President Trump, President Me
Why so many people I know are defending the worst president in history
The Donald Trump presidency, to me, is akin to a train carrying nuclear missiles, orphans, and the cure to cancer, wrecking in slow motion. It’s just a combination of so many things that should’ve never been combined, going off the rails as fast as the Commander-in-Tweet can send out his daily communiques.
I wasn’t a fan of candidate Trump. In no sense of the word did I think him a leader, or fit for leadership. Lots of my conservative friends disagreed with me — so many, in fact, that I don’t really consider myself a conservative now. I’m a centrist, and — if I’m being candid — I have a lot more in common with people to the left of me than folks on the right.
For a while I didn’t get Trump supporters. But that’s changing.
I’m Okay, He’s Okay Too
I’ve been conservative for as long as I can remember, and while my childhood leanings were a product of culture, my embracing those leanings as an adult were the result of a lot of thought. The thinking I did on the matter helped me understand, over the past 15 years, that I’m a conservative but I’m not a Republican.
Yes, that’s possible.
It’s how I ended up voting for Clinton, Romney, Obama, Bush, and Clinton in my lifetime. It’s also how I found myself at odds with a lot of folks this past election cycle.
Donald Trump is not a conservative. Never has been. And that’s why I couldn’t — wouldn’t — vote for him.
But he is a Republican, and that’s why many of my friends did vote for him, and why so many of them continue to defend him. He’s their guy. Their candidate. The representative of their Grand Old Party. Come hell or high water, DJT must be protected.
In part, it has to do with our fractured political system. We’ve devolved into warring factions that crow over each November “victory”, no matter how pyrrhic. So when one party wins, the wagons get circled, the spin gets spun, and common sense rolls over in its grave yet again.
But I think there’s something else going on with Trump. Something a little deeper.
I think so many of Trump’ most ardent supporters defend him because they are fundamentally good people.
That’s right. I think a lot of the folks who defend Donald J. Trump are people with good hearts. I know it’s easy to call them deplorables, racists, neo-nazis, skinheads, idiots, morons, and other names my mother said you shouldn’t call someone to their face. It fits a neat narrative, which is part of the problem.
But for all the so-called horrible Trumpers, there are just as many that are decent people who wanted to be heard. And after thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that they voted for Trump because they heard him talking about the things they held dear.
They may have had concerns, but at the end of the day, the intellectual process went like this:
I’m a good person ->I think things similar to what Trump says ->he might just be a good person too ->I’ll vote for him and give him a chance.
Stick To Your Guns
That’s not exactly ground-breaking. But it does explain why so many of those self-same good people are now defending Trump with increasing anger and volume.
Trump is struggling. His White House seems in disarray. He can’t stop Tweeting stupid stuff. He’s fired so many people in the past four months he’s got to be approaching numbers similar to the entire run of The Apprentice. He contradicts his people. He contradicts himself. He talks about conspiracies more than Oliver Stone. He’s keeping company with questionable characters.
Why in the holy crap would anyone defend him?
Because it would mean admitting they were wrong about him. About his internal character. About his ability to be better than people gave him credit for.
For the people who convinced themselves that Trump, like them, was a good guy at heart, condemning Trump is self-condemnation.
That’s why some of those folks defend him so vociferously. They aren’t really defending him — they’re defending themselves. In coming to Trump’s side, they’re trying to prove to themselves, and the world, that they didn’t get it wrong, they didn’t make a mistake, they are in fact reading the world correctly and it’s the world that’s pushing back.
It’s an existential dilemma of near cosmic proportions.
Realizing this has helped me locate my empathy for some of Trump’s most ardent supporters. People often become apologists for the wrong thing simply because to admit error is to admit ignorance. We don’t like to look stupid, and we certainly don’t like to admit that our misplaced faith in others might be the result of a misplaced faith in ourselves.
I’ve certainly backed the wrong horse on a few occasions, and I can honestly say I didn’t want to admit my own blindness. Admitting I was wrong — not just about that person, but about my own self-assessment, my own judgment — took a lot longer than four months. In some instances, it took years. And some cases I’m still trying to figure it out.
When it comes to aligning ourselves with others, we all make mistakes; that’s where the disconnect comes in. In the end, we all want to be right and we’ll go to great lengths to make that happen.
Even if that means supporting a lousy friend. A cheating partner. A troubled kid.
And in some cases, the worst president in history.