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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

It’s the baseball cap

I figured out why so many people are voting for The Donald: They like his baseball cap. Unconsciously, his unconventional dress symbolizes to them a rejection of authority and a refusal to follow the ways of their fathers. Hubby’s father, a Methodist minister, was highly offended by the baseball cap phenomenon when it began to appear prior to his 1991 death. I remember how he had to restrain himself from snatching one off his new grandson-in-law’s head when the kid wore it inside the parsonage.

The grandson-in-law now is a grandfather himself, and the trend has been accepted – but it is no sign of conservatism. Instead it is a sign of populism. Its appeal is to “the people,” especially the people who resist uniforms and dress codes and professional standards of appearance and behavior. It’s the “let it all hang out” attitude of the 1960s, but now it’s on the right instead of the left. The mindset has been adopted by the next generation of fascists, people who were all in favor of uniformity back then.

They still are in favor of uniformity when it comes to the cops and the military. They will strongly support the “right” of the uniformed to beat up both non-conformists and innocents who happen to be in the way – but they are too lazy, self-centered, and undisciplined to earn those uniforms themselves. The baseball cap instead becomes their uniform, their way of identifying with the tribe.

That’s fine for baseball. That’s fine for many sorts of activity, but I don’t think it is fine for potential presidents of the United States. This may make me a true cultural conservative, but I think male candidates for the most powerful office in the world should wear suits and ties and shined shoes -- and no headgear at all. That hasn’t been standard since the days of the stovetop hat – and even then, a gentleman took off his hat as soon as he stepped indoors.

Trump thus subtly signals that he is no gentleman. In fact, he’s proud to be a vulgar braggart who considers himself far above common standards of both dress and manners. He appeals to people who think that the most important question about a candidate is whether or not you would like to have a beer with the guy.

I say “guy” advisedly. Hillary will be criticized no matter what she wears. And learning to withstand such vacuous and vicious critics and to move on to focus on matters of substance, not style – that takes real strength.

And Bernie, too

Bernie also occasionally wears a baseball cap and has similar populist appeal. I noticed (again) how akin the fringes of the right and left can be when I analyzed Bernie’s Florida votes by county. The first county in an alphabetical list is Alachua, the home of Gainesville and the University of Florida. It’s not surprising that Bernie defeated Hillary there. I’ve been around academic communities long enough to know that their voters cherish their view of themselves as anti-establishment. Bernie has succeeded in defining Hillary as “establishment,” even though, in broader terms, she is not – and her election will signal the feminist revolution that the world has needed since time began.

But the other counties that voted for Bernie over Hillary are not like Alachua. They were Baker, Calhoun, Dixie, and other places you probably would have trouble finding on a map. I’ll save you the effort: they are rural counties, mostly in the Panhandle and on the West Coast north of here. Why would they vote for an acknowledged socialist? I think it’s the same baseball cap phenomenon: Bernie is a rebel, and they like Rebels, going all the way back to the Civil War. Or maybe it’s just plain misogyny.

Bernie would say it’s because he’s anti-establishment. His economic message indeed is anti-business, especially big business, as were the Populist Party and Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan a century ago. I have no problem with much of the economic framework that makes Bernie a democratic socialist, but just as was the case back at the turn of the twentieth century, his economic theory also features a strong strain of isolation from the rest of the world. He rails against globalism and free trade, especially using this parochial message with farmers and factory workers who don’t want competition from overseas. This worked well for him in Michigan and Iowa, where many cap-wearing isolationists rewarded him with their votes.

I notice, though, that most of these folks nonetheless take advantage of the lower prices that often come with global trade. Indeed, I venture to say that there is no household in America that does not fit this pattern, as everyone owns something made by Sony or Samsung and/or by Volkswagen or Nissan or other international firms. The upshot is that whatever effect globalization may have in lowering wages probably is offset by lower prices at Home Depot and Amazon and everywhere else, including Wal-Mart. Demonizing global corporations is not the answer. What we need is a world where workers are treated fairly and products are regulated for health and safety – everywhere, not just here.

I rather suspect that Bernie is not as isolationist as he appears to be when he is talking to voters who haven’t really thought though the contradictions of their economic philosophy. A century ago, though, William Jennings Bryan was a genuine isolationist, as well as the sort of socialist that Bernie is. Bryan won the Democratic nomination three times, but never won the general election -- and Bernie might do well to study how that road map worked out.

Bryan also was so committed to isolationism that he resigned as Woodrow Wilson’s secretary of state when the US entered World War I. While the nation took its first steps to international power, he retired to Miami. Better he should have stayed in Washington and done the detailed, patient negotiations that eventually can create world peace for the human family. As it happens, I know a woman who spent many years doing that. She still is, and you should vote for her.

Remember Ross Perot?

Before I get off this particular soapbox, let’s reflect on Ross. I thought of him when The Donald cancelled his rally in Chicago because of the threat of violence. The Chicago police – who know something about violence – said they had no inkling of major trouble and that they certainly considered themselves capable of handling it. Trump had not consulted them before making his decision.

In fact, he probably cancelled because that would get more media attention than following his stated schedule. The fearsome Trump then could appeal to the fearful, making it appear that he had to protect his supporters from protestors. But you know the facts about cases where Trump guys beat up on guys who had the courage to exercise their constitutional right to assemble, so I won’t go further on that point.

I do want to remind you, though, of a similar simplistic billionaire, Ross Perot, and especially of how he suspended his 1992 presidential campaign because (allegedly) protestors might disrupt his daughter’s wedding. I always thought the media should have more made of this: What kind of cowardly man hides behind his daughter rather than follow through on his commitment to his supporters? Crazy though his troops may have been, they deserved support for their support.

It comes down to incredibly wealthy guys who elicit sympathy by creatively and hypocritically turning themselves into victims. Republicans rhetorically abhor “victimization” and frequently use that word to complain when real victims of discrimination try to make their case. Yet with Perot and now Trump, they expect the public to feel sorry for them because of a few people who wave signs. What babies! Does Hillary cancel rallies when opponents – some of them proud to be armed and dangerous -- regularly stalk her? Grow up, Donald. Get real. This comes with the territory. And if you don’t have the ability to handle hecklers in Chicago, what are you going to do in Chile or China or Chad?


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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