It took a year, but I’ve finally cracked the mystery of Donald Trump fans.
For months during the 2016 presidential campaign, I was like most us, dumbfounded that Trump lasted more than a couple of weeks in the GOP primary.
Like a majority of Americans, and most of the world, watching the Electoral College score add up on Election Night in Trump’s favor was a moment of surreal horror. I will remember it vividly until I draw my last breath. How could such a thing happen in America? How could anyone of sound mind vote for someone who’d done the loathsome things he’d done, said the spurious things he’s said and proposed the unconscionable things he promised?
While much of the country has since raised eyebrows at how low Trump’s presidential approval ratings have sank, I’m astounded that about one third of the country still continues to see Trump as anything but a target for ridicule and impeachment.
It not only defies reason, it pretty much defies gravity.
Since the day he accosted the White House, I have nearly run out of adjectives to describe his antics as a racist, a dolt, a liar, a scoundrel and a psychiatric pustule. And yet, he prevails with about one-third of America. For the last few months, I have been baffled as I have listened to his fans to tell me why they support him.
I’m not talking about the tiny minority of Americans who are profound white supremacists and continue to swear their allegiance to Trump. They continue to boast about what Trump says and does because it neatly fits into their sick world order, where minorities are either once again “legally” enslaved or cast out.
No, I’m talking about people from all across the nation, who in most every other way seem so normal. So average. How is it that people who would pretty much stop along a road to help a stranded stranger or work hard with their kid every night to make sure they passed a tough math class not only vote for Trump, but admit it? Many even brag about it.
How can people who are friendly to strangers at the store support Trump a year into his presidency and ignore or deny so much deceit and malfeasance after seeing it first hand on Trump’s own Twitter account. After hearing it on un-edited TV coverage?
And then I saw the pattern.
In almost every case that someone surprised me by admitting they voted for and support Trump, they had something in common. These are essentially honest people who in almost every case play by the rules in just about everything they do. They didn’t cheat in school. Nobody handed them anything. Not the car they drive, the houses they bought, the furniture they own, the retirement they’re waiting for — or living on. They did it all themselves.
And you know what millions of these middle-class Americans got for their hard work and honest diligence? Not much.
Oh, maybe they own a big TV. They even might get a modest vacation every few years.
And you know what they saw others get, who Trump supporters believe for one reason or another don’t slave away their entire lives at mostly meaningless jobs? They get free or reduced healthcare, college tuition, fee lunch, cell phones, housing, bus vouchers, free groceries, day care, job assistance and on and on and on.
Real or perceived, Trump fans see a world where they bust their butts just as hard if not harder than rich people, and they never get anywhere near what rich people have. They don’t care about the theory that if we raise the bottom up high enough, long enough, we’ll all raise up. For most of the middle class, they’re out of time.
And in their minds, they can’t get what even poor people have: affordable health insurance, almost free for many. College grants. They haven’t gotten raises or assistance of any kind. They get cost of living hikes, fewer job options with even worse benefits than ever, and endless empty promises that things will get better.
Things aren’t getting any better. Not for a middle class that gets shrugs from the government instead of perks or breaks. The ballyhooed Trump tax plan? It’s a total scam that will only result in other hikes in the net costs to middle-class America. The damage the GOP tax scam will do to the middle class will overshadow any meager crumbs that $1.5-trillion budget-buster promised them in “tax cuts.” You’ll see.
I don’t think these honest and discouraged Americans ever wanted Trump. They just wanted to believe someone like Trump. Angry and overlooked, they’re actually pretty much OK with giving people even poorer and more disenfranchised than themselves a leg-up — but not at their own endless expense. That’s how they see it. They’re convinced that they’re subsidizing help for America’s poor, unable to see that unchecked military expenses and waste, and sweet deals for the rich and corporations have left the middle class holding the bag for everyone, not just the poor.
Trump fans aren’t selfish. They’re just not martyrs. As it turns out, most Americans are generous to a fault. But about a third of us are generous only to a point. We’ve crossed that point for them.
Among everyone running for president last year, Trump, alone, other than Sen. Bernie Sanders, offered anything close to a way out. They see Democrats beholden to the poor. They see Republicans as irrelevant to anyone but themselves.
Sadly, you know the rest of the story. This aching third of America gets only twaddle from Trump. They were fooled into thinking that Trump made real sense or that he could actually do any of the things he promised. They stubbornly refuse to admit he’s just a mentally ill liar and a fraud because he continues to say what they want to hear. He promises to eradicate what they believe are the reasons life is so bad: Mexicans, Muslims, feminists, blacks, the Chinese, NAFTA, welfare queens, environmentalists, sloths and Democrat regulators. They don’t know what they don’t know. Those things are not the root of their troubles, and Trump is in no way the answer.
The truth will eventually come out. History hates a secret.
Now, at a year into the Trump nightmare, we can only hope. We can hope that he either resigns or is impeached, along with his squalid clan of clowns, and hope something better takes his place. We can hope that Democrats and Republicans see how seriously the middle class is hurting and are brave enough to respond wisely. We can hope these unwavering and misguided Trump supporters see what he really is before it’s too late for them, and for all of us. We can hope that if all else fails, the rest of America will elect a Congress this fall to save us from Trump and his complicit allies in Washington.
It’s pretty scary that so much these days rides on hope, and that it took a year to figure it out.
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