The Mythical Trump Voter

Please note that when I say “you” in the following remarks, I mean only some of you, and I’m pretty sure you know who you are.

Facebook has been full of memes and comments about the evilness of the Trump voter, generally taking the form, “Why should I be kind to them?” as if deciding whether or not to “be kind” were a finished political position.

In my opinion, social class determines interest, and in the long run is far more significant in every way that matters than what someone is thinking at any given moment; revolutions have more far-reaching effects than elections.  But, hey, let’s forget that; let’s pretend that what people are thinking is the key determining factor.  I’ll play that game with you.

So, what is the thinking of those who voted for Secretary Clinton?  To even ask the question in that way is hopeless.  We all know very well that those who filled in that box and pulled those levers were all over the map in terms of why they did so.

“She has advocated policies that I believe to be good.”
“Whatever happens, having a woman in the White House will be a step forward.”
“Trump has threatened to target groups I care deeply about.”
“I’ve voted Democrat all my life, and I’m not changing now.”
“She is obviously more competent than Trump, and as a Patriotic American, I value competence.”
“I can’t vote for a climate change denier.”
“Trump is too irresponsible to be permitted access to nuclear codes.”
“I’d love to vote for Trump because he recognizes my problems, but he’s such a bigoted asshole I just can’t.”
“Yes, she has committed terrible human rights violations, but Trump will commit those same acts plus worse.”
“My hamster would do less damage than Trump, and is smarter and has more integrity.”
“She will continue the policies of President Obama and I approve of those policies.”
“She will continue the policies of President Obama but I’m voting for her anyway because Reasons.”
“The Supreme Court; ’nuff said.”
“Bernie promised that she will do something about income disparity.”
“One’s corrupt, the other personifies corruption. Guess I’ll go with the corrupt.”
“I’ve hated every Trump supporter I’ve ever met.”
“I’ve hated every Trump supporter I’ve ever met even though I’ve never met one.”
“I hate her, but Bernie said it’s important to vote for her, and that’s good enough for me.”
“Russia has been The Enemy since I was a kid, so if Russia is supporting Trump, I’m against him.”
“Lies, lies, lies. She never did anything wrong and anyone who says otherwise is being sexist.”

And so on. There is, as we see, a huge range of reasons in the case of voting for Secretary Clinton. Why is it, then, that when it comes to the Trump voter, you create this image in your mind of not only who he is, but exactly why he voted for Trump? He is a white male (obviously) and a sexist, and a bigot, and homophobic.  Or, at any rate, doesn’t have problems with racism and sexism and homophobia, because that is all Trump ever talked about and no one could possibly see it any different.

It does not seem to occur to you that, just as some of you were in denial about or excused or justified or ignored Secretary Clinton’s Wall Street connections, her actions in Haiti, in Libya, in providing enthusiastic aid to President Clinton’s racist and anti-working class “war on drugs,” that some of these people were in denial about or excused or justified some of Trump’s positions.

Of course, if your goal is to feel morally superior, then fine, please keep your image of the Trump voter intact and move on with your life. And if your political position starts and ends with the question of whether to “be kind,” then feel free to be kind or not be kind to whomever you please.

But we are now living in a country in which the chief executive officer is a fascistic demagogue, and in which police state measures are being introduced even faster than I had thought they would be.  I beg to submit that to fight him effectively is going to take hard work, it is going to take organizing, it is going to take thinking things through, and it is going to take some of the 63 million people who voted for him. I further beg to submit that immense numbers of them will come to hate him, and for good reason.  If fighting Trump seems more important than feeling morally superior, then it might be worth your while to consider that there might be more going on in the thinking of those 63 million people than the image of them you’ve created in your head.

I freely admit, this can be dangerous. It might lead you toward questions you don’t care to look at, such as, how far has capitalism degenerated when such an election can take place, an election that was conducted somewhere below the level of discourse one finds in a junior high locker room? You might need to consider that such easy answers to what happened as, “The Republicans lied,” ignore the fact the Republicans (and the Democrats, but skip that) have been lying for decades.  You might need to consider that there have been Trump equivalents floating around for at least a century, but now, at this point in history, one got elected.  You might need to consider, why did so many people find the idea of “more of the same” so utterly unacceptable? You might start thinking that glib answers such as, “they’re racists,” and “they’re sexist” bring up more questions than they answer.  You might come to realize that the machinations and maneuvering of the two parties of big business are far more a reflection of and reaction to the state of capitalism than a determinate.  You might even discover the immense suffering of those people who you’ve been assured have no problems except what’s in their heads.

Winter is coming.  Things are going to get worse before they get better.  We have not yet had Trump’s version of the reichstag fire, but it doesn’t take a psychic to predict it.  People’s thinking changes in response to changing conditions.  In case you haven’t noticed, conditions are changing really fast right now.   This is exactly the moment when serious, thoughtful, principled intervention can have the greatest effect.

As Trump’s attacks on the working class increase in intensity, so will resistance against him. Many of those 63 million people will be on the front lines of that resistance. Where will you be?

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40 thoughts on “The Mythical Trump Voter”

  1. You’ve made me question my prejudices, Steve. I’m sad to say that if you were anyone but you, I would have rejected this wholeheartedly.

    At work today, I asked six or seven of my coworkers a series of questions, “What are you going to do when Trump reinstates the draft?” and “Which city do you think Trump will declare martial law in first?” and “There is a Resist meeting at S.U. tonight, do you want to come?”

    I didn’t feel like this resistance was outnumbered, but today I faced the complete indifference of my fellow working class. I don’t know how to reconcile the idea above of ‘be kind’ with the utter lack of concern from the majority of people I talked to today for what is happening in the world. That makes me worried, and frustrated with the people who refuse to think about it, and that makes it difficult to be kind.

    Anyway, I’m off to a meeting. If feel like it will be very echo-chambery and not representative of the masses, but we can only do what we can I guess.

  2. Trump’s actions, while outrageous, are no more outrageous than many of Obama’s actions. Obama’s ordering the killing of a U.S. citizen, by drone, without trial, is one I am thinking of. And yet, Trump’s executive orders have apparently inspired far more outrage and resistance than his predecessor. We may be getting an early answer to which man is going to inspire bigger and more energetic social movements dedicated to resisting him.

    To the extent that there is a Deep State, I suspect its principals are very alarmed. Trump is skewering far too many sacred cows, and drawing far too much attention to national security apparatus operations. They prefer to do their work mostly in secret, hence the white hot rage directed at whistle blowers like Snowden, Manning, Assange, etc. If I were Trump, I wouldn’t be driving around in any open motorcades right now.

  3. I started saying a simplistic form of this after the election.

    Calling a Nazi a Nazi didn’t cost anything during World War 2. Calling a Trump supporter a Nazi today *when I need him or her to change sides and listen to what I have to say* is ludicrous, even if the title is earned fair and square.

  4. To be clear, I’m not talking about hardened Nazis, I’m talking about people who may have voted for Trump out of any number of reasons other than his bigotry.

    Ryan: Kindness, one way or the other, isn’t the issue. A lot of Trump voters, as they are faced with what happens, will pass through stages of confusion, demoralization, and apparent indifference. What matters is, what we do with those who come around to the determination to fight. I believe that there will be many of them.

  5. Two useful links for people who want to try to understand Trump voters:

    Which includes this: “Trump did surprisingly well among groups he was thought to have fatally offended. He got 8 percent of blacks (Mitt Romney got only 6 percent in 2012), 29 percent of Latinos (Romney got 27 percent), and 41 percent of moderates (Romney also got 41 percent). Trump trailed Clinton among women by 12 percentage points, but that wasn’t much worse than Romney, who lost them by 11 points. Trump also got 31 percent of voters who said they hadn’t been born as U.S. citizens. These figures complicate the theory that racism and sexism carried Trump to victory.”


    Which includes this: “How did Trump win when many of his core positions were so unpopular? Some people voted for him regardless of that. Among those who favored giving illegal immigrants a chance to apply for legal status, one in three voted for Trump. Thirty-five percent of people who said international trade creates jobs voted for Trump. And even 27 percent of white voters who said they want the next president to change to more liberal policies voted for Trump.”

  6. Anyone who wants to oppose Trump is very welcome. The more the merrier. There is a long road ahead and allies will be needed.
    I encounter the same sort of apathy as Ryan mentioned above. “It can’t happen to us,” is still what most people seem to be thinking. As Trump continues to commit more and more outrages, hopefully the apathy will turn; hopefully this realization won’t come too late.

  7. I work in a prison. I am used to working with deplorable people.When offenders tell me their stories, they are frequently looking for validation or some way to judge the listener. There is a position that exists between agree and disagree, between belief and disbelief. That position is what I like to think of acceptance. “I accept your story as being how you see the world.”

    Given some of the truly weird things offenders believe it’s frequently a long walk back from where they live to any sort of objective reality, but since I’m trying to teach them concrete skills, it’s a trek I make every day.

    Dealing with Trump supporters need to be done more or less the same way. Find out what they believe and accept that as being their world view, and then slowly steer them toward reality.

  8. “Let us not forget that our host promoted the false equivalence of Trump and Clinton.”

    That must have been the alternate world me. The this world me did no such thing, ever. On the contrary, the this-world me repeatedly insisted on the difference, that they represented different sections of the ruling class, and that the viciousness of the campaign indicated the sharpness of the divisions within the elite. I’m starting to suspect that much of your problem has to do with a confusion about which world you’re in.

  9. Curtis: Good comment. The difference, I think, is that right now Trump is busily enlightening large numbers of them about his true nature without the need to explain anything.

    adonisus: Good quote.

  10. Trump fired the acting AG with a very nasty note accusing her of “betraying the Justice Department.”
    It took Nixon years to get to this point. Things are escalating quickly.

  11. We are seeing emphatic moves toward a police state. And what is interesting is that it is clear from AGs actions, and from those of a few others in Congress and the State Department, that the ruling class is not united on this as a plan.

  12. It looks to me that Bannon is grabbing hold of all of the power he can. The NSC move and the immigration ban are both clearly his work. He is also in a position to talk to Trump all the time. Bannon is clearly skilled at manipulating people but doesn’t seem to be a very deep thinker. The immigration ban is very poorly written and he has made a number of historical references that are wrong (google Bannon Lenin) or from which he has derived the wrong lesson. He seems to be in it for himself and for some version of alt-right.
    Trump isn’t terribly bright but he has a vast ego. He does, clearly, have a good feel for running cons but I don’t think he can tell at all when someone is running a con on him. He also has exactly zero empathy and zero consideration for anyone who isn’t rich. He has no impulse control. He is in it for himself.
    So, what we have are two con men. They both want things that are inimical to democracy and to ordinary people. This will become more apparent as time goes on. Time is moving very quickly in this case.

  13. Of course Trump voters had multiple reasons for voting for him, or against Hillary Clinton. It’s just that, in truth, many of them were based on falsehoods, stereotypes, misogyny, irrational fear of foreigners (and so many others), disgust and dismay at their diminished social and economic situations (which Democrats also have ignored over the years but which are more likely to have been the product of a globalized economy and much cheaper labor overseas and massively increased use of machines to build machines), religious dogma that (frankly is wrong) demonized gay, transgender, lesbian, and even out of wedlock sexual behavior as immoral.
    Okay, these are legitimate personal views (not mine) but the logical extension of these positions is now embodied in President Bannon, who will not shy away from delegitimizing as much as half the US population and subjecting them to arrest, and worse, violence by his followers.
    Hillary was not my choice – Sanders was – and she was perhaps the exact wrong candidate for America 2016 but voting for Trump is going to prove a colossal miscalculation by the very people who voted for him, and for them, I have no sympathy and no interest in empathy.
    Yeah, I’m one of them.

  14. lrider: There is one person who cares how much sympathy or empathy you have, and that’s you. Here’s the question: when you are at a protest (assuming you attend one), and the person next to you says, “I can’t believe I voted for that sonofabitch,” are you going to say, “Fuck off outta here, you’re why we’re in this mess, we don’t want your support.”? Because, that will do a lot of good, won’t it? I will say, “Welcome to the fight, comrade.”

  15. It seems that the US Government is in chaos, and falling apart at the seams. For a system that loves stability and predictibility, Trump has not exactly been a boon.

  16. Well, my nephew voted for DT. He is a very thoughtful person. He is also a Catholic convert, a little brainwashed right now. In the primary he voted for Bernie, in the election for DT. His grandmother will not let up on him, even telling him he is no grandson of hers, constantly forwarding negative texts and e-mails about Trump to the point he wrote her a note, told her he loved her, but he had to have a break from it, He will not see her or talk to her. Me, I am not happy he voted for DT, but told him as long as he considered it and made his choice that was his business. It is a secret ballot and he had no obligation to tell anyone for whom he voted, and that is how my parents raised me. He thanked me with great relief. I think he feels horrible about it.

    On the other hand, I have a friend who votes repo without a thought in her head for the consequences. She is hiding from me right now. She will never change, but my nephew will as long as there is respect in the equation and calm discussion. You cannot change everyone, but screaming and threats will not work, and that is my opinion. .

  17. I’ve made a very small number of comments on Breitbart articles recently, in a tentative attempt to engage stereotypical Trump voters. Unfortunately, the comments section is frequently overrun by statements only tangentially related to the articles themselves – constant reiterations of “thank goodness we finally have a President who cares about America”, “make America great again”, and creative epithets for liberals/democrats. Possibly not the best forum for thoughtful discussion; even pointing out the hypocrisy of Republicans and Democrats simultaneously is jumped on as “trolling”.

    By the way, in my circles (largely wedding websites and Women’s March attendees) the Mythical Trump Voter is a white woman.

    What gets me is that Trump himself does not seem to understand that his voters OBVIOUSLY had a wide range of very diverse reasons for supporting him. He defends every order by claiming to implement the will of the people: the election results prove Americans want a border wall; the election results prove Americans want a Muslim ban; the election results prove Americans want [insert Trump whim]. It’s maddening. I understand that a government which only took actions supported by 100% of the population would never do anything at all, but so many of Trump’s initial orders seem to ignore the opinion of a majority of Americans. I can only hope that this will be reflected in elections over the next 2-4 years.

  18. skzb — “I do not consider this a good reason to vote for either of them.”

    That’s what the “this world me” [skzb] wrote. I consider that to be false equivalence.

    I will note that I asked for the comment to be deleted because I no longer care to even bother arguing the point. Obviously you chose not to delete it despite my request.

  19. What comment did you want deleted? I missed that.

    Just went back and looked, and still don’t see a request for a comment to be deleted. What is the time/date stamp for the request, and what is the comment?

  20. It seems that some believe “I do not wish to vote for either Clinton or Trump” to be saying, “Clinton and Trump are the same.”

    I also do not wish to vote for Sanders, or Stein, or Gary Johnson, so presumably I think they’re the same too?

  21. Interesting set of questions, and one which I have given a fair amount of thought about. On the philosophy side, here is my justification for making certain assumptions about Trump supporters: Racism is not black and white, and using a label like racist is an over simplification. All people have some amount of tribalism in their makeup, and “enlightened” politics usually means that you have managed to overcome these usually counter-productive human traits. So while I may not call everyone who voted for Trump a racist, or a misogynist; I can confidently say they were not sufficiently bothered by Trump (and supporters) racist and misogynist actions to avoid voting for him. Shorter version: the trump voter may not be a total racist, but they were far enough along the spectrum that they were willing to support Trump anyway.

    As for someone who was already willing to say something along the lines “I made a mistake, and need to oppose him (or at least stop supporting him)”, like you I say welcome. The more interesting question is how do you deal with someone who is on the edge, dissatisfied but has not yet reached that conclusion. My temptation (which I have so far resisted), is to ask if they want me to be “political correct”, and if they respond no, tell them fine here is the political incorrect response: you are a f***in idiot! :)

    One of the reasons to be polite is that some people need time and space to realize they were wrong. If you press them at the wrong time, they just dig in and defend themselves (perhaps even to the point that they are no longer willing to admit they were wrong, along the lines of cognitive dissonance). But with others you need to frankly confront their misconceptions. Helps to keep your goals in mind, do you want to “win the argument and make them feel bad”, or look for mutual areas of interest and try to work together on those.

    Now one of the ironies of our situation is that in my wording I have just made an empathetic argument which could be stereo-typed as a liberal mindset, while a stereotype of the the Trump supporter may respond more to tribal arguments (us vs. them). So regardless of your motivations, you may be better off starting with why this hypothetical Trump supporter should consider you as “one of us”.

  22. I also appreciate your attempt to get people to think about why they supported whomever they supported. As someone who is not a member of a USA mainstream political party, I am pretty deliberate when supporting a candidate (I style myself a reformed Libertarian, still very much so on civil issues, but realized that the market philosophy was too simplistic to deal with built-in system corruption, and that the Libertarian party in the US was largely captured by corporations looking to evade responsibility for pollution and the like).

    It is fair to take my yardstick (mentioned in the previous post) and apply it to myself. For example I am bothered about US Militarism and Hillary’s war-mongering, but not enough that she lost my support against Trump. So yes, I ended up giving Militarism some implicit support. But this was because of my binary perception (no 3rd party was going to save us), and that my perception of Trump as worse (IMHO it is wrong to call Trump an isolationist, he is more of an imperialist — an impulsive and vindictive one at that).

  23. Just to change things up, Trump apparently threatened to invade Mexico. He also yelled at the Australian Prime Minister but his call with Putin went great. He also proposed that domestic counter terror efforts focus solely on radical Islam rather than the more prevalent White Supremist threats.
    These are the sort of actions that should start disenchanting those mythical Trump supporters who are not blindly following him.

  24. skzb – the “this world me” [skzb] also wrote: “The candidacy of Donald Trump represents all of the filth, degeneracy, and despair of capitalism in its death agony; the Democratic Party candidates who oppose him represent different policies to accomplish the same goal…”

    I’m sure i could go on and find more, but the gist is clear. And yes, I consider the previous quote and this one here to be examples of false equivalence.

    In the long run we are all dead. When John Maynard Keynes made this remark he was specifically ranting against people who believe the long run is all we should plan for. Keynes recognized that the short run is where we all live and that untold pain and suffering can accompany even well-intentioned plans for “the long run” — that we need to temper plans for the long run with alleviating pain and suffering *now*.

    In a previous comment you claimed Clinton was responsible for untold thousands or millions of deaths and Trump zero that we knew of. I asked for details of your magic 8-ball numbers. I brought up Gavrilo Princip and WWI. I also asked how many deaths you were responsible for or me. You never answered the question regarding Princip, yourself, or me. Apparently your magic 8-ball’s battery went on the fritz.

    Your writings pre-election did nothing but provide pseudo-intellectual cover for those that didn’t vote. Did it make a difference – I highly doubt it. But that’s hardly much of an excuse — I don’t influence enough people to make a difference.

  25. O’Neill- not to speak for Mr. Brust, but surely you are aware that during her tenure as Sec. of State, the US engaged in numerous military actions and extra-legal killings? That isn’t a secret, right? Although the actual number of civilian and combat deaths is a secret, of course.

    She isn’t solely responsible. No one is solely responsible for the actions of the Deep State, but she also has never displayed the slightest regret or shame at her role as the public face of those policies, so you have to conclude that she approves of the widespread application of lethal force to promote US security and business interests.

    Mr. Trump has signed on for all of that in spades, so I am sure he will catch up in no time. But one of the frustrations in talking with you is your dogged refusal to credit your debate partners’ points of view as having validity, and conveniently failing to notice points made that don’t fit into your straw dog image of them.

  26. oneil: The level of intellectual dishonesty here is becoming staggering. In terms of the direct points about Secretary Clinton, larswyrdson covers them. But that isn’t what’s gnawing at me right now.

    First you say (30 January 2017 at 9:08 pm) “Let us not forget that our host promoted the false equivalence of Trump and Clinton.”

    I point out that I repeatedly said they were not the same, and you come back with. (1 February 2017 at 1:57 pm) “skzb — “I do not consider this a good reason to vote for either of them.”
    That’s what the “this world me” [skzb] wrote. I consider that to be false equivalence.”

    Which is either saying, “You said would not vote for either of them, which is the same as saying they’re the same,” or it’s failing to address the issue at all. The former is absurd, as I observed at 1 February 2017 at 2:19 pm; the latter is simply prevaricating.

    But then, and here’s the kicker, you say “I will note that I asked for the comment to be deleted because I no longer care to even bother arguing the point. Obviously you chose not to delete it despite my request.” (1 February 2017 at 1:57 pm) and when I ask when you made that request (1 February 2017 at 2:15 pm ), you say…nothing, which leads me to the conclusion that you never did make that request, and that bringing that up was an utterly disingenuous attempt to grab the moral high ground which, by itself, exposes the bankruptcy of your argument.

  27. @oneillsinwisconsin

    [skzb] also wrote: “The candidacy of Donald Trump represents all of the filth, degeneracy, and despair of capitalism in its death agony; the Democratic Party candidates who oppose him represent different policies to accomplish the same goal…”

    “I’m sure i could go on and find more, but the gist is clear. And yes, I consider the previous quote and this one here to be examples of false equivalence.”

    I’m having a lot of trouble understanding your point of view.

    It looks like you are saying that the Trump candidacy has different goals than the Democratic party, as well as different methods toward that goal.

    Why would you think that? They look like pretty much the same goals to me.

    Are you a Democrat? I can easily imagine that Democrats would object to skzb’s claim. But I don’t see why anybody else would disagree. I am not a trotskyite or a communists or a socialist, and I don’t see that Steven has said anything controversial here. But for no obvious reason it looks like you disagree with the consensus.

  28. From his comments over many months, I surmise that oneillsinwisconsin is an apologist for the Clinton/DNC wing of the national Democratic “leadership.” He has essentially admitted as such, with the additional facts that he opposed the 1990 Gulf War (a good thing), he almost became the Democratic Senate candidate years back, and he has been reading Robert Parry since before there was an internet. Not sure why all that adds up to the need to antagonize skzb, but there you have it.

    I have been reading skzb’s posts carefully for months. I never read him to be saying that Trump and Clinton were equivalent, whatever that means. Instead, he argues both Clinton and Trump are reliable servants of late stage capitalism, with different but equally glaring and unacceptable histories and features. That the system produced these two noxious humans as the only two choices is great evidence of its fundamental bankruptcy.

  29. ” That the system produced these two noxious humans as the only two choices is great evidence of its fundamental bankruptcy.”

    I’m not sure if I’ve ever used those exact words, but I should have.

  30. The catalyst for change is not the slow constriction of our rights but the sudden obvious acts of badness. Consider that the basis for a Trump vote could have been caused by the urge to push the whole sprawling governing madhouse over the edge. Which, by effect, arouses the people to action. A vote for Trump, in a round-about way, supports those who hate him and supports the idea of the need for real change.

  31. The thing about the phrase ‘real change’ is that it is missing the necessary words ‘for the better’.

  32. skzb — “But then, and here’s the kicker, you say “I will note that I asked for the comment to be deleted because I no longer care to even bother arguing the point. Obviously you chose not to delete it despite my request.” (1 February 2017 at 1:57 pm) and when I ask when you made that request (1 February 2017 at 2:15 pm ), you say…nothing, which leads me to the conclusion that you never did make that request, and that bringing that up was an utterly disingenuous attempt to grab the moral high ground which, by itself, exposes the bankruptcy of your argument.”

    I wrote a comment – used the deletion button that appears for 5 minutes after submitting “Post Comment”. In the dialog box for deleting the comment I wrote that “I no longer care [to debate the topic]”

    My deletion request was ignored. I find it odd that you want me to explain how your site’s comment and deletions work. I haven’t a clue, but since you *failed* to delete the comment I felt it necessary to continue with this nonsense.

    So, rather than asking me when I requested deletion you should be trying to figure out why the system didn’t record the deletion request. Time? We know because the deletion or edit request only lasts 5 minutes that it was within 5 minutes of my comment being submitted.

  33. Please give me a time and date stamp for the comment where you requested deletion. I just went back and looked, and I *still* don’t see any request for a comment to be deleted.

  34. skzb – there is no 2nd comment requesting deletion so how in the world can I give you a timestamp for it?. This is your webpage – don’t you understand how it works?

    When a commenter submits a comment for 5 minutes afterwards there is an “Edit” button and a “Deletion Request” Button. I clicked on the delete button. It then opened a dialog box for my reason for requesting deletion. I don’t know how the backend on this site works. It obviously didn’t automatically delete the comment – so I assumed that someone on the back end would have to delete it manually.

    It doesn’t matter. Something didn’t work right or there was commenter error, who knows? The comment appeared and I then decided since it was there I’d respond.

  35. I never saw a delete request in the internals, so something went wrong somewhere. If you want a comment deleted, just make a comment that says, “Please delete my previous comment,” or something, and I’ll be happy to do so.

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