Pro-tRumper voters can be assigned into one or more of five categories: ideologues, evangelicals, racists, opportunists and working people who have felt abandoned by the democratic party… these last the only category at all likely to shift.
Ideologues: this personality is characterized by belief impervious to evidence. It is a psychological commonplace that encountering new information leaves one the option of expanding or tweaking one’s point of view to accommodate the new information or denying the new information. The belief that my grandfather was a wonderful, loving man would be challenged by information that he spent the World War II. years with the SS enthusiastically exterminating inmates at Auschwitz. Deny or tweak? The good German denies the holocaust, the good Patriot denies or rationalizes U.S. torture or, say, reports of a president’s lies. Democracy is wonderful in this view but only so long as the right side wins. Perfectly acceptable to suppress the votes of those too ignorant to see the shining truth.
Evangelicals: here denial is more pointed. First of all the basic dogma is bedrock truth, no facts or argument necessary, just as with the ideologue but now with a religious twist. Jesus died for our sins blah blah… evangelicals aren’t troubled by reports of outrageous presidential behavior, no need to deny them when told by their pastor that God’s warriors are sometimes a bit rough around the edges, just so they’re doing God’s work. And that they are doing, according to the pastor. This usually amounts to opposing abortion, family planning and gay marriage and especially defending Christianity from secular attack. This attack translates, on examination, into obstacles set up by “secularists” (maybe even communists!) to prevent christian evangelicals from imposing their own little “sharia law” on the rest of us. Laws like the First Amendment of the Constitution providing freedom of (and from) religion. The founders well knew the tyrannical form organized religion could take and sought to avoid this by not favoring any one religion, keeping state and religion separate. This is fine with evangelicals for other religions but not theirs, theirs being the only true one. Just what the founders were afraid of. Democracy is not big with this group except in so far as their votes can affect their issues. Getting god’s dictator in power is a much higher value. The recent article in the influential Christianity Today, is no doubt causing some cognitive dissonance for the evangelical. It calls for tRump’s impeachment on grossly immoral grounds.
Racists: hard to talk about this group since their tenacious commitment to the “cause” is so ugly and transparent one wonders truly how they can maintain it. And their resistance to contrary information is so dogged that the other groups seem almost liberal in comparison. It certainly is about ego, suggesting a desperate insecurity that requires someone to look down upon. Dylan’s line sums it up, “The poor white remains, on the caboose of the train, but it ain’t him to blame he’s only a pawn in their game.” Well that implies that someone (the 1% perhaps?) cynically uses the issue in their divide and conquer strategy to maintain their privilege. Early union organizing was really hurt by this divide. I suppose it goes way back to the days where small bands of humans distrusted other bands based on difference. Hell, I remember being ready to fight other kids because they were from a town 11 miles away – foreigners! The civil rights chant comes to mind, “The people united will never be defeated!”
Opportunists: of course this population is always alert for any opportunity to gain power and prestige. Mussolini was a Socialist in his early days but soon saw where the money and power lay. Newt Ginrich, Linsy Graham, Dick Cheney, Kissinger, Kelly Ann Conway, and a seemingly endless list of other shameless individuals recognize that serving 1% interests is the fast and easy path to personal wealth and power. Ralph Nader comes to mind as someone who made a modest career of refusing this easy money. The old expression, “Nice guys finish last.” or Cheney’s statement that “…principal is fine but it only takes you so far.” Or Kissinger’s cynical, “The issues are too important to allow the people of Chile to decide them.”, as he abetted a coup very costly in freedom and lives… and misery. Ask these guys though what motivates them they’ll swing out the flag and drum corp for “freedom and democracy.” Not persuasively to the informed but that’s not who they’re talking to.
Workers: Reagan began his presidency by gutting a union and this was what the 1% had been working toward since Roosevelt’s terms in office. They had fought tooth and nail to defeat his notions of government serving the poor with programs like social security and recognition of unions. They were successful in watering many down and in their campaign to demonize the word socialism. World War I. Vets who marched on Washington demanding their promised bonus were met, by Hoover, with bayonets. Roosevelt sent them coffee. After World War II. there was a shared prosperity in the U.S., limited for sure, by race, gender and class, but still prosperity for a significant portion of the population. But the forces of greed were under the radar organizing, culminating with a vengeance in Reagan’s election. More and more workers were returned to the pre-union world of low wages and boss abuse, the “Humiliation of the marketplace” as Chomsky called it. Alienation was certainly felt by workers and Reagan’s invented “Welfare Queen” was meant to divert and explain it, provide a nice scapecoat. When Bernie came along to pull the curtain aside, naturally he had to be marginalized, leaving the field to the great con-artist and establishment.
One further category is the owners, the 1%. As Chomsky points out, they generally could care less about abortion and gay marriage but are happy to see such issues used to swing votes their way. It is said that in a meeting with the newly elected Adolph Hitler, German industrialists were asked for funds to help solidify the victory after which there would be no more elections for a hundred years. The checkbooks came out, overcoming any squeamishness they might have had about this uncouth deal maker with dancing visions of unimpeded profits. I don’t think this has to be underlined in its application to 2020.
Image Credit: the illustration was created by the author, © Tom Ferguson.