It’s been a while since my last posting. Unfortunately, life gets in the way at times. There hasn’t been much going on in the previous three weeks has there? Excuse my humor.
The truth is, no matter what I’m doing outside the blogosphere, I’m always paying attention to current events—especially in the political world. With the reality TV President of the United States at the helm, every day leaves us with more head-scratching chaos. What did he say this morning? What did he do overseas? Ivanka met with who….where? He joked with Putin, and praised what dictator?
It never ends. And of course, it’s all by design. We’ve never had such a narcissist as President, and if there’s one thing he has learned over all of the years in the public eye, it’s how to promote himself … good or bad. As long as we’re talking about him, his enormous ego is satisfied.
While away though, I experienced an epiphany. That’s right, through a series of text messages with friends and family, I learned a little bit about Trump supporters. It’s not like I didn’t realize it before, but sometimes you need confirmation. Let me explain.
Several months ago, my older brother informed a mutual friend of ours that I had partnered with another friend and started a political blog. Curious, he went to our site and read some of my articles. He figured out pretty quickly what side of the political aisle I identified with, and before I knew it, I began to get a bunch of pro-Trump texts from him.
It’s a funny thing because I’ve known Jim (not his real name) for almost 40 years. We went to high school together and have laughed and partied together more times than I can count. But one thing we never really discussed when we were together, was politics. I can’t remember any substantive political agreements or disagreements over the years. But, we kind of drifted apart over the years—he moved to Florida many years ago from Ohio(where we’re both from originally)—I moved to Southern California 15 years ago, and have been in Oregon for the last three.
But we do still keep in touch, mostly by text. And in recent months, the texts also include my brother and another friend of Jim’s who I also know from Ohio, a guy I’ll refer to as Bill (not his real name either). To put it all in context, let’s just say that my brother and I come from the left politically, and Jim and Bill come from the right.
And cutting to the chase, Jim and Bill are ardent Trump supporters; my brother and me are vehemently opposed to this President. And what has really stood out in our conversations, is the unwavering support my two friends still have towards the President. And it’s not for lack of trying to convince them otherwise. Nothing worked.
When I informed Jim that President Trump has an affinity for dictators, his reply was, “It’s a great strategy. We need to keep our enemies close.” Bill then weighed in, “Do you guys want Trump not to be talking to these world leaders? Trump is an expert at relationship building and negotiation. These are business/leadership skills.” When I informed Bill that the President had 5 bankruptcies and lost more money than nearly every businessman in the United States for 8 years in the 90s? No response.
When my brother informed our friends that the lies and corruption of this administration were unprecedented and that the world thinks we’re a laughing-stock, Bill replied, “No other countries liked Rome either. When you’re at the top, everyone is trying to knock you down. Nice countries finish last.”
And when I brought up the point that none of the previous Presidents before Trump would meet with either of the Kim dictators out of fear of them using it as propaganda and legitimacy, with nothing in return, Jim responded, “But Bill Clinton was willing to meet Loretta Lynch on the airplane right? The Clintons have no skeletons in their closet … do they?”
And on and on it went. The good news about all of our texts is that in the end, we’re still friends. I’m not going to throw a nearly 40-year friendship away because of Donald Trump. Besides, many of our texts were humorous and sarcastic. We all got some laughs out of it and tried not to take everything so seriously.
But the bad news is, my two friends are a microcosm of the typical Trump supporter. Both are pushing 60 years old, white, and Fox News is their media of choice. Trump won these voters by large margins in 2016, and I’m thinking he will win them again in 2020.
Therein lies my epiphany. There’s something about this President that elicits vitriolic and unbridled support, unseen in recent memory. I kidded both of my friends that they need an intervention, a reverse cult brainwashing if you will. But all joking aside, what stands out the most from my texts with them, as well as seeing countless interviews and tweets from other supporters, is a simple fact that it does not matter one bit what this President says or does—they’re with him through thick and thin.
And while I risk painting a group of people with a broad-brush, I have to say that there are some common traits I’ve observed from these supporters, my two friends included. I get a real sense of anger and resentment from these folks. My friends, both of whom are highly educated and financially successful, have a real disdain for those, who in their eyes, “sit around collecting welfare, while I work my ass off.” That’s right. They do not want their taxes going to help ‘those’ people.
Again, I see this playing out daily. I live in a very ‘red’ county on the Southern Oregon coast. I see the Trump/MAGA signs on cars and pick-up trucks. I hear conversations at the local grocery store, many of them from guys my age, who are white like me, yet have an ideology that’s utterly foreign to my sensibilities. They talk in a similar manner that my Ohio friends demonstrated in their texts with me. How is it that I can feel empathy for people, and they cannot? What happened to them in their lives, where the animosity and hatred they feel for specific segments of society seem to grow worse by the day?
Indeed, there’s a racial component to it. I’m not saying that every die-hard Trump supporter is a racist. But it certainly can be inferred that a sizable number of them are, can it not? In many ways, it was the election of the first African-American as President, that drove many current Trump supporters crazy. To them, Barack Obama represented a changing of the guard—from a white male dominated society—to a changing demographic that threatens, in their minds, a lifetime of privilege and hierarchy. To my two friends, Obama ruined the country; Trump is ‘fixing’ it.
Whatever the reason, Donald Trump can count on his supporters in the 2020 election—full stop. And we’re talking about roughly 40 percent of the population, a relatively large number when you think about it. That figure rarely changes. A few times Trump’s approval rating has dipped below that threshold, but mostly it’s held steady … through Charlottesville, 10k lies, nepotism, pay to play, dictator worship and many other displays of incompetence and corruption.
Finally, I’m reminded of the 2016 campaign when the current President famously boasted on the trail that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City, and his supporters wouldn’t care. A few weeks ago(seems like an eternity), a journalist wrote a piece in New York Magazine credibly alleging that Donald Trump raped her in a dressing room at a Bergdorf Goodman department store … on Fifth Avenue. The reaction of Trump supporters? Ominously silent. Why?
Trump was right. They just don’t care.