I am not a Donald Trump supporter. About the furthest thing one can get from being such a thing, actually.
But I have now read a number of these “why are you supporting Trump” pieces, and with each variation I simply shake my head in sadness at the obtuse assumptions the writers make.
The latest comes from David Post, writing in the Washington Post.
It’s not as bad as some. He makes (I think) an honest attempt to draw out legitimate explanations from Trump supporters.
On the other hand, he disqualifies what is probably the prime motivation of more than half Trump voters: “if you do care to respond, I ask that you NOT tell me about how terrible you think Hillary Clinton is.”
If I were ever to become a Trump voter — and I can’t personally envision such a scenario — that would be the reason.
But let’s move along to Post’s assumptions and misrepresentations. That’ll be more fun.
— “Maybe it’s just because I spend most of my time either in the District or Vermont, and finding Trump supporters in either of those jurisdictions is a very difficult task.”
OK, in DC that’s probably true. But in Vermont? Yes, Clinton will win overwhelmingly in Vermont. She’ll get close to 70 percent of the vote. You know what that means? That something on the order of 90,000 people will be voting for Trump in Vermont, probably. They’re not hard to find if you know where to look. Post worries about the “bubble” in which he exists. He should. Apparently, it’s not even transparent.
— He fears “that we are really, finally, collapsing into separate camps, each with its own favored newspapers, and websites, and TV news channels, and so on, and across whose boundaries nothing passes.”
He should read some newspapers from the 19th century, a time when newspapers didn’t pretend to be objective. Media has never been objective, and we have always sought out news sources that agree with our points of view. The only reason people like Post now bemoan this is because their near-monopoly on those sources has expired. Post doesn’t help this by, in essence, turning a two-player game into a one player game. Why start with Trump and his fitness? Sure, I consider Post’s evidence against Trump and say “he’s unacceptable.” But if you start with Clinton, you reach the same conclusion.
–“here’s what I don’t get. Trump is unstable … and unstable people should not be put in command of our armed forces and our nuclear codes. … I don’t understand how Trump supporters get past this point.”
I agree with Post that Trump is unstable. Even that he is dangerously unstable. I suspect that a goodly number of Trump supporters have the same concern. But guess what, David? What they’ve decided is that “dangerously unstable” is not anymore dangerous than “dangerously wrongheaded” or “dangerously dishonest.” If you’re stable, and your state of being is always making the wrong call and then lying about it, is that any safer than “dangerously unstable”? I suspect the answer is probably not, and I suspect a lot of people have reached that same conclusion.
— “If you’re a supporter, I assume that you’ve satisfied yourself that he will exercise the rather awesome and terrifying powers of the U.S. commander in chief in a reasonable manner, and I’m curious as to how you’ve done that.”
Me too. But since you disqualified the most obvious answer, you probably won’t find out. Sometimes it is as simple as “drink the poison or shoot myself in the head — OK, give me the gun. I might miss.”
–“So even if you like all his policies, what makes you think he will follow through with anything he promises?”
Not a thing. I haven’t believed anything a presidential candidate has said in my entire lifetime. I try to judge on broad principles rather than specific policies because, as you rightly point out, “this affects all presidential candidates, all of whom make sweeping promises to do this or that, and then, when they get into office, are unable to just snap their fingers to get them done.” You say there’s a difference with Trump. But there really isn’t. While you’re trying to figure out how people can be taken in by this obvious con artist — and Trump is a con artist — ask yourself how you and tens of millions of others believed a half-term senator with no experience doing much of anything was going to heal the planet and stop the rise of the oceans.
— “This ain’t Ronald Reagan, folks”
Please, for the love of all that is holy, stop this. Liberals hated and feared Reagan in 1980. Like Trump, he was viewed as “dangerously unstable.” Stop saying nice things about people you used to treat like malaria so you can compare them favorably with people you now treat like the plague. It’s unseemly and dishonest. Ten or twelve years from now, you’ll be using Trump as an example to denigrate some other Republican. You know it. I know it.
— “Caro’s book is peopled with all sorts of amazing characters I had never heard of or knew next to nothing about.”
I must say, this is the most disqualifying passage in the piece. If you have never heard of or know next to nothing about John Nance Garner, Sam Rayburn or Pappy O’Daniel, you have no business offering advice to anyone about politics. But thanks for linking to Jesse Walker’s piece at Reason. It really is terrific.
I’m cheating, because I’m not a Trump supporter. I’m not the audience David Post had in mind. I’m as interested in reading their responses as he is.
But his presumption that Trump is a different kind of bad raises an interesting question about how we define badness in politics. Every criticism Post levels at Trump is true. Someone writing from a different perspective could write just as damning an indictment of Clinton. For every “Trump is a …” there is an equally awful “Clinton is a ….”
Pretending like one side has a case while the other doesn’t probably goes a long way toward explaining that “collapsing into separate camps” Post says he’s worried about.
The problem here isn’t that one side has a case and the other doesn’t. It’s that neither side has a positive case to make for their candidate, so voters are left with nothing to base a decision on except how bad the other person is. Some will decide that he is worse, some will decide that she is worse.
Some of us will decide that neither is worthy.
That’s the thought that ought to be keeping David Post up at night. I know it’s keep me up at night.