Sunday, March 20, 2016

Why Donald Trump is popular... part two. Another post about Trump and his supporters.

Donald Trump. Photo by Michael Vadon

A while back I wrote a rather long post about Donald Trump's popularity. That was last summer. A lot has changed since then but the arguments that I made, that Trump was tapping into widespread anger about immigration and political correctness, still hold. I think those arguments are solid and I still stand by them. But I also think there is much more too it then that. The past few months have proven that Trump is tapping into something far greater then a backlash against political correctness and immigration. 

Indeed, many people I have talked to about Donald Trump, either in real life or on the internet, seem to be utterly baffled by his popularity even after I explain those two factors. And it doesn't really fully explain his popularity. My hope is that I will be able to better explain things here, via a blog post, so that these people will better understand where Trump's supporters are coming from and why they are supporting a candidate that is being attacked on all fronts as a sexist, racist and bigot. 

This isn't a post to convince anyone that Trump is the correct candidate for America. As a full disclosure I do plan on voting for Donald Trump during the Wisconsin primary for reasons I don't need to get into here. He wasn't anywhere near my first choice but I do think he is the best candidate in the race. I don't think I am that biased for Trump, as I am a reluctant supporter, but keep that in mind anyways. 

Also, please don't accuse me of supporting Donald Trump for all of the reasons I listed. Some of them I acknowledge but don't think are reasons to support a candidate or even ethical. I'm going to present the arguments, even if I disagree with some of them I'll let you figure out which ones I support and which ones I disagree with yourself (hint, it's the first argument that I have the most problems with, but it isn't the only one). Again, just because I am making the argument doesn't mean I agree with everything I am writing. This is a post about understanding why people think the way they do and you can't do that without actually writing out what people are thinking, even if it may be unpleasant to read for the more (overly?) sensitive. 

With that out of the way, I am mainly writing this post to answer the question "why would anyone ever want Donald Trump to be president?" I ask forgiveness in advance for the "listicle" format but I think it is probably the easiest way to organize this. I won't be covering the immigration and political correctness topics extensively because I posted about that before.  I do acknowledge that those two issues are a major source of Trump's popularity as well, and suggest you read that post for my arguments there.

1. The political left/Democrats have all but declared war on middle, lower and underclass white Americans. I covered this a bit when I talked about political correctness, but it's clear to me that the left has abandoned all white people that aren't upper class democrats. Why? Privilege theory. This isn't going to be a essay on the ins and outs of that theory, just how Donald Trump's supporters may see it.

According the privilege theory, which is supported by a large part of the Democratic Party and is used to form their policy, the only reason that minorities, be they racial, gender or LGBT, have any problems at all is because straight white males have all the advantages in society. This invisible privilege means that a homeless straight white christian male is better off in society then Barack Obama, the most powerful man on Earth right now. Sure, social justice warriors on the left might acknowledge that Obama is in a better situation, but would still argue that he has been disadvantaged by racism and other forms of discrimination that the homeless white guy didn't. Usually though, they only admit that underclass and lower class whites are a thing if you press them very hard. At all other times they act as they don't exist and criticize whites as if they were all middle or upper class. 

There is probably some truth to that, in a way, since I personally don't have any idea what it is to be black, gay or a woman, but the whole thing is just an appeal to worse problems. Saying Barack Obama has faced racism so we should tackle the problem of racism even if it means we ignore poor homeless white guy, is a logical fallacy. Sure, I'm guilty of a bit of a strawman here, but the point remains that someone isn't automatically worse off if they are a minority even if they do have to face discrimination. And the accusation that someone is automatically better off then a minority if they are having major issues, like many people in the underclass and lower class are, is grating at best and down right insulting at worse.

Where does Donald Trump fit into this? Well, he's speaking right to those white people that are being attacked by the left. He hasn't gone so far as to say that privilege theory is incorrect, but he is focusing on the concerns and problems of the white lower classes. This group of people has been largely ignored by both parties and all but demonized by the left. Donald Trump is basically saying that yes, these people exist, and yes their concerns can be addressed. In short, he's treating them like people, not irredeemable racists that deserve whatever they have coming to them. 

You might disagree with Donald Trump about immigration or trade deals, but the perception on the street is that these things hurt lower class whites (and minorities for that matter, which explains some of Trump's popularity among blacks compared to previous Republican candidates). Focusing on them can only help him get elected and for the lower class it's like a breath of fresh air. 

These attacks, by the way, also go a long way in explaining why attacks against Trump as a bigot have largely failed. The terms "racist" "sexist" "islamaphobe" and "bigot" have been so overused by the left that they have largely lost all meaning. As a personal aside, I have been called a racist simply for majoring in Criminal Justice during college. Not for supporting the police. Not for attacking people of color. Just for learning about the criminal justice system, from a bunch of liberals mind you. It's hard to take accusations of racism seriously after something like that, and I think a lot of people have similar stories

2. Donald Trump is also seen as protecting and sticking up for these people from the Republican party. For the longest time when the rank and file Republicans tried to talk about trade deals or immigration, they have been demonized as racists and worse. Not only is it the media and the Democrats doing this, it is their own party as well. When anyone speaks out about illegal immigration, even using the term illegal immigration, the left will call them racists and the elite Republicans will practically fall over themselves to agree with the left! 

That's a bitter pill to swallow for many Republicans who voted for candidates that said they were going to be tough on immigration. Those same candidates, which were all for tougher immigration laws and promised that they would do something about it when they were up for election, ended up being the architects of amnesty and other unpopular proposals. And when their supporters pointed that out they denounced their own followers as racist scum. It's pretty easy to understand why the Republican base feels betrayed. 

And this isn't the only issue that Republicans tend to feel betrayed by their own party. Off the top of my head there is the reaction to the Confederate Flag controversy that erupted last year. Many southern whites expected the GOP to stick up for them. They didn't, with some good reasons justifying why they didn't. Still, it's another example of the GOP trying to play nice to impress people that don't like them anyways. 

Which is probably the most infuriating thing. These betrayals on wedge issues are driven in part by efforts to bring Hispanics and Blacks into the GOP. It isn't working because those groups don't believe that the GOP cares about them at all. And why should they? They don't vote Republican. Donald Trump is making more headway because he is focused on the economic issues, such as trade deals and immigration, which are also hurting minorities. Sucking up to people by denouncing your own party doesn't work. Actually trying to solve the problem, which Trump claims he will try, might. Which is why you often see Blacks and Hispanics at Trump rallies. 

3. Trump also treats women as equals. And by that I mean he treats them exactly the same he treats men. This does not mean that he is a chivalrous person. He says nasty things about people he disagrees with and by all accounts he is actually nice to people that he likes. Gender doesn't seem to play a role in how he treats people whatsoever. You can call that sexist if you wish, but I think there is a certain appeal to someone who treats women the same as he treats men, even if it means he's just mean to everyone. And it's hard to claim that Trump is sexist as he does treat everyone, regardless of gender, or race for that matter, the same way. Unless your definition of sexism is that woman should be treated with kid gloves less they get their feeling hurt (which is incredibly sexist against women), Trump doesn't seem like a sexist, but someone who is able to engage women opponents as equals. 

So why does this help Trump? After all, Trump's likely opponent is Hillary Clinton, a woman who never fails to remind people that she is a woman, damn it! Usually, Clinton is able to shrug off attacks against her by playing the gender card. She might not do it personally, but it's inevitable that anyone that calls her out on anything gets called a sexist pig. Just look at what happened to both Bernie Sanders and his supporters in the Democratic primary race. All he did is mildly disagree with her and interrupt her a couple of times at the debates and now he's been labeled a misogynist. And his supporters got hit with the same label because, no kidding, some people got trolled on the internet. Stop the presses!

Trump's different. For whatever reason, the "sexist" label doesn't seem to effect him. Those attacks just roll off his back, and I think it's because he never goes on the defensive. When Hillary Clinton accused him of being sexist awhile back, he didn't apologize or grovel like so many other Republicans have done, he hit both Hillary and Bill Clinton back twice as hard over Bill's many indiscretions and accusations. Nobody has done that to Clinton before, at least not presidential candidates. There is a major appeal there for anyone who dislikes Hillary Clinton. 

4. Republicans hate the people that hate Donald Trump, both inside and outside of the party. This section is for the people outside of it. People like Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street and all the various leftist groups that like to cause trouble. I don't think people on the left understand how disliked these various groups are. It's not their politics that people hate, or even the color of their skin, it's the actions that these groups have taken. 

After all, these groups all practice civil and uncivil disobedience. Occupy Wall Street, which started with bipartisan support, soon became noting more then a roving riot who fought with the cops and caused chaos. Sure, the Occupy folks would see it a different way, but for the average Trump supporter they just seemed like they were caused chaos for chaos's sake. And it's undoubtedly clear that in some cases, especially with the more radical communist and anarchist groups, that was what their goal was. 

And then there was Black Lives Matter. For many people it's still baffling what the movement is even about. So many of the poster children for the movement, like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, were obvious criminals. Even in cases where the cops undoubtedly screwed up, the involved people, like Eric Gardner and Freddie Gray, greatly contributed to their own deaths. It's difficult for people outside the movement to even understand what the issue is, let alone agree with it when those are the people being discussed. 

Black Lives Matter then proceeded to destroy Ferguson and Baltimore for reasons that the Republican base just doesn't understand. They disrupted rallies, stood in traffic and were generally annoying to anyone who came into contact with them. It may make sense to people on the left, but it doesn't make sense to anyone on the right. If I think about it hard, I can kind of understand it, but I don't think most people on the right will give it that much though. Right or wrong, there just isn't any support for Black Lives Matter on the right.

 Indeed, their actions, riots and protests which hurt people and damaged race relations, angered, confused and frightened those of us on the right politically. Though I don't think it's fair to say that the right in America hates minorities, it do think it is fair to say that they hate anyone that causes riots and protests this way. Hell, given the rather outspoken approval to the conclusion of the Oregon standoff, where a white guy got shot under dubious circumstances, it might just be that the right doesn't like the very concept of protest in general. it goes against the law and order beliefs that many conservatives have. I know I am very uncomfortable with it, and I think a lot of other people are too.

When these same people, these leftist agitators and racial rabble rousers, start attacking Donald Trump it's almost impossible not to like him if you hate those groups. Even if protesters are getting beat up at his rallies. I don't think people like the violence, it's just that they are sick of nobody standing up to people that are causing this kind of disruption. Plus they disagree with them politically, which always makes it easier to look the other way. 

5. There is also the people inside the party that are pissing off the Republican base. I already discussed the elites that spend most of their time denouncing what has been their most loyal voter base. But they are part of a bigger problem. I think people are also sick of the policies that the Republican Party is selling. (incidentally, this is probably the strongest argument for a Trump presidency in my eyes)

For one thing, nobody is really interested in going to war anymore. The neocons (in both parties, such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the Democrats side) still say that overthrowing despotic middle eastern countries governments will lead to peace and prosperity. The state of Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan blows the hell out of that argument but so many in the Republican elite still believe it. Donald Trump, though a firebrand, doesn't seem to want to get us into any further wars. He is talking about taking the war to the terrorists but he doesn't seem to want war with Iran, Syria or even Russia. He just wants to fight the terrorists and not every country who disagrees with the United States. That's a huge difference from the warmongers in the GOP. I'll give credit where credit is due and point out that Ted Cruz is also spot on about this issue as well. 

Second, there are the disagreements about trade and immigration. I have talked about that before, but it's critical to repeat the point as the difference between the Republican Party base and the GOP elite is wider on this issue then any other issue combined. To hear the Republican elite describe it, both trade deals and immigration, legal or otherwise, are the best things since sliced bread and the panacea for all that ails the economy. I'm no economist, but my guess is that a family of four where the dad lost his job to outsourcing and the mom lost her job to an immigrant isn't going to agree with that assessment. And neither will the millions of people who are being threatened with the same thing. Donald Trump at least claims to understand that and may actually at least try to do something about it, instead of saying it's a good thing. 

Third,  people are sick of hearing about entitlement reform. People like Social Security. They like Medicade. And though they hate Obamacare, they do like the idea of socialized medicine. The Republican Party elite hates all of those things with a passion and only Donald Trump has anything nice to say about keeping those programs funded, or in the case of Obamacare, replacing it with something better. That has a broad appeal and is liked by not only the GOP base but by labor focused Democrats as well. 

Fourth, people are disgusted about how the GOP is handling Donald Trump's candidacy. For more moderate folks that are unswayed by Trump's arguments on the issues, but think he is a better potential president then anyone in the Democratic Party, especially Hillary Clinton, the idea that the party should destroy itself over Donald Trump is insane. I think the #nevertrump crowd is a loud but tiny minority of people that actually do hate Trump more then they hate Hillary Clinton in the GOP. But they are not a major group and there are a lot of people disgusted at the idea of a brokered convention. I, for one, will vote for Donald Trump for that reason alone (or Ted Cruz if Trump somehow drops out before my primary date). I don't care if Trump does hurt the GOP, the will of the people should not be ignored! 

6. People just hate the media and are disgusted by their actions. I don't think I really even have to explain this one. Donald Trump hits the media hard. He plays them like a fiddle. That's why I don't think the tiff between Trump and Megyn Kelly amounts to much. She may be a women and a rare conservative in the media but it doesn't matter. She's a reporter first and I think for a lot of people that means that they don't care what happens to her. She may be a woman and a conservative, but since she's a reporter, and for no other reason, she's scum in the eyes of many in the GOP. Even pro-GOP reporters are thought of as less then dirt these days. That's how low the reputation of the media is right now, and the fact that Donald Trump seems to control them better then any other recent candidate this side of Barack Obama, and may even take steps to reign in the excesses by loosening libel laws, is a major reason to support him. 

It just doesn't matter that the media is attacking him. They attack all Republicans, but at least this one fights back instead of just siting there and taking it. And the perception is that many of the attacks are unfair or not even an issue at all. The media is just out to get Donald Trump, just like they would be out to get whoever the Republican front runner is. They don't care about truth or what's best for the consumer, they just care about bashing people and getting ratings/views. People hate the media right now, especially on the right, so anyone who gets attacked by them and can fight them to a standstill will get some supporters. 

7. Donald Trump speaks like he is a member of the Republican base. Unlike someone like Mitt Romney, who comes off as snooty, Trump speaks in an in your face and direct style. He's also crude and obnoxious, but more importantly, he sounds like he is from a class lower then he actually is. He's an upper class elite who speaks like a lower class "slob". Even his grammar and spelling mistakes on Twitter help him. After all, even I make mistakes and when the media makes fun of Trump for his various errors on Twitter, I don't sympathize with the media. I think that Trump is just like me. A guy who screws up once and awhile and gets unfairly attacked for minor errors. That's probably a stupid argument for supporting someone, but I, too, know what it is like to be attacked for sounding a certain way or writing a certain way. And I am a college educated writer who probably writes better then many of the people supporting Trump. 

Language is a powerful thing. Being able to speak and write like the lower classes shouldn't be underestimated. It was part of the reason why George Bush, an elite himself, was so popular, even though he sounded like an idiot sometimes. Even if he did say some stupid stuff he seemed more authentic to the Republican base then an upper class twit like Mitt Romney did. And attacking Donald Trump for speaking and writing the same way as millions of other Americans is sure to backfire. 

8. People are really scared of terrorism. That has always been the case but after the attacks in Paris and the various other major terrorist attacks across the globe, people are more worried now then ever. Americans have been killed in attacks even in our own backyard. ISIS is also spreading at an alarming rate and everyone remembers the videos of them executing captured journalists and aid workers. If you need a reminder about how serious the threat is, on this blog alone I have, at the time of this writing, 261 posts about ISIS alone, and none of them are flattering. I have another 100 posts about terrorism in general and 45 more about al-Qadea. I have only been writing this blog for little over a year and half, yet ISIS and other terrorist groups dominate it. 

It's clear that radical Islam is a problem. But how do our leaders respond? With #notallmuslims. Sure it's literally true, not all Muslims are terrorists. Most of them aren't. The ones that are though  are really bad people. It's hard to understate just how evil these people are. I know I have watched ISIS light people on fire, drown prisoners in cages and even use children as young as eight as an execution force. And ISIS and al-Qaeda have no problem with killing Americans wherever they can find them. How can we fight the enemy when we aren't even willing to admit that our enemies are a member of a certain religion? 

But once again, if you have the temerity to suggest that maybe bringing thousands of Muslims into the country is a bad idea you are denounced as a racist. Even though Islam isn't a race and there are, wait for it, white Muslims, you will be called a racist if you say anything critical about Islam. Sure, some people are legitimately prejudiced against Muslims but even if you like the religion or respect the members of Islam, you have to admit that radical Islam is a huge problem and a major threat to national security.

Other then Donald Trump though, none of the candidates seem to get that. Their solution for the ISIS problem is vague promises about airstrikes, and the utter destruction of the Syrian regime. Because destroying the people that are fighting ISIS will somehow help defeat them. Makes sense. Oh, and we can't forget the endless calls for tolerance and understanding. After all, the terrorists wills stop cutting heads off and blowing themselves up if we just understand their religion a little bit better! Because that is something that happens in the real world! Even the war hawks that want to go into Syria and Iraq and destroy ISIS don't seem to have a solution to the terrorist problem. People are getting radicalized without ISIS's help, and there is legitimate concern that refugees and other Islamic guests could cause problems. 

Donald Trump's blanket ban on Muslim travel isn't a good solution. Indeed, it's overkill, but at least he is trying to do something about the issue. Something that would undoubtedly work. If there isn't a population of Muslims to be radicalized then the threat of terrorist attacks goes down. It's not a perfect solution, because it hurts some people that don't deserve it, but at least it does something about the threat. I've been eagerly awaiting a better solution from the other candidates, but as of this writing there just isn't one. 

9. I think that people understand that Trump can't deliver on all his promises. He probably won't be able to make Mexico pay for a wall, but he will probably at least try to do something about the immigration situation. He probably won't be able to stop all Muslims from entering the country, but he could be able to stop ISIS from getting here. Indeed, I think that everyone knows that Trump is a lot of big talk, but the issues he is talking about are so ignored that anyone saying they would do anything about them is a huge improvement. Even if Trump can't accomplish all of his promises, he should be able to do something, which is more then a lot of the candidates would say. 

People should be aware that Donald Trump wrote in his book, The Art of the Deal, that you should always ask for way more then you actually want. That throws your opponent off their game and when it comes time, it makes you look more reasonable when you back down. I think people understand that Trump is shifting the Overton Window as well, making things more acceptable to talk about. And they know that he will be able to get more then he would otherwise if he was trying to run a country any other way. Or I could be wrong and there will be a lot of disappointed people when he pulls back a bit on his policy issues during the campaign... 

I, personally, see Trump as a deal-maker who can work with people to get things done. Though his tactics are well known, they are also effective. I think Trump will be able to work the the Democrats and his own party to get things done, and I think the average guy on the street would agree with that. People think he is tough but willing to talk it out. That's a good quality for a president to have.

10. Finally, I think there is a great respect for how Donald Trump is running his campaign. On a completely objective level, it seems that Trump has been brilliant. He realized almost all of the things I mentioned above and specifically tailored his campaign to fit the mood of the country. Though it may be unwise to vote for someone just based on how well he is doing, there is the argument that if he is a good campaign manager he might just be good at running the country... 

1 comment:

  1. Whoever is elected president, Donald Trump has forever changed the political process in the US. Republicans and Democrats better pay attention to what Trump is saying and what his supporters are willing to do. You have hit on the reasons for the rising tide of frustration, anger, and disillusionment of Americans. I work with Veterans. Their anger and even hatred for the established political entities is profound. There is a clear hatred for Obama and Hilary. This is not just a messed up election, it is likely to be the most violent.