I was with friends over dinner the other night and we talked politics.
All of us opposed the Trump regime, so the setting felt like a safe place to exchange ideas. Beyond the anyone-but-Trump, however, there was little agreement. Then I started listening to my friends, and for me, the conversation became a chance to understand the inexplicable.
Since 2016, Trump supporters have baffled me. Sitting around with what can only be described as “comfortable Democrats,” a perspective emerged that brought new clarity. Some expressed fear of a second Trump victory and indicated support for those they felt were the more “electable” candidates: Klobuchar, Biden, Buttigieg.
This was the first lesson, the tendency on the part of “comfortable Dems” to focus mostly on beating Trump and then judging candidates on their supposed electability. This highlights the vulnerability of CDs to the establishment-driven myths championed by the national media, especially CNN and MSNBC: electability predictions, the merits of moderation, the danger of far-left extremism and so on.
While this perspective considers people’s reservations, it neglects what they might vote for. When we vote only for what we are against, we end up electing new puppets with the same puppeteers holding the strings.
Don’t get me wrong, the friends I was talking with are good, caring, thinking Americans who love their country.
The most interesting part of our conversation for me was their perception of Trump supporters. They genuinely think of themselves as understanding, empathetic, people when it comes to minorities, the poor and immigrants, but the buck stops at Trump supporters. Here are some of their comments that provided insight:
“They vote against their own best interest.”
“They don’t believe in education.”
“They are so angry; I wouldn’t put a Democratic sticker on my bumper for fear a Trump supporter would run into my car on purpose.”
This is the kind of “elite thinking” I have been guilty of, too. Listening to others express it explained for me some of the underlying reasons people voted for Trump.
CDs are the “elites” Trump successfully demonized in the name of the people who felt despised (who can forget “deplorables”) and unrepresented. This geographically and politically neglected segment of society voted for the person who gave a voice to their anger.
Trump did not, cannot and will never fundamentally help his middle class supporters, but he can be their mouthpiece once again if no one else gives them a chance to feel a part of a process that can work for them.
It’s when we think about commonalities rather than differences that we begin to understand the “other.”
Financially challenged mothers want a better life for their kids, including better education, just as much as CD mothers, maybe more. It’s just much harder for them to materially support their child, and that makes them mad.
And no wonder working class people don’t care about voting in their own interest when those elected for the last 40 years have had no interest in their interests. For over a generation, government has either been wallowing in do-nothing gridlock or legislating advantages for the ultra-wealthy at the expense of American workers.
Why bother voting for things that never materialize when your vote can at least express your frustration and anger?
As for the idea that anyone would damage their own car to express a political point, well, that just shows us how wide the divide has become.
What the Democrats, especially the comfortable ones, need to face, is the absolute necessity for a plan that will improve the condition of Trump’s base and lift all Americans out of a hopeless quagmire.
Neither Trump’s hollow fear-mongering promises nor Biden’s gridlock status quo compromises will suffice.
We must find something bolder and better that will significantly help make all American’s lives good again.
Peter Taillie writes from Greensboro.