DOES TRUMP REP­RE­SENT THE SOUL OF AMER­ICA?

With stub­born sup­port across a broad spec­trum of the U.S. elec­torate, in­clud­ing among women, and a pop­u­lar­ity only marginally lower than when he was elected, Trump at least ap­peals to their imag­i­na­tions

The London Free Press - - COMMENT - R. MICHAEL WAR­REN R. Michael War­ren is a for­mer cor­po­rate di­rec­tor, On­tario deputy min­is­ter, TTC chief gen­eral manger and Canada Post CEO. r.michael.war­ren@gmail.com

“As democ­racy is per­fected, the of­fice of the pres­i­dent, more and more closely, rep­re­sents the in­ner soul of the peo­ple. On some great and glo­ri­ous day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s de­sire at last, and the White House will be oc­cu­pied by a down­right fool and com­plete nar­cis­sis­tic mo­ron.”

That was writ­ten by H. L. Mencken in July 1920 in the Bal­ti­more Even­ing Sun. Al­most a cen­tury later his pre­dic­tion has ma­te­ri­al­ized in the form of psy­chopath-in-chief Don­ald J. Trump.

Do Trump and his sup­port­ers re­ally rep­re­sent the “in­ner soul” of a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans? Prob­a­bly not. But af­ter nearly two years of his em­bar­rass­ing and de­struc­tive pres­i­den­tial re­al­ity show, his sup­port re­mains only marginally lower than when he was elected in Novem­ber 2016. More than 41 per cent of Amer­i­cans think Trump is do­ing a good job.

So who are these Amer­i­cans ? They are not mostly blue-col­lar, white, work­ing-class vot­ers as the me­dia of­ten re­ports. In­stead they are a sur­pris­ingly di­verse group who sup­port Trump for a mul­ti­tude of rea­sons.

First, there are seg­ments of the busi­ness com­mu­nity. They are well ed­u­cated and mostly white males. They favour smaller gov­ern­ment, less reg­u­la­tion and were de­cid­edly against Hil­lary Clin­ton in the elec­tion.

The eco­nomic bub­ble that per­sists in the U.S. is draw­ing sup­port from busi­ness and the gen­eral pub­lic. But they for­get that this eco­nomic up­swing be­gan un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s regime. He pro­moted an open Amer­ica and free trade.

The im­pact of Trump’s trade wars with China and Europe will soon reach Amer­i­can con­sumers who’ll pay more. Busi­nesses that ex­port to sur­vive also will be af­fected. No one wins in a trade war.

The re­li­gious right is an­other com­mit­ted group. The level of blind sup­port Trump en­joys from white evan­gel­i­cals is dis­turb­ing. These are peo­ple who preach ad­her­ence to Chris­tian moral val­ues. At the same time, they are will­ing to turn a blind eye to Trump’s deeply flawed moral com­pass.

Why? Be­cause they are vi­tally con­cerned about the sur­vival of the “white Chris­tian na­tion.” They see the in­flux of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants of dif­fer­ent faiths and eth­nic back­grounds as an ex­is­ten­tial threat. They see Trump as their saviour. And they seem will­ing to for­give him any sin of com­mis­sion or omis­sion if he can turn back the clock for them.

White evan­ge­list lead­ers sup­port Trump openly in the hope he suc­ceeds in his ef­forts to move the Supreme Court mem­ber­ship to the ide­o­log­i­cal right. If Trump suc­ceeds, and he’s well on the way, there will be con­certed at­tempts by the court, in the fu­ture, to roll back abortion and same-sex mar­riage laws.

Then there are those who be­lieve Trump can bring back the Amer­ica of op­por­tu­nity they re­mem­ber. They think the eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal sys­tems are rigged against them and that Trump’s “bull in a china shop” Wash­ing­ton be­hav­iour will some­how act in their favour. They are older white folks with gen­er­ally lower lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion and in­come who buy into Trump’s sim­plis­tic slo­gan “Make Amer­ica Great Again.”

An­other group that still sup­ports Trump are those who didn’t vote for him, as much as they voted against Hil­lary Clin­ton. These folks could not stom­ach vot­ing for a woman af­ter eight years of a black pres­i­dent. Trump still reaches to this group by con­stantly re-lit­i­gat­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. He’s try­ing to re­mind them they made the right choice.

Of course, the largest con­tin­gent are diehard Repub­li­cans who embrace Trump be­cause he is their party’s can­di­date. They are fis­cally con­ser­va­tive, and of­ten Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers. Stud­ies show they are a higher so­cio-eco­nomic class and are more male than fe­male. They gen­er­ally are against open im­mi­gra­tion, taxes and women’s rights.

Dur­ing the last pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Hil­lary Clin­ton called these di­verse groups “that bas­ket of de­plorables.” She tried to char­ac­ter­ize Trump’s fol­low­ers as a bunch of white, red­neck ya­hoos. She was wrong. Trump at­tracted vot­ers from a wide spec­trum of Amer­i­cans and still does, de­spite be­ing the most con­tro­ver­sial pres­i­dent in the his­tory of the coun­try.

It’s par­tic­u­larly hard to un­der­stand why Trump won a ma­jor­ity of white women vot­ers in 2016. These were white women vot­ing against a highly ex­pe­ri­enced white woman can­di­date. To­day, Trump still has con­sid­er­able strength among work­ing-class white women. They form an in­te­gral part of his po­lit­i­cal base.

The Democrats claim to be the party of women’s rights and in­ter­ests. But their fail­ure to at­tract more white women, in the face of the pres­i­dent’s misog­y­nis­tic be­hav­iour, re­mains a trou­bling po­lit­i­cal ques­tion.

Trump’s eclec­tic, per­sis­tent base may not rep­re­sent the “in­ner soul” of Amer­ica, but it comes dis­turbingly close.

The U.S. midterm elec­tions are only a month away. For many Amer­i­cans its a chance to crip­ple Trump’s stran­gle­hold on Congress. There is a wide­spread per­cep­tion that Trump will lose con­trol over the House and maybe even the Se­nate.

But the lead­er­less Democrats will have to do more than ask the elec­torate to vote against Trump. They’ll have to give his stub­born sup­port­ers at­trac­tive rea­sons to aban­don the Don­ald.

PHOTO BY MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

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