As of this writing, latest election results indicate Joe Biden will accumulate the 270 electoral votes to ascend to the Presidency. Yet our democracy hangs in the balance. Ignoring any possible results, Trump has already done what he promised. Claiming voting irregularities, he is seeking a remedy he hopes the Supreme Court will ultimately render. His emotional, irrational and occasionally rational voters, who’ve accepted his version of facts for four years, support these efforts.
Based on pre-election polling and campaign efforts, it’s clear that pollsters and Democratic strategists have misread and under-counted Trump voters. The wide Biden lead in pre-election polls did not materialize, while senior and Latino support for Trump was better than expected. So who are these Trump voters and why do they continue to support a man whom former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called “the most flawed person” he’s ever known.
The Charlatan in Chief
Having lived and/or worked in New York for more than sixty years, I’ve long known Donald Trump is the charlatan, incompetent businessman and racist his tenure as President has revealed to the world. Yet, as unmistakably and unabashedly, even proudly obvious these characteristics have become, more than 68 million Americans voted to give him another four years in the White House.
Understanding what motivates these people is not an exact science. In May I wrote about the Cult of Trumpism, which seems to cause his supporters to respond to him emotionally and irrationally, ignoring unpleasant facts. Today I look at his supporters from a somewhat different perspective. First are the issue-based voters who find a way to rationalize their support, but distinguish themselves from those in his cult-like following.
Issue-based voters are those with one dominant issue that justifies wholehearted support. Evangelicals lead the way in this category. Their solid and non-negotiable anti-abortion position is propped up by the President’s support for Israel and religious liberty. Trump has delivered on his promise to appoint conservative judges at every level, up to and including the Supreme Court.
Evangelicals expect that with conservatives now having a six-three majority on the Supreme Court, they will finally achieve their multi decade goal of overturning Roe v Wade. At a minimum, they expect the Court to allow each state to set its own abortion laws. That will result in an abortion ban in virtually all Republican dominated states. But I suspect they may also hope the Court goes further and bans the procedure outright.
In discussing Evangelicals, however, they must be separated into two groups. The first subset sees Trump for who he is, but decided his faults must be overlooked for the greater good. In doing so, however, they’ve lost whatever moral authority they had and revealed themselves to be the hypocrites they are. Consider how they came down hard on Bill Clinton for his sexual misconduct. In 1998 Franklin Graham, one of Trump’s principal Evangelical supporters, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal critical of the public’s willingness to look the other way about personal matters, stating, “Much of America seems to have succumbed to the notion that what a person does in private has little bearing on his public actions or job performance, even if he is the president of the United States.” It seems Mr. Graham’s principles can take a right turn when it suits his issues.
The second subset takes us into the cult-like category and includes those best described as MAGA Christians. By their own admission, these people believe that Donald Trump is practically the second coming of Christ. He is without flaws, the “Chosen One,” and has been placed on earth to do God’s will. Some have referred to this group as a religious cult and that’s probably an accurate portrayal. In their view, Donald Trump is perfect as he is and deserves their unwavering support.
Trump’s Other Cult Followers
Some have offered a parallel view of this Evangelical subset, comparing it to Donald Trump’s cult. His cult members are largely white, non-college-educated males (and females) who feel forgotten and looked down upon by the “elites.” They harbor deep grudges and believe the rising population of immigrants and people of color have diminished their special standing in the community. They consider these lesser and undeserving “newcomers as usurping their “benefits,” previously thought of as their birthright. They can see what others label Trump’s faults, but are not concerned by them. In fact, when he disses conventional norms and behavior, or denigrates a rival, it gives them ancillary pleasure because it boosts their wish to feel superior.
Most of them probably would not agree with this description or explanation. Rather, they would brand Trump’s behavior as “authenticity.” Saying exactly what’s on his mind without the usual politician’s filter, political correctness or plain old civility is considered admirable. He voices the resentment they feel. They cheer when he “unloads” on liberals, whom they blame for deterioration in their social status. In fact, he does what they would do if they could.
Now, if that sounds like I’m labeling people in this group as somewhat racist and similar to those found in white supremacist groups, I am. Though most of those in this group deny they are racists, their actions suggest otherwise. Their animosity to those they blame and their frustration overpower their ability to recognize what is actually in their best interests. From excessive deaths due to Trump’s mishandling of the Corona virus to the creation of jobs and potential loss of medical insurance, they have been and will be on the short end of his actions along with those they disparage.
Other One-Issue Supporters
There are other one-issue supporters, different from the cult-like followers described above. Their one issue is their own personal economic well-being. They do not delude themselves about Trump’s reprehensible behavior, understanding full well who he is. But they just don’t care as long as their personal financial situation has improved during Trump’s tenure. Whether it’s because of continued economic growth inherited from the Obama Administration, reduced regulatory environment, increased stock market values and/or lower income taxes, Trump’s their man.
Finally, there are the conservative ideologues. For the most part, they don’t like Trump the man, his debasement of the office and disregard of real conservative principles (like fiscal responsibility and small government). They may or may not vote for Trump, but they cannot vote for Joe Biden. They cannot accept what they perceive to be Biden’s socialist agenda that includes greater government involvement in healthcare, regulatory controls and generally big government programs.
Rising Latino Support
While speaking of Biden’s supposed socialist agenda, we cannot ignore a trend revealed by voters in Florida and Texas. Immigrants from socialist countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela (and their descendants) have strong negative feelings about socialist run countries. More were drawn to Trump by his highly focused campaign asserting Biden would bring such failed socialist policies to the United States. Of course, the campaign ignored the fact that autocrats ruled these countries as virtual dictators and that’s the type of leader Trump seeks to become. Democrats did not respond effectively to these assertions and lost what might have been dramatic electoral victories in Florida and Texas.
Supreme Court – a Decision on Democracy
So while we await a final decision at the polls, Trump and his supporters are counting on the Supreme Court to hand him an election victory. Several prior years of Republicans’ gerrymandering and suppression of votes in key battleground states have loaded the Court with Republican colleagues. If that one Constitutional pillar—supposed to protect us from executive overreach—accedes to such pressure, it would disenfranchise the majority of the country—more than 72 million Americans. Hopefully that will not be the case and we will avoid our country’s great experiment in democracy coming to an end in the authoritarian grip of an uncontrollable President Donald Trump.