A Piece of Mike’s Mind…Looking into the Mind of Others
I know, I know, there is too much information, too much coverage of the election, we are all on election overload, and there’s still another month to go!
Nonetheless, sorry, I have something I want to share.
Like many of you, I have wondered about those 35 to 40% of American voters that continue to support the president despite all of his obvious flaws and failures, even as many of those voters will readily admit that the flaws are numerous; i.e. they wish he wouldn’t tweet, they wish he were a better speaker, they wish he could show compassion, they wish he were more honest, they wish he weren’t so deliberately divisive, etc. Still, they plan to vote for him. What gives?
That’s what I’ve been reading about and wrestling with. It’s complicated, but I’m comfortable that I can articulate the smallish constellation of reasons for the uncanny level of support. I think there are six, and I recognize that a few of them are not very complimentary.
In no particular order...
1) There is a certain tribalism embodied in "own the libs." That is, anything that exasperates, outrages, angers, or simply bewilders the "left," the "elite," or the "know-it-alls," is something to be enthusiastically supported, overarching all other concerns and issues. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but if you want to see this in action, spend some time in the comments section of almost any article on Foxnews.com.
2) As the country has become more obviously diverse and pluralistic, there is a large faction of the American electorate that will support anything that stands against a truly pluralistic democracy. I believe this view is underpinned by a philosophy and world-view that sees the economy as a zero-sum game where their piece of the pie will get smaller if other groups pieces get larger. In this sense, they believe they are voting for their own interests. Trump, I believe, also believes this.
3) There is a significant portion of the electorate that believes Trump is better for the economy. This is the most understandable, even if it can’t be supported by facts. If you want to argue this point with a Trump supporter, you can point out that he has only one idea for growing the economy. The single idea is: free up capital. The approach is to first, dismantle (or just not enforce) existing regulations on commerce, anti-trust laws, the environment, labor protection, consumer protection, etc. The second approach is to lower taxes on businesses and wealth. That’s it. That’s the whole strategy. In theory, freed up capital can be invested in new businesses, innovations, products, and services, which will then create new jobs.
The problem is that there is no correlation between freeing up capital for corporations and the wealthy - and new jobs being created for everyone else. None. It doesn’t work. Never has. Never will.
What actually happens, what has been happening for the past fifty years of American economic policy, is that the freed-up capital simply goes into the pockets of the corporations and the already wealthy, and because it is a global economy, when they do invest in new products or innovations, do so wherever they believe they will make the most profit. These days, that typically means in places like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, and other places where both labor and natural resources can be had for cheap. Study after study, example after example, this is the history of the past sixty years of economic policy in America: increased inequality, no jobs, stagnant wages for working people, aging infrastructure.
4) There is a significant portion of the electorate (even though they wouldn't admit it), that simply doesn't believe in (or want) the messiness of democracy, and heaven knows ours is a mess! and so the tough-talk, I can fix it, leave it to me rhetoric that Trump regularly generates feels right and like a relief. These are our fellow citizens who respond to authoritarianism, flaws and all, they believe he is on their side, and nothing any Dem, lib, media source, or factual statistic is going to sway their opinion or their vote one iota.
5) There is a significant portion of the electorate who are one-issue voters on matters like abortion, Christianity, or law-and-order, who will forgive or overlook any and all other issues because Trump gives these issues lip service, or in the case of abortion, real service in terms of his court appointments.
6) These is a significant portion of the electorate that believes liberals are hypocritical and recognize all the ways the Democratic Party has failed over the years. Many of these people can’t bring themselves to support a party that has sold themselves as supporting working people, the poor, racial minorities, women, etc., and so consistently failed to come through when the rubber hits the road. The voters who feel this way are not wrong.
Of course, all of the above categories overlap in complex ways, all of this is an oversimplification, and all of it is heavily informed by my own personal biases. Nonetheless, it has been helpful to me, and calming, and even liberating, to research this, think it through, and articulate what I found. I hope it’s helpful to you as well.
See you soon,