Monday, October 30, 2017

What It Will Take for Trump's Base To Turn

Three of Donald Trump's confederates have now been indicted on counts related to Russia-collusion (one has already pled guilty). Trump's nationwide approval ratings are at an all-time low. So now is either a strange or a great time to ask -- what will it take for his core base to finally turn on him?

And the answer is: I'm not sure they ever will.

The reason isn't necessarily that they approve of what he's doing. But think of what it would mean for a Trump partisan to really, truly, turn on him.

It would mean admitting that the people they hate most -- the media, the liberals, the academics, the dreaded "elites" -- they were right. That the Trump backers who thought he'd "drain the swamp" or bring back coal jobs, or tackle the opioid epidemic or whatever it is they believed Trump would do, were hoodwinked. Just like we told them they would be.

That's deeply humiliating, and ultimately, that's the key barrier to Trump's base turning on him.

So I suspect they'll deny it for as long as they can. And they can for a long time. There's nothing that will compel them to come around, of course. Media reports? They're biased! Job losses? Impossible to trace those back to Trump policies; maybe it's liberal sabotage. Criminal indictments? That's the deep state. There will always be an out, or an excuse, or a dodge.

Reckoning with what really happened, admitting that one's mortal enemies had it right all along, well, that would take a pretty big dose of personal responsibility. And we all know how modern conservatives fare on that metric.
"There comes a point in every plot where the victim starts to suspect; and looks back, and sees a trail of events all pointing in a single direction. And when that point comes, Father had explained, the prospect of the loss may seem so unbearable, and admitting themselves tricked may seem so humiliating, that the victim will yet deny the plot, and the game may continue long after."


EW said...

“[W]hat will it take for his core base to finally turn on him?

And the answer is: I'm not sure they ever will.”

This sounds like a No True Scotsman argument: Who in part of Trump’s base? Well, if someone turns on Trump, we know that he’s not part of the base. And we know this because, well, he turned on Trump. By definition, then, Trump’s base consists of the people who won’t turn on him. Q.E.D.

EW said...

That said, the rest of the argument is sound—and important. Specifically, we need to speak in a manner that emphasizes that Trump, not his supporters, is to blame for people’s disillusionment. We need to ditch “I told you so.”

Yes, I’m saying this as a matter of strategy—but also as a matter of fact. What’s wrong with Obamacare? Well, various things. But the chief opponents are people who wanted to avoid the burdens of a larger social safety net because they anticipated that the burdens would be more than the benefits, and that the benefits might flow to “unworthy” people. But the opponents recognized that this argument would not be popular if stated explicitly, so they didn’t. Instead, they propounded a populist objection: Obamacare isn’t GOOD ENOUGH. We should expect a free lunch—but Obamacare imposes costs! So vote Republican, and we’ll get rid of all those nasty Obamacare costs. Many people voted for that—Who wouldn’t?—while harboring an unstated assumption that they’d get to keep Obamacare’s benefits.

When Republicans won control, McConnell/Ryan were like the dogs that finally caught the car and didn’t know what to do next. Their entire campaign had been premised on the idea that they could blame Democrats for their inability to fulfill their pledges. Now it was showtime, and they needed to gloss over the fact that they couldn’t actually pull a rabbit out of their hats. And Trump, instead of helping, started acting like a circus barker, shouting “Ladies and gentlemen, step right up and see the Congressional Republicans pull a GIRAFFE out of a hat!”

Should everyday Trump voters be blamed because they didn’t know that the Republicans had sold them snake-oil? Or should we console everyday Trump voters, commiserate with their disappointment, and affirm their frustrations with Trump?

I vote for the latter.