Is Trump a symptom or a cause?

Seem to be two schools of thought (regardless of whether you support or oppose Trump): One is that Trump is a symptom of how things are in America - that Trump came to be because America changed a lot, or that America produced President Trump…and the other is that Trump is a cause of things - that things in America have changed a lot *because *of Trump - that Trump produced today’s 2018 America.

How say you?



I vote yes as well.


symptom. populism and nationalism are on the rise in many countries, not just this one.

Yep. This is a not an either-or scenario. The election of Trump himself is a symptom. But Trump has also used his bully pulpit to be the cause of many problems, as well. He fans the flames that already exist, which which I argue is still “cause.” But he also adds new things (e.g. the family separation stuff) that wasn’t there before, which is definitely a “cause.”

It is not that hard to imagine a candidate who is able to capture the anger that led to voting for Trump, but then, once in office, tried to actually resolve the things that made people angry. Or even one that just didn’t fan the flames, and actually treated the office with the respect it deserves. So you’d have the same symptoms, but a different result.

Still, he didn’t come to power in a vacuum. People had to want what he was selling. There is a lot of history leading up to the election of Trump that makes sense.

Yeah. Both.

Well, yeah, both, but I voted symptom because he was that first.

Trump is the symptom. He has exacerbated the situation, definitely, but he is not the cause.

Speaking purely about proximal causes, we are witnessing the outcome of thirty years of hatred, misinformation, and agitprop to exploit divisions that were set in motion principally by Newt Gingrich. The 90’s saw America’s partisan division really begin, and right-wing media poured gasoline on the fire. The stupidity, partisanship, and acrimony people used to appeal to Republican voters reached an apparent Nadir in 2009. Racists accused Obama of being a Muslim, McConnell deliberately implemented the strategy of obstructing everything Obama ever did, and the McCain campaign somehow found in Sarah Palin a charismatic moron who appealed to the fuckwit demographic. Trump just jumped on the bandwagon of hatred and stupidity, and rode it to the White House.

I’d throw in a few other things: The abject failure of the Church and decline of religion, an era of peace and prosperity that caused people to grow up without existential threats, the total failure of our schools to instill critical thinking skills and civic education, and that orgy of celebrity, conspiracy, validation, and trolling that we call the internet.

Speaking about ultimate causes, that goes back even farther. Reagan’s misguided media deregulation set the stage for the rise of the Fake News network, while Reagan, Nixon, and LBJ all played a part in spreading the idea that government was an adversary rather than a beacon. The 1964 Southern Strategy actively recruited racists and the religious right to the Republican party, and that could, in turn, be traced all the way back to the Civil War and - earlier still - the founding of Colonial America.

So no, Trump didn’t cause any of this. He was just the loudest and most aggressive in his willingness to take advantage of the American voter’s contemptible stupidity.

He is originally a symptom but is now a cause of the Overton window moving.

Both as everyone else says, but he was a symptom first.

The election of Trump was IMHO a symptom of the divisions of society, specifically the distance between the elites and the proles. Much the same can be said for Brexit BTW. Many people had nothing left to lose and saw Clinton as ‘more of the same’ so voted for change. Since his election, he’s been a disruptor.

sorry, this one I can’t abide by. Religion doesn’t make people good. There are plenty of horrible people who do horrible things sitting in pews on Sunday morning. Or even delivering the sermons.

He’s a symptom of past right wing problems. And he’s a cause of future right wing problems.

Name one Trump talking point that isn’t a variant of something previously trumpeted by other idiots.

A symptom of many things (and a cause of a few). Most notably, his electoral success is a symptom of the remaining power of bigotry, white supremacism, xenophobia, and misogyny. He rose on Birtherism – a racist conspiracy theory with zero evidence in favor (and a mountain of proof against).

Good post, but another factor is the fact that whites who score high on the personality trait of authoritarianism have almost all become Republicans in the last few decades.

Authoritarians are dogmatic, afraid, hostile to democracy and minorities, easily misled, aggressive, hypocritical, tribal, etc. Basically the modern dittohead. I believe about 25% of people score high on authoritarianism.

The fact that white authoritarians have almost all become Republicans (whites who score high in authoritarianism voted 86% for Trump vs 62% for George hw Bush in 1992) is another contributing factor alongside the southern strategy, Gingrich, the right wing echo chamber.

Trump is the results of several trends the Conservative Movement has been encouraging for their political benefit for decades now:
Racism, Xenophobia, Anti intellectualism, distrust and hatred of Government and other Institutions and worship of wealth (and the equating of wealth and virtue). If it weren’t Trump, someone else like him would have threaded the needle.

I think he’s a symptom, but not just of how things are in the US…I think he’s a symptom of a wave of reactionary right wing thinking that’s happening all over the world. We get these large scale pendulum movements in individual countries (the US goes through them ever 20 years or so), but I think this is a larger movement of the pendulum back rightward across the globe.

If that were true, then Trump would have more like 99% approval rating, since the real elites are such as small percentage.

No, this is just the false narrative that both Trump and the media put forth. He does it because it’s the only way he can get support. The media does it because it has entertainment value. In fact, the vast majority is more or less in the same boat, and this “divisiveness” is not based on reality, but rather is a self-fulfilling meme consisting of nothing but rhetoric, that is duping a large portion of the population.

As such, Trump is a symptom of American stupidity.

It predates his election to president, too. His bullshit TV show was just as much a symptom of American stupidity, considering how long it lasted.