Trump’s Supporters Aren’t Racist or Sexist — They’re Fellow Travelers
Ever since my dreams of helping to elect the first female President of the United States crumbled into dust two weeks ago, I’ve been reading a lot of post-mortems of the Democratic flame-out. Mostly from the left, some from the center, a few from (supposedly) non-partisan sources, and (gulp) some from the right.
Everyone has their own analysis of “what the fuck just happened.” Many on the left claimed that Hillary Clinton wasn’t actually a progressive, never mind the fact that she voted with Sanders more than ninety percent of the time while they were in the Senate together. Feminists like myself blamed sexism and misogyny — and saw ample evidence of it. Still other claimed that the Clinton’s gender wasn’t to blame, that her “crookedness” (Clinton’s email server, involvement in Benghazi, her highly paid speeches to Wall Street execs, etc.) sunk her. Those on the right complained that Clinton, a daughter of the Midwestern middle-class, was an “elite” from a coastal city who failed to address the very real economic distress of those in rural Rust Belt areas. Political pundits questioned the Clinton campaign’s decision not to visit Michigan, a state that swung to Trump’s column. Fake news on social media, third party candidates, the historic unpopularity of the major party candidates, voter suppression efforts by the GOP, and general lack of enthusiasm amongst the electorate were all cited as possible causes of Trump’s upset victory.
Trump supporters themselves claimed that they wanted someone who would shake things up— “drain the swamp” in Washington and “Make America Great Again” — and that Trump’s very lack of political experience made him ideal for the task. And they were very offended by suggestions that they were racist and sexist for voting for someone who expressed overtly racist or sexist views.
Ok, fine. Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that most of Trump’s supporters are not racist or sexist. And let’s also say that they voted for Trump solely for economic reasons.
That still makes them fellow travelers. And, like it or not, fellow travelers bear moral responsibility for the actions of the politicians they elect into office.
After all, Trump didn’t rise to power in a military coup. He was voted into office. And he was voted into office by people who knew full well what he stood for; Trump unceremoniously dispensed with the reliable GOP dog whistles of yesteryear. No, Trump came right out and said that “Mexicans are rapists.” Trump came right out and called for mass deportations and the construction of a wall between the US and Mexico. Trump came right out and said that an American-born judge wasn’t impartial because of his Mexican ancestry. And he came right out and said that Muslims needed “extreme vetting” because they were terrorists. He came right out and said that the black inner-cities were hellish landscapes that could only be tamed by the revival of stop and frisk. Trump knowingly retweeted wildly inaccurate crime ststistics that falsely claimed that most white murder victims were killed by “the blacks.” Trump took his time denouncing David Duke and the KKK and he made Steve Bannon, a known white nationalist, a prominent member of his campaign staff. Trump came right out and refused to apologize for falsely suggesting that the nation’s first black president was born in Kenya.
And nearly ever other word out of his mouth demeaned women as a whole. Quick refresher:
- Claimed that Fox News’ Megyn Kelly only asked him a question about his habit of publicly demeaning women because she was on her period
- Claiming that no one would vote for GOP rival, Carly Fiorina, because of her face
- Told a lawyer that she was “disgusting” for wanting to take a break during a deposition to pump breast milk
- Repeatedly joking about dating his daughter, Ivanka
- Re-ignited his feud with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado by (falsely) claiming that she’d made a sex tape
- Bragged about walking in on pageant contestants, some of whom were teenagers, when they were undressing
- Told an interviewer that “you gotta treat [women] like shit.”
- Bragged about sexually assaulting women
- Claimed that the women who accused him of sexual assault weren’t attractive enough for him to want to assault
And ad nauseum.
Once again, Trump wasn’t at all subtle about his attitude toward women. He came right out and said that he only valued them for their youth, thinness, and relative attractiveness.
Still, more than sixty million people voted for him anyway. They voted for him anyway because they were “okay with” blatant racism and misogyny. And being okay with racism and sexism makes one just as bad as someone who actually is racist and sexist.
To add insult to injury, the fact that Trump’s supporters are okay with racism and misogyny doesn’t even benefit them; due to automation and outsourcing (which Trump did more than a little of), those good jobs that left the Rust Belt are gone, never to return. And deporting millions of people won’t solve that problem; undocumented workers didn’t — couldn’t — take those jobs and kicking all those people out will leave a gaping hole in the American economy.
To make matters worse, Trump doesn’t even care about his fellow travelers. In fact, Trump is one of the coastal elites that he spent so much time lambasting during the campaign. The billionaire son of a wealthy man, Trump was born and raised in the biggest coastal city in America, New York City. And he has spent much of his adult life living in a penthouse apartment in a skyrise building on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Make no mistake, Trump isn’t a Kennedy; “public service” and “charity” were never part of the Trump lexicon. His supporters are fooling themselves if they think he suddenly woke up two years ago with an overwhelming urge to improve the collective lot of Middle American blue collar workers he’d never met. No, Trump played to that crowd because he knew that the donor class, the Washington insiders, the pundits, and the intelligentsia took him for a joke.
And like the fellow travelers before them, those of Nazi Germany, Trump supporters will suffer dearly for their allegiance to a grossly underqualified demagogue. While the fellow travelers of the Nazi regime temporarily enjoyed increased prosperity under Nazi rule, Hitler and his henchmen so badly mismanaged the government that Germany was reduced to a smoking pile of rubble by 1945. All those fellow travelers, those who refused to condemn Hitler’s genocidal actions in the hope of securing economic prosperity for themselves ended up with nothing but the world’s opprobium and guilty consciences.
While the consequences of a Trump presidency will (hopefully) not be so dire, the next four years will not bode well for the vast majority of Americans. Trump’s fellow travelers will be to blame whether they like it or not.