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
“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.