Three layers to Trump's winning Electoral College (not popular vote) campaign:
- "Flip the table"/"Change for change's sake"
None of these layers are exclusive. The people who were motivated by #3 either do not hear, or say they do not care, about factors #1 and #2.
Trump's campaign began on racism, and was sustained by it throughout. Trump decided to dip his toe into using politics to sell the Trump brand by pandering to racists by claiming Obama needed to show him, personally, papers to prove Obama was born in the United States. This had never been such a concern for the previous 43 white Presidents but hitching himself to the birther movement meant an easy way to get attention at a high level.
That was before Trump declared his candidacy. The candidacy that began with accusing Mexicans of being murderers and rapists and the absurd boast he would build a wall along the Mexico border and make Mexico pay for it. We have had little to no net migration from Mexico for years, and have had years when more U.S. citizens left to live in Mexico.
The few times Trump was near people of color was for a photo op, not to relate to them. Spending time in a black church that specifically told him to not talk about politics, and had to shush him when he did. Standing next to the President of Mexico and utterly wimping out on bringing up his core campaign issue, building a wall along Mexico, while in Mexico and speaking to its President.
Such moments weren't about not being a racist, but providing visual assurance that it would not be racist to vote for Trump because he had some people of color around him that one time. Trump is a racist in both word and deed, dating back to the 1970s, and his campaign was saturated and dripping with thick venomous hatred. Dog whistle phrases like repeating use of Nixon's "law and order", promising to investigate Black Lives Matter as a criminal enterprise, black people live in an inescapable "hell", millions of Mexicans would be deported within a week no matter that their family members and our economy needed them. On and on. Unmistakable hatred hissed at several races and groups. But his supporters say they are not racist despite the thousands gurgling and howling their approval at each morsel of race baiting thrown out to them. Despite Trump's courting (or coyly not not shunning) the KKK endorsement.
Now we have Latinos rightly terrified the new President will send them away, tearing them from their families for no good reason. Muslims rightly terrified they will be banned from the country, as Trump has promised. But Trump supporters say he is not racist or bigoted.
Trump treats women as objects, not people. Trump/Pence think women should not have control over their own bodies. When he had a competent woman, Hillary Clinton, pressing him on any issue he could not keep his shit together for more than a few minutes. The series of women accusing him of sexual assault is long. From Sam Harris:
We have now witnessed Donald Trump bragging about his sexual predations in terms that not even Satan himself could spin to his advantage. He has admitted to repeatedly groping women, kissing them on the mouth without their consent, and invading the dressing rooms of teenage pageant contestants to see them naked. Every day, more women come forward confirming the truth of these confessions. Trump has even said that he would have sex with his own daughter, were she the offspring of another man. He talks about his libido as only a malignant narcissist can: as though it were a wonder of nature, a riddle no mortal can solve, and a blessing to humanity.
And the list of insults Trump directs at women for their appearance and their gender and their inherent bodily functions is also long, insults blurted out time and again out of reflex. He cannot help himself. Hillary Clinton all but telling him directly during the debates: "I am going to press down on your sexist buttons and you will flip out and make sexist remarks" and Trump did not fail to respond in just that way. But Trump supporters say none of this is a problem and he is not sexist.
3.) "Flip the table"/"Change for change's sake"
When asked, Trump supporters often strangely tune out what their candidate has said and done. When they do track his stupid, horrible, racist, sexist ideas they say he does not mean those things. He's just trying to get elected, as all politicians do. This is among the mind-blowing elements for people who track information and history. Everyone can laugh and know better when Trump during a national debate claimed "No one respects women more than I do. No one." because we all know the contrary. Even Trump's supporters must know moments like that are outright lies. Yet they don't seem to care or take that as an alarming trait.
What many Trump supporters say they voted for was a non-politician who has shown he doesn't give a shit about the system. The system isn't working for them. They need a change. He'll flip the table and maybe we'll build something "terrific" out of that mess.
They don't seem conscious of the constant whining of Trump's racist dog whistle, buy many respond to blaming non-whites for their problems along with the system. They aren't conscious of any sexism, but many had "bitch" signs about Hillary and demanded Hillary be put in jail despite her not committing any palpable crime. The subtext, or often overt text, was that she was uppity and needed to know her place.
Hillary Clinton was not my first choice for a Presidential candidate. I don't like dynasties and thought we needed someone with a new last name. She was an establishment candidate, and I could understand Republicans seeing that she did not represent needed change. But she was qualified. And a functioning adult. And lives for public service to the benefit of others. Trump is none of those things.
Three things that I kept chewing on, even before the surprising election results:
- There were many people during the primary who deliberated between voting for Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.
- The Tea Party and Occupy movements started as protests against Wall Street bailouts by the government, then went wildly different directions.
- Polls showed the leading reason people were voting for either Trump or Clinton was for NOT being the other candidate.
This was a campaign not driven primarily by hope, but by resentment. It is worth looking at the populist elements that motivated Trump voters? Are there lessons to learn about where they could be brought along in a broadened economic justice movement? I think so.
But while we consider the people and how to connect with them, to make them less scared and provide something to believe in and strive for instead of a "just stir shit up" attitude, we have disastrous years before us.
Trump has the makings of a dictator. A buffoon long-mocked because of his appearance. An initial ascension to power despite lack of support from the majority of people. Xenophobia. Zealous nationalism. Contempt for other countries. Fondness for despots. Sexual predator. Lack of friends or character witnesses. Mainstream figures in his party who know he is awful but are too scared to take a stand against him and will continue to yield to him. Lack of concern about contradicting himself. Tacky sense of style. With-me-or-against-me rhetoric. Tantrums. Proven fraud and swindler before entering politics.
His present calls to "come together" sound palliative compared to the past year of bile, but of course he means come together behind him or you'll get run over.
His party, and his supporters, will likely take a long time to turn on him when the inevitable overreach happens. But before then, once in office his party will move quickly to attack and put a priority on ravaging the planet for short-term gain. They wail about Big Government in public but in practice the size of government will swell as they abuse the system and people to their personal benefit and perverse satisfactions.
Build our defenses, get ready to fight. The white backlash cannot last forever. When the pendulum swings back our way make sure we can bring more mass, more people over, to keep it that way for a long time.