What’s WRONG With These People?

We hear that question all the time–when we see pictures of babies in cages, see viral videos of racist incidents, or interviews of Trump supporters applauding his vicious rhetoric and bigotry.

Facebook comments posted by those supporters parrot Trump’s celebration of “achievements” that aren’t–mimicking his habit of declaring “wins” that are wholly imaginary. As Dana Milbank wrote recently in The Washington Post,

A Trump-boosting Republican member of Congress has been indicted on charges of insider trading — from the White House, no less. Trump’s former campaign chairman and another former aide are squabbling in court over who is the bigger criminal. And in a closely watched special congressional race in Ohio — a seat Republicans have held for 35 years in a district Trump won by 11 points and Mitt Romney by 10 — the Republican was clinging to a 0.9-percentage -point lead Wednesday despite Trump’s intervention and vast sums of Republican dollars.

In situations such as these, there is only one thing for Trump to do: declare victory.

“Congratulations to Troy Balderson on a great win in Ohio,” Trump proclaimed, even though the number of uncounted provisional and absentee ballots meant the race could not be called.

Milbank followed up with a partial list of Trump’s bizarre claims, including a tweet saying that tariffs are being used to pay down “large amounts” of the debt”  (Obviously, Trump doesn’t understand how tariffs work), and that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat. Evidently, his base accepts these pronouncements at face value, despite the undeniable fact that the national debt has increased rather dramatically, and as widely reported, North Korea is continuing to add to its nuclear capabilities.

A fairly recent poll from Quinnapac, one of the better polling operations, found that 30% of Americans “approve strongly” of Trump. The poll also found that 31% of American voters like him as a person. (59% dislike him, and 54% disapprove of the job he’s doing–48% strongly.)

I find it astonishing that anyone could find Donald Trump personally likable. Be that as it may, the more relevant inquiry is: who are the 30% who “strongly support” him–and what is it that they support?

An article in Vox may shed some light on that question.

The article focused on a study of the “alt-right” from the University of Alabama. It is no secret that figures like Richard Spencer and David Duke are ecstatic about the Trump Presidency, but I think I’m representative of most reasonable Americans when I say that I have assumed the attitudes they represent are found in a pretty small slice of the population.

Evidently, that assumption is wrong.

According to Hawley, a political scientist who specializes in demography and the far right, roughly 5.64 percent of America’s 198 million non-Hispanic whites have beliefs consistent with the alt-right’s worldview. Whether or not they would describe themselves as alt-right, Hawley argues, they share the movement’s belief in a politics that promotes white interests above those of other racial groups.

If Hawley is right, then the alt-right’s constituency isn’t a tiny fringe. It’s about 11 million Americans….

The wrong thing to conclude from Hawley’s data is that there’s a massive number of people who are active participants in the alt-right. Last year’s Charlottesville rally only had several hundred participants; this year’s DC sequel isn’t expected to be orders of magnitude larger.

This isn’t a surprise. The alt-right is an extremely online-focused, extremely marginal movement. People who don’t closely follow the news or spend a lot of time online are unlikely to know a ton about the movement or self-identify with it, let alone spend time and money to attend its rallies.

But while the alt-right as a practical political movement is marginal, Hawley’s research shows that its ideas are more popular than it might seem. Large numbers of people think the way that they do, and shape their political identity around a sense of white grievance and identity. They may not march around the streets yelling, “Jews will not replace us!” but they are extremely receptive to a politics that positions whites as victims and a growing minority population as an existential threat.

I think that explains where a sizable part of that 30% comes from–and what it is about Trump that they support.


  1. Expecting any level of truth from Trump is like expecting a date invitation from Ted Bundy for dinner and a movie to end with a good-night kiss at your door. The eventual reality is deadly. About those great benefits from Trump’s tariffs; prices have already been raised on virtually everything on the open market in anticipation of the final blow of that economic reality.

    “Trump’s former campaign chairman and another former aide are squabbling in court over who is the bigger criminal.” This is my favorite quote from Dana Millbank’s article; a followup to those who came before and a precursor to those who will follow…led by David Pecker. In keeping with the general aura that has always surrounded Trump, lo, these past 40 years or so, one of our blog commenters posted on Facebook this morning; “A porn star, a Playboy Bunny and a man named Pecker walked into Mueller’s office…”! Bill had his Monicagate, Hillary was taunted with Weinergate; Trump began his public sexual problems with Pussygate and now Peckergate. My favorite newspaper headline this morning is “Pecker In A Vise”.

    As if his lying, endangering the economic and physical lives of all Americans isn’t enough; the lack of moral fiber in the current administration and sitting Republican Congress is adding insult to injury of the entire United States before the world. My shame deepens as my fears escalate; I am drawn almost hourly to the cable news to keep informed of Trump’s latest dangerous and indecent words and actions. His personal racism and ability to outright lie has spread to South Africa; he will be believed by his supporters here and his words will be made public in South Africa to be believed by that country’s racist government and its supporters.

    “What’s Wrong With These People?” indeed…WTF is wrong with them?

  2. One early morning last week while buying supplies at Lowes in Petal MS, I engaged in conversation with two employees about job security and the Donald. One stated no matter what happened he was bound by respect not to ever speak evil against this president. The other said that even though he felt Trump was bad news and headed for a “mighty fall”, he has been chosen by God to lead America and we all should submit to the will of the Lord.

  3. It’s the same swath of Americans the DNC used to target but now is exclusively Republican. Their hate and ignorance (white supremacy) is an easy target for Adelson, Koch’s and Mercer.

    Politicians use coded words which ignite racists, but Trump is no politician. He’s merely a con artist who’s playing the crowd’s bias. He’s exposed the GOP for who they truly are deep down inside. Most conservatives struggle with this dilemma.

    Just like Democrats struggle with a DNC committed to corporate power remaining while democracy or people power is ignored. It’s a rudderless ship with flawed leadership which is why the GOP easily plays off Democrats as being “obstructionists”.

    “At least the GOP stands for something.”

    Of course, they won’t state the obvious goals of rich white Oligarchs, but the goal they sell their loyal fan base is “shrink the liberal government which got bloated under Obama so he could give away freebies to people of color.”

    Therefore, every time Trump announces cutting the EPA or IRS or any other government department, the ignorant followers cheer for the victory against brown people.

    Sadly, all the propaganda being spewed by both political parties and corporate-owned media, obscure the real problem – capitalism. In our case, predatory capitalism which values growth and profits.

    We’ve been stuck there for decades and it’s why we can justify spending nearly $1 trillion a year on a “defense budget”. We’ve been on the offensive since WW2.

    As New Yorker’s proved this past primary, all the corporate money in the world won’t beat an informed voter. Just voting “Blue” does nothing but eliminates extreme right politicians who want to gut the government.

    Workers have suffered for far too long. Every time I open up Facebook, a new friend posts about financial troubles due to poor health insurance plans or college graduates with thousands in debt who can only find jobs at retailers or chain restaurants paying substandard wages.

    Meanwhile, the media helps capitalism and all the players, including both political parties, by obfuscating the truth. Quick, let’s talk about the threat of brown people marching in the street…

  4. An example of Trumper thinking: a neighbor on Facebook posted that Robert E Lee opposed slavery and Muslims practice slavery today, so why are we tearing down Confederate statues and are not fighting Muslim slavery. Trump won their allegiance because of opposition to abortion and gay marriage. That’s what is wrong with these people.

  5. The problem here is that we don’t watch and digest Fox News all day, every day. That alternative reality show is our downfall of our republic. That station should be tagged as an enemy of the state! Seriously, we don’t listen to Rush or Hannity blow hard for 3 hours a day and we don’t listen to Faux News.

    I am still SHOCKED, shocked I tell you, that the GOP in Congress has been silent. Even the Pope spoke out this week (FINALLY) and yet, crickets from the right side of the aisle. It’s a Shame and a Pox on their houses for ever for what they have done.

    What is wrong with those people, indeed.

  6. This is the result of underfunding and undercutting public education for decades – and I think the Republicans did it on purpose, to create a gullible electorate, but that’s just me.

  7. AgingLGrl,

    “What is wrong with those people, indeed.”

    A better question would be—What’s wrong with America?

    So we have 54% of the people full of HATE and almost 46% of the people full of FEAR. The $64,000 question is—–How did all of this come about? Was there an unseen VIRAL MEME doing it all? Was there something akin to A TWO-HEADED TROJAN HORSE taking us all “down the drain?”

    Maybe POLITICAL EPIDEMIOLOGY is our answer. See my website at http://www.strategicpower.org.

  8. When I heard the chant, “The Jews will not replace us!” I started wondering how many Jews out there wanted to “replace” them. I would bet, not many.


  9. Thank you Sheila for this insightful discussion. Understanding the alternate right might as well be, for me, likened to a search for the Holy Grail or throwing spears at the windmill. Miguel de Cervantes wrote a timeless fable that holds trust with truth. The alternate right does not hold trust in the truth. It just has to be right. I learned a hard truth in the turmoil of the 60’s … it is not always right to be right. Different time. Different turmoil. We have an emperor consumed with apoplectic opulence and his following rally to flower him with bowls of chestnuts to sustain his stupor. If it is possible to clean it up, this is ripe (no pun intended) for a future comedy hit on Broadway that will rival Hamilton to the delight and entertainment of our grown grand children.

  10. Again we get into a discussion of why people like trump or don’t like trump. Most of the people who voted for him did not vote for him per se. But so many people voted against the other candidate Hillary Clinton. Now that the economy is rolling at four possibly 5% and Bill Clinton making statements like it’s the economy stupid. One can only really wonder if they consider anything about Trump and or his personal life bigotry a race issues a problem. His story is to this day have no clue towards why so many people loved and adored Hitler. He change the economic status of that country and then follow through with heels idealisms . I’m hoping that with a group of senators, congressman, and it legal system, that this country would never have to face a man like Hitler. President Trump’s ideal of America of course is different than so many others. Unlike Bill Clinton who met up with John F Kennedy and made it a lifetime goal to be president, Donald Trump and not ever thinking he would become president made so many personal mistakes and has huge closet full of skeletons. I’m sure so many other people would have wanted an election between cruise and Sanders, but the Democratic Party back a candidate that was given a clear pass by the department of justice and the FBI. She destroyed 30 Thousand emails with a server that was easily hacked and gave A the mice to elections. The best way to win an election is to have your own Office in order. You must run the best candidate also,
    I would rather have a candidate for president like Danny Heck of the 10th Congressional District of Washington state who is not well knownWho understands the issues and run on them and won the presidency instead of someone who is overwhelming popular yet so well hated by so many others

  11. I can’t recall the name of the book from a few years ago about ordinary Germans who enabled Hitler’s rise, but the quote from one of that’s stayed with me is something like, “but, we didn’t think we were Nazis.”

  12. IMO at the core of what is wrong with the 5.2 percent of the population and the rest who continue to support Trump is an economic system based on competition fueled by greed. Under such a system, of course there are losers and those who don’t feel that they won enough! Of course they blame any and all others for their position in life. Of course they seek ways to feel that “at least I’m not one of THEM!” Of course they follow a demagogue. Why wouldn’t they?

    And of course we are witnessing this rise of fascism during a period of massively divide wealth and dwindling resources, not to mention devastating climate change that is denied by those in power.

  13. Patrick,

    “I can’t recall the name of the book from a few years ago about ordinary Germans who enabled Hitler’s rise…..”

    The book you’re referring to is probably “They Thought They Were Free” by Milton Mayer. I’ve posted Chapters from the book on two or three prior occasions.

  14. “Under the Magnifying Glass – Gain an in-depth, behind-the-scenes analysis of our present political situation with the help of The Political Epidemiology Institute in Jacksonville, Florida.

    We are offering a new approach to the discipline of political science that provides a method to observe the political environment at the invisible, subsurface, systemic level. Developed over a 10-year period through the collaboration between the Political Epidemiology Project, an interdisciplinary team using epidemiology as a paradigm; and the Save the Republic Project, which was created to transform the mindset of America’s democratic institutions.

    Powerful Combination – The Political Epidemiology Institute is the combination of the praxis and theory of two people: Marv Kramer, a major strategist/tactician for both the breaking of college football’s color barrier in the Deep South at the 1961 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville and the successful landmark voting rights struggle during the 80’s in Dallas; and Professor Harvey Wheeler, visionary political scientist who was the Program Director at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, former Editor of the Journal for Social and Biological Structures, and co-author with Eugene Burdick of Fail Safe which was later made into a movie starring Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau.”

    The above is copied and pasted from the web site Marv provided in his last comments. It contains no specific answers, recommendations, current information sources. I could not find The Political Epidemiology Institute anywhere on Google; I did find the Merriam-Webster definition of the term “epidemiology” to be “a branch of medical science that deals with the incidence, distribution and control of disease in a population”.

    I return to the blog title “What’s WRONG With These People?” still needing answers. The current Republican president, his administration and Congress are a morally diseased bunch but are they an actual disease?

    “Again we get into a discussion of why people like trump or don’t like trump. Most of the people who voted for him did not vote for him per se. But so many people voted against the other candidate Hillary Clinton.”

    John; your words remind us of the fact that the 2016 presidential election was comprised primarily of voting AGAINST the opposition candidate rather than FOR either one. Both parties put forth candidates with few, if any in the case of Trump, positive reasons to vote for either of them. Hillary Clinton was by far the most qualified person on either list of possible candidates but the wrong woman to put to us for the first possible woman president. Trump was just wrong on all levels and has declined drastically since January 1, 2017.

    If this is a disease with a medical basis; the only prescription I know of to begin our healing process is VOTE BLUE!

  15. JoAnn,

    Didn’t Harvey Wheeler die in 2004? How could he still be running an institute? What?

  16. JoAnn,

    What are you trying to say? My site was posted eight years ago. Did you expect me to post the results of my intelligence on the web? The answers to the massive problems we’re facing are not going to be found on the web.

    You need to understand your limitations. Trying to UNDERCUT me, time and time again, won’t change it for you.

  17. What’s WRONG With These People?

    My instincts tell me – Who the hell cares?? You can get into an Analysis Paralysis of trying to figure out why some people cling to President Agent Orange no matter what motivates them. In any case even if you figure out, or think you have figured the Trumpter’s out, do really think you can turn them???

    I came across an astonishing poll. The 2018 Election:
    The generation gap in reported voting intent is massive. Only 28% of young adults say they are absolutely certain they will vote in the 2018 election compared to 74% of seniors.

    So how do you motivate the young adults??? Sorry, but the Vote Blue Crap is not a motivator. Why should they vote at all let alone Vote Blue, Fear and Loathing of President Agent Orange???
    ‘Incredible’: New Poll That Shows 70% of Americans Support Medicare for All Includes 84% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans.

    As its progressive wing and a groundswell of new and energetic candidates continues to move the Democratic Party to the left, a new Reuters poll out Thursday shows that support for a key plank of this insurgency—Medicare for All—has hit an all-time high with 70 percent of all Americans now in favor of a such program, including nearly 85 percent of Democrats and a full 52 percent of Republicans.

    “Democrats have been fixated for 20 years on this elusive, independent, mythical middle of the road voter that did not exist,” Crystal Rhoades, head of the Democratic Party in Nebraska’s Douglas County, told Reuters. “We’re going to try bold ideas.” https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/08/23/incredible-new-poll-shows-70-americans-support-medicare-all-includes-84-democrats
    So here you go 70% of ALL Americans support Medicare For All. The Democrats as party if they lead with Medicare for All would have a receptive audience.

  18. Theresa,


    Didn’t Harvey Wheeler die in 2004? How could he still be running an institute? What?”

    Theresa, didn’t you bother to read the site. Professor Wheeler was my mentor and one of the partners in the Political Epidemiology Project the forerunner to the Institute. The THEORIES which I encompass come from him. We were working on a video series when he died in 2004. I funded the project from two inheritances totaling $500,000.00.

    I’ve had the benefit of a partnership with one of the great political scientist of his time who was responsible for bringing to Santa Barbara the great minds from all over the world.

    Professor Wheeler was the Program Director for the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara. It was the premier Democratic “think tank” for its time.

    If there ever was a case of COGNITIVE DISSONANCE, its my failed experiences on this site. The one thing you don’t want to hear is the TRUTH.

    P.S. I guess you must be waiting to find out the truth about the Koch brothers on the internet? Good luck!

  19. on tuesday, i wrote sen j hoeven (r-nodak) after cohens and manaforts circus, rep cramer( r- nodak) is trying to unseat sen, heitkamp( d- nodak).. most of thier money comes from corp,energy,cell,elect,pacs. open secrets tells me i outspent my entire town supporting Bernie,over thier trump money,from a whole list.. the letter didnt take long to write,as im assuming cramer will win,(since hietkamp lost many native american voters over her support of the dapl pipeline and her snide remarks about the protesters. ) my view was,how hoeven has won his position as sen,via the land locked news and minds of nodaks voting public,and how trump,as i have wrote prior,,was a mere conman,and liar. i congratulated him,and cramer on such a win based on ignorance,and a big con game…

  20. In fact the most enlightening aspect of Trump’s presidency is the revelation that the number of people who admire him and think like him is so vast. Almost as shocking and awesome is that such a bizarre predilection toward a neurotic criminal could cut across so many lines of intellect and education and background. His admirers are not only hillbillies, but Ivy League and Stanford graduates, farmers, laborers, huge chunks of the business community and nearly all Republican Senators and a plurality of those who see themselves as self-made. They appreciate what he brings to the office despite his anti-democratic, anti-civil, anti-law-and-order, anti-intellectual, anti-child, anti-human-decency, pro-racist and pro-dictatorial actions and speech.

    Countless Americans, it seems, can’t distinguish between tearing their country down and building it up. Armed with this new understanding, we can begin the practical work of taking on a problem that far exceeds the magnitude we assumed for so long. Although our country is so unwilling to invest in education, that is the only path out of the bigotry and hatred that consumes most Trump supporters. We must find an effective way to oppose the Republican strategy of dumbing down America and to raise education to the elevated status it holds in much of the world. The liberal arts, and even secondary school civics are under siege. Opposing that trend must be the opening battle in the fight against ignorance and base instincts. There is no other path out of what John Bunyan would have seen as our polluted “Slough of Despond.”

  21. I wrote a blog recently entitled What is Left? and my thesis then and now was and is that the Democratic Party is not moving left; it is merely bringing us kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The use of the terms left and right are artifices designed to keep us from taking a hard look at the subsets within. Thus Elizabeth Warren is no leftist; she is merely trying to align policy with the reality of the wants and needs of all the people rather than handing over taxpayer bounty to the already rich. Evidence? Well, when 41 percent of bankruptcies are medically related when in France there are none might give us a clue; or when millions of Americans are one paycheck away from a Chapter 7 experience due to wage inequality might give us another. Let’s ignore these right wing framers with their right-left definitions and do something for America and Americans like, for instance, a new New Deal, and let’s do it today.

  22. Gerald well said. In my experience the opposite of liberal is both extremist and authoritarian and both of those terms mean approximately the same thing and are at odds with the reality the world is headed towards.

    Unfortunately that end of the political spectrum makes for lucrative entertainment.

  23. To be fair, you can get 5% of people to believe just about anything. So, I guess 5% alt right is pretty par for the course. Equal to lizard people believers.

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