I clearly remember when I first questioned how someone could be a Donald Trump supporter.
Lately, I have been confused as to why successful friends and relatives – literate urbanites with access to the Internet — still support him.
Considering all the scandals and sordid revelations about him and his family, his ties to Russia and his sleazy past, why would they proudly align themselves with someone akin to a dementia-riddled mob boss?
In November 2016, a coworker rejoiced over the victory for the White House. This guy is a true believing Christian. He doesn’t go to church for the networking opportunities, he walks the walk. He is a genuinely a good person and we are still friends, despite his political insanity.
When I questioned why he supports Trump, he mumbled something about abortion and referred to his minister. He doesn’t want to discuss it in any depth.
Since then, I have heard from literally hundreds of Trump apologists.
I finally have an answer.
Trump Supporters – Issue #1
What I have found is there are two issues common to almost all Trump supporters — outside of those engaging in blatant propaganda.
They are uninformed or misinformed. When we debate them, we assume they have the same foundation of knowledge as we do.
Trump supporters do not have a basic understanding of civics, so they don’t know about checks and balances, the role of the different branches of government, or even which party holds the majority.
Their ignorance generally leads to them responding in a way that shocks us because we do not understand their lack of knowledge.
It is not that they don’t care.
It is that they don’t know.
Trump supporters don’t follow current events, so they don’t know about the unprecedented turnover in the administration, they can’t grasp the emoluments clause, they have no clue who is working in the White House.
I had a conversation with one who argued that Trump’s son, Don Jr., could not have been involved in his Russia scandal because they thought I was talking about 12-year-old Barron. They didn’t know Donald Sr. had adult children and they were involved in his campaign and administration.
Forget Michael Flynn. Forget Roger Stone. They don’t even know who Ivanka is and that she works in the White House.
Once we cleared that up, this Trump supporter argued that Junior could not have sought the hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and if he did, where was the crime in that?
Worse, when they do have some inkling, they often get the details wrong due to misinformation. The proposed marginal federal tax of 70% on everything above $10 million has been criticized by a Trump supporters. They believe the tax is 70% on all sources of income and will effect everyone.
Trump Supporters – Issue #2
Trump supporters erroneously believe they are informed and do not accept they may be lacking in this area. Or worse, they believe that their source of information is infallible, even if they themselves don’t understand the issues.
In other words, they don’t think they need to improve their knowledge because someone, somewhere has told them that they are right in their beliefs. They are not embarrassed at how little they do understand.
What They Don’t Know Doesn’t Matter
This is because they base their position on authority, rather that truth. “Might makes right” and all that.
Scientists have even drawn up a psychological profile of a Trump supporter, as they too recognize that there is some fundamental disconnect in these people.
The largest effect is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all.Fairleigh Dickinson University
They don’t do their own due diligence, they don’t evaluate the information, but instead rely on some “trusted source” to tell them what to believe. It must be true because Fox, Rush Limbaugh, or Pastor Dan told them so. This is why they cannot articulate why the support Trump, why they cannot defend their beliefs.
They don’t know. And gaining knowledge is not important.
When I questioned Trump supporters about how they obtain their news, the usual answer is an hour of Fox every night, or they listen to daytime, right-leaning call-in radio shows. The Christians almost exclusively get their information from their Church and believe whatever the pastor or minister tells them.
In other words, they are relying on outright propaganda or someone as misinformed as they are for their information. No matter what you tell them, their beliefs – their authority – means they are right and you are wrong.
Facts don’t matter. A mountain of evidence contrary to their beliefs will not change their position. This is because they are not coming from a position of what is true, but what gives them an advantage over others.
Why Trump Supporters are Bad for America
This is why white supremacists and sexual predators are crawling out of the woodwork.
It is because racism is not based on logic, it is based on power. Sexual assault is not based on mixed signals, but power. This bizarre form of false authority is about elevating one group at the expense of another — simply because you can.
It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense. Once they have appealed to power and authority, they then look for a way to rationalize it, and their reasons do not have to be based on truth. Any reason, no matter how implausible, will do.
This is why do much of what they do say in defense of their beliefs is so stunningly stupid.
“Illegals commit more crimes, so it is good to prevent them from entering the country.”
“Trump respects women. What he said was not offensive, it was just locker room talk.”
“Boys will be boys. Who didn’t get drunk in high school and do something stupid? She liked it.”
The mistake most of us make is over-estimating Trump supporters knowledge of current events and their desire to know the truth. We believe like us, they care about facts.
Trump supporters care about being “winning”, about being right, or being in power — and to hell with whether it is good or just. Because all that matters is they not lose.