No, We Aren’t “Stupid Masochists”
A Rational Argument for the 40% That Still Approve of President Trump
Every week, a new scandal — if not multiple new scandals — seem to plague the White House. One week it is “sh**hole countries”, the next week is separating families at the border, and the next week he contradicts his story about a meeting with Russians at Trump Tower. Nevertheless, Trump’s approval ratings tend to float around 40% despite the weekly scandals.
Journalists on the left have labeled the 40% that still continue to support Trump as his loyal base, since there doesn’t seem to be anything that will turn their approval into disapproval. The phenomenon lends credence to Trump famously saying that his base would not care if he had shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue.
John Shellenberger at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle wrote a brief piece about this trend. Shellenberger lists all of Trump’s noteworthy scandals during his presidency before getting to his punch line. “Forty percent still support Trump? I can’t believe it. How stupid and masochistic can you be?” Similar sentiments are uttered every week across mainstream cable news after the White House orchestrates another outrage inducing event.
I think that there’s a relatively simple reason why Trump’s approval rating reaches its floor around 40%.
A large portion of his base are people that genuinely like Trump for one reason or another. These are the people that are regularly mocked by the left and called either racist or low information voters. Relatively often, the left dismisses the entire 40% as these hardcore Trump fans, but I don’t think that’s accurate.
I think there is sizable chunk of people that tolerate Donald Trump, but they are not fans of him as a person by any stretch of the imagination. They aren’t willing to defend the things he says on Twitter or any breaking scandals that come out, but they would rather have Donald Trump sitting in the oval office than a democrat. This doesn’t explain the people that were willing to support Trump from the day that he announced his candidacy, but it does explain the massive amounts of republicans that jumped on board for the general election in 2016.
This is a fairly intuitive stance. Trump will sign off on bills that a Republican congress agrees on. Some of his policy goals are in line with normal right-wing ideologies. Most of all, Trump isn’t pushing the agenda of the democratic party.
You can point to scandal after scandal, but that won’t make a pro-life voter willing to elect a president that will appoint a supreme court justice to defend Roe v. Wade. You can talk about Russian collusion, but that doesn’t make any republicans want to support universal healthcare or more restrictions on guns.
There is a practical argument to make that Donald Trump is unfit for office, but you must understand the alternative. Many republicans would prefer to have a professional, composed voice that could guide the party from the White House, but that does not mean they would swap out Trump for a democrat. That would be ridiculous, but people are suggesting this as if it makes any sense.
Imagine the parties were flipped. Democrats have an unprofessional, scandal plagued president. If republicans suggested that they should dump their president due to his demeanor then members of the left would come up with great reasons not to. They would shout about how the republican does not respect women’s reproductive rights. They would talk about how the republican wants to reduce the welfare state and cut funding to all kinds of governmental programs. The democrats would realize that an unprofessional, seemingly corrupt member of their party still does a better job pushing their agenda than a good person with a differing ideology.
That thought experiment reveals why there is not a mass exodus from the republican party resulting from stupid tweets and absurd press conferences. One man unfit to be president doesn’t change the root political philosophy for every right-wing person. Trump’s daily flubs don’t drive republicans to petition for Planned Parenthood donations. They don’t make republicans want to expand social security and explore more ways to redistribute wealth.
So when you see another “BREAKING NEWS” chyron on CNN, remember that there are defensible reasons for a republican to still vote for Trump over any democrat. Not everyone that approves of Trump is some kind of stupid masochist; they just prefer a bad republican to any democrat.