When I first began to conduct the interviews for this piece in the spring, I had a very different direction in mind than the one I ended up taking. I had, over time, noticed that my Twitter followers contained a not insignificant number of gay people who were as open about their support for Donald Trump as they were about their sexuality. Considering the accusations of homophobia on the part of his opposition, and even more so, of a largely oppositional press, that have been levelled at the President, I found this intriguing. I had some immediate success, contacting Paul______. He was remarkably generous with his time and came across as an intelligent, motivated guy who’d arrived at his political stance as a result of a willingness to challenge his own previous beliefs. It was an encouraging beginning that, unfortunately, didn’t quite pan out.
A few other attempts to engage other seemingly like-minded folks went nowhere and so I changed focus. As the weeks passed and the polling indicated a rise in the likelihood of a Joe Biden victory I thought I’d return to a previous interest of mine; the indefatigable nature of Trump’s core support. Regardless of whatever raving he might be doing through social media or how badly he might mismanage a given situation, there is simply a hard bottom for him. This immovable floor of approval interests me because I don’t think it can simply be ascribed to what and who he is. Certainly, the limited sample of those I’ve spoken to about this all voiced “active” reasons for their appreciation of him and their commitment to voting for him in the upcoming election. They also made mention of their antipathy for not just the Democratic candidate, but the party and it’s progressive mindset as a strong motivating factor. They spoke less than glowingly about the state of American journalism as well.
As I wrote before, Paul _____ was my first contact. He’s a forty year old man who lives and works in Tennessee. He divides his employment between shifts as a caregiver for the mentally disabled and paralegal work. He was raised in a Republican household but was not particularly political until he campaigned for Hilary Clinton in 2008. His galvanizing moment came on June 12, 2016. Omar Mateen shot up the Pulse nightclub, a popular Tampa gay bar, killing forty-nine and wounding fifty-eight others. Mr. Mateen was a twenty-nine year old self described “Mujahideen”, who had pledged loyalty to The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group dedicated to the establishment of a worldwide caliphate in which they would exert religious, political and military control over the entirety of the Moslem population. When Democratic politicians and the bulk of the reportage seemed to fixate on Mateen as a domestic terrorist, Paul felt that there was a reluctance on the part of Democrats to acknowledge the danger to the LBGQT community that is an inextricable element of Sharia law. It’s not as if he’d never thought of it before, but the horrific nature of the crime, and notable shying away from the religious angle on the part of most politicians, really resonated for him. His interest in the president as a candidate really started with this single issue. Paul felt that he could rely on Trump to be visibly committed to opposing the idea of any presence of Sharia law here, something that was not as affirmatively forthcoming from the left.
As we spoke, he told me that over time other elements of the Trump campaign and presidency held appeal for him as well. He liked the “America first” tone that pervaded the president’s digital and oral output. Trump’s refusal to take a politician’s approach was refreshing to him. Whatever the president’s shortcomings, his behavior in governance was the same as it was when he was running for office. When I contacted him for a second time, his commitment to voting to re-elect Trump was undiminished. We conversed again just after the first debate and he was looking forward to casting his vote. He was particularly annoyed and energized by a moment of tacit progressive bias on the part of the news media’s analysis after the Trump/Biden cluster fuck had finished for the night. Trump had been taken to task for his inability to simply, and without equivocation, denounce the white supremacists who make up some of his support. Nothing wrong there. What he (and I) found objectionable was the pass Joe Biden seemed to get for referring to Antifa as an idea and not a group. He felt that the statement itself could only indicate a pathetic dishonesty or genuine cognitive decline on the part of the former vice president. For the collection of talking heads to let that go without remark just deepened his already significant disdain for the profession, and reinforced his view of Trump as someone who is willing to take his side when no one else will even acknowledge what’s going on.
Paul was the single largest source regarding this article but there were others. Adam_____ is a construction worker in his early thirties who liked that Trump did not come across as a career politician. Adam has a distrust for professional office seekers. His antipathy for Hilary Clinton was a part of how he cast his vote in 2016, and his perception of the president as an outsider was, and remains a large part of his appreciation for him. Like everyone else I was able to question on the subject, he thinks the press are completely untrustworthy. He was certain he would be voting for Trump again, and thought that most of his friends would be doing so as well.
France______ is a woman in her sixties that works at her local library. Born in Canada, she came here as a young Quebecois woman and has consistently voted Republican at the presidential level. France represents a type of Trump supporter that is, in my experience, not uncommon. She will be voting for him again, despite having a personal distaste for him. Speaking to her, I got the idea that she’d be more than happy if he deleted his Twitter account and stopped his histrionic nonsense in general. Still, she sees him as a hard worker who has the interests of the country at heart. She too likes his non-politician quality. When asked about her politics she’ll answer honestly but does not volunteer her opinion. She believes that polling data is unreliable and had nothing especially charitable to say about American journalism.
Samantha______, a woman in her thirties, works in a clerical position for a medical practice. Her position was a bit different from the other people I listened to. She was, as of a month ago, still not sure she’d be voting for the president. What she was certain of, was that nothing could turn her into a Joe Biden supporter. She hadn’t voted in the last election, and wanted to learn more about Trump before she pulled the lever for him.
In addition to those referenced above, I must have casually engaged another dozen or so members of the pro-Trump camp in the last several months. The conversations, while not carbon copies, had a fair degree of overlap with each other. The most common themes seemed to be the perception that they’d been held in a certain amount of disdain by the people around them that identified with a progressive viewpoint, relating to Trump’s non-politician methods and a gut level belief that the vast majority of the media sees them as the “deplorables” Secretary Clinton mentioned in one of her more dubious moments. Taken as a whole, that is a binding sense of alienation, which I think goes a long way to explaining why President Trump’s base is as solidly loyal as any I’ve ever seen. Any body that starts from a place like that, has a chance to end up winning. Again.