George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, George Shultz, Robert Gates, John McCain, Jeb Bush …
I think you know where I’m going with this. And the list of Republicans who oppose Donald Trump for president (and in many cases have endorsed Hillary Clinton) is far longer than the tip of the iceberg mentioned above. Now it is worth noting that former presidents, senators, state department and CIA officials, etc. have the advantage of having viewed the workings of government from the inside, and recognize how unpredictable and potentially catastrophic a Trump presidency would be. Still, it seems almost unbelievable that so many Republican voters are staying on board the Trump warship that they actually are keeping this race close.
Who are these people?
If you are reading this, by now you’ve read plenty of other assessments of who is supporting Trump and why. For what it’s worth, I’ll offer my own reading, broken down (yes, at the risk of oversimplifying) into four broad categories. Pay special attention to number four, which probably overlaps the other three.
1. There are lots of educated, affluent conservatives who will vote party line and their perceived self-interest no matter who the tax-cutting standard bearer happens to be. They don’t care how obnoxious and racist Trump is. They don’t care about his tax returns, his shady business dealings, or his Putin love, and they can overlook his pussy-groping escapades (and probably avoid this subject with their own daughters). They care only that he will help them preserve and increase their wealth—and nominate conservative Supreme Court justices. And they are the chief reason Trumps’ support base skews above average on income, which surprises liberals who assume his supporters are mostly “poor white trash.”
(To be fair, I’ve portrayed this group as one-dimensionally selfish and callous, and it’s never that simple. I know there are many voters in this category who are decent people. Normally I can understand how educated conservatives and I reach vastly different conclusions. Not this year. How an educated person can believe Trump is fit to be president is mind-boggling to me. These are strange days indeed.)
2. A Facebook friend helped me make a distinction between the next two categories. The voters I’ve lumped into group no. 2 are people you and I know and probably get along with—hard-working, decent people, concerned (like most of us) about their futures and their children’s futures. They are less educated and simpler than the first group. They identify as conservative and have a natural disdain for liberals in general and Hillary Clinton in particular. And because they generally agree with the slant of Fox, that’s where they get their news—or worse, from Fox’s hideous offspring, the hundreds of blatantly distorted or just plain fake conservative websites that barrage them with all of the horrible things Obama and Clinton have done to them or will do, if she’s elected. And they believe it. So where they take this misinformation is pretty easy math to follow.
(I am sorry if my assessment of these voters sounds condescending. I truly believe this demographic exists and is very vulnerable to misinformation. And I believe the explosion of fake, distorted, unvetted news sources—and the alarming frequency with which their stories are shared online—is, perhaps paradoxically, a huge step backward for democracy.)
3. In an earlier post, I wrote that I refuse to judge people I don’t know. That is how I want to be, but this election has made it difficult. In short, if you support Trump precisely because he has made bigotry and hatred cool again, if you agree with him that Muslims should be deported and Mexicans kept out and blacks put back in their place, and that it’s okay to threaten violence against people who are going to vote for Hillary or with whom you simply disagree, than maybe you truly are deplorable. In your case, it’s not that you are too sheltered or gullible to question whether Fox or the fake news sites are lying to you—it’s that you have a belly full of hate and you actively seek like-minded outlets to spread the word. And while my parting shot here applies somewhat to the second group, it applies 100 percent to you: Ignorance is a choice.
4. And now, the elephant in the room: misogyny. It’s 2016, and there are still men who have a visceral dislike of women who seek to occupy positions of power. And the double standards applied to Clinton because she is a woman are astounding. Women who break through the glass ceiling, or threaten to, stoke a very primal fear of emasculation among some men. I have no doubt that it hurt Clinton in the 2008 primaries against Barack Obama–especially with liberal white men who had no trouble accepting the cool black guy as their next president. Misogynistic fear of powerful women even affects some women who are more comfortable with the old traditional structures. For a deeper examination of the subject, read this essay in the Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/10/fear-of-a-female-president/497564/.
And in the meantime, get out and vote Tuesday—especially if you live in Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Arizona, or Nevada. Or anywhere else, really.
Copyright 2016 Stephen Leon