Sunday, July 23, 2017

Trump's Appeal to Worst Instincts

I bet THAT pisses of liberals
This article, on Trump's appeal in rural America, specifically Grand Junction, Colorado is both disturbing and confirms some old impressions.

First of all, the author makes the point that Trump supporters are not always who you would expect. They include a woman who broke with the Religious Right because of their bigotry, a special ed teacher, a performance artist with a degree from Columbia University, and a Hispanic woman. Living in a town that was about 14% Hispanic (citizens and legal residents), with a sizable illegal population as well, they had no prejudice toward Hispanic neighbors and did not blame illegal immigrants for crime.  And while their community is in decline they can hardly blame Obama or the liberals since the decline began in 1982 (Reagan years!) when Exxon decided to abandon its oil shale mining operations.

They are fine, decent upstanding people.  But Trump is encouraging their worst impulses and offering scapegoats to target.  The scapegoats are not ethnic minorities (Grand Junction residents would be outraged at such a suggestion), but liberals, coastal (and Front Range) elitists, media, and the "swamp," roughly meaning all government.  When Trump held a rally, most issue -- e-mails, Benghazi, even the "swamp" -- drew no strong reaction, but cursing the "media" whipped the crowd up into a frenzy against the reporters covering the event, had them baying for blood.  One member even tried to climb over the barrier that separated journalists from the crowd.  When a local reporter described the rally on Facebook, the reaction was so vicious that she feared for her safety and took it down.  When Trump claimed the election was rigged, the County Clerk (a local resident, and a Republican, elected by her fellow citizens) got regular calls accusing her of destroying ballots and trying to rig the election.  Local Republican politicians discovered that they could defuse any criticism in the local newspaper simply by calling it "very liberal" and "fake news."  And a general move is underway to "drain the swamp" by defunding their local government.
Before Trump took office, people I met in Grand Junction emphasized pragmatic reasons for supporting him. The economy was in trouble, and Trump was a businessman who knew how to make rational, profit-oriented decisions. Supporters almost always complained about some aspect of his character, but they also believed that these flaws were likely to help him succeed in Washington. “I’m not voting for him to be my pastor,” Kathy Rehberg, a local real-estate agent, said. “I’m voting for him to be President. If I have rats in my basement, I’m going to try to find the best rat killer out there. I don’t care if he’s ugly or if he’s sociable. All I care about is if he kills rats.” 
After the turbulent first two months of the Administration, I met again with Kathy Rehberg and her husband, Ron. They were satisfied with Trump’s performance, and their complaints about his behavior were mild. “I think some of it is funny, how he doesn’t let people push him around,” Ron Rehberg said. Over time, such remarks became more common. “I hate to say it, but I wake up in the morning looking forward to what else is coming,” Ray Scott, a Republican state senator who had campaigned for Trump, told me in June. One lawyer said bluntly, “I get a kick in the ass out of him.” The calculus seemed to have shifted: Trump’s negative qualities, which once had been described as a means to an end, now had value of their own. The point wasn’t necessarily to get things done; it was to retaliate against the media and other enemies. This had always seemed fundamental to Trump’s appeal, but people had been less likely to express it so starkly before he entered office.
It seems a safe assumption that that it was not by accident that supporter being interviewed talked about someone killing rats rather than, say, fixing her roof or car.

The author also commented on local reaction to the "pussy" tape.  Yes, it was abhorrent, but that was less important than that coastal elites were attacking their leader for it so they had to defend him.  In other words, the content of Trump's actions are irrelevant, so long as he has the right enemies.

Anderson Cooper accused one Trump supporter of being willing to defend Trump if he took a dump on his desk.  Well, of course he would.  Trump supporters elected him to be obnoxious and offensive. What could be more obnoxious and offensive than taking a dump on his desk?  Trump supporters would soon decide that this was a mark of "authenticity" while toilet training was "elitist."  And it perfectly encapsulated exactly what they think about Washington, so of course they would applaud. Presumably their reaction would be rather different if Trump did it in their living rooms!  But Trump is a smart enough politician that he would never do such a thing, nor could his followers ever imagine it.

Cooper really should have gone with what Trump said himself -- that he could stand out in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any votes.  And yes, it seems fair to say that if Trump shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, his supporters would dismiss it as fake news, applaud him for perfectly expressing what they think of coastal elitists, explain that murder is much more "authentic" than self-control, and/or rally behind their leader regardless of the merits of his actions because he was under attack by the elite coastal media and because his actions really pissed off the liberals.  Possibly all at once.  They would probably not react that way if Trump had shot someone in the middle of Main Street in Small Town, Iowa because that would be one of their own. But then again, Trump is a canny enough politician that he would never think of doing such a thing.

But maybe his followers should consider.  What does it say about Trump that his short hand for "in the most public and undeniable manner possible" is "in the middle of Fifth Avenue" instead of "in the middle of Main Street"?

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