Contrary to the expectation many have for people who oppose Trump, I rarely consider the President. He does not consume my every moment, he does not “live in my head”. This is for a simple reason: he is an incompetent dolt, unworthy of consideration beyond the fact that he is our President.
Rather, what takes up a disproportionate amount of my time is thinking about how to mitigate the damage that he has caused. On the economic side there is at least an apparent positive, as citizens who have invested in the stock market have seen gains. Even following the drastic selloffs associated with the coronavirus outbreak, the market is still inflated grossly beyond any rational point. It hasn’t yet given back all of the unjustified value it has accrued under Trump, much less the artificial growth we saw under Obama. On the domestic, international, and military fronts, however, Trump has been an unmitigated disaster, attacking Americanism and our allies alike.
This naturally inspires the question: Why the adoration of this man?
The easy, and I suspect generally correct, answer lies in a pair of psychological tricks. The first is the wall of disinformation, or as Steve has so adroitly termed it, the bubble of bullshit, in which most people tend to live. It’s not exclusively a Republican phenomenon. We see it with everyone from Sanders supporters who insist math has no bearing on economics to Racial Studies students who believe their degree will improve their lives and job marketability. A second is the tendency for people to dig in to positions once they’ve taken any action on their behalf, which is seen as people donate “only a dollar” to a cause or cast a primary ballot for someone.
These are undeniably large factors in the cult-like support of Trump. But there are other factors, and while doing something unusual yesterday – actually thinking about Trump – I believe I struck upon another one.
He keeps his promises.
Before you balk, let me explain. I am aware that lies trip more easily from the tongue of this man than from the lips of Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and LBJ combined. I recognize his inability to form coherent sentences, leaving even the simplest of concepts open to interpretation. I accept that he routinely contradicts himself, often from sentence fragment to garbled sentence fragment.
The promises he keeps, though, are not the ones he’s consistently presented. They are instead the ones his most fervent supporters have always sworn he was truly talking about.
At this point in discussions among those who oppose Trump’s cavalcade of malignant buffoonery the focus typically turns to racism, and the dog-whistles provided for white supremacists. That’s certainly not wrong, but I believe it’s woefully short-sighted. I contend that the majority of Trumpists are not racists; more, they are so convinced of their own open-mindedness on racial issues that when you bring up Trump’s absolute, verifiable support of racism that it shuts their minds to any other things you have to say. Simply bringing up the truth turns you, in their eyes, into a purveyor of fake news because they know they aren’t racist and (by irrational extension) therefore neither the President nor his other supporters are racist.
What they are, instead, is elitist.
What is typically envisioned when people talk about elitists are the wealthy and well-connected, mingling at a cocktail party after some daily event or hobnobbing in the halls of an ivy-league college. All it really means is that some people view themselves as inherently better than others, and in this case the group that is better is “Americans”.
The reason for the quotes is that the “Americans” that are being interpreted as superior aren’t simply people who are American citizens, nor people who faithfully hold to American principles. Rather, these “Americans” are those who hold fealty to an idealized image of the country promoted in old Chevrolet ads and television sitcoms.
This is what these people believe they are preserving. This is what they have been told President Trump is protecting. And they are having those promises fulfilled.
Over the last four years Trump voters have seen no governmental embrace of gay marriage, the way we did under Obama. They have seen no governmental push against people claiming religious liberty exemptions from forced participation in gay events. They have seen no President reflexively taking the side of black criminals over law enforcement. They have seen no expansion of Spanish-only classes for schools. They have not seen a push for transgender soldiers in the military.
These Trump voters would tell you they have no problems with gay people, blacks, Hispanics or transgenders… but they do have a problem with the existing culture being forced to accommodate them in ways counter to a majority view.
That’s the heart of it, the “culture war”, and to define it in any other way misses the point and risks shutting down conversation before it begins. On this one point, Trump has kept his promises and continues to keep them. Trump may be a liar, but he’s a liar who is fundamentally honest in their eyes. That’s an issue which needs to be addressed for November.
My views on how to address it? That’s for part 2.