Why GOP Voters (A lot of them, anyway) Adore Trump
And how liberals and progressives paved the way for MAGA to catch on.
There are some questions that don’t have easy answers. Do we really have free will or is our every move predetermined — perhaps by a superior being? What happens after we die? Is there life as we know it in galaxies far, far away?
And the most puzzling question of all, at least for “enlightened” liberal and progressive elites: Why the heck do so many Republicans adore a man like Donald Trump?
They just can’t figure that one out. They see Trump as a threat to democracy and can’t understand why his supporters don’t just finally toss him over the side. I’ve had liberal friends tell me they’re stunned by how many Republicans still support a man they literally despise.
Full disclosure: I sat out presidential elections in 2016 and 2020 because I couldn’t bring myself to vote for either Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden or Donald Trump — the first two because they’re Democrats and Trump because I believe he lacks the character to be president. Anything is possible, of course, but barring some unforeseen event, it looks like Trump will win the GOP presidential nomination.
I got to thinking about Trump’s critics — and how clueless they can be, despite their supposed sophistication — after reading a column by Bret Stephens in the New York Times. Stephens says he plans to spend the year “strenuously opposing [Trump’s] candidacy” and writes that, “You can’t defeat an opponent if you refuse to understand what makes him formidable. Too many people, especially progressives, fail to think deeply about the enduring sources of his appeal — and to do so without calling him names, or disparaging his supporters, or attributing his resurgence to nefarious foreign actors or the unfairness of the Electoral College.”
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A few examples of what irks Trump supporters about their left-wing critics: Let’s start with illegal immigration. MAGA voters see what’s going on along the southern border as a big problem — and don’t like being called bigots because they complain about a crisis that Joe Biden can’t even bring himself to call a crisis. GOP voters don’t want what amounts to an open border. A lot of progressives do — whether they say so out loud or not.
Then there’s the liberal media, which tops the list of American institutions GOP voters simply do not trust. On the night Trump gave his victory speech in Iowa, Rachel Meadow on MSNBC refused to cover any of it live — and on CNN, Jake Tapper cut away when Trump started talking about the chaos on our southern border.
The anchors said they didn’t want to give him time to spew lies about immigrants, which is rich coming from news organizations that spewed endless lies about how President Trump was in cahoots with Vladimir Putin to do who-knows-what.
Then there’s “woke” culture, on and off college campuses. When Trump supporters mocked the idea that we had to ask “what’s your preferred pronoun?” or held onto a commonsense belief that only biological women can give birth — they were portrayed as bigots who hate gay and transgender people.
GOP voters hear about how Trump will end democracy as we know it if he’s elected in November. But it’s Democrats who are trying to keep Trump off their state ballots instead of letting voters decide if they want him back in power. So who, they ask, is the real threat to democracy?
Inflation was under control with President Trump. It isn’t now. Russia didn’t invade Ukraine when Trump was president. It did with Biden in the Oval Office. Hamas didn’t sneak into Israel and slaughter more than 1,000 civilians when Trump was president. They did on Biden’s watch.
Maybe bad actors figured that Trump was more than a little crazy and thought it wise not to make trouble, fearing what he might do. Maybe they see Biden as weak and think they can get away with stuff they’d never try with Trump.
As a news story in the New York Time put it about all the negatives attached to the former president, “in the first chance Americans had to cast judgment on Mr. Trump since he tried to overthrow an election, many Iowa Republicans made clear they don’t judge him. They adore him.”
But if they can’t understand why Trump has so many adoring supporters, maybe it’s because they don’t even try to understand. Maybe it’s because they’re too busy disparaging his supporters as bigoted dolts.
“If Republican voters think the central problem in America today is obnoxious progressives,” says Stephens, “then how better to spite them than by shoving Trump down their throats for another four years?”
There are plenty of reasons a lot of Americans (and I’m one of them) don’t want Trump back in office. His role in the Jan. 6 riot probably tops the list (it does for me).
But if Democrats really want to beat Trump in November, maybe they should at least try to understand why he has so many loyal supporters. If they did, maybe they’d finally figure out after all these years that when you disparage his supporters they might take offense and cozy up even closer to their political messiah.
Or as Bret Stephens explains it, “For many Republicans, the visceral satisfaction of liberal anguish at a Trump restoration more than makes up for his flaws.”
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