I’ve always been intrigued by what moves people to do what they do. That includes the reasons they vote as they do.
The big talking point today across the spectrum of news talk zeroes in on the idea of both Republicans and Democrats being angry. But as is anything else that passes for in-depth analysis on the cable networks, that idea is simply too simplistic.
Yes, there is palpable anger among voters left to right. But there’s anger and then there’s anger.
One expression one hears from Republicans supporting Donald Trump is that their candidate “Tells it like it is.” What they’re really saying is that he tells like it is from their mindset. Thus, it’s not so much as “like it is,” but more “like how I see it.” And we happen to agree.
On the left, Bernie Sanders supporters also say their candidate tells it like it is, but Trump and Sanders are offering different messages. However, it’s the undertones of their messages that get to the heart of the distinction.
Sanders supporters do not feel personally threatened by the power of millionaires and billionaires. While they are fed up with what they consider abuses of the system by that class, they’re not stocking up on weapons of mass destruction, hovering in their fortresses in fear of invasion from the top one percent. The Koch brothers are targets of disdain, but not potential wreakers of physical destruction and terror. Yes, their power needs to be clipped, but done so through rule of law.
That though is not what is happening with those on the right who have been fulminating since 2008 with the rise of Barack Obama. Their irrational impulses of dread of immigrants and potential terrorists is directly correlated to their impassionate hatred for Obama: They say “he’s not one of us.” They see Obama as the personification of “the other.” His dark skin and facial profile strike a chord within their essential racism.
From their view, people of color are to be tolerated but not trusted. It’s the basis of the birther movement. Obama was not only not native born; he wasn’t even Canadian or European born. Instead, he was born in Kenya, which provokes subtle and sometimes blatant images and stereotypes of uncivilized natives and all that that infers.
In his fascinating piece on HuffPost “Why Trump?”, George Lakoff, a Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley dissects the mind and passion not only of Trump supporters but also the reasons Trump sends shivers up the spines of dyed-in-the-wool, stiff-upper-lipped conservatives like columnist George Will.
Will is right; Trump is not a traditional conservative. Lakoff delineates many of Trump’s positions that are at odds with conservative orthodoxy.
“He likes Planned Parenthood, Social Security, and Medicare, which are not standard Republican positions,” writes Lakoff. “Republicans hate eminent domain (the taking of private property by the government) and love the Trans-Pacific Partnership (the TPP trade deal), but he has the opposite views on both.
“He is not religious and scorns religious practices, yet the Evangelicals (that is, the white Evangelicals) love him. He thinks health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, as well as military contractors, are making too much profit and wants to change that. He insults major voting groups, e.g., Latinos, when most Republicans are trying to court them. He wants to deport 11 million immigrants without papers and thinks he can. He wants to stop all Muslims from entering the country.
“What is going on?” Lakoff asks.
Lots, and if Democrats and progressives don’t begin to fully take Trump and Trumpism seriously, he might very well be our next president. It’s a lesson to be learned from the Republican Party that once dismissed him as a clown but now see their party being torn asunder.
After Trump declared his candidacy last summer, to the one they emphatically declared Trump would not win the nomination. Now, he’s within striking distance, and they’re shook, panicking.
It might come down to Democrats and progressive-leaning independents to serve as the firewall against a potential Trump presidency. We need to acknowledge Trumpers include blue-collar, working-class men and women, who, assured by his economic message and responding to his message predicated on fear, proclaim, “He tells it like it is.”
To be continued.