As evidence for my thoughts, in this post Notes for the Book: Magical Thinking, Cognitive Dissonance, Group-Thinking, about how many people live in a kind of make-believe world, for reasons of group solidarity, and despite the inevitable cognitive dissonance with reminders of how the world really works, consider Donald Trump and his supporters.
Washington Post, Max Boot: How can 42 percent of Americans still support the worst president in our history?.
Some of the answers (preserving the source links):
A Pew Research Center survey makes clear the extent of the problem. Among those who get their election news primarily from Fox “News,” 86 percent say Trump is delivering the “completely right” or “mostly right” message about the pandemic, 78 percent that “the U.S. has controlled the outbreak as much as it could have” and 61 percent that Trump and his administration get the facts right about the coronavirus “almost all” or “most of the time.” Perhaps the most disturbing finding of all: 39 percent of Fox News viewers say that QAnon — an insane conspiracy theory that posits that Trump’s opponents are satanic child-molesters — is “somewhat good” or “very good” for the country.
I’m sorry, these are not issues on which rational people can legitimately disagree. Trump’s covid-19 message — that, as he said Saturday, “it is disappearing” — is objectively false. In the past week, daily confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States have increased by 13.3 percent and hospitalizations by 9.8 percent. Trump’s claims to the contrary, we have done far worse during the pandemic than most wealthy countries. If we had the same death rate as Canada, 132,000 victims of covid-19 would still be alive. And it should go without saying that QAnon, whose adherents have been linked to numerous acts of violence, is a bane, not a boon.
It’s bad enough that the president lies so much; what’s worse is that so many think he is telling the truth.
Trump supporters simply don’t understand why everyone doesn’t agree that he’s the best ever; why do those lib’rals disapprove of him? Here are two early summaries of why so many people feel he’s a despicable person — both published several years ago, originally.
A British writer, Nate White, answered the question, “Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?” His response was reposted today in the London Daily.
A few things spring to mind. Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem. For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed. So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.
Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever. I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman. But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
It goes on.
Another is a Facebook post by SF writer Adam-Troy Castro, a long post that has apparently been copied around the web, often without attribution. I can’t find the original post, but here’s a copy on Quora, that credits Castro.
The serious answer: Here’s what we really think about Trump supporters – the rich, the poor, the malignant and the innocently well-meaning, the ones who think and the ones who don’t…
That when you saw a man who had owned a fraudulent University, intent on scamming poor people, you thought “Fine.”
That when you saw a man who had made it his business practice to stiff his creditors, you said, “Okay.”
That when you heard him proudly brag about his own history of sexual abuse, you said, “No problem.”
That when he made up stories about seeing Muslim-Americans in the thousands cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center, you said, “Not an issue.”
That when you saw him brag that he could shoot a man on Fifth Avenue and you wouldn’t care, you chirped, “He sure knows me.”
It goes on with 15 more examples, similarly phrased. It ends with:
What you don’t get, Trump supporters in 2019, is that succumbing to frustration and thinking of you as stupid may be wrong and unhelpful, but it’s also…hear me…charitable.
Because if you’re NOT stupid, we must turn to other explanations and most of them are less flattering.
Seen on Facebook today, this, from a deliberately anonymous blogger, posted in August:
I generally avoid “just-some-guy-on-the-Internet” posts, since this guy is anonymous and I don’t know his credibility, but his analysis and list of Trump’s performance on various issues — the economy, Christian values, political ethics, and so on — is exhaustive, and more to the point, entirely familiar to anyone who’s been paying attention the past four plus years.
The way I see it, there are two types of Trump voter. There is the hardcore MAGA fanatic, who attends the rallies, wears the red hat, and maybe even follows the Qanon boards. They follow Trump with a level of devotion that is implacable. They will never believe that Donald Trump is anything other than the savior of our country, sent by God to deliver us from a multitude of politically correct and liberal attacks. They cannot be reasoned with, nor would I try.
The other type of voter, the ones I am appealing to with this article, are not like that at all. These are good people, moral people, who simply voted for Trump because they believed he was the best choice for the values they hold. They don’t think he’s the greatest president to sit in the White House, but they believe he was a better choice than Clinton. Or perhaps they are just dyed-in-the-wool Republicans who always vote red, no matter whom.
Are you one of those people? If so, I have just one question. Are you planning on voting for him again in November? If the answer is yes, then I have another question.
I would really like to understand. Is it an economic issue? Are you fearful of paying higher taxes? Are you worried about having to pay for someone else’s health insurance? Or benefits to those you consider undeserving? Okay, I understand. I don’t agree, but I understand. But let me ask you a question. Do you not think that we might be beyond that now? Can you consider the possibility that there is a bigger picture, and the choice can no longer be pared down to tax breaks or welfare spending?
He ends, after nearly 18,000 words, with
We’re not okay with that. And we are really not okay with another four years of this horror show. If that is what you vote for, we cannot overlook it in the future. At best, we will not be able to forgive you. At worst, you will find, in the years to come, that you will not be able to forgive yourself.
And a list of sources.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
The Cato Institute
Which Trump supporters will presumably dismiss as a conspiracy by the “fake news” media. All of them! Everything is a conspiracy to them; only Fox News is true.
Washington Post: New research explores authoritarian mind-set of Trump’s core supporters. Subtitle: “Data reveal high levels of anti-democratic beliefs among many of the president’s backers, who stand to be a potent voting bloc for years to come”
The Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been a catastrophic failure, with researchers at Oxford University estimating that its mismanagement of the crisis resulted in nearly 60,000 preventable deaths.
And yet, despite the tumult of the past eight months, President Trump’s favorability numbers have barely budged: His approval rating hovers in the low 40s, just as it has most of his presidency. As the economy cratered and covid-19 mortality skyrocketed, the Trump faithful stuck with him, lending credence to his infamous 2016 campaign boast that he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody” and not lose any support.
Why is that?
A new book by a psychology professor and a former lawyer in the Nixon White House argues that Trump has tapped into a current of authoritarianism in the American electorate, one that’s bubbled just below the surface for years. In “Authoritarian Nightmare,” Bob Altemeyer and John W. Dean marshal data from a previously unpublished nationwide survey showing a striking desire for strong authoritarian leadership among Republican voters.
Some people just *want* to be told what to do and think. Which is to say, it’s not about policy; it’s about psychology. It doesn’t matter what the policy is, even, though appealing to voters’ fears and prejudices always seems to work.
History will look back on this era of American history — whether or not America survives it — and analyze it, as they analyze the rise of other authoritarians throughout history. And will not be kind the supporters of those authoritarians. They will understand them, psychologically, as aberrations to the ideals of democracy and rationality.