Al is an evangelical Christian of unwavering integrity, kindness, and noblesse oblige. The worst thing I can say about him—indeed, the only bad thing that I could have said about him prior to the recent election in which he voted for Donald Trump—is that he allows no one to become intimate with him. If this were different, perhaps he and I could talk about his vote, my desire being to understand what would motivate a man who takes ethics seriously to vote for someone who wouldn’t recognize honor or decency if he tripped over it.
For instance, Al is humble; Trump is a braggart (“I’m, like, a really smart person”) Al is mannerly; Trump’s a boor. Al believes that people should be treated equally; Trump mocks the disabled and his contempt for Hispanics, Moslems, women, and black people, has earned him the loyalty of Nazis. Al is generous; Trump gives nothing to charity, and spends money that others donate to his own charity on himself. Al assumes personal responsibility; Trump blames others for his failures. Al has no interest in wealth; the greed of Trump and his family is insatiable (his daughter tried to sell the bracelet she wore on 60 Minutes). Al dresses modestly, lives in a modest house, and drives a modest car; Trump writes his name in block letters and is enamored of resorts, limousines, gold-plate, and a Boeing 757 with his name writ large on the fuselage. Al treats women as equals; Trump called his own daughter a “piece of ass,” and admitted to grabbing women by their crotches (when the women confirmed it, he threatened to sue them for defamation). Al pays his bills; Trump is a cheat who has declared bankruptcy four times, and promises to run the country like he runs his businesses. Al tells the truth; Trump lies as readily as he breathes and says that the press is composed of “deceitful, dishonest, liars” when they ask about it.
“Believe me,” Trump says about all manner of things, and his followers obediently believe him, evidence be damned. Global warming is a Chinese conspiracy, he says. He would have won the popular election had Hillary not arranged for three million illegals to vote, he says. The crime rate is exploding; the economy is in shambles; I saw thousands of Moslems cheering when the Twin Towers fell; all twelve of America’s intelligence agencies are lying about Putin having helped him win the election (he asked for Putin’s help); America is the most heavily taxed nation on earth; our employment rate is 42%; we can end gun violence by selling more guns to more people; and on and on and on. Why would anyone with even half a brain believe lies that are completely unsubstantiated or contradict known facts? Al is awfully old, so maybe he’s becoming senile…
To answer this question for the majority of Trump supporters, consider who voted for Trump. His supporters were primarily poorly educated Christians whose religion claims that it’s a virtue to believe physically impossible and glaringly contradictory claims about God, so isn’t it conceivable that they might taken the same approach with a demigod named Trump (just as Jesus claimed to be the only savior of their souls, Trump says he’s the only one who can save their physical bodies from terrorists). In any event, in determining which politicians to support, they place the bulk of their considerable store of credulity at the behest of males who are angry, charismatic, macho, and avowedly Christian, although the Christ in whom they believe is more akin to the scornful, intimidating, self-congratulatory, and perpetually angry Fox talk show host, Bill O’Reilly, than the soft-spoken Christ of the Bible. Such Americans mistake anger for strength because they are themselves frightened people who feel weak except when they’re angry, so serves Trump well to inflame their anger, and by so doing negate what little intelligence they possess.
Maybe this is why it doesn’t seem to phase Trump supporters that tens of thousands of voting station attendants and government officials would have had to secretly conspire to enable three-million illegal immigrants to vote for Clinton (which just happens to be the amount by which Trump lost the popular vote). Likewise, if an alt-right website tells them that Hillary Clinton is running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a D.C. pizza parlor, the “news” goes viral, the owner receives hundreds of death threats, and a North Carolina man walks into the parlor firing his AR-15. Clinton characterized Trump supporters well when she said that half of them are a “basket of deplorables” and added, “I am sick and tired of the negative, dark, divisive, dangerous vision and the anger of people who support Donald Trump.” Indeed, these are frightening people who adore a mean-spirited psychopath who encourages their own meanness.
The only surprise about such people is that there are so many of them, it being not at all surprising that their numbers are greatest where the control of the Christian religion is greatest. When Trump bragged that he could murder someone on a Manhattan street in broad daylight and still be elected, it wasn’t meant as a compliment to the mental capacity of his followers. Like Hitler, he has gone from being a joke to being taken only too seriously, and like Hitler, a man who mocks the disabled or declares a judge unfit based upon his ancestry is well on his way toward building camps and handing out yellow stars. Such is the man for whom Al voted. Gentle Al, modest Al, reasonable Al, voted for a loud-mouthed demagogue who encourages violence and criminality to the point of offering to pay the legal expenses of those who are assaulting his enemies. Again, the only explanation I can offer for Al’s choice is that he is beginning to show signs of age-related credulity. I say this because, although I posit religion as one explanation, how can religion alone explain why a kindly and ethical man would vote for a vicious and unethical candidate? After all, it’s not uncommon for people to be superior to their deity.
Another puzzler is why would the very regions of the country that are the most prone to flag-waving and support for military intervention in the (supposed) defense of the Bill of Rights, vote for someone who promises an end to the freedoms listed in the Bill of Rights with the exception of “the freedom to keep and bear arms,” which means more to Trump’s disciples than all of the other freedoms put together. Maybe this is because, without their guns, life is just too scary to contemplate. As for the other freedoms, take the freedoms of speech and of religion, for example. The only speech or religion that Trump’s supporters appear to value is their own as can be seen in the constant barrage of death threats they levy against anyone who angers them (gays, liberals, Moslems, journalists, etc.) Then there’s the freedom from government persecution—which they define as the government’s efforts to secure equal rights for anyone they dislike. When Catholics and evangelicals speak of freedom, what the mass of them have in mind is the freedom to force everyone else to either pretend to believe like they do or face persecution if they refuse, and Trump is on their side.
Trump and his followers hold their government in contempt simply because they haven’t been able to use it, to the extent that they would like, to force the rest of us to kowtow unto them, so it’s no surprise that he has appointed his billionaire confederates to head the very agencies that those confederates are pledged to destroy. This is but one of endless examples of Trump using the system to destroy itself, but since he won the election by appealing to the worst instincts of his supporters, it’s no surprise when they support such acts of bad faith. Still, the world of Republican politics contains numerous surprises.
For instance, Trump’s supporters insist that people like myself are being unfair to our soon to be president by our unwillingness to “give him a chance,” advice that strikes me as on a par with suggesting that a parent give a child molester the chance to babysit. But the greatest surprise of all is that the very people who are the most harmed by conservative policies are the same people who voted for Trump. They are poor in money (many hold minimum wage jobs, and the Republican Party opposes any floor to what they can be paid), poor in education, poor in opportunity, unable to afford medical insurance much less medical bills, and many of them live in states that receive more from the government in social programs than what they pay into it in taxes.
If anyone needs government help, it’s these people, but they hate being reminded of their inadequacies, but, more importantly, they hold that the Republican Party is on God’s side (or, perhaps, that God is on its side). To whit, the Republican Party (or, at the very least, numerous Republican politicians): denies evolution, the Big Bang, global warming, the 4.5-billion-year age of the earth (which is inconsistent with Biblical genealogies), and all other scientific discoveries that are inconsistent with a literal interpretation of the Bible. It wants Old Testament “science” taught in schools; opposes abortion if not birth control; claims that stem cell research violates God’s law; favors “trickle down economics” (the belief that the rich are our friends, and the richer they are, the more they can help us by hiring); prefers a theocratic oligarchy to a democracy; wants to bankrupt the public school system by diverting tax money to religious schools; and supports the oppression of everyone who doesn’t look and think like a white, Bible Belt, Protestant Republican (it’s a fiction to imagine that Protestants who despise other Protestants are really tolerant of Catholics whose church they refer to as the “Whore of Babylon”).
As many, if not most, of Trump’s people see the world, they are God’s chosen, and both they and God hate everyone who doesn’t look and think like they do. When they chant “Make America Great Again” their vision is a return to September 1929, when things were indeed good for what they would call “real Americans,” and who better to lead them into the past than the man who built New Jersey’s Taj Mahal, and then stiffed everyone who was naive enough to think they were going to get paid? Of course, when Trump-inspired disasters come to America, Trump will do as he always does, which is to deny responsibility. “Believe me,” he will say, “Hillary Clinton was behind this,” and his followers will no more think to doubt him than they would think to doubt Old Testament science because, after all, their reasons for trusting in the best thinking of the Bronze Age are on an equal foundation with trusting in a president who appeals to the same kind of thinking that surfaced in the formerly tolerant nation of 1920s Germany.
One of my friends said that what I need in regard to the apotheosis of Donald Trump is a hefty dose of love and tolerance, but at the risk of sounding as angry as a Trump supporter, I say love and tolerance be damned because they look too much like acquiescence. When a five-year-old is at the wheel of the car, a good bit more than love and tolerance is required, and so it is now that Trump and followers are running the country. Nothing but disaster is going to come from these people, and, I fear, there will be violence on the part of those who oppose them. I say this because America only respects two things: wealth (America has been an oligarchy for years) and violence, and while few people have Trump’s billions, anyone can get an assault rifle. As for those of us who have no wealth and no stomach for violence, we can but hope that we will still have a country in the year 2021 when Trump’s four years are up—and that’s assuming that he hasn’t amassed enough power to hold onto the presidency in the manner of the Congo’s Joseph Kabila. One of the things I’ve observed about power is that those who assume it usually do so for selfish reasons, and that they have neither the wisdom to use it for the good of others, nor the willingness to relinquish it unless forced to do so.