Both of my parents are from big farm families, and while most of my aunts and uncles have passed I have 38 living first cousins, most of whom have adult kids. And despite my loner ways I have at least average-sized circles of friendship and friendly acquaintance. Among all that I know of at least – at the very least – twenty who voted for Trump both times. Perhaps significantly more. I would characterize almost all as fundamentally good people – good parents, good spouses, conscientious in their jobs. I would describe a grand total of two as the kind of selfish, manipulative, obnoxious, know-it-all assholes you’d just rather never have around.
So my experience doesn’t fit the common stereotype, at least not in progressive circles online. But there are a few general commonalities among the Trump voters I know, which I am listing here in what I consider to be their order of significance in impacting the relevant voting decisions, and political views in general. These are general observations from a fallible observer, namely me. There is no intent to present this as definitive fact.
1. Fear of change: “Fear” may well be too strong. “Anxiety” about change may be better. “Set in their ways” or “just plain stubborn,” better yet.
And to a point it makes sense. Most people consider that they’re doing OK. Could be better, but could also be a lot worse. And most people tell pollsters that they’re at least pretty happy, in general. (That holds true worldwide, except for those in extreme poverty.) So why risk screwing it all up?
But in fact it’s pretty obvious they know if things were run differently they’d probably benefit. The real problem has to do with arguably the one great, lasting “success” of right-wing conservatism. That is, instilling cynicism and negativity about government in huge chunks of the populace.
2. Whining and blaming: People hate admitting they were wrong. And they really, really hate admitting they got suckered.
And when it comes to those things, I most certainly am “people,” myself. Nothing on this list is entirely specific to Trump voters. It’s a matter of degree.
So, yeah, blame it all on “big government” and/or “the liberals” and/or whatever. It’s always easy to find reinforcement for that, and emotionally it sure beats taking a good, hard look in the mirror.
3. Authoritarianism: I’m not talking about absolute, automatic acceptance of everything out of Trump’s mouth, or of the mouths of TV Bible-bangers or right-wing media figures. Most of the Trump voters I know, know better than that. But there is a stout unwillingness to question certain dogmas. Nationalism, in particular. And the aforementioned alleged failures of all things government.
If some of the above seems kind of vague, I can’t help it. Political psychology, like all psychology, is slippery, because human thought and behavior are messy and complicated.
Would that I could have proceeded from the above, by now, to a guaranteed method of persuading Trump voters to get it together and start voting for progressives. I can claim no such breakthrough.
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