Trump is the product of a frustrated electorate sick of elites in Washington which pay no heed to the people who pay the taxes and have little interest in them. Thus runs the popular narrative of how we got President Donald Trump and why his base, despite everything, is firmly committed to him.
Half right, I say.
There was a great national dissatisfaction at the time of the election and there is so today. But was that really the result of unhappiness with elites in Washington?
I’d suggest that it is the daily frustration we all face in simply going about our business. Elites are to blame, but not the elites named in the political narrative that has become the conventional view of the Trump phenomenon.
The elites who frustrate us are the large corporate ones that we cannot live without and have difficulty living with. Substitute corporations for elites.
In no particular order, they are the insurance companies, the banks, the credit-card companies, the airlines, the hospitals, the telephone companies, the cable TV providers, Amtrak, Amazon and other corporations that hide behind a battery of devices programmed to avoid any direct human contact with the customer.
In fact, to most billion-dollar-plus corporations, the individual is less significant than a grain of sand on a California beach. These suppliers of our needs are hidden in a thicket of automatic phone systems that seem to require that you spend half an hour in a maze of prompts before, maybe, you reach a person who will also behave as though he or she is a recording; a person who is reading from a script and diverting your pleadings.
Collectively, what they’d like to tell you is you are in the wrong and will always be in the wrong because you are a statistical inconvenience, your custom a nuisance.
Step forward my bank.
More than 40 years ago, I added my then-wife to a credit card. We had an amicable divorce and we both got married again.
Regularly, over the years, I’ve asked my bank to remove her name, Jane Doe King -- to protect her privacy -- from the card. I paid all the bills and my notes with the payments and letters were never answered.
Suddenly this year, my bank decided that it was imperative that they get information on Jane Doe King, who is a nonexistent person. I went to my branch, explained the situation and was told by an officer that she’d been removed from the card. All’s well that ends well.
But it wasn’t the end, and all wasn’t well.
A few days later, when I tried to call an Uber car, I learned that my card was blocked because Jane Doe King hadn’t supplied her financial information to my bank.
I called my bank. After the de rigueur half an hour of playing the equivalent of telephone pinball with their answering system and the irrelevant prompts, I spoke to a representative. He might as well have been a recording because no matter what I said, he went back to the script in front of him.
I explained, he demurred. Jane Doe King would have to prove first that she existed and then that she wanted to be removed from the card, which she had never used in more than 40 years.
I asked him to call the officer in the bank’s branch with whom I’d spoken. He said his phones didn’t have outgoing lines and so he couldn’t do that. I said I’d go to the bank’s branch and have the officer call the credit card department and straighten out the matter. But he wouldn’t give me his direct-dial number or his last name; just his first name and the general number. I went into serious profanity-suppression mode.
Only the appearance of the person who does not exist would satisfy the Man Who Can’t Make Phone Calls. Fearing temper loss, I hung up and emailed the bank officer who had “fixed” the problem. He hasn’t replied.
The message is that you, the customer, and your account and patronage don’t count.
Even as you read this, thousands of Americans are getting the electronic runaround as they try to solve simple issues. Confused and angry they are turning to the wildest political solution they can: Trump. Sadly, this is another abortive pursuit.
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. His e-mail is email@example.com.