

Or when the American response to a mass shooting like those at San Bernardino or the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut is to buy still more guns in a country with 89 guns per 100 people.

For Canadians who love their neighbours, but seriously question their intelligence at times like these, it’s a troubling thought.

Unfortunately, the easy way out is to simply ridicule those who live south of the world’s longest, friendliest border.

Canadians can’t seem to get enough of U.S. late-night television hosts delightedly denouncing Trump’s travesties, or guffaw at Oregon’s overwrought but underfed occupiers. Or cringe-watching President Barack Obama openly cry at his country’s astonishing lack of gun control.

But to simply scoff and write off the support Trump enjoys, the backing Oregon rednecks actually have, and how Americans truly love guns from our superior vantage point north of the border, would be ignorant on our part.

A smarter approach is to look at why Trump appeals to many U.S. voters – and could win the Republican nomination and possibly the presidency.

Trump is a rich, self-serving windbag who will say almost anything to gain headlines – from promising a literal wall to keep out Mexicans border jumpers to temporarily banning Muslim immigrants from entering the United States.

Yet each time Trump blows up another media controversy bomb, his popularity explodes.

But behind the hype is a truism – that Americans are deeply worried about terrorism killing them and immigration taking away their jobs in a troubled economy.

Trump intuitively gets that fear and plays to it brilliantly in his campaign, reinforcing negative stereotypes while disregarding plain truths.

Are Canadians really so different and more sensible?

Let’s hope we are immune to a Canadian version of Trump. But don’t condemn Americans as “idiots” simply because some desperately support what we see as terribly faulty solutions to very real problems.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com or Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman  

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