Monday, July 17, 2017
I'm sick to death of reading about Trump voters as if they are the holy grail of politics. They are a distinct minority of people in this country and just because they managed to eke out a win for their malignant leader doesn't mean that we have to hang on their every word.
Having said that, this article by Peter Hessler in the New Yorker about the Trump voters in rural Colorado is quite interesting. The angle is how Trump is transforming rural culture in America. Here's a short excerpt:
Last October, three weeks before the election, Donald Trump visited Grand Junction for a rally in an airport hangar. Along with other members of the press, I was escorted into a pen near the back, where a metal fence separated us from the crowd. At that time, some prominent polls showed Clinton leading by more than ten percentage points, and Trump often claimed that the election might be rigged. During the rally he said, “There’s a voter fraud also with the media, because they so poison the minds of the people by writing false stories.” He pointed in our direction, describing us as “criminals,” among other things: “They’re lying, they’re cheating, they’re stealing! They’re doing everything, these people right back here!”
The attacks came every few minutes, and they served as a kind of tether to the speech. The material could have drifted off into abstraction—e-mails, Benghazi, the Washington swamp. But every time Trump pointed at the media, the crowd turned, and by the end people were screaming and cursing at us. One man tried to climb over the barrier, and security guards had to drag him away.
Such behavior is out of character for residents of rural Colorado, where politeness and public decency are highly valued. Erin McIntyre, a Grand Junction native who works for the Daily Sentinel, the local paper, stood in the crowd, where the people around her screamed at the journalists: “Lock them up!” “Hang them all!” “Electric chair!” Afterward, McIntyre posted a description of the event on Facebook. “I thought I knew Mesa County,” she wrote. “That’s not what I saw yesterday. And it scared me.”
Before Trump took office, people I met in Grand Junction emphasized pragmatic reasons for supporting him. The economy was in trouble, and Trump was a businessman who knew how to make rational, profit-oriented decisions. Supporters almost always complained about some aspect of his character, but they also believed that these flaws were likely to help him succeed in Washington. “I’m not voting for him to be my pastor,” Kathy Rehberg, a local real-estate agent, said. “I’m voting for him to be President. If I have rats in my basement, I’m going to try to find the best rat killer out there. I don’t care if he’s ugly or if he’s sociable. All I care about is if he kills rats.”
“Don’t worry, we only went out once. I never saw him naked—not until now, of course.”
After the turbulent first two months of the Administration, I met again with Kathy Rehberg and her husband, Ron. They were satisfied with Trump’s performance, and their complaints about his behavior were mild. “I think some of it is funny, how he doesn’t let people push him around,” Ron Rehberg said. Over time, such remarks became more common. “I hate to say it, but I wake up in the morning looking forward to what else is coming,” Ray Scott, a Republican state senator who had campaigned for Trump, told me in June. One lawyer said bluntly, “I get a kick in the ass out of him.” The calculus seemed to have shifted: Trump’s negative qualities, which once had been described as a means to an end, now had value of their own. The point wasn’t necessarily to get things done; it was to retaliate against the media and other enemies. This had always seemed fundamental to Trump’s appeal, but people had been less likely to express it so starkly before he entered office. “For those of us who believe that the media has been corrupt for a lot of years, it’s a way of poking at the jellyfish,” Karen Kulp told me in late April. “Just to make them mad.”
In Grand Junction, people wanted Trump to accomplish certain things with the pragmatism of a businessman, but they also wanted him to make them feel a certain way. The assumption has always been that, while emotional appeal might have mattered during the campaign, the practical impact of a Trump Presidency would prove more important. Liberals claimed that Trump would fail because his policies would hurt the people who had voted for him.
But the lack of legislative accomplishment seems only to make supporters take more satisfaction in Trump’s behavior. And thus far the President’s tone, rather than his policies, has had the greatest impact on Grand Junction. This was evident even before the election, with the behavior of supporters at the candidate’s rally, the conflicts within the local Republican Party, and an increased distrust of anything having to do with government. Sheila Reiner, a Republican who serves as the county clerk, said that during the campaign she had dealt with many allegations of fraud following Trump’s claims that the election could be rigged. “People came in and said, ‘I want to see where you’re tearing up the ballots!’ ” Reiner told me. Reiner and her staff gave at least twenty impromptu tours of their office, in an attempt to convince voters that the Republican county clerk wasn’t trying to throw the election to Clinton.
The Daily Sentinel publishes editorials from both the right and the left, and it didn’t endorse a Presidential candidate. But supporters picked up on Trump’s obsession with crowd size, repeatedly accusing the Sentinel of underestimating attendance at rallies. The paper ran a story about vandalism of political signs, with examples given from both campaigns, but readers were outraged that the photograph featured only a torn Clinton banner. The Sentinel immediately ran a second article with a photograph of a vandalized Trump sign. When Erin McIntyre described the Grand Junction rally on Facebook, online attacks by Trump supporters were so vicious that she feared for her safety. After three days, she deleted the post.
In February, a bill that was intended to give journalists better access to government records was introduced in a Colorado senate committee, which was chaired by Ray Scott, a Republican. The process was delayed for unknown reasons, and the Sentinel published an editorial with a mild prompt: “We call on our own Sen. Scott to announce a new committee hearing date and move this bill forward.” Scott responded with a series of Trump-style tweets. “We have our own fake news in Grand Junction,” he wrote. “The very liberal GJ Sentinel is attempting to apply pressure for me to move a bill.”
Jay Seaton, the Sentinel’s publisher, threatened to sue Scott for defamation. In an editorial, he wrote, “When a state senator accused The Sentinel of being fake news, he was deliberately attempting to delegitimize a credible news source in order to avoid being held accountable by it.” The Huffington Post and other national outlets mentioned the spat. When I met with Scott, he seemed pleased by the attention. A burly, friendly man who works as a contractor, he told me, “I was kind of Trumpish before Trump was cool.”
“We used to just take it on the chin if somebody said something about us,” he said. “The fake-news thing became the popular thing to say, because of Trump.” He believed that Trump has performed a service by popularizing the term. “I’ve seen journalists like yourself doing a better job,” Scott told me. He’s considering a run for governor, in part because of Trump’s example. “People are looking for something different,” he said. “They’re looking for somebody who means what they say.”
He is their safe space who allows them to believe whatever they want to believe because anything that doesn't comport can be dismissed as "fake." It must be so comforting.
The whole article is quite disturbing. I personally blame social media which is delivering what used to only be delivered by Fox and talk radio --- alternate reality (Trump means what he says? In fact, he says whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear. But you knew that) but in the hands of people you know and trust. It's also making it easy to organize your own fanatical group. The left is doing it too, of course. That's the Resistance.This is the Counter-Resistance.
This is all very depressing. According to the article, these folks are still mourning the loss of Exxon jobs that left in 1982 --- 35 years ago --- and don't want to work in the new industries like health care and education, probably because they don't pay as well or have the same cachet as the macho oil field jobs. The loss of oil jobs has become a become an inter-generational identity.
This is not about issues, though, not really. I'm not even sure it's about status. I think it might be just about alienation and loneliness. It seems to me that what these people were yearning for was a shared purpose, something they could do together. Trump activated that by naming and pointing at their common enemies. Us.
Trump let the raging right wing id out of the bottle, let it wail, made it fun, made it social, opened up a world in which they could all meet each other and share a communal space, free to let their freak flags fly unlike the greater world which circumscribes their true feelings.
Anyway, that's about all the time I have this week for pondering that vast neediness of the Trump voter. It's interesting, even necessary to look at it. But in the end, they are no more important than the Latino cook in New Mexico or the young female retail clerk in suburban Maryland or the African American insurance company manager in Illinois. This is a very big country and we all have our issues, we all have our needs. This focus on this one group is creating a sense that only they represent the true character of our country and everyone else is going to have to adjust to it.
No. The have the same rights and responsibilities as all Americans but they only represent themselves. There are hundreds of millions of us who don't agree with them.
digby 7/17/2017 01:30:00 PM