THE GREAT ORANGE QUESTION

UNDERSTANDING THE TRUMP APPEAL

I’ve been down with the flu for almost two weeks. [Stops typing to cough and blow nose.] Boring. Televsion and game shows fail to amuse these days, but at day twelve I’m finally feeling well enough to do some reading. Attacking articles I’ve stashed away from 2014 to the present, a few highlights jump out regarding the very real question still on so many lips: “What happened? How did the Donald get elected?” It has been pondered at length, and still, WTF?

When much of the U.S. citizenry sees a reality-show blustering loud mouth who was able to woo voters away from many more experienced and credible candidates, chances are we are only looking at one half of the equation. If you see a man espousing and encouraging racist, misogynistic, and hateful acts, it seems logical to assume that this is the main attraction. And no doubt, there is that demographic of deplorable people who are enamored with Trump hatred.

In order to better understand that the approximately 38 percent of American voters who support Trump are not all first-tier KKK members, it is necessary to look at different motivations that outweigh the [rather horrifying] lies and perverse actions now emanating from the White House. Since the time of Reagan, when the real “us versus them” divide took hold, when the sneering at “elites” caught fire, the Republican party has benefited by playing up the idea that average conservative American voters are being looked down upon by progressive leaders. Charles Keeney, a history professor in West Virginia, a state that is deeply loyal to Trump in spite of past Democratic victories there, noted in 2016 that when West Virginians speak of disliking the establishment, or elites, they are deriving that view from media. True or not, they believe that big-city coastal residents look down on them as stupid, racist hicks. So when they see the “elite” media types being driven out of their minds by Trump’s success, it makes him their guy. The enemy of my enemy is . . . my president.

This may not explain the entire attraction that middle-American Trumpers feel toward a serial adulterer who cheats people and lies constantly. But it helps. Those voters don’t see his ugly rhetoric as honest claims but rather as a game he’s playing to irritate and puncture the virtuous scolds. And this feeling has been played upon, cultivated, and nurtured to the point of virulent belief such that no contrary information, fact, or pronouncement can penetrate that hate. The almost religious fanaticism roiled up against a highly educated, professional and experienced female candidate was not a small part of why the Russian propagandists on social media were so successful. That 38 percent is happy to consume the red meat thrown to them since the groundwork done by the GOP over the past 40 years has left fertile soil in which such hate can be fed and can grow.

It isn’t reality to think that the groundswell that twice elected President Obama is made solely of so-called elites. The diversity of the progressive parties in employment, race, economic status, gender, age, etc., is one of the defining factors, and one of the weaknesses to be honest, of democrats, greens, socialists, and other liberal groups. The inclusive nature of such movements has been re-labeled. Only elites make up those parties, or so the GOP wants West Virginians to believe.

Unwinding that false narrative, how will that ever happen? Like deprogramming any cultist, it takes ten times longer than it did to plant the seeds.

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