As Trump lurches from, what appear to the outside world as, disaster to disaster, "Trump's Base," for the most part appears to remain immovable in its continuing support of him. A whole variety of episodes/policies would seem to be cause for at least some of that base's members abandoning him. There were the campaign "shocks" like that misogynist attacks on Megyn Kelly, the refusal to release his tax returns, his attack on Senator McCain, the famous "Billy Bush" tape, the promotion of violence against the media, the mocking of the disabled, the constant changes in his campaign staff and leadership, the hints of Russian involvement even during the campaign, the rank grandiosity, the making of promises he couldn't possibly keep while running as a Republican, and so on and so forth.
Then since the election, he continues to refuse to release his tax returns (although apparently Mr. Mueller now has at least some of them). There are the ongoing revelations about possibly not-above-board contacts/interactions between various member of Team Trump both (well, actually years) before, and since, the election. (The best that Hannity et al can do with those is the old tried-and-true right-wingers' "two wrongs make a right" trick: "The Clintons did it too.") There was the Trump University fraud settlement. There are the humongous number of now provable lies . There is the filling of his cabinet with representatives of the ruling class and the filling of many high-level regulatory posts by lobbyists from the businesses those agencies are supposed to regulate.
"Russia-gate" is ongoing and with the Mueller/Congressional investigations, may be intensifying. (Of course, as certain Rightists and Leftists as well claim, this may all be the product of a plot by something both call the "Deep State." But if that were so, why is Trump so determined to shut down the investigation, at least at the Mueller level, over which he might have some control, as convoluted as it might be.) Related to concerns with the Russia-connections investigations is his continuing, intensifying attacks on Jeff Sessions, who happened to be the first Senator to endorse him and is himself one of the darlings of the Radical Right. His significant legislative accomplishments are nil. Most of the famous "signings" are for Executive Orders. And of course, he has been full-throated in going after the repeal of Obama Care --- which he is now threatening to sabotage --- which would negatively affect large numbers of his supporters in a number of states. (And oh yes, even with Mitch McConnell twisting Senate rules into knots he failed in that attempt.) And so on and so forth.
So why? Why does his base seem to remain solidly behind him? Why do so many of his speeches, from the one he made to Suffolk County, NY police officers in which he encouraged police brutality, to the one he made at Warsaw Poland in which he endorsed the "Triumph of the Will ," a Nazi concept, appear to be aimed less at the audience in front of him but more directly at his base? Most pundits seem to remain puzzled by this one, as least in public. "Cannot understand it," "it's inexplicable," and "defies logic that they will vote against their own interests."
Really? It depends upon which interests one is talking about. Let's recall what Trump ran on. First, beginning with his joining the birtherism movement in 2011 and then becoming its most prominent spokesman, racism has been front-and-center for Trump. His incessant attacks on Obama and "Obamacare" even since the election reinforce that. Then, he began his campaign in 2015 with the "murderers and rapists" attacks on Mexicans, and by implication all Latino immigrants, documented or undocumented. This conveniently combined racism with xenophobia. Then came the Islamophobia. Then came misogyny. If you think that "lock her up" simply went beyond the customary campaign rules and wasn't done to rally the troops, even some female ones, behind misogyny, you've got another think coming.
If down deep one voted for Trump because he is a racist, a xenophobe, an Islamophobe, or a misogynist, the only thing that could dislodge that sort of thinking would be if Trump himself turned around on one or more of them. That he seems unlikely to do, and numerous speeches, but more importantly policy choices confirm that view. For example, on mysogny as an example. He has had appointed as the person in charge of the birth control program of the Department of Health and Human Services a woman who believes the birth control is harmful to health. And there are many more like that one. Trump has never given any indication that he will reverse himself on any of his core "principles."
But many authorities, especially among both liberals and the Left, don't want to go near this one. How can one label major elements of the (white) working class as "racist?" (One group that does is RefuseFascism.org .) Well, first of all, while Trump certainly has working class support --- and every major fascist movement in history has found some support amongst their working classes --- significant elements of the Trump base are from the petit bourgeoisie --- small business people, skilled craftsmen, independent professionals like physicians, lawyers and accountants in private practice (ever notice how many right-wing Republicans in Congress are physicians?), very traditionally supporters of pro- and proto-fascist movements. Second of all, shying away from the truth about many of his supporters does nothing to help to develop a strategy to deal with it.
But, dealing with the truth does not mean blaming the racist Trump-supporters, especially those from the working class, for being racists. What it does mean is developing what would have to be a sophisticated campaign to educate them in how racism is used and always has been used by political forces who do not care a whit about the workers' own best interests, to turn workers, black, white and brown, against each other, for political purposes. Trump is just the latest, although certainly one of the best, practitioners of this dark art.
As a once promising Southern U.S. politician said, not so long ago:
"For 12 years, the Republicans have tried to divide us, race against race. . . Here in the shadow of this great building, all of us, we know all about race-baiting. They've used that old tool on us for decades now. And I want to tell you one thing: I understand that tactic, and I will not let them get away with it in 1992."
Once in office, Bill Clinton turned his back on that understanding completely . But if we want to start going after turning around at least some elements of Trump's base, it is in that direction we are going to have to go, and soon.
Then of course there is Trump's growing support among the Christian Right, which he has been actively cultivating at every turn, beginning with his choice of a Dominionist as his Vice-President. His "banning" of transgender folk in the military (which may not actually get anywhere) is only the latest of his moves designed to bring the Christian Rightists ever-closer to him. And they won't be turned off by any of the appointments/policies/and etc. stuff either. That one is actually tougher to deal with. Doing so will be the topic of a future column.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Postscript: I originally wrote this column on July 31. The delay of its posting to today (Aug. 2, 2017) was for reasons of personal schedule. And then, almost as if to purposely endorse my view of why the Trump base remains so loyal to him, comes this item, courtesy of Jefferson Davis PGT Beauregard Sessions (that is the full name his parents could well have wanted to give him), the current (as of this posting , but with this action Sessions added a high degree of security to his job ) Attorney General of the United States: " Justice Dept. to Take On Affirmative Action in College Admissions," https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/01/us/politics/trump-affirmative-action-universities.html?emc=edit_th_20170802&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=28812722&_r=0 . Couldn't be any plainer than this, could it?
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