Allow me to empathize and channel the views that might have led 55% of whites to vote for Trump. In my opinion, their reasons are the same as the reasons more Blacks and Latinos voted for Trump as well.
Why is Obama president for 8 years and we only get one major reform attempt, the ACA? We expect and need one massive, systemic reform proposal per quarter. That’s 16 for Biden. Anything less than major education reforms, political system reforms, media reforms, and healthcare reforms in the first year of Biden’s administration is nonresponsive. If you can’t deliver big freakin’ changes, quickly, get out of the way and let some real leaders do the job. The situation is urgent.
End of channeling. Back to my own voice.
The appeal of a dictator is that he has the potential to make big, bold moves at lightning speed.
The most vocal Trump supporters want bold, aggressive interventions even more than progressives do. They just don’t know what those steps should be, in the details. But they’ve been crystal clear about one thing, haven’t they? America is floundering big time, they are desperate, and gridlock is unacceptable. This is Trump’s appeal.
Trump tells them he is trying. He yells. He blames. So he looks like he is trying. He reflects their anger and frustration.
They live and feel slow wage growth and increasing insecurity of jobs, their own jobs and those of the people around them. They see the government spending and debt shooting up, but they aren’t getting the benefits from it. It just looks like rich people are doing great in the stock market, but why? How? Trump’s voters aren’t all economists. They figure someone must be to blame for the US decline and gridlock in Washington.
And that’s Democrats, in their view. Trump would be pushing through major change after major change, for the better, if only the Democrats weren’t holding him back. (Next mystery: Why would they blame Democrats when the opposite is much more objectively true?)
So there’s your 55% white vote and, honestly, it should have been 75%. The large majority of people are suffering economically, and nothing is being done in Washington to do anything about it, and it’s been this way for 20+ years now. Something approaching 45% of people polled in 2016 agreed with the sentiment of “Just burn it all down.” Can we acknowledge and empathize? Can we accept that the real number was 90%, but half of the people were holding back in their answers, trying to be reasonable?
As to why they blame Democrats, I think we underestimate the power of the media in shaping people’s beliefs. It matters more than their one’s own ability to reason. Most people are sheep, more or less defenseless against strong messaging, and much more likely to follow the group than go a different way. Hence the quiet power of social media and the persuasiveness of Fox News’ fear-mongering.
The truth is that most voters are uninformed and misinformed about what’s really going on. This problem of an uninformed, misinformed citizenry is far worse than it was 30 years ago. People are actually getting more information nowadays, but it’s not better information. We have a garbage in, garbage out problem. We are inundated with simplistic news, memes, gossip, and propaganda. People are seeking answers, and they are more easily swayed by impressions than by complex economic truths. This is Marketing 101, right?
When Trump nation voted, they voted their beliefs, which is that Democrats are more responsible for all the problems and all the gridlock in Washington DC. Yes, it’s false to you and me, but not to them.
Remember, in the 2016 and 2020 elections, the conservative media dominated TV and Facebook and radio. That explains why the more objective truth isn’t widely known. The objective truth is that the Republicans are the party that wants gerrymandered gridlock and trickle-down economics. They have no vision of a better society, except fascism. They have a vision of business elites, in control, and an America that looks very Chinese or Singapore-ish in its political system.
And that’s why they had to go with fascist populism. There is no progressive Republican wing. Those folks all switched over to Independents and centrist Democrats. Today’s Republican strategy to win voters is to reflect the anger and energy, which builds trust, and then redirect it. Trump is angry. That makes him trustworthy. He blames China. It’s always about China! And the Democrats are the reason why nothing gets done! Reflect, and redirect.
Then comes the real hook — “What America needs is a strong leader! He needs power to change things. We need to give him total control.”
People are blind to the risks. Our cultural and social norms tell us we should want leaders, authority figures, a society of obedience and respect for those in positions of responsibility and power. Western enlightenment ideas are losing mindshare to Christian / Confucian submissiveness. There is a certain irony in this, of course.
That’s why Trump got 55% of the white vote. Most white folks aren’t intentional racists (some are, but it isn’t 55%, including in the deep South). In fact, suggesting they are actually just confirms their beliefs that Democrats are out of touch with their real concerns, the economic decline and crisis they are living.
You can pull at the heart strings by showing pictures of dead illegal immigrants. They are not heartless. But Trump’s supporters are living in very declining, depressing, stressing times. Consider their callousness as a survival response. They are worried about feeding their families.
Remember my takeaway: One major reform package per quarter should be the target pace. If Biden can do change at this pace, Trump supporters will restore their faith in democracy and the Democratic party. They are secretly progressives in the sense of wanting a lot of bold, aggressive government interventions.
I myself am highly progressive. More than anyone else I know, in fact. I understand the frustration the progressive wing of the Democratic party feels with the Biden wing. It’s the same as Trump’s supporters. We both demand bold, big moves at a far better pace than has been achieved over the past 30 years.
I fear that far higher percentages of Americans will try even harder to vote for fascist dictatorship again in 2022 and 2024. On the right, Trumpists. On the left, whoever emerges. People lean in towards all-powerful leaders because the system is unable to remake itself, unable to fix its gridlock, unable to make big, bold changes at the pace that is needed.