As I said two weeks ago, base Republican voters are not choosing a president. They’re choosing an rebel leader who will lead an insurgent war against what they view as an increasingly dominant liberal consensus aided and abetted by establishment Republicans.
Now, that seems like crazy talk to progressives who are pulling their hair out over government inaction in the face of existential crises like record wealth inequality, climate change and the reality of technological unemployment. But to the Republican base, the world seems to be spinning ever more off kilter: a black man was elected and re-elected to the Oval Office, a hated woman seems likely to follow him, gays can marry in the Deep South even as Confederate flags are coming down, the Middle East continues to be a problem no matter how many bombs we drop on it, the urbanization and secularization of America continues apace, and the country is only getting browner and more liberal with each and every passing day. And just like progressives, conservative blue-collar voters are keenly aware of the shrinking of the middle class—they just choose to scapegoat immigrants and “regulations,” rather than question their just-world-fallacy value system by actually looking at where all the money went.
For Republicans, this is an existential identity crisis and threat to their entire way of life. And they’re reacting in kind, by supporting the loudest, angriest, most belligerent voice in the room. Right now, that’s Donald Trump.
The Republican base isn’t looking for specific policy fixes. They’re looking for a cultural warrior and savior who will put the last 60 years of progress back in a bottle and give them their country back.
They want their country back from the rest of us–pushy women, uppity black and brown folks, out-of-closet gays, and smart-ass kids who don’t know our proper place. They want their country back from a bewildering and unfamiliar 21st Century.