I've been wanting to write for a while on the topic “How I see Trump Supporters”. My opinion on this has been formed primarily by spending time on a subreddit where people ask Trump Supporters to explain how they feel about various Trump related things but I've also just been paying attention generally to various other sources of information. While I might attempt to provide some numbers or other research to back up the claims here, this should be regarded as my own opinion. I am not claiming I am completely correct and my opinions tend to change over time as I learn new things.
One thing I think anyone could agree on is that there is a real mish mash of people claiming to be supporters. Some of them are certainly not “real people” (bots/trolls, etc), a good number of them are not even American (neither am I), and they are not monolithic in their views. On Reddit, Twitter, and other social media you can never really tell who you are interacting with. Many Trump supporters on these sites are trolling and are not representative of the average citizen, many are too young to really have the kind of life experience that leads you to take a person's political views seriously, and some are clearly nuts.
It is easy enough to find this same sort of thing but on the left side of the political spectrum. Let's say you have to learn to net off that type of opinion and look for the serious types. In addition to Reddit I have read interviews with supporters, watched them speak on video, paid attention to other subreddits, other right wing media sources, and talked to people who support him in person. There are also lots of people on the left trying to figure supporters out and I have read and listened to their opinions as well.
And, before we jump in, I want to be clear: I think plenty of people support Trump without this making them a terrible person. They typically don't know, or have taken time to think through, how far this could go toward making peoples lives terrible. There a lots of people who simply don't really analyze their political opinions critically and think their support has little or no effect on the political process. They may not think the political process has a real effect on other people's lives, either. These are people who do not fully participate other than voting (at most) and think of politics as a side show. For them, Trump is finally sticking it to the man or telling it like it is or is just funny. It would be like if Rodney Dangerfield's Caddyshack character became president and stuck it to all the stuffed shirts. Hilarious. Unfortunately, there are real world impacts.
As I will discuss in more detail, below, I think the vast majority of Trump supporters are normal people who just have no idea how things work and who will not take the time to really understand the underlying issues (or simply cannot for whatever reason). For these people, ignorance is bliss and Trump is a politician that it feels good to support. They see in him everything they want to see and wave away any feelings that he isn't what they want. These are the people who must be convinced that Trump doesn't care about them, at all. Not that he is immoral, unethical, rude, stupid – they don't care about any of this... they only care that he's got their back. Show he doesn't and they will stop voting for him. Maybe. It is hard to say because the same people that support him are often the least informed, even about their favorite politician.
You would need to do more than have an audio tape or quote of him saying things like “my supporters are idiots”. It would need to be a video of him, sitting in quiet reflection, unaware he was being recorded, with other people in frame who would be willing to verify the video. It would help if it were more than one media source recording it. Perhaps best would be a conversation on stage where he thought the mics were off but they hot, and he went on a monologue about how pathetic the people at his rallies were and how he was just using them for this or that. I still don't think that would be enough, though.
The categories of supporters (not exhaustive)
- Wealthy, just cares about money
- White Supremacist/American Nationalist (not the same but not all that different in their reasons for support)
- Irrational and/or “strict father” voter
The degrees of support (all of these groups might attend rallies, donate, and vote):
- The People (vote R) – barely aware of connection between politics and real life, thinks it is a reality show
- The Base – interested in politics but not well informed, thinks it is a team sport (vote R)
- The Vocal – really into supporting Trump – social media, public support, Trump is an infallible god-like figure
What motivates support
The fact is Trump lies. He lies all the time. He contradicts himself. He says things that will get him a laugh or applause. You can always find a Trump word salad to support your idea of what he will do for you (usually with almost mind boggling assumptions that are easily proven false a lot of the time). You can also almost always find Trump contradicting himself (e.g. Trump Criticizes Trump).
So people support him for their own reasons. Often the reasons don't even make sense. “He's going to fix healthcare” while he tries to tear it down. “He's reducing the deficit” while he... you get the picture. It's exhausting to try to understand what these people are thinking when they say these things.
The Wealthy (not all of them, just the Trump Supporters)
These people do not care about anything as much as protecting their investments. They may be philanthropic but want to control every aspect of that, rather than handing money to the government. There is a lot of overlap in this category with people in the other two categories but they would still support a candidate that made the rich richer over any other candidate regardless of ideology.
Wealthy supporters are often lukewarm. Their support will only grow because of the giant tax cut, the desire to see regulation stripped away, and the destruction of health care which will lead to their investments growing. But they acknowledge he is a boor and a useful idiot. Ultimately, this is short sighted for their nation but these people do not care because they can move their money elsewhere if they need to. This also covers off politicians like Lindsey Graham who are only associated with Trump for the access to power (e.g. staying in office, passing bills that benefit their sources of campaign contributions). These people often happen to also be wealthy.
White Supremacist / American Nationalist
This is everyone from “they terk my jerbs” to “Hitler wasn't so bad”. These people have always been lying in wait, but now one of their own is in the White House and, increasingly, in Governor's mansions in various red states. This has emboldened them and they are fully behind Trump regardless of anything he might do on any other front. He is basically the closest thing they will ever get to real representation in their lifetimes (I hope). I won't go into this too much as I think it is painfully obvious this is happening and their star is rising a little with Trump. They good news is a competent and moral administration can easily drive them back underground with policing.
Irrational and/or “Strict Father” supporters
I will lump religious/evangelical right wing voters in here... You get a lot of different groups in this category:
- QAnon types
- Anti-abortion “single issue” voters
- 2nd amendment extremists – these are people for whom the NRA is a big deal
- more or less mentally ill people who see conspiracies everywhere and blame them for their problems (some overlap here with white supremacists)
- And, finally, a group of people who are politically unsophisticated enough to think a guy like Trump can “come in and fix it all”... these people are more “strict father” than irrational and just happen to have a really inaccurate mental model of how things work at literally any level of government (and probably any organization).
These people are really the real base of support. They are the most numerous. George Carlin always told a joke about how the average IQ is 100 and there's lots of people on either side of that average. There are many, many people with very low intelligence intellectually and/or emotionally. They really cannot understand how much voting Republican goes against their own self-interest. As discussed above, they probably don't even think it is related. These people live in a constant swirl of logical fallacies and contradictions. They “don't believe in Science”, they failed their driving test because “the DMV guy hated them”, they think news is stupid, and so on. For them, Trump just changed from the “You're Fired” show to the “West Wing” show. They revel in his constant bragging and how easily all the nerds get upset by his antics.
For them, competence is something to be suspicious of. They see in Trump what they would be if they were given the job. Don't assume this is some fringe group... this is a large percentage of the electorate, far greater than 10%. They possibly make the majority of that block of voters that simply will never turn on Trump. Again, I want to point out this is only my opinion and I cannot back this up with research.
How does Strict Father play into this? It is pretty simple, really. They think “What Trump does is right, what he says is true.”
This is so much easier than trying to think things through or do your own analysis. And if some tool who isn't part of your family criticizes your strict father Trump, you let him have it. He doesn't get to tell you what to think! That is Trump's job. And he's the President! So who are you to try to say he's wrong. You get the picture. Strict Father also explains the evangelical support. Trump pretends to care about abortion. He obviously doesn't like non-Christian religions. They see him as protecting them and they like to be protected, to stay insulated (opposed to illegal immigration), and to be given easy answers they can hold onto.
Behaviour patterns when defending support
I want to get into this more but it will need to wait for another day. I'll publish this now and add to it when I can.
- move goal posts
- compare to an imaginary opponent “both sides do it”
- declare “it doesn't matter”
- connect dots that are not related, deep state, etc.
Links that illustrate my points
These are basically anecdotal but here are links where you can see people discussing their support for Trump (or discussion Trump Supporters) that offer some support for what I have written above:
- 2019-04-05 – first draft
- 2019-04-24 – added “Links that illustrate my points” section and ATS link
- 2019-05-30 – added some more “illustrate my points” links