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On Some Trump Supporters

October 23, 2016

If you prick them, do they not bleed?

The strongest bulwark against aristocracy, including aristocracy in the form of fascism (AS), is a large, strong, middle class.

Deplorables, despicables, irredeemables—probably not quite half the basket, but anyway I’m not thinking of them, although I’ve known some.

This is the page that I’ve threatened to add about Trump supporters with whom I feel sympathetic, whom I think Bernie spoke of and to, and whom Hillary and the Dem Party should move to help. I’ve been thinking about them throughout the novel.

These are the hurting, abandoned, misinformed, confused, and somehow still hopeful. Probably more than half the basket. I know some of them too, and maybe that’s why I can sympathize. I grew up with some of them.

I’m going to use a WaPo article to illustrate my point; but first here’s a brilliant (and deeply light-toned) piece of reporting by Peter Hessler in the New Yorker, about his experiences of T supporters in CO, in towns and at a rally, with ambivalence and surprises. Hey, it’s America.

And now let’s forget T, himself, and focus on the citizens to whom he has brought our attention. For a WaPo report, “6 voters, 2 Americas: Here’s what Trump and Clinton supporters want for the country,” Alice Li, Dalton Bennett, and Emily Guskin interviewed and filmed 3 T voters and 3 H voters, whom they present as representative. Stay with the embedded video and you will get a chance to see a film of each voter. Of course they’re not representative of all of America, but it’s my impression that they articulate the major views of a large percentage of voters, explaining not only why they will vote for H or T, but also why both candidates are unpopular. Theirs are bottomline reasons for supporting their candidate.

Here’s what I take away from their testimony, especially what they have in common:

Gavin Garret, 41, is a truck driver and father of four, in rural OH.  For him life is scary, especially the future. He’s seeing a lot of changes, and he’s not sure he’ll have the means, or his children will have the means, to deal with them. His community (politically half D half R) is one that has the traditional strengths of a sense of common and shared identity and life style: people are deeply rooted in faith; they are neighbors and they look out for each other; they care about the country. But with the borders not secure, people are coming in who threaten that. Jobs should be provided for people who are already here. The tax code should be reformed. He feels his civil liberties and constitutional rights slipping away, especially the 2nd amendment. It’s not his fault that changes need to be made in government; and maybe this T thing is a movement.

Bobby Helton, 49, is an owner of a small business, stock car driver, and father in rural WV. Like Garret he’s seeing destructive changes. For him the economic mess is unjust and unnecessary. There doesn’t ever have to be a homeless child or person. But DC people don’t know the local. Factories are gone and Obama took away the coal business, so now young people are leaving to look for opportunities elsewhere. Obama lied and hasn’t gotten anything done. Helton’s nephew can’t afford the education that he needs, and he can’t get financial help. Meanwhile, Mexicans and black people get their way paid. But we’re resourceful, and if they gave us a chance we would straighten this country out. They should take care of us and this country first, and then we could take care of ourselves.

Cameron Mullins, 33, is a construction worker, rodeo rider, and father in Phoenix. He thinks in a combination of his immediate, factual, physical reality, and slogans that he hears. (He finds that T has a good sense of humor and shows a lot of common sense.) He works very hard for enough money to scrape by on, wanting to raise his kids well so that they can raise their kids well. He’s not a political person (he just started voting in 2012), but he knows that politicians are dragging the country down, for instance by opening the border so that Mexicans take jobs and lower wages. Government doesn’t help, it just steals [government is the problem, not the solution]. He’s not a racist and he is sick of being told that he is one if he speaks his mind about what is happening; but Mexicans and blacks have got more rights than white people ever had. He works for everything he’s got. Trump doesn’t need money, he just loves the country.

Racists? Some. Haters? Not so much, at least in my experience. I think that an interesting thing about prejudicial stereotyping and discrimination, of this situational kind, is that it allows individuals to harm a targeted group of others, at an abstracting distance, when they would not harm individual persons of that group face to face, person to person, neighbor to neighbor. And of course that’s even more the case when wealth is adequately spread around, so that people don’t feel threatened. And when people are not forced into artificial residential patterns.

Okay, so I’m ambivalent about these guys, too. But they are suffering a prolonged anxiety attack, they do need help with it, they will malfunction while it continues, they have been left behind by both parties (O tried to help but the Rs blocked his efforts), they have been bamboozled and are being exploited; and we will need their help in 2018 and 20 as we solidify the end of Reaganism, establish a liberal and progressive democracy, and struggle with the effects of global warming.

The three Clinton voters make a stark contrast, but at the same time they share some important characteristics. For instance, each is quite aware of having a significant group identity, and each is concerned about issues that threaten the community and nation. But it’s my impression that they think of their “group” as being on the ascent.

Of course, dear reader, if you find these characters interesting, the best thing would be to watch the film and form your own impressions of the actual people.

[Later that day:  I’m wondering, now, if trump voters like those might become so disappointed and discouraged that they don’t bother voting.]

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