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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.
By Ken Levy

After all the lies, contradictions, hypocrisy, flip-flops, gaffes, unforced errors, self-pity, insults, provocations, threats, bullying, betrayals, disappointments, scapegoating, exploitation, nepotism, and corruption, why is Donald Trump still beloved by 35 percent of the country?

The most popular theory in the mainstream media is that Trumpists think Trump will bring jobs back. The hypothesis here is that their support for Trump derives entirely from economic anxiety over globalization, loss of manufacturing, the supposed failures of Obamacare, wage stagnation, income inequality, trade deficits, and soaring national debt. But economic angst does not really explain Trumpists’ unwavering devotion to Trump, whose cabinet appointments, executive orders and legislative proposals generally do not help or even pretend to help them.

Nor is the economic angst theory borne out by the evidence. As policy analyst Sean McElwee and Prof. Jason McDaniel recently wrote in The Nation, an analysis of “the comprehensive American National Election Studies pre- and post-election survey of over 4,000 respondents … [yielded] little evidence to suggest individual economic distress benefited Trump” in the 2016 election. And even though all the economic data indicate both that the unemployment rate is consistently below 5 percent and that immigrants help to improve the economy, Trumpists are determined to believe just the opposite.

Their resistance to the economic facts, then, must be motivated by some deeper, non-economic concern.

The left insists that this deeper concern is cultural: Trumpists love Trump because they share his racism, Islamophobia, anti-semitism, and misogyny. There is much to be said for this hypothesis. Neither Trump nor Trumpists seem to take equality very seriously, even though it is a cardinal principle of the Declaration of Independence and 14th Amendment. Even in 2017, they harbor toxic, hierarchical views of race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion and a pathological need to feel superior to other groups of people. Their worst nightmare was the country almost replacing the first black president with the first female president.

In her book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (New Press, 2016), Arlie Russell Hochschild paints a slightly more sympathetic picture of conservative Louisianans, and by extension, Trumpists generally. By Hochschild’s account, Trumpists feels as though the country “broke up” with them during the Obama era. They felt, and still feel, alienated by the left’s identity politics (“political correctness”), disparaged by the left’s opposition to traditional values (anti-gay rights, anti-abortion, anti-feminism, and religious faith), and weirdly threatened by the left’s view of government as an institution designed to solve problems that capitalism either creates or fails to solve.

All of this, plus the anger and hurt of feeling dumped, explains why Trumpists love Trump: he shares their bitterness and resentment. As long as he keeps giving all those self-righteous, contemptuous “elitists” the finger, a gesture that started with his birtherism, it doesn’t matter what else he says or does, how many lies he tells, how many mistakes he makes, or how many detrimental policies he advocates or enacts. All that matters is that he keep disrupting and subverting the arrogant, oppressive establishment—or “deconstruct[ing] the administrative state,” as Trump’s white nationalist advisor Steve Bannon put it.

Trumpists’ politics are ultimately rooted in raw emotion, not principles or thoughtful ideology. Much credit goes to such macho, anti-intellectual, grievance-stoking propagandists as Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and—until his recent termination by Fox News—Bill O’Reilly. Female commentators like Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin have also won their hearts (not minds) by routinely bashing the whiny, controlling, effeminate liberals.

It is not clear whether Democrats can win over these narrow-minded, cultish voters in 2018. They are just not amenable to rational debate about the merits of Obama-era regulations or the dangers of autocratic populism. So Frank Rich is right: Democrats should leave them alone. They should stop feigning empathy or trying to shape their policies around Trumpists’ bigoted worldview. It is a complete waste of candidates’ valuable time and resources.

Yes, Democrats should still advocate progressive policies in all 50 states. But they should also keep in mind that these efforts don’t satisfy Trumpists, don’t alleviate their self-inflicted wounds or quench their thirst for retribution, nearly as effectively as childish insults and petty name-calling. Because Trump will always beat his competitors at these primal diversions, Democrats should concentrate entirely on uniting and motivating the other 65 percent who are already in their camp. That’s more than enough to win most state and federal elections.

One thing is certain: given recent events, Republicans don’t get to yell and scream about national security—or emails, private servers, or Benghazi—ever again. Nor do they get to yell and scream about pretty much anything else. Their ignorant, narcissistic, unprincipled, and unpatriotic standard-bearer has cost them whatever moral high ground they pretended to have for at least a generation.

Ken Levy (@tardigrade18) is the Holt B. Harrison Prof. of Law at LSU Law School. He writes in the areas of philosophy, criminal law, politics, and American culture.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

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20 responses to “Why—And How—Is Trump’s Base Still Loyal To A Guy Who Is A Proven Disaster?”

  1. dbtheonly says:

    Writing off over 1/3 of the country hardly strikes me as a unifying goal. Nor will it lessen the rancor of political debate.

    If a house divided against

    • TZToronto says:

      I’m not sure he’s actually writing them off. He’s advising concentration on the 65% who are reachable and not trying to “convert” those who will not hear. Benefits will accrue to all, even the 35%, if the 65% can have their voices heard in proportion to their numbers. A high tide lifts all boats, even the leaky ones. Right now, there is no tide at all.

      • FireBaron says:

        Well put.

      • dbtheonly says:

        As I said, I’m unsure of what’s being advocated and what “being left behind” entails. How does one “write off” 35% of the country?

        Rather than a tide, I see us being hit with the most destructive hurricane in living memory.

        • TZToronto says:

          Well, if it’s not a hurricane yet, we can see that the surf is rising, and the beach is starting to erode. Thirty-five percent of the population still thinks there’s no hurricane coming; the other 65% are trying to find plywood to board up their windows, but there doesn’t seem to be any in stock at Home Depot. (The Home depot owner also doesn’t think there’s a hurricane coming, and he didn’t order any more plywood.)

  2. I of John says:

    There will always be a minority in every given population. Minorities must be heard or revolts will happen. Once they are heard, though, their voices may be incorporated and we have balance.

    • FireBaron says:

      However, this “minority” insists they are the only ones who should be listened to, and will use their Second Amendment rights to ensure it.

      • I of John says:

        Your are right gun laws and their abuse of them is a real danger.

        • kep says:

          America’s Second Amendment is there to ensure that no one person, no one group should EVER have complete powernover the American people. WE the PEOPLE are rulers , not the elected representatives that have forgotten that they work for the American people. They have decided that they are now the ruling elite. PRESIDENT TRUMP is not one of those. He has never held office. That is why the career politicians hate him. He IS working FOR the American people, not for himself, as others have for the last few decades.
          American Patriots should have exercised the 2nd when we had a Kenyan usurper fraud in our White House.

      • kep says:

        I’m happy to exercise my right to defend the Constitution against the domestic terrorists known as LIBERALS.
        Liberals should be deported or jailed as TERRORISTS.

  3. Why are they still fervently behind Trump despite his already-established abysmal personality, dodgy values, and a level of perversion that is akin to Old Testament accounts?

    The answers, I would wager, center around a self-centered outlook on life, a shallowness of thinking that sees getting a job central to resolving major problems in their personal lives, a willingness to ignore the bigger problems plaguing society and humanity, and a refusal to look in the mirror and ask the question “What can I do in my own personal life to contribute to the well-being of all humanity and not just my own specific interest group(s)?”—-all of which lie at the root of the ills afflicting America. Specific social issues are symptoms that need addressing, of course, but addressing symptoms alone kicks the can down the road to be dealt with by others, while we continue to go about our business in the same self-centered manner.

    Self-renunciation, selflessness, humility, empathy, a sense of being united with all humankind, a giving without expecting something back in return, courtesy towards all, a refusal to stand up to the abuse of power and authority by certain abusive personalities like our current President—-these are strange and foreign concepts to a wide swath of Americans. As I mention these, I’m sure many would frown on such notions as being utterly irrelevant to their need for personal gratification and resolution of their personalities. When one fails to relate to the plight of others whose conditions are far worse, the reason usually is a lack of an outward focus on life and about humanity.

    Children who grow up not understanding empathy, a sense of helping others unconditionally regardless of their ethnicity or skin color, and who lack a sense of connection to others, will grow up to be the Trump’s, the rigidly partisan, and the greedy merchants and businessmen and business women of the world. FOX has been a major promoter of the self-centered philosophy, and therefore a major contributor to social/spiritual breakdown in American society.

    This is the area we need to ponder about most, and then the economy and other ancillary issues will be enhanced as a result.

    Of course, this would mean that there will be no comprehensive McDonald’s Fast-Food type of solutions forthcoming in applying the spiritual virtues—just take a look at Donald to understand the gravity and difficulty in modifying one’s character after one’s personality has been deformed for decades.

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  4. Speaking of Trump, I noticed recently that he resorts to the same trivial and childish retort of calling the terrorists losers and barbaric without displaying qualities that stand out in sharp relief to a loser mentality insofar as how he speaks about entire swaths of people.

    Yes, the terrorists are barbaric losers—so is that going to fix the problem of terrorism, or motivate nations to want to unite together to address the problems of such?

    Does aiding Assad by doing business with Putin and other Russian associates help in the fight against terrorism? And what of the stupid empty-headed harangue against NATO members, all of whom are vital as a 1st step towards building a new pattern of cooperation necessary in formulating a united policy to combat terrorism, cyber war, and other issues?

    On what basis can a narcissist like Trump with racist tendencies, and religious bigotry motivating him, be in a position to chastise others for their evil behavior?

    Trump for decades squandered his chances to be upstanding and trustworthy—someone to look up to for inspiration and as a role-model for doing what is noble and admirable. He took the easy out in life, and for that his loyal supporters rewarded him with the Presidency. Talk about a pitiful role-model, wholly unfit to “Make America Great Again”.

    • Dominick Vila says:

      I wish he would explain why is he selling sophisticated weapons to the homeland of the losers that planned, financed, and carried out the 9/11 attack…No wonder those losers were dancing and laughing at the sight of a U.S. President dancing to the tune they played.

      • cthetruth says:

        I totally agree! Saudi Arabia continues to fund terrorism. All but one of the highjackers from 9-11 were Saudis. Now, not only did Trump not include them in his Middle East travel ban, but he sells them 120 billion in weapons which will more than likely eventually be used on us as was the case in other Middle East countries. We better follow the money trail with Trump with all these transactions. Something stinks here.

      • What irony—Trump doing a sword dance with Saudi Royalty which sponsors the twisted ideology of terrorists who piloted the planes, are responsible for the medieval notion of “Male Guardianship”, and other “conservative” notions.

        But Trump was never one to get fussy over contradictions.

  5. FireBaron says:

    It’s real simple. Teflon Donnie’s followers (Trumpettes?) do not believe anything that comes out of the Main Stream Media. Why? Because Faux News and the other Alt-Right “news” organizations tell them that they are the only ones who deliver the truth, wrapped up in the Flag and blessed by God! After all, the rest of the media outlets are run by Godless Liberals and Jews! How could they tell the truth to “Real Americans”? (I love Sarah Palin for giving us that phrase. It works so well when slapping them in the face with it.)
    So, as long as they keep their TV sets tuned to Fox News, and their home page links to the Ultra-Right smear pages, they will never be exposed to the truth about this moron. Oh, yeah, we get the clueless wonders who lurk here and try to incite us, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

  6. 1standlastword says:

    Democrats…stand aside! Allow the Trump/ Ryan budget to pass!!! No changes not a single letter. Democrats must stop pulling the republicans’ bacon from the fire. It should be clear by NOW!!! This is not an age of reason; if it were, Trump wouldn’t qualify because Americans would see he’s not qualified….I repeat–This is not an age of reason. The only way an age of reason can evolve is after an age of pain resulting from enactment of pernicious republican economic policy!

  7. Dominick Vila says:

    Trump is a lot more than just a disaster. Ignorance can be forgiven, especially when a large segment of our population does not seem to mind and, in fact, consider it a positive asset. What is embarrassing is the way he acts, the bizarre statements he makes, and his demonstrations of low class upbringing. The latter were on display in Brussels yesterday, when he scolded our NATO partners in public, and he pushed aside the Prime Minister of Montenegro because he wanted to be in front of the crowd to make sure he appeared in all pictures. He also pointed his finger at a lady, immediately after pushing the Montenegro PM, and said something to her that did not seem to be a compliment. We may not be willing to go down in the gutter he inhabits, but he is taking us down with him whether we want to or not, all in the name of greatness.

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