Those Trump Loyalists

One problem with political discourse these days is the participation of many truly nice people in those discussions. They are horrified by those of us who characterize today’s GOP as a racist mob. They (quite properly) note that such characterizations are far too broad-brush, and they insist that a continued effort to engage Republicans in civil conversation will often yield results.

Unfortunately, they are far too kind.

I will grant that stereotyping entire groups of people is both dangerous and inaccurate, but I also recall Maya Angelou’s advice to believe people when they show you who they are. So I was intrigued by a report from Talking Points Memo on a series of focus groups with Trump loyalists.(Note, this is a “members only” article that may not be readable if you aren’t a “member.” A link to the study itself is here.)

Democracy Corps conducted a series of focus groups with Trump supporters and various other GOP conservatives. They evidently had considerable difficulty recruiting volunteers– it took a long time to recruit people to constitute representative groups because, as a Democracy Corp representative noted, Trump voters seemed particularly distrustful of outsiders.

Once they were in a Zoom room with all Trump voters, however, they apparently let it all hang out. Here are the “takeaways.”

The Trump loyalists and Trump-aligned were angry, but also despondent, feeling powerless and uncertain they will become more involved in politics;

Trump’s base saw Biden, as a white man, as not threatening, controlled by others, unlike Obama who represented everything Tea Party-Republicans were determined to fight;

Even Trump’s base is curious about the extent to which they benefit from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and Biden’s signature program, compared to Obamacare that they viewed as a new entitlement for Blacks and immigrants that must be stopped;

The Trump loyalists and the Trump aligned are animated about government taking away their freedom and a cancel culture that leaves no place for white Americans and the fear they’re losing “their” country to non-whites;

They were angered most of all by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Antifa that were responsible for a full year of violence in Democratic cities that put white people on the defensive – and was ignored by the media;

The Trump loyalists and those who are aligned rooted for the anti-lockdown protestors in Michigan and saw the violence and disruption of the legislature as justified. Some pulled back when the guns threatened innocent civilians, and more when their methods seemed to be losing support for the Trump movement;

A handful of the Trump loyalists supported the January 6th insurrectionists, but most quickly concluded it was really Antifa or an inside job to make Trump supporters look bad. They normalized the insurrection, suggesting it was no different than the violence carried out by BLM and Antifa;

They worry now that it is the government that has taken the initiative on the use of force, increasing their sense of powerlessness;

It is difficult, if not impossible, to look at these findings and not see how deeply racism motivates support for Trump and his GOP. Nice people don’t want to recognize the extent to which White Nationalism affects and distorts American political life–and the extent to which bigotry and racial grievance has assumed control of one of the country’s major political parties.

I don’t want to admit it either–but some 74 million people voted for that President and that party. I don’t know how we combat hatred, but I do know that we can’t address a problem we refuse to see.

21 thoughts on “Those Trump Loyalists

  1. Maybe if we could see any Democratic lawmakers, organizations or groups supporting voter suppression, ignoring safety measures during this pandemic and gathering in large groups, warning people against Covid-19 vaccinations; MAYBE we could stop “painting all Republicans with the same brush”.

    “Nice people don’t want to recognize the extent to which White Nationalism affects and distorts American political life–and the extent to which bigotry and racial grievance has assumed control of one of the country’s major political parties.”

    If elected Democrats are part of the White Nationalist, racist, bigoted movements against voting and human rights; as a Democrat I WANT THEIR NAMES.

  2. The last part of the study is of more interest than what is posted here. Too bad it was left out, because it presented the views of Conservatives who are not of the Trump mind. They are the potential supporters of a progressive agenda and make up a voting block that holds more power than they know. Wise liberals should be focused on them.

  3. Start with Sheila’s intro to the problem underlining the civil discussion as a possible solution and the dangers of stereotyping. Right on it seems. But then we get to the difficulties in discussing and seeking common understanding if not common ground. Right on again.
    But regardless of the difficulties involved, do we have any real alternatives for improving the situation? Sticking with our own stereotyping/demonizing, not trying to recognize our own contributions to the divisive currents in society, those are a formula not for improvement, not in MLK’s words for a bending of the curve toward the good, but rather to the possible demise of the great American experiment.

  4. I have often thought that what we are witnessing now are the last desperate attempts of the White Male to maintain power in a changing world. When a group feels threatened, it is like a trapped animal, and when an animal is trapped with no way to escape they are at their most dangerous. The sociologist C. Wright Mills concluded that a group that has once attained power will do everything it can to maintain that power, and that describes the current GOP to a “T”.

  5. Quite frankly, I gloss over articles mentioning his name also, Dennis. There is nothing I want to know about him post-office, including an untimely death.

    We’ve known about his supporters since slavery was used in this country before its inception. We’ve whitewashed most of the history to make the oligarchs at the time not responsible for their actions, and none of them have incurred negative financial consequences for decades of building wealth on the backs for free labor—the wealth which they have passed along to their offspring.

    The descendants of this wealth now comprise the oligarchy manipulating white people against their brothers and sisters of color. Yes, the fear has to be there already, and so does the ignorance, but it has most likely been passed down by their parents or grandparents.

    These racists are easily manipulated by their fears.

    The question is, how do you eradicate the hate (fear) when others are exploiting it for their own personal gain?

    For instance, if Koch’s policies were so advantageous to 74 million Americans, why do they operate in the dark? Why do the Mercers stoke racism to get what they want? How did Plantation owners convince poor whites to sacrifice their lives so oligarchs could continue owning slaves?

  6. We are all easily manipulated by our fears, but some of us don’t fear the “other” as much as the current iteration of the GOP does. The GOP has spent years honing their message moving from one group that is currently to be feared to the next group that is here to take away their guns, their children, their power. Maybe we need an anti-adrenaline?

  7. Theresa – that group is of great importance. However, they have little or no interest in anything remotely tied to the “progressive” label – AOC and “the squad” have ensured their fear/hate of the word- shame, the real meaning might appeal to them.

    They are, however, ready for pragmatic steps (not leaps) forward on our complex problems of the day.

  8. Lester, then don’t use the word “progressive”. Use instead the phrase “common sense” and push the pragmatism. Like Biden is doing these days.

  9. Theresa – a bit of LOL – my 1,100 citizen political organization is called “CommonGoodGoverning” and increasing includes those “NeverTrumper” “classic conservatives”.

  10. I see power as the opposite of democracy because democracy implies that we all have the same freedoms and are governed by those elected by the majority and power is when some group has more freedom than other groups and this group is a minority. Power is what drives Republicans because they are sure that the past taught us that having wealthy white Christian heterosexual men in charge is what built this country and, like for corporations and the military, is just what works best for them.

    I see their point but believe that the epic human population and reckoning with the earth that’s inevitable coming (or already here) as a result of the race to the final 50% of our population peak accompanied by the necessary infrastructure rebuild required by global warming accompanied by the expansion necessary to accommodate all of those people means tomorrow will be distinctly different than yesterday was and the new day will reward freedom, not power.

    That’s not to mention that I believe that power requires consideration of, if there is to be a powerful minority in government, which minority should it be?

  11. Todd,

    Good summary of the situation. The Trump people are indeed a mob. They are scared to death of things they don’t understand: Stevie Wonder’s great song, “Suspicion” rings here.

    These poor, institutionally ignorant people will jump through any hoop, believe any lie and suffer any indignity just so they don’t have to admit they made a mistake. If they admit they erred, their entire persona house of cards collapses.

    Where is there a place for those people to go? Today’s GOP, that’s where.

  12. Pete Buttigieg has figured out how to connect with remarkable numbers of them! Fox News can’t help themselves – they keep inviting him back and keep getting sucked in by his pragmatism, but also by his ability to convey sympathy and understanding. Yet he is completely candid about also being pro-LGBTQ and anti racism and sexism. They don’t know what to do with him and can’t figure out how to “get him” off balance. And every time they interview him, he erodes the attractions of the Republican party.

  13. It’s self-righteousness on steroids!

    History bears this out, and, it also shows that white folks in their own mind can do no evil! Now this is not all white folks, but, a large enough portion to cause a collapse of this current society!

    They’ve used religion as a vehicle to elevate themselves above the rest of humanity for the most part. Of course, you can see the pictures of Jesus Christ being a Caucasian male instead of an individual born in the Middle East and a Jew!

    Islam which was actually born of a distaste of hypocritical Christian leaders, and more than likely was initially a Christian religion, was attacked initially by European Christian kings, and this caused an entirely different dynamic between religious groups in the world. Even the Christian kings couldn’t get along and developed their own factions of Christianity, sects and denominations I guess we could say!

    Interestingly, much of the Bible is based in areas of Asia, and one of the most well-known biblical individuals was Job. In the Bible, Job is known as “the greatest of all Orientals” but current Christianity portrays him as a white man. So, everything is converted to whiteness because whiteness must be superior to everything, whiteness is holy!

    When reality sets in, when reality punches you in the face, the only thing one can do is to create a false narrative or a alternate reality! This is something that cannot taught away, it’s really a genetic flaw! And, it will
    never be eradicated, thereby bringing some sort of peace to this planet. It’s like a virus, maybe shingles, it appears painfully, suddenly, and causes great disruption and misery.

    It really is a disease! All black folks or Mediterranean’s don’t have sickle cell, but many carry the trait, when 2 people who have the trait sire a child, that child will have sickle cell. Currently, Donald Trump carried his particular trait, and married himself to all the others in this country that carried that trait, and now you have this full throated infection that will either die out or spread, it looks to be the latter!

    Not good!

  14. I wonder if the AmericanRescue Plan will help some of the Trump loyalists realize that not all “progressives” are to be feared.

    I still think we need people who are skilled in debriefing members of cults. The question is how can we debrief 74 million people. I don’t know, really. Perhaps we need the same kind of radio stations that are played internationally for people living in countries like N Korea.

    It will take more than arresting people who stormed the capital and local law enforcement to free us from the threat of the former president’s bid for a dictatorship. It will certainly take more than just praying for them. It will require that we find ways around the new voter suppression laws so that everyone’s right to vote is supported.

    In the meantime, if a Trump loyalist starts spewing vitriole at me, I will use the same therapeutic interventions I know as licensed mental health counselor to help people with paranoia because those interventions have given me the skill to deescalate people who are fearful and agitated and/or on the verge of acting out.

  15. Todd, you put it together nicely, if sadly.
    One thing that struck me was that the participants are firm in their belief in the propaganda about Antifa and BLM, presumably out of their fear and anxiety. They, apparently “know” this garbage to be truth!
    Yes, they feel cornered, and common sense, which according to Voltaire, “…is no so common,” will fail to impress.
    I’m sorry, but we need to continue to keep Trump in mind, perhaps not so much the wanna-be person, but for the sake of remaining on guard for the next sick demagogue who will try to put on his mantle.
    I do want to follow the trajectory of his post-presidency life, from a distance, do want to see some pithy consequences befall him, and his coterie of sycophants. I am curious about what his fans, in the public, will make of any civil, or criminal trial, that might develop. I have my negative hypothesis, in this regard, and some of its threads are scary.
    The other day, I saw a bumper sticker proclaiming “Impeach Biden,” here in Florida, home of many bigots, fools, and venal politicians.
    He’s got his new website bullhorn, and he will not fade quietly, trials, or not.

    Just for sh**s and giggles: Do not read “American Kompromat,” by Craig Unger, if you want peace and quiet.

  16. We are all sick of hearing about Trump, but anyone who ignores him does so at great personal peril. He retains the power of life or death over would-be Republican office holders. Given his innate viciousness he is the only Republican with the power to command that the party stick to its “down with democracy” policies. He commands gangs of hoods and violent racists, many of whom he pardoned and/or employed, who see him as a demi-god and will do his bidding no matter what. He has no compunction about mass killing. He is the most dangerous man on the planet and is so obsessive that only the Grim Reaper (PBUH) can stop him. He is cowering in Florida awaiting the hour of his return when he can pay us all back for disrespecting him. His only value – above that even of wealth – is power and how he can use it to settle scores. He comes as close to evil personified as anything we’ve seen in politics and accepts no limits to his rapacity.

    Honi soit qui mal y pense on me. But don’t turn your back on this existential destroyer of worlds.

  17. Trump may be technically “gone,” but his influence (even if waning) is not, not when he can threaten current GOP officeholders with primary opponents and bend them to his sick will, a will rooted in me-me-me having nothing to do with the real issues of the day, issues like infrastruture repair and renewal, tuition debt, Keynesian efforts to recover from the pandemic, racial frictions, China, an emboldened Putin etc. etc. etc.

    Yes, I would like to live in a world where I never hear his wretched name and all such a mention conjures, like that of Hitler, but I’m not into the Republican world of alternative facts. I live in a world of reality and his influence on all of us and our posterity was, is and will be real, until he is removed from the scene in the course of time. He has had a taste of ultimate power, and with his terminal narcissism (and a substantial base who regard him a demi-god) I think he will pursue a return to the throne or become the power behind it.

    Our task in maintaining or representative democracy is to see that this “rule or ruin” plan does not succeed.

  18. It continues to stun me that Trump loyalists of the far-right continue to believe that the Affordable Care Act must be eliminated because it is perceived to be “a new entitlement for Blacks and immigrants that must be stopped” when the primary beneficiaries of this law, if numbers are the issue as to who is actually benefited because the poorer white population benefits far more the ACA than do “Blacks and immigrants.” This was fully explored in “Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland” by Jonathan Metzl. Time and again, the politics of Trump do more to harm to his supporters than anyone else but they are accepted, indeed embraced, out of a misguided hatred of “the other” who is perceived to be getting an advantage even when this perception is demonstrably false. Hate trumps logic. Pun intended.

  19. Yes the bigotry is overtly there, but the partisanship was even greater (exascerbated no doubt by the racism). In a lifetime of politics, I found that good candidates could swing 5% of the vote from one party to another if they had adequate resources and really worked at it. On rare occasions, really good candidates could defeat really bad ones by swinging 10-15% of the vote. (The underdog in a 60%-40% district could swing maybe 12% and get to 52%.)

    The point is that a healthy majority of the partisan base will not change, even in the most extreme circumstances. For instance, only 31% of Republicans thought Richard Nixon should resign just before he did so. So the challenge is how to connect with and motivate that moderate or persuadable slice of partisans.

    Over time, fewer people have identified as party partisans. Nevertheless, tribalism by party is stronger in intensity if not in numbers, especially since the advent of Trump. Fortunately it was only necessary to convince a minority of partisans to part company with Trump, and he did most of the convincing himself.

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