The other day I sat down to talk with a fellow resident at my retirement center. She was eating fish tacos, a messy lunch which I knew would require both hands as well as her mouth. An excellent time to air my views on Donald Trump, I thought. I don’t recall what outrage the president had committed that day. He’s guilty of so many, they form a river of sewage. According to some, he’s a disruptor. I get that. What I don’t get is why 32% of the population remains loyal.
“Okay, Trump lies,” one supporter admitted over the airwaves. “But he admits he lies. So that makes him honest.”
I growled at my taco munching companion. “Can you understand why a person would invert logic that way? Can you believe a reasonable mind would argue it’s better for the country to elect a pedophile to the Senate than a liberal?”
At this point, the woman opposite, her mouth full of taco, raised her little finger as a stop sign. “They aren’t the same 32%. Support varies on individual issues.”
I blinked, without understanding, because the percentage appears to remain constant. Why? How?” Then it hit me. People aren’t coalescing around issues but around fears: foreigners; job loss; international competition; gun control… And, because our president is without conscience, he has tapped into enough of them to affect 32% of the population at any given time. Worse, he has cobbled these fears into national policy. Fear has become the equivalent of patriotism. “Make American great again,” Donald Trump cries, as if we’d become a third world country.
Virginia Heffernan puts Trump’s influence another way. She describes the man as the ultimate hacker. He disrupts by attacking systems that support democracy: the press, the FBI, the courts, his fellow politicians… He attempts to corrupt our faith because the system doesn’t work for him, and those who feel the same, cheer him on.
Given either Heffernan’s shadings or mine, I see no way to turn the mindset of Trump supporters around. None. We who dream, rather than fear, will have to soldier on. Looking toward the November elections, we know what we must do. Let us not shirk.