Some Republicans-for-Biden say this election is Trump vs. America. In America, they explain, we do not lock up people for disagreeing with us; we do not lock up our political opponents.
Some Democrats say this election is Trump vs. democracy. In our form of government, they say, we honor the voice of the people by accepting the outcome of an election and facilitating the peaceful transition of power. There is an old saying: “Generals are always fighting the last battle.” None so much as Donald Trump. He is still running against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He is still using a four-year-old playbook – “lock ‘em up.” As we recognize it, it loses power.
In the beginning his words were shocking so much so they demanded our attention. After three years and 270-plus days, his words are repetitive and predictable. Once-serious analysis of what he said is now reduced to one television commentator asking, “What does he mean, if anything, when he says words?”
And yet, there are still those for whom Trump is magic. Someone asked, who is the Trump supporter? Not who voted for him then, but who continues to support him now? Who accepts not just the norm-busting and the law-breaking but the absence of consequences? It is a good question because ultimately all of this is about us. Some day in some way, Trump will be gone from the national stage, but the American people – who we are and what we stand for, what we will fight for and what we will vote for – will make this country what it is.
So, who is the Trump supporter? There does not appear to be a single type of Trump supporter. The universe of his supporters seems to break into three groups. The economic voter; the true believer and the cult.
The economic voter ignores or tunes out other aspects of Trump. This group may well disapprove of the more unorthodox Trump governing decisions — for example, calling for the prosecution of his rivals, the carelessness of holding super-spreader events and alienation of our allies. They ignore the tweets and dismiss the criticism of the free press and the scientific community.
They deny and normalize the more questionable aspects of his personality. They put all that aside and continue to support him because it is good for their bottom line — the decrease in regulations increases profits, lower taxes increases net income and a stock-market boom enhances retirement accounts.
However, this group’s feelings of well-being might be misleading because the overall economy has done very badly under Trump. America is disease-ridden and poverty-stricken. The novel coronavirus economy is comparable to the Great Depression. The trade deficit has grown exponentially as has unemployment, savings accounts have been gutted and lines at food banks are growing. This voter is focused more narrowly on personal wealth.
The second group agrees with Trump. They are not confused by his words; they hear him and agree. They are true believers. Trump apparently supports white supremacy, female inferiority and an authoritarian-style government. Those who agree with such policies were always with us. From the founding of this country, factions owned slaves, suppressed women’s rights and supported the king. That combination became less and less popular. Laws changed. Slavery is illegal, and women have the vote. That does not mean all citizens stopped believing. They are still among us and they still think they are right. They were never a majority, and in this country and this form of government, majority rules.
The third group is harder to describe. They are closest to cult members. They are enthralled to a man. He taught them the steps to follow: 1. Only believe what he says. The news as fake, and the deep state is attempting to poison the minds of the people. 2. Stay in the echo chamber – only get information from TV stations and Internet sites that echo what he said. 3. Do not believe your own eyes and ears. A cult member cedes all judgment to the leader. Cult members are vessels for whatever the leader pours in.
If there is any truth to this analysis, Trump will lose. Why? Taken together there are not enough of them. For example, some Trump true believers were part of the plot to kidnap two governors. Their plot included violence with collateral damage. They were caught before they could implement the plot. And when they were caught? It was 14 people — just 14. It is true they are always with us but never in large enough numbers.
If Trump loses, whatever he does next, unless it is to facilitate a gracious peaceful transition of power, he must be fought by all of us. Even if someone supported him, even if someone voted for him twice, fight him. Because if he does not accept the vote, the voice of the people, it is Trump vs. America and Trump vs. democracy. In that case, we must all fight together against Trump in order to fight for our rights.