Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What does Trump mean by ‘winning’?

As a pastor, I am decidedly apolitical. This is not due to a lack of interest. I am apolitical because I serve God, and God loves every person (even people who don’t like me, e.g. Matthew 5:43). In order to effectively serve God, I cannot intentionally alienate Democrats, Republicans, members of Daesh, or anyone else.

This morning, February 24, 2016, I listened to the radio. It reported the results of the Republican primary in Nevada yesterday. Donald Trump won. I do not have a problem with Trump, personally. As I listened to his victory speech, I wondered about his ideology. He keeps talking about ‘winning’. In a primary, there is a first place finisher, second place, and so on. Because only one person can eventually be a political party’s nominee, there is a winner and there are losers. Trump won the Nevada primary.

In Trump’s acceptance speech, he talked about ‘winning’, not in terms of beating his political opponents, but in terms of ‘making America great again’. First, lest I be pedantic, America is a land mass that includes over thirty countries and a number of protectorates. From consistent blurbs about Trump since he declared his candidacy for President in 2015, he does not seem to be talking about improving the quality of life for everyone in North and South America.

Second, what does he mean? Winning against whom? Trump’s definition of winning sounds like a zero-sum game. The United States wins. Others lose. In a zero-sum game, there are winners and losers. The world is not a zero-sum game. In essence, we are all in this together. When there are advances in medicine, pedagogy, mass transportation, energy production, or anything else, humanity wins or loses together.


The internal combustion engine, for example, revolutionized the world. It spurred massive advancement in manufacturing, transportation, and other areas of life. These improvements in quality of living are difficult to refute. The internal combustion engine also brought a thirst for fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels released untold tons of pollution into the atmosphere and led to anthropogenic climate change. There was good and bad. Both the good and the bad have impacted all of humanity.

Trumps idea of winning misses the potential for a positive sum game. In this scenario, the total sum of the good and the bad is still good. Everyone benefits. Perhaps the internal combustion engine is an example of a positive sum game. For the last century, it has helped humanity advance. Now, with greater awareness of climate change, humanity can shift to sustainable technology. 

I pray that Mr. Trump is able to shift his language and thinking from a zero-sum ideology to something more positive. I pray that he becomes open to the possibility of everyone gaining and growing together. Perhaps he would benefit from reading E.F. Schumacher’s classic Small is Beautiful. It might help him shift his paradigm. It’s possible.


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