Why Trump voters are not “complete idiots”
Chris Arnade
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I don’t think these viciously marginalized people you mention constitute the majority of Trump’s followers. They surely are part of them and it is true they tend to be less educated, many times more by choice than total lack of opportunity, but Trump’s followers are wider than that, even if they love to feel — as Trump tells them to feel — that they are the marginalized group in America. In fact, if you look at it, at least during the primaries, the median income of Trump’s supporters was higher than that of Clinton’s or Sanders’ supporters.

I don’t quite agree either with your definition of the “elite” and how it works. Most people, from marginalized gang members to university professors, from the poorest to the wealthy like Trump, have this illusion that there is an elite trying to screw us — and yes, there will always be groups of people with more power than you and me, and they aren’t always looking out for us. In a big society we are all likely to feel helpless on one issue or another. Yet, if the world really moved more at the will of, say, the university professors you mention, everything would be quite different than it is today — while, for example, the value of celebrating guns is still powerful and highly protected in America, a value that comes more from the type of people you describe that supposedly are not part of the elite.

More than being outside a so-called elite, I go back to thinking Trump support comes mainly from fear combined with some sort of (rational or irrational if you will) prejudice.

Many are afraid of big complex concepts: NAFTA, TPP, immigrants, terrorists, sexual immorality, people who are different. I say fear more than concern because a big chunk of Trump voters are not affected by NAFTA, are not poor, barely have contact with immigrants, haven’t lost jobs to immigrants, and actually do fairly well economically. They might even be considered a sort of “elite”. They have less education but suffer no persecution and no real prejudice in their social environments (they suffer it in publications they don’t even read or care about). The bottomline is, many of his supporters aren’t the portrait of what Trump claims to defend.

There is, of course, that one group of Trump supporters that can look stupid to the beholder. Those crazy sounding whites at the rallies who shout, insult and hold to whatever conspiracy theory they can. Not all of them are necessarily poor, but some might feel marginalized by the mainstream society (not enough to lose any sense of entitlement in their country like true marginalized societies might feel). Among these is a wider range of the simply racist, misogynist, and the formally white supremacist who have found an open stage after Trump’s rallies. They do feel left behind by a progressive tendency, but they aren’t necessarily scrambling crumbs of bread or clustered in a ghetto. Stil, I don’t think these constitute “half” of his followers — though similar concealed sentiments might feed more than the actual half.

Many of these groups could indeed fare better than they do, but they are pretty well-off in global terms and regarding basic needs. A lot of their situations come from free decisions in a country where such freedom, if not completely unrestrained, is quite unique compared to the rest of the world. Many aren’t the ghetto type, but seem the sort of people who have lived somewhat alongside people who have been able to make it better.

I acknowledge that they don’t care about what happens abroad, they care about the division they feel at home with others in power. Trump successfully sells to these groups that things could be better, that the establishment is an elite that doesn’t represent them, and that they are victims — all that is wrong in ourlives (or could be wrong in the future) is because of someone else, the elite. We love to feel victims of the powerful and Trump is pandering to that.

Then there is the Christian faction. Evangelicals are somewhat mocked in some mediums, but not so much in their communities. A conservative Christian can easily belong to the elite more than a conservative Muslim could. They are the least prejudiced religious group in America. (I am a devout Christian myself and do have connections with conservative Evangelicals around the US.)

This group isn’t poor or marginalized. They love to portray themselves as persecuted by an atheist government, but again, there are little facts and a lot of imagination and promoted fear — the government (elite) still holds prayer meetings in both parties and even the DNC had more Christian prayer than the RNC.

This faction of supportes usually comes from communities where guns are sort of a golden calf. Some commited Evangelicals talk more about the fear of a candidate putting the availability and ease-of-use of their guns at risk than of abortion. They force Christianity into patriotism and tie patriotism inseparably to guns. For many (and this goes also for those outside Christian conservative groups) guns are the definitive issue in their voting decision and being against guns will taint whatever else a candidate might say.

Many conservative evangelicals live under the idea that they are losing power in a society that is becoming more diverse ideologically, and Trump is somehow their (naive perhaps) way to try to keep it. They are joined here by those who, regardless of religion, hold similar values, be it against gay lifestyles (or sometimes utter dislike of gay people), against other religions coming in (though there might be a racial thing there in disguise), or about the love of guns. After all, Trump’s appeal — unlike Sanders’ or Stein’s or even Johnson’s — is not a new America, it is an old one… though I concede that, should they keep somewhere in their gut the notion that he could bring disaster, there might be an ulterior vengeful tinge to the whole thing against a society that elected someone they didn’t (Obama).

What you say is still true. There is a point in people’s life situation where they think whatever is different or shatters the way things are is good — I think the world saw that in places like Venezuela to a certain extent — but I doubt that summarizes the case for Trump. I think it could have been with Sanders and might still be with Stein. I would argue though that this isn’t coming from the really needy — it is coming from middle to higher class adults with some college education, yet young and unexperienced, excited about the experiment of seeing the system come down, focusing on everything that is unfair while deaf to anything else lest they sound complacent, “establishment” or sold-out.

The whole idea you present of being willing to have the system shattered when there is no difference for the group one way or the other is quite interesting (the now revered charts work quite well too), but I am just not sure it fully applies to the current situation with Trump in the US.

Now, your underlying message that we have to try to understand where all come from is important and there should be more striving for this. Even if we can prove there is plain ignorance in supporting Trump, I am not for viciously mocking. They have to be taken into account as a real, human part of a country and of the world. Even white supremacists and Trump are people and have their reasons, misguided if you will. It’d be great if we all tried to understand where others come from and — without condoning when we mustn’t and even speaking against when we deem we should — see others (including those who hate and instult) as people and not as idiotic machines to hate and insult.

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