There are four main ways in which Donald Trump’s supporters try to discredit the few conservatives—sorry, I mean “human scum”—who have, even three years in, refused to get on the bus.
- If you thought Trump would not win in 2016, then you are generally clueless. (No matter that neither Trump nor most of his top staff seemed to think he was going to win.)
- If you don’t support Trump now, it’s because you’re being paid off by the lucrative anti-Trump grift machine. (No matter that the real money has been made by people siding with Trump.)
- You have “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” so you cannot think straight. (No matter that Trump is the guy who literally can’t form coherent sentences and constantly contradicts himself.)
- You live in a bubble of “elites,” isolated from the real people who are making America great again by strongly supporting Trump. (No matter that Trump and his supporters are the elites.)
These arguments are about as absurd as former constitutional conservative Mark Levin, who strongly favored Bill Clinton’s impeachment—and wanted Obama impeached—shrieking about how Trump’s impeachment is somehow the result of “tyranny.” But that never stops the people in Trump’s thrall from making them.
I know, because I spent time with a good may of these folks over the holidays.
My life is particularly well-suited to being very much in touch with how Trump supporters react to news events, as well as what makes them tick in general. To understand them, it is important to recognize that Trump supporters come in four basic categories, which can be described as follows:
Level 1: These are Republicans who don’t like Trump but don’t see any other alternative because Democrats have become so overtly nutty. They sometimes enjoy his “owning of the Libs,” and they have at least a bit of the “Trump Virus,” but it is easily contained as long as someone close to them is constantly providing an antidote of truth. They may not vote at all in 2020, but Joe Biden is the only Democrat they would even considering supporting. My wife is in this group.
Level 2: These are the avid Fox News watchers who think Trump is doing a really good job, especially since the economy seems great and terrorists are being killed. They see his flaws, but think the media is overplaying them. Barring a catastrophic event that is clearly Trump’s fault, they will enthusiastically vote for him to be reelected no matter whom the Democrats nominate. My in-laws are generally in this set of voters.
Level 3: These Trump supporters don’t just watch Fox News (except for the traitorous Chris Wallace), they also consume “news” from the One America News Network and various pro-Trump Facebook groups. They believe that any theoretical imperfections Trump might—might!—possess are a small price to pay for him saving America from the socialists who are trying to destroy us. They occasionally think that Jesus Christ may have had something to do with making Trump president of the United States. Several of my in-laws’ friends are in this section of what I think of as Trump’s “Cult 45.”
Level 4: These are the full-on, no-holds-barred, “Cult 45” members; the Trump version Operating Thetan Clear. They think that Trump wasn’t just put in this position by God (obviously) but that he may actually be a god. Any criticism of him is inherently illegitimate and also a sure sign that the person making the claim is, at best, a “libitard,” or perhaps a treasonous activist for the “Deep State.” These are the people who wear red MAGA hats at Trump’s rallies, are very bad at analogies, and are prone to believing conspiracy theories. My Twitter feed (partly since many of them used to be listeners from my talk radio days) is often full of these people, despite my frequent use of the mute/block functions.
Over the holidays, I had a chance to spend significant time with representatives from each of these groups, but I particularly wanted to share my interactions with members of Level 3. Let’s call them Matt, and Sue.
For our Christmas-related gatherings, I had been specifically instructed by my wife to refrain from any conversation about Trump, especially since he had just been impeached. To me, those rules of engagement meant that I would not start or escalate any discussion regarding the president, but if directly questioned about him should respond as politely as possible.
And like children drawn to a side-show curiosity, Matt and Sue made their way over to see how someone like me could still resist our dear leader.
Matt is highly educated, a public school teacher, and a strong Christian in a red state. He started off by stating that he was sure that Trump is going to win reelection. I took gentle issue with his certainty—if 2016 taught us anything, it’s that low-probability events on the order of even 1-in-10 happen all the time. And especially if Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee, you would have to put his chances at greater than 1-in-10.
It wasn’t until we got to Trump’s alleged accomplishments that things started to go off the rails a bit. When I ticked off a long list of Trump campaign promises that never came true (building The Wall, repealing Obamacare, draining the swamp, locking up Hillary Clinton, getting the deficit under control, being presidential, releasing his taxes, etc.) and the sad reality that Trump has made pathological lying from a president perfectly acceptable, Matt became visibly agitated.
Matt then tried to claim that this was all the fault of Democrats obstructing everything that Trump wanted to do. When I reminded him that before Trump got crushed in the 2018 elections (thus bringing into question the inevitability of his reelection) he had control of both houses of Congress for two years and passed only a tax cut, Matt angrily got up from our table and left. We did not speak again for the rest of the night.
At this point Sue, apparently having overheard the conversation with Matt, sat down across the table from me. Sue is an older, wealthy, very Christian woman who was the most ardently pro-Trump person at this particular gathering. I hadn’t spoken to her in quite a while.
She had been a fan of my old radio show in Los Angeles and was clearly dismayed by what had come of me in the Trump era. But, to her credit, her questioning of my opposition to Trump seemed to be based in sincere inquisitiveness, mixed with honest befuddlement.
She wanted to know what I saw in Trump that was so awful since she just didn’t understand how a conservative could view him so negatively. She happened to mention that the media has been completely wrong about Trump and that the totally bogus Russia investigation had proven to be the hoax that Trump always claimed it to be.
I decided to do a little experiment and ask a series of questions related to her premise:
Did she know that while he was the GOP presidential nominee, Trump was trying to build a massive tower in Moscow and he lied about it?
Did she know that Trump’s personal lawyer had been convicted of perjuring himself to Congress about this project?
Did she know that Trump’s written answer on this subject to Robert Mueller, under oath, was also very likely perjurious?
Sue thinks of herself as an avid news watcher—she loves OANN. And yet she admitted that she had never heard anything at all about any of those questions. She said she wanted to learn more about the subject and, as the conversation went on, she even sheepishly admitted that there are some things about Trump that she doesn’t really like.
What was so shocking about this discussion, other than the fact that it ended on friendly terms, was that I came away from it convinced that if Sue had routinely watched and remotely trusted, say CNN, as her primary news source over the last few years, then she might not be a Trump supporter at all.
And this unpleasant reality was brought into full focus when she asked me which outlets she should have confidence in to get her news and I didn’t have a good answer for her.
Trump’s total takeover of the GOP was made possible by a combination of the traditional media throwing away what was left of their credibility with conservatives by waiving their pom-poms for Barack Obama and the conservative media becoming a house organ for the president.
Now Trump has the base safely ensconced in a protective bubble that cannot be pierced, except on the rare occasion when an oddity like me is allowed into their midst.