We are now more than a year and a half down the analytical road chock-full of books, columns, and scholarly reviews devoted to explaining the ways and means of President Donald J. Trump and his merry band of “deplorables.”
The most simplistic of these analyses can be watched ad nauseam on the cable news networks daily, if not hourly. Here, the pundits retained by these bastions of progressivism sound a now-familiar refrain first uttered by former Obama aide Van (“It’s a white-out”) Jones on election night 2016.
Translation: These unsophisticated, low-IQ voters are primarily latter-day racists of various stripes who found their voice in one Donald J. Trump. The narrative further proceeds along the line of “Don’t be fooled — they may no longer wear hoods, but we know what they really think.”
Left unaddressed is the question of how it is that secretive racists voted for Barack Obama twice — to elect him to the White House in 2008 and re-elect him in 2012 — before revealing their David Duke true colors.
A similar ethnic animus toward illegal aliens is said to animate deplorables, aka the “America Firsters.” Here, their alleged nativism is reflected in a hostility toward immigrants — especially illegal immigrants — and most particularly illegal immigrants with brown or black skin.
You may recall Obama’s dismissive description of this group. (“They cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.”) Alas, progressives view this subspecies of deplorables with as much contempt as that reserved for overt racists.
To be fair, not all members of the Left’s resistance believe the foregoing descriptions cover every one of the 63 million deplorables who cast a vote for Trump. Plenty of vitriol is reserved for white middle- and upper-middle-class conservatives (and perhaps the greatest animosity is aimed toward black traitors to the liberal cause) —who desire lower taxes, less regulation and generational wealth.
Such is the wish list of the truly “greedy,” per progressive philosophy.
But what do deplorables think of themselves? What belief system sets them apart as members of Trump’s army, or, as per retiring Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, sycophants devoted to a dangerous cult of personality?
My interactions over the past few years lead me to five primary attributes:
1.) A “rigged” system: An unusual charge coming from a Manhattan real-estate mogul and casino owner hit home with millions of heartlanders who have worked hard all their lives but have relatively little to show for their efforts. They accordingly see their American Dream at risk.
Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) harped on this theme, with both stressing how the Washington, D.C., Establishments of both parties were engaged in the power exercise of picking winners and losers — subsidizing the former and letting the latter wither away.
The resulting charge of “rigged” was successfully used by both men. On the political front, Bernie was forced to run a race in a truly rigged Democratic presidential-primary process, while the Trump campaign had to overcome unprecedented partisan shenanigans at the highest level of the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ).
Recently discovered emails from senior DOJ employees have only added kerosene to the rigged indictment perspective. Interesting that what was once seen as typical Trumpian, over-the-top rhetoric about how the “swamp” conducts business has now gained serious, credible momentum on the Right and Left.
2.) A confident leader: Trump conveys a sense of confident control at all times. His supporters eat it up. His detractors see a charlatan, a con man, all salesmanship and no substance. Regardless of where you might fall in this paradigm, it’s difficult to recall a president who appears more sure of himself.
This sense of confidence also describes the deplorables’ attitude toward the president. Their confidence in America’s (and their families’) future is energized by Trump’s relentless self-promotion and appeals to American pride and nationalism.
This aspect of the president’s personality drives lefty elites and their media sponsors wild, but it has clearly kept his base energized, as polls reflect consistently strong job approval ratings among those who voted for Trump in 2016.
3.) Disrupters Inc.: There’s that word again. The country has seen how Trump relishes the disrupter tag. The deplorables see themselves in a similar light; they are increasingly distrustful of Establishment institutions, including but not limited to the media, Hollywood, and the heretofore untouchable FBI.
Accordingly, they tend to indulge Trump’s more extreme disrupter inclinations (immigration orders, tariffs, family separation policies) even where they would normally profess concerns. A logical question emerges: Can daily disruption over the course of four years wear a movement out? A logical query in light of the president’s relentless, frenetic style.
4.) A deep reservoir: Trump seems to thrive amid seeming chaos. This modus operandi is unique; even (some) supporters have a difficult time accepting the comings and goings — hirings and firings — tweets and retweets that define life in the Trump White House.
It goes without saying that his approach to the most important job in the world would have led to a quick demise for any other politician. But not so much this president, as deplorables are not disquieted by chaos.
Indeed, they see it not as chaos, but as an “active president,” a positive term once reserved by liberals. The enthusiasm quotient apparent from Trump’s first day in the White House has not dissipated. Here, Trump supporters attach a gigantic benefit of the doubt to their president and his policy initiatives, even when he reverses field overnight. Few democratically elected leaders have ever enjoyed such sustained flexibility.
Vicious attacks build emotional attachment as deplorables just dig deeper in their support of Trump.
5.) Digging in: This one is self-evident to those on the Right and all but invisible to the resistance. To wit: Every boycott, restaurant demonstration, “c”-word/”f”-word incident, or organized traffic disruption perpetrated on behalf of the resistance produces an equal, opposite reaction among the deplorables.
In this case, vicious attacks build emotional attachment as deplorables just dig deeper in their support of Trump. Anyone who doubts this proposition should check the repeated undercounting of Trump support by professional pollsters over the past three years.
Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich was Maryland’s chief executive from 2003 to 2007. He previously served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland’s second congressional district, and was initially elected in the Republican sweep of 1994.
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