Letters From America: My Life Among the Trump Supporters…

‘Trump’s America’, day 103…

People back in Ireland and Northern Ireland ask me a lot of questions about Trump’s supporters, in a tone that’s similar to what they might ask someone who’s seen African elephants- incredible creatures they’ve seen on TV, but still wonder what they’re like close up.

Talk to any political scientist or polling strategist, and they’ll tell you that Trump voters actually covered a pretty broad spectrum- young and old, ignorant and intelligent, poor and well-off, and their views on the issues are actually pretty varied;

a lot of them voted for Obama- twice- and were disillusioned with the Democratic Party and its ties to Wall Street and the neo-liberal global elite;

some were normally-faithful Democrats who are struggling to keep their heads above the economic water, and saw Hilary Clinton and her close ties to Wall Street and didn’t trust her to do anything about it;

some were Bernie Sanders supporters who felt betrayed by the Democratic Party’s disregard for their desire for root-and-branch reform and for the back-room sabotaging of their candidate;

some are usually-center/right Republicans who would have preferred Jeb Bush, Cruz, or Rubio but were never going to vote for Clinton so held their nose and went with ‘the Donald’;

some were Evangelical Republicans- anti-liberal, anti-abortion culture warriors- who would have voted for anybody the Republicans put forward, and saw in Trump a mechanism to get at least one (and perhaps as many as three) conservative justices on the Supreme Court;

and then there are the die-hard Trump supporters.

I know some of them. I work with them. That poster in the above photo is off my workplace wall (depressingly, I work in a school). Socially, politically, and culturally, we have almost nothing in common. But as long as we steer the conversations away from politics, the media, or the Standing Rock Rising (I made the colossal mistake of mentioning that I was going), we actually get along fine.

They’re not stupid and they’re not lazy. They got a basic high school education, but didn’t go to college. They went to trade school, got truck driver licences, boiler certifications, or certificates to work with heavy machinery or cleaning chemicals. They started a painting business with their brother. They all believe their taxes are too high, and resent the welfare system. Why, they say, should they pay for lazy people to sit around all day collecting government cheques? They’re impervious to notions of ‘white privilege’ or ‘structural racism’.

These people loathe liberals, and particularly Hilary Clinton. Without any doubt, they believe her to be a criminal with blood on her hands, and the fact that she was even allowed to run for President they see as a sign of how biased the liberal media is.

Their views about other countries tend to be a bit fuzzy; they’ve never been outside the country- unless it was for military service- but they have a friend who went to Italy once and told them how people there urinate in the street. They love America, and have no doubt that the USA is indeed the greatest county. They all think that America’s been carrying the rest of the world for too long, and everybody else should start being more grateful and pay their own way.

They don’t hate gays, but they wish that gays weren’t, you know, everywhere now. They don’t hate transgender people, but why the hell did the media have to make such a big deal about Bruce Jenner, like he was some kind of hero? They don’t hate Muslims, but why can’t they stay where they come from? They don’t hate Native Americans, but… Well, actually, yes, they do hate Native Americans.

They own guns- lots of guns. They support the police, and think that if these ‘Black Lives Matter’ types burn down convenience stores, they should expect to get shot.

And make no mistake: in the minds of his supporters, Trump’s first 100 days were a roaring success. It would have been an even greater success if liberal judges, liberals in Congress, and the liberal media hadn’t thwarted him at every turn.

They don’t resent his wealth, his ego, or his bragging. The man’s a success, they say! He lives large! Deal with it! Hell, they say, if they had that kind of money, they’d buy a gold jet, too!

They don’t have an ounce of ‘buyer’s remorse’. Every aspect of Trump that makes liberals recoil in outrage and horror his supporters find a wonderful breath of fresh air. Indeed, that very outrage and horror they see as positive proof that Trump’s on the right track.

If the Democrats want to regain the levers of power, they’ll need to win back the aforementioned erstwhile Obama voters, concern themselves with the normally-faithful Democrats, truly engage with the Sanders voters, and (who knows?) maybe grab an open-minded centrist Republican or two. Like any establishment party in the thrall of wealthy donors and globalized companies, it’s going to be uphill work. But it’s vital they try, and success is possible.

But I truly doubt they’ll ever reach the bulk of my co-workers.

Living and working with people who hold the views I’ve described can be exhausting. But we manage. If they notice my ‘Refugees Welcome’ badge on my jacket or my ‘I Stand with Standing Rock’ T-shirt, they don’t bring it up. They give me good-natured ribbing for calling garbage cans ‘bins’, saying floors need to be ‘hoovered’, and that lunch is at ‘half twelve’. They want to get along with me on a daily basis as much as I want to get along with them.

After all, it’s going to (probably) be a long four years…

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  • Jim M

    Daft question maybe, but why do they hate Native Americans? I’m intrigued.

  • Jag

    The natives get tax breaks on their casino reservations. Trump has to pay taxes on his casinos. And that’s just bigly wrong! (though seriously, I don’t know the answer to your question).

  • Jag

    It’s painful to see Trump’s opponents characterise him as a cartoon buffoon.

    You don’t get to be a billionaire by being a complete sausage.

    As US corporations repatriate trillions in offshore cash, as the North Korean is put back in his box (perhaps permanently), as manufacturing returns to the US, as the US takes back more control of its borders and immigration, you know, maybe, most Americans might take an overall view that this guy isn’t so bad.

    And what was the alternative? Crooked Hillary? Cash-for-access Clintons?

    Give Trump a chance. The end result might pleasantly surprise you.

  • Conchúr Ó Conghaile

    Trump got to be a billionaire by inheriting his Daddy’s money. He’s gone bankrupt several times. He’d be far wealthier if he had just invested his inheritance in a basic wealth management account

  • Jim M

    That makes sense. Although yes, I’m hoping Jon Hatch enlightens us on this.

  • Zorin001

    I actually do think Trump will start to accomplish some of his pledges once the jockying for position finishes (Bannon v Kushner), however I wouldn’t expect it to be the sweeping changes he has promised to supporters. I know there have already been grumblings that Kushner and Ivanka are seen as “liberal elites~”.

    EDIT: I’d typed Civil War between Bannon/Kushner but that seemed a bit strong.

  • the rich get richer

    One of the Good outworkings of Trumps Presidency is that it lays bare how far the Political establishment is from the needs and wishes of ordinary people……

    If the political establishment do not connect with the needs and wishes of ordinary people this will not end well……….

  • Conchúr Ó Conghaile

    Because they’re racist

  • Jim M

    Hmmm Conchur I was looking for something a tad more analytical than that…

  • doopa

    Deer Hunting with Jesus – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/865936.Deer_Hunting_with_Jesus covered a lot of this territory a decade ago. Great investigation of the disconnect between the urban liberals and the rural voter.

  • ted hagan

    Interesting BBC radio item broadcast a couple of days ago on why Latino voters were voting for Trump when it appeared the Democrats had that demographic sown up. Many of those interviewed were ambivalent about Trump but cited traditional ‘family values’ as the reason for voting for him.

  • Zorin001

    Traditional Family Values like grabbing woman by the p***y no doubt.

    It grimly amused me that those Republicans who were so aghast by a consensual sex act in the Oval Office seemed to have no issues with their candidate (and now President) admitting to sexual assault.

  • ted hagan

    Yet but unfortunately that seems par for the course for a good many US presidents.

  • Roger

    He has never been bankrupt.

  • Pang

    Nobody likes to be preached at and liberals are preachy. I do hate to see my American republican friends act like victims, which is them since Obama won 1st time.

  • JoeHassit

    He has declared 4 of his businesses as bankrupt, reducing his personal liabilities in doing so: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/sep/21/carly-fiorina/trumps-four-bankruptcies/

  • Enda

    Basically DUP voters that live in the USA.

  • Enda

    Because they want a Native American Language act

  • Roger

    He was a shareholder in companies that went bankrupt. A very, very different matter to being bankrupt himself.

    I wonder if you have an aunt or relation who was a shareholder in one of the Irish banks that went bankrupt a few years ago. Possibly Half of the population of that country could answer yes. That hardly makes those Aunties bankrupts.

  • Jag

    Seriously Conchur, prior to becoming prez, how many significant phone calls do you think he takes/makes per day – 100? 200? How many meetings/briefings? How many appointments to office, spending decisions, policy decisions? And he still has time to romance a good-looking supermodel wife and keep his family together.

    The man is many things, but not the cartoon buffoon his critics in the US and elsewhere make him out to be.

  • Zorin001

    To try and be even-handed I actually would support this decision:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39770289

    Thats assuming of course hes not just playing to gallery since hes considering slashing other banking regulations.

  • Dónall

    Jon, you said they hate Native Americans. Did anyone ever say why? Is it that they disprove their sense of entitlment or contradict their views on emmigration, or simply make them feel guilty?

    PS alot of people seem to use the same film scene to prove their point. I particularly like this one:

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/70/95/df/7095dfcf74288b1c62f14abec71c58ba.jpg

  • LighterSide…

    There’s the rub. To some, the relentless pursuit of wealth for it’s own sake is a worthy goal, and failing to pay the contractors who build your buildings is either applauded(if yer not cheatin yer not tryin) or disregarded.
    To others, he is exactly the cartoonish buffoon he’s made out to be. His silicone trophy wife who had to ape the words of the previous first lady, having nothing intelligent of her own to say, is not evidence of his success, but evidence of his lameness…see my beautiful wife…look what I got….me aplha male..grunt, grunt.
    The sad thing is that a buffoon like Trump is actually what many Americans hold up as a model of a successful person, in my view.
    To understand Trump, all you really need to know is that he is a devotee of Norman Vincent Peale(Power of Positive Thinking).
    Rather than spending time and effort on thinking, Trump just says over and over, “I think I Can, I think I Can. I am so great. So great am I.”
    Given his “success”, who can blame him.

  • Jon Hatch

    I’m sure not all Trump supporters hate Native Americans, but here in the US, Native Americans bear the brunt of centuries of injustice that is still ongoing. Trump has made it clear that he wants to open up Native land- much of it rich in natural resources- for drilling, mining, and pipelines. He’s not the first President to do that by any means, but he’s made clear he wants to expand it, and his open reproach for judicial process is worrying to many Native nations.

    Beyond that, the Tohono O’odham Nation- the second-largest tribe by land holdings in the U.S.- sits on an estimated 2.7 million acres in southern Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and stretches across the border into the Mexican state of Sonora. This is where Trump wants to build his wall, which would be a disaster for their family life, culture, and the local environment.

    There’s a lot of latent racism toward Natives up here in Montana, and not just from those who lean right. I’ve had liberals and progressives clumsily infer that Natives are lazy, dirty, uneducated drunks. Throughout the US, Natives seem to be the one ethnic group that it is completely ok to demean with impunity. It’s America’s oldest racial wound, and the one that has healed the least…

    In that sense, perhaps I misspoke- or overspoke- regarding the people I know who are Trump supporters hating Native Americans. In all honesty, there’s plenty of Obama or Clinton supporters who bear them no good will either. Obama’s record was just as bad in their regard; perhaps his was worse, since he talked a good game and then did nothing. Trump’s been openly hostile, so perhaps he’s more honest…

  • New Yorker

    I think you have given a good description of the die-hard Trump supporters, however, I reach a different conclusion and think they are stupid. Trump is nothing more than a good con-man and it is easy to see it. He makes outlandish promises he has no intention of keeping. He proposes tax changes that immensely benefit him and his cronies. His healthcare proposals would throw most of his supporters into the ditch. He will not be bringing back manufacturing jobs back as most of them are gone to to automation and not moving overseas. He has no idea how to govern and no interest in doing so. The Republican party made a deal with the devil and will go down in flames.

  • John Collins

    Roger. You are usually a capable debater so I am amazed to see you post such nonsense. To compare gullible Irish investors who invested in the banks in Southern Ireland with a mogul like Donald Trump is risible. Most, if not all, of these investors trusted the banks to invest their money wisely. Most, if not all of them, would have had very little knowledge of the Stock Exchange, world wide investment trends and would never have felt capable of questioning Bang Directors at their AGMs.
    By contrast Mr Trump had almost total control of every business he ever invested in and was certainly more responsible for the collapse of those businesses that ordinary bank shareholders in Southern Ireland ever were in bank shares.
    I think it is significant also that Trump was able to return no tax liability on his businesses for a whopping nineteen years in a row. A classic example of the old ‘taxes are only for little people’ approach

  • Roger

    Thanks for the compliment.

    Banks in Cork and Kerry were no worse hit than elsewhere in Ireland.

    Of course Trump either ran or at least had more say in the affairs of those businesses than a typical bank shareholder in Tralee.

    That’s not the point though. He is a highly successful businessman who has never been bankrupt. Not every venture worked out well. He has the brains to appreciate the benefit of limited liability which the corporate veil affords. Something Sean Quinn et al learned about the hard way. Indeed even the Tralee bank shareholders benefited from that.