Friday, November 6, 2020

Understanding Trump Voters' Motivation Requires Looking At Their Media Consumption

Over at her blog, Sheila Kennedy, has once again sparked a good political debate, this time about what motivates Trump supporters.  Professor Kennedy's blog has attracted a dedicated group of readers who often chime in with their own ideas on the subjects Sheila raises.  While those readers are very thoughtful in their commentary, they tend to be more liberal and, when it comes to explaining Trumpism, the explanation almost always is that Trump supporters are racists.  I don't agree with that.  While I agree that all racists are Trump supporters, I do not believe that all Trump supporters are racists.

In her column, Professor Kennedy makes an observation that, in Nazi Germany, the citizens were brainwashed into hating Jews:  

The difference was a hatred with a much longer, deeper history. The majority of German citizens had been conditioned to hate Jews. They had been taught that the Jews had destroyed the economy, that Jews were secretly scheming to destroy non-Jewish Germans and enact a Communist coup.

That is exactly what is going on with Trump supporters.  They have been conditioned, i.e. brainwashed, to hate Democrats and liberals.  They are fed a constant diet of traditional (such as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc.) and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) stories that reinforces the very worst allegations against the Democrats

That conditioning to believe the worst of Democrats is why the Qanon conspiracy theories have gained such traction among Republicans.  One poll showed that 56% of Republicans mostly or partly believe the Qanon conspiracy theory that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles, led by prominent Democrats, is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting to destroy President Trump who is fighting against the cabal. 

Likewise, if you ask Republicans who is more evil, Russian President Vladimar Putin a dictator who suppresses freedom and has his political opponents killed, or former President Barack Obama, the vast majority of Republicans will say Obama. Ask the same question, but this time substitute for Obama the names of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer or Joe Biden, and you will get exactly the same result. 

As a conservative Republican, I often communicate with Trump supporters.  I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is.  All they do is spout Trump talking points they have heard on Fox News or their social media feeds.  There is no independent thought, no critical thinking.  When you point out the hypocrisy of giving Trump a pass on behavior or political positions that they regularly condemned from President Obama, Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden, they do not deny the hypocrisy.  It just does not phase them.   If D's do something, it is by definition evil because Democrats are evil.  If R's, and particularly Trump, does the exact same thing, it is by definition good because Republicans and Trump are good.

How do you deprogram Trump supporters from hating Democrats because they are Democrats?  How do you ensure Trump supporters step outside their media bubble to hear alternative news and views? Frankly, I have no idea. 


Anonymous said...

Paul, I think you are way off base on this. I voted for Trump. You’ve known me for almost 40 years. I do critically think about all the issues. While I cannot stand most of what Tromp says, I like what he has accomplished until COVID hit. Economically things were going well. The tax cuts helped continue to grow the economy, his deregulation reminded me of the Gipper. While his actions weren’t all perfect in my eyes his batting average was really good. And if I didn’t vote for Trump it is essentially a vote for Kamala Harris, the most liberal person to ever be in the White House. (Biden won’t survive 2years yet alone 4 years.)

I have never read a Q’Anon website, I don’t blindly follow the conservative media, but I proudly voted for Trump, because the alternative was not good. The biggest bright side I see is that after 4 years of Carter we got 8 years of Reagan (although the late 70’s were not pretty we survived and there was some good music from those years). Hopefully another Reagan can come along and get the country moving in the right direction again, and do it with dignity.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 7:20

Part One

With all due respect the only thing Donald Trump has in common with Ronald Reagan is that they are/were both tall, white men who were the oldest person to (at that time) be elected President. Trump has done so much to destroy the legacy of Ronald Reagan that I cringe when people suggest he's at the same level as the Gipper, or maybe better.

My Ball State economics professor would roll over in his grave (don't know that he's dead...just assuming) if I said the President of the United States runs the American economy. But if you're going to go down that route, I would point out that GDP growth was higher under Obama than Trump, even before Covid-19 struck.

I don't see how anyone who is a fiscal conservative can support Trump. Trump (who bragged about being the King of Debt) spent money like a drunken sailor, running up record budget deficits before Covid-19 struck.

Yes, I think the corporate tax rate should have been cut. But you do not cut taxes, and thus juice the economy, when you are already at full employment and the economy is booming. That's Economics 101. Also, the tax cuts were sold falsely as a middle class tax cut, even though few in the middle class did not see any reduction in their taxes whatsoever. Corporations used the money not to give raises, but, because they were doing well before the tax cut, used the extra money to buy back more of their own stock or to stockpile cash. The tax cut, because of its timing, didn't actually do anything for the American economy.

We Republicans also are supposed to believe in free trade, and oppose tariffs. Trump engaged in ridiculous trade wars and, without congressional approval, imposed steep tariffs. Of course Trump lied and said other countries pay tariffs. No, American consumers do.

Then you have Trump's foreign policy. We Republicans used to stand for a strong foreign policy, freedom and for championing human rights abroad. Trump has demonstrated time and time again, he has no problem with dictators trampling on human rights and killing their political opponents. He has openly admired the absolute power those dictators have as well as their willingness to crack down on protesters. He actually praised the Chinese for killing the democracy protesters during the Tiananmen Square massacre. Meanwhile, Trump has undercut America's allies at every opportunity. Whenever I think of Trump's support for dictatorial regimes, I think of Jane Fonda being used as a propaganda tool when she was photographed on a North Vietnamese tank. But compared to Trump, 1960s Jane Fonda is a patriot.

Speaking of which, Trump's attacks on people who serve this country in the military, often sacrificing their lives in the process, is beyond repulsive and something no Republican (or Democrat) should support. It's not just denigrating their service and their sacrifice. When told of intelligence that Russia was paying bounties to the Taliban for killing America's soldiers, Trump refused to even broach the issue with his good buddy, Vladimar Putin.

In 2016, Trump welcomed the help of Russia to win the election. Even the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Rubio, confirmed that. Then in 2020, he tried to bribe an ally, Ukraine, by threatening to withhold already appropriate military defense aid unless the Ukraine President agreed to announce a phony investigation into his chief political opponent, Joe Biden. In what world is it okay for an American President/candidate to solicit foreign help, which is illegal by the way, to win an American election? We Republicans would have never supported such a thing before Trump. Of course, if it were a Democrat doing this, we wouldn't have supported that.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 7:20

Part Two

When I became active in the Republican Party while on the Ball State University campus in 1980, one of the things that attracted me to the GOP that we were going to stand for family values, religious faith and the importance of character. When it came to Trump, we Republicans decided character character no longer matter. The man has been married three times, and has cheated on every one of his wives. He cheated on current wife, Melania, while pregnant, with a porn star then paid her hush money to keep her quiet. He ridicules the appearance of people, primarily women, and bullies anyone who dares not support him 100%. He has demonstrated, repeatedly, that he is a racist and sexist. How do we as Republicans and Christians think any of this is okay?

And then you have the lying. Oh, my God, the lying. Why, oh why, are we Republicans and Christians okay with a President lying CONSTANTLY. And why are we okay with a President of the United States using his office to enrich himself and his family? Why are we okay with presidential candidates not producing their tax returns or disclosing what conflicts of interest they might have such as owing money to foreign interests? I can guarantee you we Republicans would not have been okay with a Democratic President doing any of this. I am so sick of tribal politics and the situational ethics those politics have spawned

Ronald Reagan welcomed immigrants into the country. Spoke highly of them and their quest for the American dream. Trump has openly vilified immigrants, both legal and illegal. He has suggested they're gang members and rapists, "and maybe a few fine people." To be fair, Trump is okay with immigration from countries where people have white skin...especially wannabe models from eastern European countries who might want to marry him.

And Trump's border family separation ("kids in cages") in the world can any parent, any Christian, any human being support snatching kids out of the arms of their parent as some sort of illegal immigration deterrent policy?

One of the things that attracted me to the Republican Party in 1980 was its support of the Constitution and the democratic values it represents. Yet, forty years later we have a President who thumbs his nose at that Constitution and American democratic values. Trump pretty clearly does not believe in federalism (not that he knows what that is), separation of powers and checks and balances. Trump thinks the President has absolute power and has said exactly that. He refuses to accept legislative oversight and believes congressional subpoenas are just requests that can be ignored. Whenever Congress does not give him what he wants, he does it anyway via executive orders (remember when we complained about Obama doing that?) or by using emergency powers when there is no emergency. Trump sees the Executive Branch as being all powerful, despite constitutional delegations of power to the other branches and to the states or the people.

And let's not forget the whistleblowers. Every time a whistleblower followed the law and tried to speak out about something going on in the administration, Trump went after them. He usually got them fired and tried to destroy their lives, often saying and doing things that put their lives in risk. Trump's intimidation of patriots who put their careers and lives on the line to speak out may be the most reprehensible thing Trump has done in office.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 7:20

Part Three

Trump does not feel constrained by the emoluments clauses that are supposed to protect Americans from an Executive with conflicts of interest. Trump thinks First Amendment political speech, particularly speech criticizing him, should be more sharply limited and that we need to change libel laws so we Americans have less freedom of speech. (He's the only President since John Adams to actually advocate Americans have less free speech rights.) He tries to force even government employees to sign bogus NDAs so they can never publicly criticize him, even after they leave their jobs.

It's hard to ignore the extreme incompetence, ignorance and lack of fitness for office Trump has demonstrated over four years of office. You can't get to the issues a President should consider, when you have someone who lacks even the basic abilities to serve as President.

That wasn't a shock for those of us who followed Trump's career. Trump was a failed businessman, who led his business "empire" into bankruptcy six times. He regularly stiffed vendors and American banks would not loan him money because he had such a bad history of paying lenders. Trump was not only a bad businessman, he quite possibly is the worst businessman our nation has ever produced. (He would be a much richer many if he had simply invested in government bonds the hundreds of millions of dollars he was given by his father.) And then you have all the scams he was running, including, but certainly not limited, to Trump University and the Trump Foundation. Why were we Republicans okay with a presidential candidate ripping off other Americans?

What I find most troublesome about the Trump era (which thankfully appears to be ending) is that during that time I had so many friends, people who I considered to be honest, ethical, moral and Christian people, who were so willing to set aside those principles to support a man who is so profoundly dishonest, unethical, and immoral, a man who displayed no Christian values whatsoever and who thinks so little of our shared religious beliefs that he used a church and the Holy Bible as political props. I only can hope that, when Trump fades into history, my dear friends begin to engage in some serious introspection. Winning political battles can never come at the cost of abandoning one's principles. Never.