I’m clearly not the only person trying to make sense of Trump’s voters. Who are they? Why do they continue to support him? Why do they seem so susceptible to conspiracy theories and alternate realities?
The political science research has found a strong correlation between racist grievance and support for Trump, but as I have previously written, I am unwilling to conclude that the 70 million Americans who voted for him are all motivated by racism. (Granted, as my youngest son points out, they obviously didn’t consider Trump’s racism disqualifying…)
And where did the extra ten million votes–those over and above his support in 2016– come from?
The founder of the liberal Daily Kos site has an intriguing theory. He began by noting that both times Trump has run, he’s turned out voters that haven’t shown up for any other election–and probably for that reason, didn’t show up in the polls.
Remember, polling was perfectly fine in 2018, and Democrats swept races in 2017, 2018, and 2019. They even won governorships in blood-red Kentucky and Louisiana!
Yet both 2016 and 2020 saw the emergence of a massive wave of white voters that polling totally missed. In fact, despite suffering some defections among suburban Republicans, Trump still managed to get 10 million more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016! So I came up with a theory: the Hidden Deplorables.
According to this theory, the “hidden deplorables” are neither Republican nor conservative.
They’re apolitical, otherwise ignoring politics, because their lives legitimately suck. They live in meth country, with dim job prospects (in fact, those two factors are highly correlated). Institutions have failed them—corporations abandoned them for cheaper labor overseas, government feels distant, and it’s certainly not improving their lives. Cities feel like walled gardens—unattainable, unaffordable, yet that’s where all the jobs are, the culture, the action. These deplorables have been left behind. So their attitude? “Fuck them all.”
In other words, these are people who have lost everything and simply want to burn everything to the ground.
Kos concedes that he has no hard evidence for his theory–that it is simply his best explanation of the fact that these Trump voters only show up when Trump is on the ballot, and why pollsters are unable to capture them. He notes research on the 2016 election conducted by David Shor, a Democratic pollster. Shor’s research echoed the findings of surveys by Daily Kos leading up to the 2020 election. Trump support was highest among white voters who had low levels of social trust — a group that researchers have found is also less likely to participate in telephone surveys.
A Daily Kos pre-election survey to measure the strength of Americans’ social networks found that nearly one in five Americans (17 percent) reported having no one they were close with, marking a 9 percentage point increase from 2013.
Think about that.
What’s more, we found that these socially disconnected voters were far more likely to view Trump positively and support his reelection than those with more robust personal networks. Biden was heavily favored by registered voters with larger social networks (53 percent to 37 percent), but it was Trump who had the edge among voters without any close social contacts (45 percent to 39 percent).
And this was especially true among white voters even after accounting for differences in income, education level, and racial attitudes. Sixty percent of white voters without anyone in their immediate social network favored Trump, compared to less than half (46 percent) of white voters with more robust social ties.
If this analysis is correct–and it certainly rings true–it would explain so much: why urban whites are so heavily Democratic (they are surrounded by community). Why suburban whites–especially women– are turning blue as well. (It could also explain why suburban men, who are less likely to engage in social activities, remain more Republican.) Why seniors–the age group most likely to be isolated–remain more heavily Republican. It even explains part of the education gap—college is a community building experience.
Kos is interested in the political consequences of this phenomenon. He posits that It is “Trump the destroyer of norms, traditions, and liberals” that motivates their votes– that they’re attracted to his specific brand of destructive chaos. If he’s right, they don’t and won’t vote unless he’s on the ticket.
If this theory is right, however, it affects far more than political strategy.
Those of us who worry about the future of the nation need to figure out how to bring these people back into the American community. Many of them, as Kos suggests, are irredeemably damaged–the incels, the QAnon followers, militia members and the like are probably lost causes. But if he’s right, there are a lot of hurting, lonely, angry people “out there.”
Ignoring them, their isolation and their pain shouldn’t be an option.
38 thoughts on “An Intriguing Theory”
If we desire to bridge the divide in our national society, we can begin by coming up with a more constructive label, if we need one, other than “the deplorable”. Hillary declared that on the campaign trail in 2016, and that declaration did not bode well among voters in swing states that cost her The Electoral College. However, your theory, Sheila, is right on. The most scholarly insight I resonate with has been published by Berkeley sociologist: Arlie Russell Hochschild, entitled Strangers in Their Own Land. She did something remarkable sans access to secondary data polls have not penetrated. She actually embedded herself in far right leaning enclaves of Louisiana and similar communities around the nation. Understanding generative history how their views were galvanized is essential for those who shape and develop public policy much less local strategy to mitigate feelings of social and economic disconnect.
My theory is all forms of populism ring true to more Americans than do not.
If I remember correctly, the “media” said the hidden story behind the 2106 election was populism or those outside running outside the mainstream political parties. Trump easily defeated 25 GOP candidates. Sanders was defeating Clinton until she with the help of the DNC cheat but got caught when a young man leaked emails to Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, who then published the #DNCLeaks.
That young man was murdered and his family just settled with Rupert Murdoch for a “seven-figure
settlement” quietly while the country is asleep watching Trump noise.
Anywhoo, for his “October surprise,” Julian Assange has been chased around the world by real “evil-doers” and is now enduring a bogus trial for extradition back to the USA.
I believe HRC is on record as saying she wanted to “drone Julian Assange.”
I bet she does.
Now, real serious people such as yourselves should be curious asking why. It’s what drives truth-seekers to go above and beyond propaganda, or published rationalizations and justifications for poor behavior aka lies.
God gave us brains to use so use them.
An acquaintance of facebook from one of my Navy squadrons ( staunch trump supporter) posted that he and people like him don’t like trump but they hate those of us who who are “liberal” more. They’d rather burn it all down that help build a nation they don’t understand, and in my opinion won’t make the effort to understand.
Kos is a Democrat pollster? I found most people who voted for Biden were no more connected from those who voted for Trump in my area of influence. Many union workers were split, it’s only the 10% of voters that fall outside the margin that Kos is truly examining. How do you reach them if all they want is a good job snd yo have freedom from big government.
Many who are socially connected are being shamed, put down, and forced out because they don’t agree. This is where Kos needs to start. If you don’t listen to those you call deplorable and tell them only what you believe is real, they are less likely to listen. Trump also attracted a lot of Democrat whites who don’t want their traditions encroached upon, which if you only pick up the paper a few times a year it seems to be to be the mindset of the media to not be journalistic but only opinionated on what is correct.
“The Don’t tred on me” flag is hated and no one understands what it means. Maybe those who not only understand what it means but apply it in their politics are deplorables. LOL
“Sixty percent of white voters without anyone in their immediate social network favored Trump, compared to less than half (46 percent) of white voters with more robust social ties.”
In the past, I have referred to the fact that neighbors are no long neighborly and neighborhoods consist of unknown people behind closed doors. Of the eleven Trump yard signs in my neighborhood in 2016; only one appeared briefly this year and then was gone. All 11 Trump supporters were white, 4 of the 6 on my street are known Catholics who attend different churches or no longer attend any. NONE had posted political signs before 2016. I have no idea what this tells us about his supporters other than the fact that they agreed with his racist, sexist, pseudo-Christian, 2nd Amendment support and agreed with the use of violence to win. And they were and are willing to lose family members and friends who disagree with their “political” choice.
We on this blog, whether we agree or not, are intelligent, thinking people who stay involved in civic affairs on one level or another and try to stay informed about our leaders. I don’t believe we will every understand the appeal of Trump to millions because I don’t think they know why they support him other than it gets national attention and they are allowed to walk the streets armed, shouting threats and profanities and call that freedom. Maybe the answer, or part of the answer, is that this country is now made up of a large percentage of foul-mouthed, lower class, immoral individuals who seek their own kind to lead them…but they know not where they are going.
“Ignoring them, their isolation and their pain shouldn’t be an option.”
And now they are willing to chance infection of a killing disease to continue their support…and their donations to support his fraudulent claims of victory in this presidential election. We are not ignoring them; they refuse to end their closed minded stand and remain united while there are elements in the Democratic community who are complaining about Joe Biden’s administration choices before they have even been appointed. We need to look deeply into the isolation within our own party before trying to understand the opposition; we need to resolve our own problems before trying to resolve others.
I believe that you are largely missing the point! Listen to the words of Senator Loeffler and other Republican voices. The aren’t drawing “pro-Trump” people (the marginal votes to try to win). They are drawing: “anti – (take your pick) – “socialism”, “abortion”, “Blacks” (polite term for their views here), “foreigners”, “Queers”, etc. – NOT “Pro-Trump” – the core Trump voters are different – they Love Trump – his people – love his boorishness, being a “real Man (sic/sick)”. The 2020- election was an election of Fears – of “the other” – I didn’t vote for Biden – because I felt good about him – I voted Against Trump. We don’t care about “facts” or “reality”. In reality – many of us – upper-middle class, white, het people – do reasonably well with Trump – “leading us”. He gives us a scapegoat – and doesn’t hurt us – killing us, taxing us badly etc. The key issue -is whether we have a Heart – rather than a life – of Fear.
Those “low levels of trust” have been building in rural areas of the country for decades. The demographic changes brought about by the consolidation of small farms into massive industrial farms drove thousands to flee to urban areas leaving behind sparsely populated communities that could not longer sustain themselves. At the same time, Walmart moved in and drove the small businesses out and more people left. Those who left were usually the educated professionals, the people who sat on the local boards of the hospital, the school and the library… the people who made the community work.
In more recent decades many of those same rural areas have seen an influx of people escaping from cities they no longer felt a part of in order to own their own three to five acre piece of “country living” where they imagined life would be like it was decades ago. Only it wasn’t. The sense of community they sought was gone. There was no nice farmer neighbor, just an industrial farm owned by some far off corporation and a lot of city escapees just like themselves.
Jobs? Sure. There was Walmart on the outskirts of town or heavy underpaid work (all non union of course) at one of the numerous giant warehouses or factories that now lined the interstate that cut through the county… if you were lucky enough to live in a county that had such a set up. And your dreams were slowly smothered. There was no community, not really, and building one would take resources (time, knowledge, and experience) unavailable to those who’s only goal was escape.
And along comes Trump. He molded their anger, their resentment, and their jealousies into a political force with the promise to make America Great Again…. just like their dreams of what life would give them if their view of America was fulfilled… and damn anyone who gets in the way this time.
In reading Obama’s book, “Promised Land”, there is a chapter that discusses the socio-economic environment leading up to the financial debacle of 2007. This paragraph in today’s blog tracks almost perfectly with the analysis Obama wrote about:
“They’re apolitical, otherwise ignoring politics, because their lives legitimately suck. They live in meth country, with dim job prospects (in fact, those two factors are highly correlated). Institutions have failed them—corporations abandoned them for cheaper labor overseas, government feels distant, and it’s certainly not improving their lives. Cities feel like walled gardens—unattainable, unaffordable, yet that’s where all the jobs are, the culture, the action. These deplorables have been left behind. So their attitude? “Fuck them all.”
What Obama added, however, was the history behind this feeling of mass abandonment. As so many of us here have carped about, this sense of grievance and abandonment began with the “southern strategy” of Nixon’s and the economic horrors introduced by Milton Friedman and his tools, Reagan and Regan.
This scenario must be what Marx envisioned when he made his chilling prophecies about capitalism.
I have read your posts for years, but don’t recall having replied previously. My wife and I currently reside in Mansfield, OH. This is our 17th home in our 50 plus years of marriage, leading to my now deceased mother, who was born in 1899, to at one point apologized to my spouse Kathy, for the fact that I was not very stable.
There may be some truth in that, but I have few regrets, and relish the insights exgained through said transitions.
Especially meaningful was the opportunity gained during my undergraduate years to participate in an archeological dig at Tel Dothan in Jordan, followed by independent travel that included passage through 27 countries prior to my return to the U.S. for my junior year at Wheaton College in Illinois.
A number of my classmates commented on the extent to which they felt I had changed.
About all I could think at the time to say in response was, that it would take a while to sort through my experiences.
In some respects the process of such sorting continues, even in my late seventies, and many years after receiving my B.A. degree, two Masters degrees, and 50 plus years of marriage, a variety of professional positions in higher education, private practice counseling, and subsequently ministry.
dont ignore that idea, im here talking with those very people. they dont have to be blaintant drug users,its the class. trailer trash, local near poverty bunch,or,working for the next subsistence check they call pay. my own words here may have had ya up in arms, and the yadda yadda do.. i walk in my socio economic shadows. yes,the forgotten ones,the ones who never had a chance at a decent pay,or union,or union ripped off by the wall street mob for cheaper labor, just toss aside the American for capital in my pocket. many get the social media hype,and fall from a knowlege base,to eating shit sandwiches for breakfast,and drinking sewer water for lunch. they are the people im dealing with.suprise,they exist as said,forgotten. i grew up around heroin and speed, moved to the west coast and it was coke and pot,but,then we had decent paying jobs and everything we bought to live on,was accordingly priced. (ever wonder why the cost of goods are so high today?ask your portfolio manager) back in the 70s i actully found it easier to work in a diverse welding shop than today.(in nodak its all white,and im sicken by the talk of conspiracy and race here) someone wants to blame someone,we just blame anyone. few actully ask who and why. instead they are led by the nose,by social media and the current state of affairs in living standards to blame anyone but their ignorance in finding the real blame. white wing superiority isnt new,its been coddled to be what someone devised or wants to control people. (this is only one dividing factor)just keep em next to poverty,and hand a few in their family tree a real good paycheck, and the stew begins to boil,as the others think of,or are swayed by social media and conspiracy talk why they get the shit end of this economy. many are tooled to get a higher ed, the con to be in debt to,work for someone.( if the education benifits the employer first,why dont they subsidise the education from their profits?) many a job sent overseas,are due the investor,and the person who buys a product line,or, seeks cheap labor to design and produce his product,while expecting the American economy to boost his bottom line,over the Americans who buy that overpriced product. who cares? its been that way since reagan and that factions long time goal to line the pockets of their own cast,over the good of a American economy good for all. the laws and bills and substantial giveaways to the upper cast,has made them invinceable to any low life scum that thinks and perveys this view. we have allowed this,we only bear witness,or,as i see it,its to damn deep and too damn confusing to talk with those whos education and standards have gone off the deep end to vote their own needs down a sewer,and allow the democracy of our nation to come close to collapsing. your asking alot from simple minds now,many will never understand my stand,because they didnt live it. my gen has become one of the instigators of this craft of graft. hense,my knowlege is simple,the subject too deep,and my rambling is merely a squeak when combind with minds only seeking more strife over solutions. this is why i risk a asskicking in person when im in a hostile eviroment,but like a fighter,im not here for my own needs,im here for the working class, the ones who built America,only to see it disappear. im from union family,raised by real news and what a working person has to do to keep our feet on the ground.problem, its the controling media and political,parties and other orgs like the u.s.chamber of commerce,who approve of the person running for office,and supporting the wall street cast over the majority.thats what needs to change. im 65,like many here,we will never see anything but more of the subject today,turn our nation into a working economic slavery system.. voting for graft.
If we take J.D. Vance at his word, those people who have been left behind don’t want to catch up. They want the world to come back to them and stay there. We all know that’s not going to happen, even though that’s what 45 promised. Let’s just stop trying to analyze the 45 voter and begin building a more inclusive economy, one that works for everyone, not just the top one percent. We can offer them training for new jobs. I doubt they’ll take it, but perhaps their children will.
Kos is defining polarization and the incompetency of pollsters who reflect the middle class not the lowest common denominator.
It is not news yet your comment is spot on!
‘Those of us who worry about the future of the nation need to figure out how to bring these people back into the American community. Many of them, as Kos suggests, are irredeemably damaged–the incels, the QAnon followers, militia members and the like are probably lost causes. But if he’s right, there are a lot of hurting, lonely, angry people “out there.”
Ignoring them, their isolation and their pain shouldn’t be an option.’
Who does this sound like?
Trump just took a page out of his idols playbook, he just can’t figure out why it didn’t work this time? And, rather than accept his failure, he won’t put a bullet in his head like his idol, he’ll just try to burn it all down himself!
The Cult of Personality – Adolf Hitler’s Transformational Leadership
Adolph Hitler, dictator of Germany, portrayed himself as a humble worked-my-way-up, one-of-you, idealist who drove a beater, ‘knew’ hunger, and ate simple food. Yet, while he was lying to and bilking and fleecing adoring Germans, he was worth 5 million dollars in his first year as Chancellor (1933), all the while courting the favors of young girls, evading taxes, inciting hatred, and fomenting war.
Adolf Hitler ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot, then was put in a ditch, due in part for the lack of individualized consideration for his subordinates. His lack of trust for those around him ensured that the Reich would fail at a time when it needed to be strong. The individualized consideration factor requires that the leader listen and foster an environment that allows those under them to develop (Northouse, 2013). Hitler, on the other hand, told his generals that he would “annihilate anyone who stood in his way,” and “suppress any opposition with brutal force” (Shirer, 1990). This threat would lead to a lack of leadership at lower echelons, preventing any autonomy with which to counter-attack allied forces without EXPLICIT instruction from Hitler. This proved to be a fatal mistake. https://sites.psu.edu/…/the-cult-of-personality
thanks for recognizing the zones, and why. rural living in a long time setting of one cast,keeps anyone else,an outsider. the local farmer/rancher sees 15 bucks an hour as piracy,as he lives decades ago today. that corp farm,isnt quite here yet,but, the family farms that are big 5000+ acres,want to incorprate, which will lead to investors and the end of that. average age of that farmer,67. gee,isnt trump a land grabber,mnuchin sees a new frontier..
all said, new salem n.d, and cemter,n.d. have new dollar general,(china dollaha) instead of a privatly owned store. and thats what we expect..
It’s intriguing but it’s also reductionist and fails to explain why over 34% of voters in Marion County, indisputably Indiana’s most urban, voted for Trump/Pence in November. Or 55% in Allen County (Fort Wayne), or 42% in Lake County (Gary/Hammond). While it MAY be true that more rural counties have a greater percentage of people who are (pick one or more from the list below) there are also a good number of those in our urban metro areas, especially in red states such as Indiana:
1) low education-attainment achievers
2) low-info voters
3) lack real social networks
4) are racist or are tolerant of racist views and behavior
5) distrust authority, science, expertise and ESPECIALLY mainstream media (except Fox News).
6) struggle to stay in the middle class
7) are white
8) feel entitled
10) believe in the myth of American Exceptionalism
11) have or make good money and want to keep all of it
12) own or work in a business that must comply with laws and regulations
13) believe all abortion is murder
14) believe any gun-control is totalitarian
15) believe that the US economy is based on pure capitalism.
I’m sure you can think of more “merit badges” you might find on the sash of any Trump voter but there is just one, and likely ONLY one, explanation that binds them all together into one cohesive political force. A growing number of Americans in our electorate have simply given up on the idea of a democratic republic as an effective form of government and wish to replace it with another, namely fascism. And they do this without even the slightest notion that this is what they are doing because, well, that’s how fascism works. It depends almost entirely on widespread adoption and belief in an alt-reality that is adjudicated by a single authoritarian source. Trumpism IS NOT just populism. Trumpism IS NOT just the breakdown of the Republican Party. Trumpism IS fascism. Just SAY it! And Trump himself is a demagogue – a vehicle through which reality is adjudicated and dispensed, fascism takes hold, grows and becomes the dominant cultural, political and legal institution that replaces all others. He may be hard to replace in that role but he CAN be replaced and I suspect whoever replaces him will not be a bumbling idiot like Trump.
But it ALSO depends on the existing class of political, cultural, and economic leaders in our to DENY this – that it is simply IMPOSSIBLE that a growing share of our electorate prefers a fascist state to the status quo when that, in fact, is exactly what’s going on.
Whether you have an account on Twitter or not, I believe you can follow the long thread of tweets by Jared Yates Sexton summarizing his thinking on Trumpism as fascism. He also covers this in more detail in his book “American Rule”.
45 more days and we will, hopefully, have delivered fascism a major setback, but not a knockout punch.
JYSexton (@Jared Yates Sexton) Tweeted:
This is for Todd!
Psychiatry, The preeminent psychologists and psychiatrists of the time promoted and drove this very action!
But, there’s an interesting ditty to this historically disgusting action, I’ll post that 1st!
The Indiana eugenics law: this text is reprinted from the laws of the State of Indiana for 1907 (Indianapolis State Assembly 1907: pp. 377–378).
“AN ACT an act entitled an act to prevent procreation of confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles and rapists providing that superintendents and boards of managers of institutions where such persons were confirmed shall have the authority and are empowered to appoint a committee of experts consisting of 2 physicians to examine into the mental condition of such inmates”
H. 364. Approved March 9, 1907.
Look that up! And compare it to below! This conduct started here before anywhere else.
The procedures devised in eugenics programmes, such as psychiatric assessment of competence and disability, were crucial predecessors of the euthanasia programmes for the murder of mentally ill people in Germany. The T-4 ‘euthanasia’ programme Aktion T-4, named after the Berlin address of its coordinating office (Tiergartenstrasse 4), was established in 1939 to ensure the ‘genetic purity of the German population’ by killing or sterilising German and Austrian citizens who were disabled or mentally ill (Cocks 1997). Eminent German psychiatrists were actively involved in the T-4 euthanasia programme at all stages, including selection and execution. Again, propaganda was used to promote the programme.
Between 1939 and 1941, 80 000 to 100 000 mentally ill people in institutions were killed, including 5000 children (Lifton 2000). Figures for murders committed under the T-4 programme outside institutions vary, from estimates of 20 000 (according to Dr Georg Renno, the deputy director of one of the euthanasia centres) to 400 000 (according to Frank Zeireis, the commandant of Mauthausen concentration camp) (Cocks 1997). Hitler ordered the cancellation of the T-4 programme in August 1941, following protests from the Catholic and Protestant Churches. Although public opposition ended these quasi-legal killings, they continued in secret in asylums and hospitals until the end of the war. Psychiatrists and doctors often poisoned or starved mentally ill hospital patients to death (Breggin 1993). (Although the 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring did not require these patients to be killed, it did permit doctors to kill them.) (Cambridge.org/core/journals/advances in psychiatric treatment/psychiatry)
There is something rotten with the human condition! How, and why, does this sort of history repeat itself! We are right back to what we claim we despise. The white race somehow feels to be the apex racial group on this planet! Even if they are dumber than doorknobs, they feel that others should be done unto because they are not worthy. So, they back this sort of barbaric behavior or turn a blind eye to it, but then, they end up to be the targets themselves after everyone else has been shown no mercy!
Perhaps a simple way to reach those the pollsters don’t see.
In the 1970s, Birch Bayh’s polling identified ‘alienated’ voters who felt they were victims and no one was helping them. George Wallace and Richard Nixon both exploited them.
Since then, Rush Limbaugh and Limbaugh wannabes, Fox network, and the GOP have dramatically increased the proportion of voters who view themselves as victims. Often economic dislocation was foundational to their victimhood, but the GOP was loathe to blame factory closures and capitalism.
Along comes Donald Trump who exploits all the old issues, adds corporate outsourcing to the pile of grievances, pretends he’s workers’ friend, and scapegoats racial and religious minorities and ridicules Democrats for the nation’s problems. That worked once, but he didn’t solve outsourcing, his wall is nearly all replacement of the existing wall (without Mexico paying for it), his tax cut has increased the wealth and opportunity gaps between the haves and have nots, and the economy for individuals and small businesses has become so imperiled that the businesses are closing and families are lined up for food pantries and are canceling Christmas. AND people are dying in ever increasing numbers from COVID. Donald Trump can take hyperbolic credit for one thing – he’s created more victims and caused more record-setting death rates than any president in history. Let him brag about that.
If both rural and urban voters still feel victimized and dependent on meth labs in their garage to make a living, look no further than the White House for who’s responsible.
I remember heading out to California in the 70s before I became established in the IBEW. Very interesting experiences to say the least. I worked in a welding shop in Sylmar, not only did we weld steel and metals, they had a new process to weld plastic! I learned a lot, and, was exposed to a lot, compared to what was going on in Chicago.
I moved back when I was 20 and ended up getting married not long after. I can relate to your experiences, and, thank you for sharing your insight, I find it refreshing and pertinent to societies flaws today! You don’t have to be an educated individual to be respectful and insightful. You just have to have common sense and an undamaged conscience.
Thanks for your more nuanced view! Again, we, like them find it easier to put people in little labeled boxes (with labels that suggest evil and certainly aren’t us). It ain’t simple…
If indeed it is all about having Trump on the ballot, how will you explain when the DEMS lose one or both GA senate seats?
As someone who has spent the last 4 years trying to get (mostly) DEM US House candidates elected in Trump districts, it is crystal clear that the DNC has no coherent message to salve whatever pains the “deplorables” have. Even now, Biden has not said anything much specific beyond “bring us together”, “build back better” and get the vaccine out.
Norris, I agree we need to be careful with labels. Peggy, I agree that JD Vance had a point. I also think that the “burn it all down” message does resonate with a certain percentage of people that might not otherwise be involved.
I can see how people become isolated. My whole life I grew up in a solid suburban neighborhoods. We moved around as a sort of a military brat. When my dad retired in 1977, my parents divorced, and I moved in with my mom. She bought a house in rural part of Indianapolis. The lots were all 5 acres, and there were no sidewalks. NOBODY played outdoors. There were no street lights. Outdoors is where you stored your car and once you were 16 you got your license never walked further an 30 feet to get into your car. I was one of the few kids my age that road the bus, so I never saw neighbors my age even then. The kids had been going to school together for 10 years by then and I was the outsider. I am not sure I figured out who neighbors my age were until my Junior year and even then I was outside the click. It was a lonely few years but what saved me was my involvement in a Boy Scout Troop near were my dad lived. Just out of high school, I landed a trainee job in IT, and started college, and started that connection building that most likely changes political opinions. I moved into Irvington in what is solidly considered inner city now. A few year later I moved to downtown Indy where I found a life long connection to the community.
I think there could be real meaning behind this theory. From my limited perspective, it could be easy to see the loosely connected “burn it down” type person being invisible to pollsters, but motivated enough to go vote for somebody like Trump.
The only was to reach those kind of people is to prop up the social safety net. These people have obviously fallen off the ladder and have no hope of even reaching the first rung. Health care (that includes mental health, dental and vision) is the obvious start, Child care, Social Security, and maybe UBI.
But as long as the right wing propaganda machine exists, it is going to be a uphill battle.
I’m what I call a progressive because I’m a technological geek and feed on change and new and fascination with what humans know. It has served me well through life and allowed me to do and see many things that other people from Herkimer couldn’t and didn’t.
When I went to Virgina Tech we were on the outskirts of Appalachia and saw the minor’s shacks teetering on mountain sides that we noted were held up by a TV antenna pole with a couch and a refrigerator on the front porch or out in the yard.
Since then West Virginia and Kentucky have seen a great deal of progress, both states offer real evidence of the good life and I suppose those who were brought up in those shacks of yesteryear now live in town and have bills to pay but little work available to do that except with starvation wages. They are our slaves. I’m sure that they hear that the blacks in the cities on welfare are living much better than they are.
They really suffer from a still declining lack of relevance in the world today and Trump gives them attention. He shows them that ignorance can get respect. Trump is like they would be if they won the lottery and regularly gets to rub “the man’s” nose into the ground. Go git’em Donald.
Republicans have built a coalition of great economic diversity of opportunity as have Democrats captured racial diversity. Nowadays that’s a standoff.
It’s also a very sticky problem to solve. Those at the poverty end don’t want to move on, they really like small town living and their friends and their culture so can be said to have created their own problem but they are our problem too and Trump is the symbol of it. Trump is to progressives what Obama was to congenitally impoverished whites. It’s true but not smart to point out that people don’t get to pick the color of their skin but do have a say in how and where they live as adults.
What all of this points out is that mankind has sentenced ourselves to some real social instability over the next centuries because of the way too large distributions of wealth, of knowledge, of relevance, of opportunity. The hate is real and stable and fueled by obvious differences among all peoples.
We can’t give up on opportunities to reduce the problem but I believe that it’s realistic to accept that there is no silver bullet. We didn’t cause the problems on purpose and we can’t solve them with purpose. We will live with these problems for generations and we will work at reducing them for generations and will be frustrated by the lack of real success for generations.
My aunt and uncle are the best people you’ll ever find anywhere. But they’re trump supporters, for one reason and one reason only. They believe he is a Christian. That’s all they need to know. I think there are probably many of his supporters who think the same way.
Back in 2016 The Trumpet received (rounding up) 62,985,000 votes. This time around in 2020 he has so far received 74,222,000. That is 11,000,000 more votes for The Trumpet. Both times The Trumpet lost the national popular vote. As we know it is the Electoral College that determines the winner.
The Blue Wave of 2018 failed to materialize in 2020. The Democrats actually lost seats in the House.
What is remarkable to me is by 2020, everyone knew what we had in The Trumpet. The lies began as president in 2017 with his insistence about how big his inauguration day crowd was. New words were incorporated into our language – Alternative Facts, Fake News etc. The Trumpet stooges eagerly embraced this “Trump Speak”.
The personal attacks, lies and distortions The Trumpet used during the 2016 campaign were simply a sampling of what was to come.
Given the complete total incompetence and the deliberate premeditated lies The Trump-Pastor Pence team spouted concerning how deadly Corona was and is, you would think this by itself would have resulted in an epic defeat. Not so, in fact The Trumpet’s support increased.
It is truly a Trump Cult, belief (pardon the pun) Trumps all the facts, for various reasons. I certainly think fear is a big part – The GOP has campaigned on Fear since Nixon. Fear and Loathing go hand in glove. Loathing of anyone opposed to The Trump-Pastor Pence Regime.
Trying to “reach across the aisle” will be perceived by The Trump Cult as a trick and a weakness. The Trump Cult is like the political equivalent of the Japanese soldier of WW 2 indoctrinated to never surrender.
Not sure about Kos’s theory. I live in a red state…70% are Trump supporters and strongly Right Wing. They are very proud of being known as “rugged individualists”, are very opinionated and most are aligned closely with evangelical Christianity. A broad mix of blue and white collar and education. Many are high school graduates with possibly some community college. Fewer, but still a significant number have college degrees. They exhibit strong confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance when their political or religious opinions are challenged. I have been stymied by their confusing support of Trump and his antics in spite of the fact that many of these folks are otherwise fine and compassionate community members. The common denominator seems to be their inviolable connection with their evangelical faith. Most all of those churches in our region openly advocate right wing politics, even in Sunday sermons. Most are sure that liberals are the minions of Satan and are awaiting the Second Coming. Trump is their vanguard. Most seem to be willing to vote against their own best interests and seemingly have little understanding of democratic social governance. Kos’s theory may hold up in some regions, but I’m not sure they resonate too strongly in this neck of the woods.
The alienation and “Burn it down!” concepts work for me. Trump as a version of Hitler, and the cult of personality, work for me, as well. I do not have data about other western countries, but expect that the U.S. has less political involvement/interest among the citizenry, than most. We are too damned interested in junk like the lives of the Kardashians, and what cereal some “star” eats for breakfast every third Thursday of alternate months of even numbered years!
But, my hype aside, the stripping of jobs, the shipping of jobs out of the country, leaving so many people with a sense of desperation and meaningless in their lives, which was done in the name of the god “corporate greed,” has come back to bite us in the collective ass.
Part of that connects with the ample research finding that conservatives tend to be more anxious minded people, to begin with, and seek someone whose presence seems protective, like “Big Daddy!”
Trump’s idiotic, narcissistic, style fits the bill for so many. He, “knowing” that he can fix it all, while spewing just the kinds of lies that a good manipulator actually does “know” will work, sucks them in. I never heard of an ad, this last election season that asked “Well, has he brought coal back?” Or anything like that. Binging coal back might have helped his prospects in W.V., or Pa., but it was only empty rhetoric, useful for the moment in 2016.
Yes, we need to offer job training for new, and upcoming industries. Hillary blew it with her “deplorables” comment , and with not visiting the rust belt. But, the rust belt is hurting, and its people need to be shown compassion, and active consideration, not dismissiveness. This will almost certainly not bring the fringe crazies of the militias into the fold, some kind of mainstream, but ought to connect with others who our “exceptional” system has left behind.
In a previous comment, I mentioned that Kors observations may not apply as much to our Northwest region of the U.S., but upon further reflection, perhaps they do somewhat. The preponderance of the trucks sporting Trump flags are younger men who are angry aggressive. We are attracting many right wing people who are moving in large numbers to our State from neighboring blue states and our region is missing ethnic diversity which is beginning to take on an almost enclave-like feel. Not sure how this will change anytime soon.
I note that no contributor to date has mentioned that this is Pearl Harbor Day, the day in which we saw the fruits of fascism realized, and one which in retrospect suggests to me that we are today the “Good Germans” who are treating Trump’s success in the voting booth with word games rather than as substantive problems which we could ameliorate with programs such as an end to wage inequality (including agricultural workers for corporate farming) and programs such as tax free rural enterprise zones in rural areas etc. I see in such efforts an attention to racism and other Trump-inspired negatives from the inside which can, in time, unify us – as opposed to name-calling and other such putdowns which only broaden the divide.
From the looks of current contributors’ efforts, it appears that we should remove political scientists from politics and install sociologists at the helm. Personally, I think that we should not send deplorable rural whites a check (other than in connection with the current economic crisis) but rather quickly adopt programs that spread out the urban goodies to the rural (accompanied of course, with basic changes in wage inequality in both rural and urban sites) which for the first time since the destruction of the New Deal distribute the wealth geographically as well as by class and other such distinctions.
A workforce that isn’t smart enough to do such work? Educate them, and pay them while being educated. How to pay for such programs? A redo of the internal revenue code and perhaps the addition of a wealth tax as approved by Piketty and via a proposal currently on the legislative griddle per Warren. We will shortly be in power (depending on Georgia) and in a position to implement such bold initiatives that can not only re-energize our economy but address some of the underlying social as well as economic problems we are now experiencing. Let’s do it.
One can’t help wonder if, in their “despair” , they have found solace in the group synergy of evangelical churches. While doing research this year in red states and going to the websites of many such congregations, I saw videos of strong “rock-like” music and people swaying and MLK-like preachers (style only!). I was reminded of how Black churches have held their folks together to keep on keeping on despite their members treatment by society. Could it be something similar – “we all believe and we are together” – I have a place with meaning?
We just drove back from a family outing to White-Water State Park where we spent the weekend hiking and being out in nature. There’s nice family cabins for rent, and a bird watchers paradise; I’m not a birdwatcher but enjoy seeing/hearing them. Anyway driving through rural Indiana we noticed a lot of trump signs & none for the winner. It didn’t surprise me, I’ve lived in Indiana all my life.
The Kos study is interesting, noting the degree of isolation (approximately 20%) which must include rural & urban. The trump supporters in my neighborhood (near Garfield Park) don’t come across so much as rascists, not on a one on one way. When they saw the violence/destruction on TV last summer over Floyd’s murder, it tampered the empathy for Floyd, and put their attention on associating BLM with violence. Some Dems. added flames to the fire and further distanced (peace at all cost voters) by chanting “Defund Police”.
If a person is isolated, feeling threatened locally and a one news source person, I can’t imagine that state of being. trump obviously speaks to them, and they join his political party where they feel they belong?
If the assumption is right, then we might be surprised by the result of the Georgia Senate run-off in January, if they only vote when trump is on the ballot? I can’t imagine the amount of “dark money” pouring into that state presently, but am relieved to see that not all Republicans are corrupt.
“…these Trump voters only show up when Trump is on the ballot…”
This theory will be tested out in Georgia on January 5 when we learn who gets to control the Senate.
Yes, Terry, I ha been thinking the same thing. We will see.
This explains why my unemployed cousins in Southern Indiana from which manufacturing has fled and where the coal mines are closing are Trump supporters but it does not explain why my cousin on the other side of the family who is a retired VP of development at IU supports Trump.
Leslie and others; this has become some nation-wide form of undiagnosed mass hysteria and the threats of violence are growing with actually planned and attempted physical attacks on elected officials who do not support Trump’s demands to overturn their state’s valid election results. Someone or someones will die from the violence before reality sets in; and then, will it end the hysteria or increase the violence? And no one is safe from their increasing wrath.
But none of it rationally explains the continuing and escalating support of our home-grown Idi Amin; Trump has passed Hitler’s level of hatred and destruction and, like Idi Amin, we have watched Trump laugh at his personal creation of the coming American killing fields.
Gerald, and others, I think you almost got it right! Just a WPA style program for infrastructure, and require local workers, apprentices if necessary. And don’t forget local material to do the jobs. It would be a long term project to get caught up on the deferred maintenance, and no better time to start!
It seems that with each new theory postulated, the picture of the ‘trump adherent’ becomes deeper and more usefully detailed. This most recent point – that a significant number enjoy a «burn it all down» – «god damn you all» attitude – feels to me like an accurate description of an «I am suffering, I believe it is your fault, and if I am destroyed, you are too» sort of world.
This is a terrifying reality to live in, and by the high numbers of drug additions, suicides and accompanying self-defeating behaviours, many Americans appear to enjoy or at least insist on living that reality, dragging their loved ones into it with them, and gleefully hooking as many others into it as they can. Mutually assured destruction indeed.
What, why, how to turn the tide…
I believe there is another clue to the full picture – one in which most of us participate and about which each individual can make some part of a difference. This is parenting and family dynamics.
Specifically, I am thinking of abuse – the fact that abusive behaviour has a historical component, that it is heritable in a real, if not genetic way. Unsurprisingly, trump seems to be the abuser in chief. And, so far, his victims are more invested in making excuses, justifying his actions and apparent thoughts, and maintaining their connection with this admittedly flawed but apparently strong individual, who doesn’t really intend the bad things, who still cares about them and who will continue to protect them, especially if their faithfulness proves that they deserve his strength on their behalf…
No doubt, my explanation above misses important aspects and overstates others, however, I am trying to imagine the sense of reality that gets an abused partner to return to the dangerous relationship in the face of the facts of real annihilation when they do. As people who work with abused victims (plus every learned scholar thinking about this) are well aware – there is nothing about this aspect of the picture that is easily changed, or made better in a simple way.
This idea adds to the picture of the seemingly intractable nature of the destructive connections between and among trump adherents and their unfaithful leader.
What could us ‘just folks’ do? I believe that we can all look carefully at our own parenting and make such improvements as we can – it is never too late to be a good parent…a flip comment that does not minimize my belief that my totally excellent, smart, witty, socially conscious daughters raised themselves…the point, for me, would be to help our children realize the possibilities for their own independent thought, self-realization, and compassionate participation in our world, and to spread those possibilities as widely as possible around our immediate and larger worlds – to, with each of us contributing, stop the legacy of abusive families, relationships, et alia, as quickly and as thoroughly as we can. Of course, this runs directly against certain religious and cultural beliefs and practices. We have to start somewhere, do we not?
So, I am desperately hopeful – this idea is not meant to stand alone, but to be a part of other actions we may be able to take – changing laws, registering voters, all of it.
Thank you, as always, for listening!
An interesting theory – I am tending to agree that we spend too much time trying to “understand” the Trump voter, who being superior to us, never needs to understand us — or something.
I know that many of us are shocked that he could have so many followers, or if not followers, people who will vote for him no matter how terrible he is, but although much can be speculated and much can be said (and it’s probably of combination of factors creating a coalition), I don’t think we will know. To paraphrase Wittgenstein, that about which nothing can be said, should be passed over in silence.
I prefer Peggy’s view. Let’s stop analyzing and try to create a more just economy – or a more just world in general – tikkun olam – if we heal the world, it may heal some of Trump supporters along the way.
Many good remarks. Nancy Papas and others hit the nail on the head. All I can say is that Biden has and enormous task in front of him. He won’t be able to finish it and it will fall on the shoulders of the next generation. My children, who are all pushing 50 now have had their lives turned upside down by the 2008 recessions, job insecurity, lack of medical care, terrible debt just to get educated for that job that no longer exists and worry about their children’s ability to even get a decent education, let along a superior one. We have fallen lower on the economic ladder while working harder and longer. We are in a third world country and we will have to give hope to a lot of people that we may not like in order to restore our country. Maybe it was a good thing that the problems we have experienced have come to a head under Trump. We ALL need to wake up and get to work. I’ll miss your insightful and intelligent articles. joanne
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