I and many of my friends have discovered that when we ask Trump supporters why they are so devoted to his dishonest and mercurial behavior, they are more apt to obsess over Hillary and Bill Clinton, Obama, the entire Democratic party, progressives in general, and especially the “enemy of the state” (mainstream media) rather than focus on anything much Trump has actually done.
They perceive him as a tough guy and smart cookie who speaks his mind. They refute the notion that he is racist. With a president who increasingly leans into Qanon, his adherents are more attuned to dangerous and fanatical conspiracy theories (e.g., many Democrats are cannibals) rather than the reality of what is happening under his administration.
Trump has masterfully engineered a hypnotic hold on the alt-Right and radical libertarians, evangelicals, and most of the traditional Republican party. He knows his constituents are white. He denies that white people are privileged and entitled but convinces them that their privilege and entitlement are unfairly under attack. He creates pathological fear and anxiety by lying. The lie becomes truth. Even when the lie is too bizarre to be believed, it still has merit because it is aimed at the enemy. It does not matter if the threat is real. He knows that his misrepresentation of portraying an America teeming with crime, violence, and social upheaval excites his base.
This is the perfect formula to create hate of “the other.” And herein lies foundation of the cult of Trump. He has not only given permission for his followers to hate anyone and anything they perceive as threatening, he has exhorted them to do so. In his solipsistic world, anything he believes is true is true because he believes it. His true believers no longer need to consider empirical evidence to direct their belief system. Instead, raw, visceral, reptilian emotion constructs their perception of reality. And that is a scary perception.
This is most apparent in the areas of science and social justice. The first stems from the profound anti-intellectual culture embraced by conservatives for years. It plays into a general distrust of authority and the myth of American rugged individualism. Climate change? Don’t believe it. An out of control pandemic that could have been controlled by real leadership? Nah. Wear a mask? Go to hell.
Deniability works equally well in areas of social justice. There is no racism. Why are “the Blacks” so discontent? Maybe they should consider that it’s their fault. Why do they pretend there are obstacles? The Ayn Rand view that America is populated by “makers and takers” is the perfect justification for this racism. Upstanding white conservatives have “made” this country great. They have earned and deserve their privilege. We know who the “takers” are. They also deserve their place in society. They are not only lazy, but they want the hard work of white people to take care of them. Universal health care? Pay for helping people who have not earned it? Please.
This resentment is complemented by its partner, hate. Of course, this hate of “the other” extends to all people of color, particularly undocumented as well as documented immigrants and citizens; Muslims, who are all terrorists; and liberals of every stripe who want to unleash all these enemies of the state to engage in violent criminal activity aimed at white conservatives.
Biden “wants to raise taxes, weaken police departments, open borders, increase the cost of energy, and lock people in their homes because of the pandemic … abolish immigration enforcement, abolish bail, abolish the suburbs, abolish effective policing, abolish American energy, and abolish the American way of life.” Wow. There are lot of people to hate under that tent. If Trump loses the election, it will be because his enemies rigged it. Be prepared to see this hate spill out into the streets.
It has already happened in Westminster with recent attacks on peaceful Black Live Matters groups. Just last night, a passerby gave us the finger while shouting “[expletive] lovers.” (Note to Rick Blatchford: There are plenty of racists in Carroll County.) We promote compassion and inclusion in all forms. The most common epithet hurled at the protesters is “Trump 2020!” That about says it all.
Henry Reiff is a community activist who writes from Westminster. Reach him at email@example.com.
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