Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
When was America great, according to Donald Trump’s supporters? The short answer, per Trump voters surveyed by the Public Policy Polling firm, is any era when there was no chance a black guy might become president. Forty-five percent of those who voted for Trump in the last election told PPP researchers that they would rather have Jefferson Davis—the president of the Confederacy—lead the country than Barack Obama. Gives you a pretty good sense of what Trump’s base values and admires in its leaders.
Trump voters also told pollsters they believe the most oppressed group in this country today is white Christians. Queried about what “racial group they think faces the most discrimination in America, 45 percent of Trump voters say it’s white people followed by 17 percent for Native Americans with 16 percent picking African Americans, and 5 percent picking Latinos.” (For the record, that’s partly a white American outlook overall; long before Trump launched his campaign, surveys found most white people think they experience more racism than black people.) There were similarly misguided answers when Trump supporters were queried about religious discrimination. When asked which groups suffer the most bigotry, “54 percent of Trump voters says it’s Christians followed by 22 percent for Muslims and 12 percent for Jews.”
These answers jibe with what was already apparent about Trump voters. Trumpism is, at its core, a movement rooted in grievance mongering. The false victimhood of white voters apoplectic about the possibility of demographic erasure and the loss of white power fuels Trump support. For millions of white Christians who believe that diversity has rendered them the new underclass, Trump—in explicit words and terms—promises a return to an America where white supremacy was unquestioned and unthreatened. White politicians have played these games forever, and white Republicans have long been particularly good at strategy. But Trump taps into those feelings of resentment, entitlement and fear of subjugation more effectively than any politician of this modern era.
That explains why, in the immediate aftermath of the terrible events of Charlottesville and the “both sidesism” of Trump’s response, a rise in Republican support gave Trump’s approval numbers a temporary bump. Like Trump, the overwhelming majority of GOPers in numerous polls see fighting neo-Nazis as pretty much the same thing as siding with them. ABC News found that overall (the study didn’t break out answers among partisan lines), 9 percent of Americans “call it acceptable to hold neo-Nazi or white supremacist views, equivalent to about 22 million Americans,” while 10 percent of Americans say they stand with the alt-right.
As of Wednesday, Trump’s approval numbers stand around 35 percent. Those Trump supporters, whose numbers may dip and rise a percentage point or two, but remain relatively fixed, will never abandon him. He says what they want and need to hear and believe. Lies, chaos, treason, firings, scandal, legislative ineffectiveness: none of these things will sway them. He really could shoot these people in the middle of 5th Avenue—or Main Street, USA—and they’d continue to adore him through the pain, even if it kills them.
Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.