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Trump supporters are all over the place

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There are still a lot of trump supporters out there. For the life of me, I don’t know why. But I have to at least try to understand.

For example, a friend of mine, a successful New York transplant to Oakland who happens to be of Jewish extraction (same as me) and a lifetime liberal, told me his 20-year old son has been flirting with trumpism. Another friend, a LatinX guy, told me several members of his family are trumpers. Then, yesterday, I was talking with someone very near and dear to me, a person closer to me than almost anyone else, and she said, “I’m going to say something I think will make you angry. History is going to treat trump better than you think.”

Wow. A young Jewish kid, raised in a Democratic household. A LatinX family. And my good friend, whom I’ve known all my life. They all are trump-supporters, or at least inclined to see something good in him. What the hell is going on?

Well, as distasteful as it is, I have to put myself in their shoes and try to imagine how they feel and what they think. Since I don’t know the 20-year old Jewish kid or the LatinX people personally, that’s not easy. But I do know my lifelong friend. We talk a lot, and I have a good understanding of how she feels. So I’m going to try to get inside her head.

To begin with, she’s been convinced for a long time that politics is mostly bad, or, to put it more accurately, that most politicians are corrupt. That includes Democrats and Republicans. She’s very smart and has been involved in political issues, mostly on the local level, for most of her adult life. And she’s come to the conclusion that both sides lie, in order to gain power and benefit their rich donors. She said the same thing yesterday when we were talking: Republicans and Democrats both lie.

“Surely,” I replied, “you’re not comparing the Big Lie that trump told about the ‘rigged election’ with anything any Democrat has ever said.”

She hesitated. I could hear her thinking. But she did not contradict me. She did not concede that trump’s lie about the “rigged election” is a monstrous abomination that eclipses in evil anything any Democratic politician has ever said. Still, I understand how she feels. Her concern is what she sees as the unholy collaboration between Big Business and lawmakers. In her judgment, Big Business is antithetical to the needs of the American people. Concerned only with stock prices and profits, they buy and sell politicians, Democrats and Republicans, and we, the American people, suffer the consequences.

I don’t entirely disagree with my old friend. But I’m not ready to flush Democratic politicians down the toilet. I look at the things the Democratic Party has done for America—child labor laws, workers unions, Social Security, Medicare, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Disabled Americans Act, marriage equality for gays, a welcoming attitude for immigrants and foreigners, the minimum wage, an internationalist philosophy that connects us with other countries through membership in international organizations, a healthy secularism and respect for science, and a million other noble battles waged at the local level in each of our communities—and I’m proud. Have Democrats too often sided with Wall Street and gigantic corporations? Yes. We can have a conversation about that. But I don’t think the interests of Wall Street are necessarily in conflict with those of the American people. A rising stock market benefits just about all of us—certainly anyone with a 401K, or who’s on a pension where the money is invested in the stock market. And profitable corporations are better able to pay their employees well, and give them benefits, than ones that are losing money.

My friend is very active in issues related to housing development in her community. While we don’t always agree—she’s a bit of a NIMBY while I’m a YIMBY—I respect her passion and willingness to give of her time to work on her projects. And I take her point about politicians and big businessmen. It reeks of the “smoke-filled back room.” Lots of Americans are pissed off at what’s happening in this country—and lord knows they have every reason to be. Trump took advantage of that anger better than any politician in my lifetime, with the possible exception of Reagan. He saw anger and he decided to mobilize it to his own political and financial advantage.

Nothing wrong with that; it’s how politics works. But here’s my question to my old friend, and to everyone else who supports trump or is inclined to. Tell me what trump has done for average working Americans. Yes, he voiced their anger and resentment. Yes, he insulted and attacked the people they hate. Yes, he made them feel good about themselves. But aside from feelings, what did he actually do? His celebrated tax cuts went almost exclusively to his own social class: rich people. His attacks against the environment certainly didn’t help working class Americans, not even the westerners who really appreciate conservation. He didn’t create jobs: he lost them. He failed utterly to bring coal or auto manufacturing back to America. He didn’t build his “wall” and Mexico didn’t pay for the little stretches of it that he promised us they would. He managed to help kill 450,000 Americans and counting when he enabled COVID to spread. He did nothing to stop the pandemic in our country, even though he could and should have. And he has brought our country to the brink of civil war. In short, tell me one thing trump did for the average American. You can’t, because he didn’t do anything.

I’m troubled that so many people and groups who should know better are siding with trump. I got a little impatient with Biden, during the campaign and in the days following his election and swearing-in, when he insisted on bipartisanship, as if Republicans and Democrats could sit down around the campfire, hold hands and sing Kumbaya. That won’t happen. A big part of me wants revenge: on trump, on his family, on Republicans. But realizing the sheer number of trump supporters, and the fact that they’re Americans, and close to people near and dear to me, gives me pause. We do need to reach out to them. We have to be patient, and listen to their concerns, and respond to them respectfully, sticking to facts. For me, that won’t be easy, since I really want to jail them. But I realize I can’t. We need to talk.

  1. Edward Placencio says:

    I have been a Republican all my life, and at one time I considered the party a group of honor and sided more with some of their policies than Democratic leanings. To be honest I don’t think either party represents what I think is ideal.

    However, Der Fuhrer Trump does not represent the Republican Party. Trump’s supporters are not traditional Republicans and it is appalling the number of Republicans that jumped on the Trump train. I cannot for the life of me see what his shitty grin and personality does to impart such passion in his supporters. His lies and ineptitude make it unbelievable to me that he has such a following.

    Like you, I want to make sense of it all. Is he the Anti-Christ? He can’t even pull that off like his failed election, though he has to have a connection to the devil somehow. People I never thought would be taken by such a person have fallen victim to his charm or lack thereof. If you ever figure out what the attraction is please let me know.

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