Why on earth are people I know to be decent humans still supporting Donald Trump? How is that so?
I think I’ve heard all the reasons any of us can give. But there has to be more to it. Of course, one could ask the same question as to how the Germans could explain following Adolf Hitler.
Maybe by studying that 1930s phenomenon we can begin to understand why many still support him. After all, it is said that Trump studied the methods of Hitler. I don’t doubt that’s true, but now we know the results of that, so why would anyone want to repeat the mistake the Germans made?
I hope our history teachers and professors are making sure our young scholars know the signs of fascism. If I were a teacher I would write the word on the blackboard and spend a week just studying that. What is it? How did it happen? How dangerously close to it are we? What are the signs of impending fascism? Maybe if we could educate the young, they would in turn educate their parents. I know I have learned from the knowledge and outlooks of my children and grandchildren.
Look for common ground
What can we do about those who support Trump? How can we understand religious leaders who endorse him? How can we change anyone’s mind? It certainly doesn’t change anyone’s view to argue with them on social media. It simply causes them to dig in. We must somehow stop being enemies. We must stop discounting everything they say.
President Obama spoke of looking for common ground instead of arguing over the matters of disagreement. Perhaps we are not giving them room to change their minds. Nobody is going to react well to instant condemnation; no one becomes more agreeable by being told they’re stupid and wrong.
Instead of constantly condemning Trump supporters — although it’s often deserved and hard to avoid— why don’t we look truthfully at where they may be coming from? One must know the enemy before it can be defeated. We really don’t understand why many ordinary people still support Trump.
Why do they?
There are plausible reasons which do not include being dumb or hateful. That’s where we need to work. I know there are people who support him for purely selfish and nefarious reasons. I’m not talking about them. Those people are the greedy and super wealthy who are benefitting financially from Trump’s protection and favors. They are the Mitch McConnell’s and Matt Gaetz’ of the world. They are the captains of industry and the wicked leaders of predatory corporations. We understand why the true villains of the US support Trump. They are wicked and money-grubbing but at least their support of the would-be dictator is logical. Trump has let them have their way through deregulation and given them huge tax cuts, etc.
He’s their hero
Not so the base who come out for his rallies, defend him on social media, and proudly wear his Chinese-made red MAGA hats. They aren’t benefiting from his presidency. Far from it. I think their loyalty is because se he’s made them believe he’s one of them. For many, that’s the case. He’s their hero and their voice — or at least they think he is.
Trump is the quintessential anti-intellectual. He doesn’t read and doesn’t care what he doesn’t know. He’s a perfect example of Dunning-Kruger syndrome. He doesn’t know what he thinks he does, but it doesn’t matter to him in the least. He doesn’t care what his enemies or his advisors say. He is in a world apart. In his troubled mind his word is law and he takes positions based on whatever mood he is in at the moment. He frequently tells experts and more learned people to take a hike — or worse.
He is not concerned as to what is true. He’s determined he will get respect and — more dangerously — obedience, no matter how crazily defiant and illogical he is.
I understand why evil, greedy, hateful and wicked people support him. He embodies their attitudes and does them great favors.
He is not their friend
What is difficult to understand is why members of our own families, religious leaders, the poor, the working class, and even some women support him. He is not their friend. He doesn’t really care about any of them beyond getting their votes. He has illustrated that repeatedly. What he actually does and who he really represents is far different than what his stump speeches would lead people to believe.
The people who support him don’t make their livings monitoring politics or watching what the president does. They have lives far removed from the political and governmental arenas. What they know is they like what he says at his rallies.
It may be as simple as most of them admiring his defiance. At some point — before Trump — the country began to split and one side of America decided it didn’t like the other. Not one bit. Just as before the Civil War, one demographic perceived that the other was trying to boss them around and control aspects of their lives.
Country folks have decided they don’t like city slickers. People in landlocked states decided they had nothing in common with coastal states. Even within states, the rural people feel the urbanites, who knew nothing about their lives, were trying to control them and alter the way they live.
They felt threatened on all sides. A president many of them saw only as an urban and liberal lawyer had been in office for eight years and they felt they were invisible to his administration.
How do we expect people to feel?
Are their concerns baseless? Is it not possible to consider how they could get that attitude? Even if one knows something is unconstitutional — public prayer in schools for example — how do we expect people to feel when they are told by outsiders that their small community schools can no longer have public prayers before ball games, at student assemblies, or at graduation?
I know, I know, it’s unconstitutional and this country guarantees freedom from forced religion. I understand. But I also accept if 95 percent of the voters in their home town want Christian prayer in schools, they feel the majority should rule and they should be able to have prayer. But they’re told because of a document written by the founding fathers, they have no choice in the matter. They think if the issue were brought to a vote in their towns, public prayer would be overwhelmingly approved. They say it’s none of Washington’s business. Moreover, many are defying this law.
I was once a reporter in an Ozark Mountain town, and I can tell you that most, if not all, meetings of small town government start with a prayer offered by a local preacher. I know many schools have “silent prayer” time and tell students they may “pray” however they want. But everyone knows it’s Christian prayer time. Many are the ballgames in small towns that still start with a prayer over the sound system.
Rarely does anyone object. I never hesitated to frequently lay into politicians in opinion pieces, pry into any instance of malfeasance in office, expose questionable criminal investigations, etc. But I never, ever wrote about the fact that unconstitutional public prayer was being held in most small communities in the county and probably the state. It wouldn’t have done any good and I probably would have lost my job. The newspaper would not publish such an inflammatory piece. They need their advertisers.
This example is just one area. But it illustrates the mindset. People feel they are free to make their own rules as they apply to their small rural communities and they point out, “this is a free country” and “the majority rules.” Their leaders agree with them, and their president says he does, too.
They don’t care if what they are doing has been deemed unconstitutional, they agreed to do it their way. See what I mean?
People feel their rights are being taken by a distant government…
I may not be doing a good job of explaining the mindset, but I hope one can get the idea. The people outside Washington and metropolitan areas feel their rights are being taken by a distant government made up of people who don’t respect nor understand them.
If we’re honest, in their position, with their backgrounds and strong connections to their locality, community, and churches, their feelings sort of make sense. Washington might as well be a foreign nation. As far as they’re concerned, what comes from the nation’s capitol has nothing to do with them. What happens in metropolitan areas does not concern them. It’s too narrow a perspective, but it is understandable. They are mostly concerned with what is taking place in their immediate surroundings.
So every time Trump dismisses an unpopular court ruling or a despised liberal-conceived law with a disgusted wave of his hand and a swear word or two, they feel someone is finally standing up for them. They’ve been convinced by Trump and the GOP that Democrats are trying to force them to conform to liberal ideas.
They think abortion is wrong. So do some Democrats, but one learns not to say it out loud among the loud progressives on the left flank. The Democrat party is becoming hostile to its own moderates and centrists. But that’s another story.
Getting back to the reasons Trump still has support, his base thinks abortion is wrong and believes their voices aren’t heard. They want abortion stopped. They believe it’s tantamount to murder. Their preachers tell them this — and in their minds what any politician or government says doesn’t come close to the authority of their preachers. Trump says he agrees
They are mostly Christian and conservative
They live in rural areas or cities in smaller states composed of mostly Christian conservatives. A city in Kentucky or Louisianna has nothing in common with a city of the same size in California or a similarly populated village near D.C. The people in Lexington, Louisville or Shreveport mostly came from rural areas where they or their parents were raised. They identify as “country folks” forced to live in cities because of necessity or convenience. The disappearance of country stores, small farms and factories also meant jobs were gone. So they had to move into cities — but did not chose to be urbanites and will never think of themselves as such.
Why they rebel and prefer Fox (not news) News
If we try to understand these people on a human level, we can see why they rebel and why they see Trump as their hero. He scoffs at the laws that infuriate them. He insists he agrees with them. He’s a rich city dweller and world traveler, but he’s learned to speak the language of his base. He feeds the idea they’re being crowded out of their country. They’re sick of courts, politicians, and even the media. In their eyes everyone is trying to tell them how to live.
Many Trump supporters say they only watch Fox News, because the rest is ,in their opinion, anti-Trump garbage. What other media report doesn’t support what they want to believe about Trump, so they avoid it. They prefer the boot-licker Fox network because it’s uncomfortable to be shown one’s hero is a phoney paper tiger. It’s embarrassing to admit being duped. It’s sad to face the truth when one’s hopes were pinned on lies.
The white males among them feel minorities and women are taking their power — and they’re right — because they have it all. The only way women and minorities can gain power is to take it from them. Many female Trump supporters, because of their Biblical training, believe men are rightly the heads of households, towns, the state, and the nation.
Are they not entitled to their beliefs even if we think they’re wrong?
So, even if we hate their ideas and their ways, are they not entitled to their beliefs — no matter how wrong or awful we think they are — and shouldn’t they have freedom of choice as to how they live?
They see democrats and society in general as wanting to destroy their way of life. Right or wrong, that’s how they feel. Democrats continually tell them much of what they believe and value is wrong.
I understand how that would feel. To rural Christians it seems as if everyone is getting their rights — LGBTQ are getting their rights, no one argues that atheists have right, even animals are protected. But the people who support Trump feel the rules were changed on them. No one seems to respect their opinions. Unlike other groups, they are not accepted or protected, but told they need to change with the times. Laws are even passed to force them to change.
Trump appeals to them because he makes them believe he agrees with them. He’s learned to talk to them as if they’re his peers. He makes them think he’s on their side, and it feels as if as if he’s the only one listening to them.
Trump ignores laws and they applaud him for it
He ignores and breaks laws just as they want to do when laws are contrary to their beliefs. He tells them he, too, is against abortion, and hides the fact that he’s probably paid for many. He says he’s on their side against “the swamp” or Washington, but he is Washington.
He’s convinced them he doesn’t care about “sissies” and those who disagree with him get called names. His base feels he blurts out what they want to say. He makes fun of what they would like to laugh away. He’s playing to their fears. In their minds he’s keeping immigrants from taking over, and if some immigrant children are hurt or die, then he tells his base its better their children than ours, as if it’s necessary for any children to suffer. They accept that.
His base is made up of people either angry, frightened, or both. They felt they were ignored, and he agrees and reinforces that belief while actually making it easier for them to be victimized.
The world seems to be moving beyond them. Political correctness demands they cant say what they want to say. Yet others call them deplorables, question their intelligence, and mock them. The intellectual crowd labels them all as “less than,” as in less intelligent or less educated which is an unfair and overly general assumption.
But Trump understands them, or they believe he does. Their populist president speaks for them. No doubt it’s a relief to hear someone in power agree with them, curse about the same things that bother them, and give them hope. They see him as standing strong for them. Nevermind that he actually represents the proverbial wolf at the door.
Until we stop calling them deplorables, ignorant, and stupid, and try to understand their mindsets at least as well as we understand why people illegally enter the country, we’re at a stalemate.
Someone must give some ground
And yes, I’ve called Trump’s stubbornly supporters such names myself out of sheer frustration. I know better, though, and it does no good and simply drives us farther apart. Someone has to give some ground, even if grudgingly, to the other side.
There is even some truth to the allegation that rural Americans who identify as Christians do not enjoy the same protections as other groups. It’s because they still represent the majority or a segment of the overall majority. That is rapidly changing. The time has come when we need to respect their beliefs and be as sensitive to their situations and persecutions as we are to minorities. In fact, they are in danger of becoming a minority. They are not wrong about everything. They are wrong about Trump, but mostly because they were so desperate for someone to speak for them. Even if he’s lying, it’s heartening for them to hear he agrees, and they rally around his outbursts.
We are not right about everything, either. To get rid of Trump — if he makes it to the election — we’re going to need a candidate who understands, respects and speaks to Trump’s base rather than discounting them.
We’re going to need a centrist. It doesn’t seem as if Sanders, Warren, or Buttigieg can be the answer. For the Democrat party to win— pushed as it is by its screeching far left — we need someone who understands the majority of Americans are closer to the center than it now appears. We can still reason together over common concerns. If the Democrats run the right candidate he or she will emphasize our common goals and minimize our differences.
Since Trump’s plan is to split us along financial, religious, and lifestyle lines, we need to avoid his trap. Going after his base strengthens him. As they become more resentful, he gains their support by mirroring their opinions. He throws out tough words condemning those who disagree. He promises he will defend his supporters and they believe him. Likewise they defend him, no matter how crazy he acts or how much he lies. He makes fun of Democrats and liberals and they are delighted. We must stop providing fuel for his fire.
We must listen with our hearts to those who disagree with us. We must, as Obama said, search for common ground. We must appeal to the human decency on both sides.
The person who will defeat Trump must be someone able to stitch us back together where we are so deeply ripped apart. For that reason I hope the Democrats nominate a moderate instead of a progressive. If we give Trump’s supporters a place at the table and consider their positions and opinions, there’s every reason to hope they will cross over party lines to vote for a democrat. If we continue to call them stupid and other derogatory names and refuse to seriously listen to their positions, they will stick with the GOP. How can we blame them?
Honestly, we can’t.