For a pocketful of mumbles
Such are promises
All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest
– Paul Simon, “The Boxer”
How to understand the Trumpster’s supporters? WC thinks that, on reflection, Paul Simon got it exactly right. His supporters hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest.
David Brooks, in arguing that politics are a good thing, but that what The Donald offers isn’t politics, noted:
Trump’s style is bashing and pummeling. Everyone who opposes or disagrees with him is an idiot, a moron or a loser. The implied promise of his campaign is that he will come to Washington and bully his way through.
Trump’s supporters aren’t looking for a political process to address their needs. They are looking for a superhero. As the political scientist Matthew MacWilliams found, the one trait that best predicts whether you’re a Trump supporter is how high you score on tests that measure authoritarianism.
But while Brooks is willing to suggest that the problem isn’t exclusively from the right – read, Republicans – Sean Illing is more confrontational:
Only one party insists America is in perpetual decline. Only one party puts the culture wars at the center of its agenda. Only one party cultivates anti-intellectualism in its ranks. Only one party sold its soul to religious fanatics. Only one party refuses to accept the legitimacy of a democratically elected president.
It was Republicans who abandoned conservatism as a serious governing philosophy. It was Republicans who repeatedly defied custom with radical non-filibuster filibusters. It was Republicans who used the nation’s credit rating to blackmail the opposing party. It was Republicans who threatened to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding. And yet Brooks says our problem isn’t “exclusive to the right”?
But both Illing and Brooks fail to address what seems to WC to be the real issue: how is it that a bad-mannered, abusive billionare appeals to mostly low income, mostly white, mostly older voters? Why is a racist, bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic narcissist the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States?
Part of it is that for about thirty years now, the Republicans have abandoned critical thinking. When your party planks include anti-climate change, anti-evolution, creationism and anti-science, you are necessarily abandoning critical thinking. When a huckster like The Donald comes along, those Republican voters don’t have the critical skills to call bullshit on what the candidate has to say.
The other part of it is that the Trumpster’s primary (sorry) supporters are old, white, poorly educated and poor. The best predictors for a Trump supporters are the amount of education they have and their net worth. The less education, the less net worth, the more likely it is that they are gullible enough to think a billionaire New York real estate developer gives a rat’s ass about any of them. To a considerable extent, those poor, disaffected, aging whites are also the products of Republican administrations: they are the products of the failure of trickle-down economics and Republican-controlled cutbacks in job training and education.
Chickens coming home to roost, indeed.