Most of you regular readers of the blog probably know and the rest of you can likely guess that I’m not real fond of the political pundits’ notion that Democrats need to stop disrespecting and dismissing Trump supporters and start showing more sympathy or come November we’ll regret it. The idea behind this preposterous pretense of egalitarianism on the part of some of the snootiest and most condescending elitists on the planet is that Trump voters ought to be a natural Democratic constituency; hardworking blue collar types who’ve been having a tough time of it for a long while now and feel that nobody in Washington is listening or cares. They feel they’ve been screwed over every which way and don’t see anything ahead but a further screwing. They’re mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore. Which is all true. To a point. It leaves out what else they are.
Hateful. Hate-filled and hate-fueled.
They are hardworking white working class types who are mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore from THEM.
Yes, they’ve been having a tough time of it. Most of us have. But they blame everybody but themselves and while that includes bankers and Wall Street types and corporate bosses, it includes them vaguely and abstractly. They get a little more specific and concrete when they direct their anger and resentment at the Republican Party Establishment. But they get most specific and concrete when THEM means just about all black and brown people here and abroad. THEY’RE to blame more than anyone else and Trump voters want THEM punished for it and put back in their place, which for some of THEM is Mexico and others is the grave and a lot of the rest jail.
And Trump is promising to do the punishing.
And while he’s at it he’s going to take THEIR money, the money THEY stole from YOU, and divvy it up among his supporters.
That’s what he means and what they hear when he boasts he’s going to be “Greedy for America” and his supporters have both their hands out.
Hard to sympathize with that.
And while studies show these just plain folks have strong authoritarian streaks, which means that they like to boss and be bossed, and many of them sound like fascists, we’re told what they really are are good old fashioned populists and Democrats should be sympathetic to that. Except…
The only continuing tradition of populism in the country right now, which used to be a feature of the Democratic Party but hasn’t been since the segregationists stormed out of the party and, by invitation, stormed into the Republican Party followed by northern and midwestern working class white folks riled up by George Wallace and welcomed by Nixon and Reagan, has been Southern Populism. And Southern Populism is racist, nativist, know-nothing and selfish.
Southern populists were happy to share in the benefits of the New Deal. They just didn’t want to share those benefits with any of THEM.
We’re supposed to show some understanding? Fine. Then let’s understand them completely. Let’s understand that when Trump says he’s going to be greedy for America they hear the same thing Huey Long’s supporters heard when he said “Share the Wealth”: All for us, none for THEM. And when Trump boasts he’s going to make America great again, his supporters heard what Long’s supporters heard when he promised to make every man a king: You’re going to be on top and then you can push around everybody whoever pushed you around, especially THEM.
Why should Democrats sympathize with that? How could they do it without insulting and alienating their base? What good would it do to win them over if it caused real Democrats to stay home on election day in disgust.
A case can be made that trying that is why Louisiana, Arkansas, and North Carolina have brand new Republican senators and Kentucky has its same old one.
Instead of cozying up to Trump’s supporters, I had the idea of using them against him by simply showing them up for what they are.
I thought it would be a good idea to run ads with the theme “Do you really want to be on the same side as these racist idiots?” The ads would use news clips from Trump rallies and campaign events of his supporters straight-forwardly explaining what they thought it means to make America great again and why Donald Trump is the guy to do it.
This is why nobody pays me for my political advice.
Here’s the problem.
Ads like this would look like what they would be: the work of smug elitists humiliating put-upon and powerless working people who can’t fight back.
People watching would feel sorry for them and sympathize with them.
I would feel sorry for them and sympathize with them.
Ads like that would epitomize one of their major complaints: they are in trouble and nobody in the elitist leadership of either the Democrats or the Republicans seems to want to do anything to help them or to even care.
And the truth is that as much as they might not want to share with THEM, that’s a complaint they share with all working people of all colors and religions.
The way the political media cover things, it often seems they think no working people vote for Democrats. It often seems they think all working class people are white. And it often seems they think no white people vote Democratic.
I don’t have much sympathy for Trump’s supporters because of what they want done about their plight (and who they want it done to) but I have a lot of sympathy for their plight because it’s the plight of too many working class Americans and many of those working class Americans---millions of them---don’t have to be lured into voting Democratic because they’re already Democrats and have been voting Democratic all their lives. They’re hurting and they’re in trouble. They’re getting screwed every which way and don’t see much ahead for them but another screwing. They’re mad as hell and they don’t want to take it anymore and there doesn’t seem to anybody with the power to help them with their problems who's listening or even cares. But they aren’t racists. They aren’t blaming THEM. They don’t want anybody punished, except maybe a few bankers and hedge fund managers and the corporate types outsourcing their jobs. They don’t want what Trump is actually promising, which is revenge. They just want some help, which they’re willing to share. The party needs to sympathize with them and their problems and do something more to help them because we need them and we owe them and because it’s the right thing to do.
Let me tell you what got me started writing this post.
I’m at the McDonald’s up the road from Ken Mannion’s dojo, waiting for him to be done with his karate lesson. As usual, I’m trying and failing to resist the temptation to listen in on the conversations of people at the nearby tables. A little while ago I tried and failed not to overhear this:
"I don't want that man for president. He's too arrogant. One wrong move and you're fired? You don't like the way he talks, you're gone. Who needs that in a president?"
The speaker was a middle-aged white woman, probably blue collar, out with her teenage daughter and mother. My reasons for thinking she’s working class include the way she was dressed, her hair, and her manner of speech. But my main reason is that I could tell by the way she talked about Trump as a boss that she knows what it’s like to have to work for someone who holds all the cards and whose mercy and good nature you have to depend on to keep your job and your pride and yourself and your family fed.
I don’t want the Democrats to want Trump’s supporters’ votes or to do anything to get them.
But I do want them to want that woman’s vote and do whatever needs to be done to help her and her family.