What the Trump voters said: A fascinating moment occurred at the end of Wednesday night's All In.
Chris Hayes was speaking with Linda Sarsour, "executive director of the Arab Association of New York." Also with "my good friend Ezra Klein, founder and editor-in-chief of Vox.com."
Hayes turned to Sarsour first. In this exchange, she described Candidate Trump:
HAYES (2/10/16): Linda, let me start with you. As a proud Muslim-American woman, a woman who wears a hijab, who works in the space of sort of Muslim-American political power, your reaction to last night?In rapid succession, Sarsour unloosed a set of I-, S-, M- and F-bombs in her description of Trump.
SARSOUR: I mean, I was—I wasn't shocked, but it reaffirmed for me that Donald Trump is not a joke and there was over 100,000 fellow Americans that walked out of their homes and voted for an anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist. And that really scares me, that he has the actual platform and he can potentially be the next president of the United States of America.
Is Candidate Trump an Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist? Beyond that, is this sort of analysis an effective type of persuasion?
We're not sure how to answer those questions. But we're often struck, at moments like this, by our tribe's growing inability to talk about politics without the use of our bombs.
This way of talking is quite widespread. The next morning, Nicholas Kristof offered this description in the penultimate paragraph of his New York Times column:
KRISTOF (2/11/12): So today the leading candidate for president in the party of Lincoln is an ill-informed, inexperienced, bigoted, sexist xenophobe. And he’s not a conservative at heart, just a pandering opportunist.Is Candidate Trump a bigoted, sexist xenophobe? We aren't sure how to answer that either. But increasingly, the deployment of long lists of bombs constitutes one of the basic ways our fiery liberal tribe talks.
In our view, the rise of Trump represents a giant cultural breakdown—a cultural breakdown which got its start within an array of American elites. That includes the mainstream press elite, within which Kristof is a major player and a major brand. In our view, Christopher Matthews was Donald Trump long before Trump took it higher.
In our view, Candidate Trump is a cultural black hole. Is he also an Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic, bigoted fascist xenophobe?
Over here, in our own lofty tribe, such claims now get lots of play.
A distinction should be observed at this point. Kristof dropped his bombs on Trump; he didn't assess Trump's voters.
Sarsour's earlier statement to Hayes was a bit less clear on this point. In her next exchange with the cable host, she tried to clear up any confusion.
She wasn't bombing Trump alone. You might say that, like Ted Cruz, Sarsour was carpet bombing:
HAYES: Two things I want to ask you, Linda. One, there's an argument this is just shtick and he'll completely change if he wins the general election. Does that make you feel any better?Sarsour said she wasn't talking about Trump. She was talking about the 100,000 New Hampshire residents who voted for him this week.
SARSOUR: It absolutely doesn't. I mean, the fact that— I'm talking about—
I'm not talking about Donald Trump, I'm talking about those 100,000 people that went and voted for him in New Hampshire, thousands that came to his rallies, and, you know, root him on when he talks about banning Muslim immigration, and talks about killing women and children, the family members of whatever, ISIS.
As she continued, Sarsour seemed to drop one final bomb—the white supremacist bomb—on those people's heads. From her statements, it wasn't entirely clear. But in voting for the Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist, those 100,000 New Hampshire voters may have fingered themselves as white supremacists too!
Is this sort of thing persuasive? It's hard to measure such things.
Does it make sense as a matter of substance? In our view, it doesn't. We were taught, when we were 13, to avoid such sweeping claims, which were described to us freshmen as "generalizations." We drifted back to December 10, when a pair of Trump supporters briefly spoke, via videotape, on the Maddow Show.
As we noted in Wednesday's report, Trump appeared in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that night to receive a major endorsement. A small number of Trump supporters were at the site to cheer him on, as were a larger group of anti-Trump demonstrators.
A reporter, probably Katy Tur, had interviewed two members of each group. On Wednesday, we showed you what the anti-Trump people said on videotape that night. Today, let's review what the Trump supporters said.
For ourselves, we found the brief interviews intriguing. You virtually never see Trump supporters interviewed on MSNBC. You're much more likely to see the network's cable stars lounging about, complaining that they can't imagine what's in those Trump voters' heads.
On this evening, two Trump voters got to speak. Were those Trump supporters Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist supremacists?
There's no sure test for such widespread traits. We'll have to show you what they said and let you play God on this matter.
Like Noah before her, Tur had selected a male and a female of the pro-Trump species. By way of context, these interviews were conducted eight days after the San Bernardino attacks. It had been three days since Trump first adumbrated his call for a ban, then for a temporary ban, on immigration into the country by Muslims, except for Muslim citizens.
Speaking via videotape, this is what the male of the pro-Trump species said:
REPORTER (12/10/15): You're not a total Trump diehard necessarily?At this point, Maddow jumped in to "correct" what this fellow had said. We'll show you what she said below. We found her correction intriguing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I support him and I'm supporting what I believe he meant when he said, "I'll ban Muslim immigration." I don't think he's a racist. I think he was talking about that we need to step back and re-examine the vetting process and get it right.
We're getting it wrong. People are being killed in America and it's going to get worse unless it gets better, unless we stop what we're doing wrong and start doing it right.
REPORTER: So you think it's Trump just being smart in this circumstance?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do. I do. I don't think he meant all— You know, he wasn't attacking one religion and saying ban an entire religion. I don't think he meant that.
At any rate, the male of the species improbably said that he doesn't think Trump is a racist. His female consort played this game too. Here's what she had already said:
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a problem. There are beliefs coming into this country that do not coincide with our constitutional rights, our amendments, our Bill of Rights. And if they cannot— if their beliefs are complete opposite of what we believe in and how we function in this country, then it does not belong in this country.This Trump supporter said she wanted southern and northern walls. For those with tribal ears to hear, her coded language, her loud dog whistles, were present in every word.
REPORTER: How do you think that would work? At the border, you know—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want the wall up. I want the wall up on the southern border. I want the walls up on the northern border. This country, we have to protect it. We the people.
And I will support Mr. Trump when he becomes president. It's we the people that will back him up and get this country back on its two feet and be a strong country, a strong nation, a nation of people that are wonderful.
Excuse me. I'm sorry. Yes, I'm like—
REPORTER: What are your thoughts on the Republican Party in general?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a registered independent. I switched right over to the Republican Party.
So was her New England accent, a familiar sound to our ears. She sounded like many people we've known, dating to the 1950s.
Her name was very familiar too. We decided to scope her out.
As it turned out, Tur had spoken with Mary Donnelly, "a state employee who lives in Concord and recently changed her registration from independent to Republican."
Several other reporters had spoken with Donnelly too. That description came from the Washington Post. Reporter Jenna Johnson quoted Donnelly saying this:
JOHNSON (12/12/15): Mary Donnelly agrees “150 percent” with Donald Trump’s “very positive” idea to temporarily bar most Muslims from entering the United States.Donnelly said she thinks that Trump is humble. Intriguingly, she also said this:
“You can’t tell people: ‘If you’re not going to convert to my religion, I’m going to cut your head off.’ You can’t do that. . . . That does not belong in this country,” said Donnelly, 58, a campaign volunteer who stood with other supporters outside Trump’s latest campaign event on Thursday evening. “We’re a country that loves one another, no matter what the race.”
Donnelly said she likes Trump because “he’s trustworthy, he’s honest and he’s humble; plus, nobody owns him.” Even if the Republican National Committee finds a way to overrule voters and pick a nominee other than Trump—something his fans are increasingly worried about—Donnelly said she would vote for him as an independent, if he were to decide to run as one.
"We’re a country that loves one another, no matter what the race.”
Donnelly also said she doesn't think that people should cut other people's heads off if they belong to the wrong religion. Beyond that, we're going to guess she wasn't real thrilled with the shootings in San Bernardino. Or with the killings in Paris.
Does Mary Donnelly really think we're a country that loves one another, no matter what the race? Those of us in God's perfect tribe are able to see that she's lying. That said, Donnelly continued her fiendish deceptions when she spoke to the Huffington Post. In a statement reported by Sam Stein, she posed as open-minded, even perhaps as good:
STEIN (12/11/15): "You're probably going to ask me a question with regards to those [anti-Trump] protesters. I'm going to tell you one thing. They're practicing the First Amendment, freedom of speech. God bless them. God bless all of you, OK? But I'm here for my candidate, Mr. Trump."God bless the people who don't agree with me, the wily supremacist said.
Presumably, Donnelly voted for Trump this week. Does that mean that she's an Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist supremacist, the way our sachems have said?
Let's consider another possibility! Is it possible that Donnelly is a decent person whose judgments differ from yours, perhaps in substantial ways?
To us, Donnelly's judgment that Trump is humble seems extremely far-fetched. Then again, Sarsour thinks she can psychoanalyze 100,000 Granite State voters, none of whom she has ever met! Why are members of our tribe so pleased with judgments like that?
Let's review. The male of the species to whom Tur spoke said he didn't think that Candidate Trump was a racist. He said Trump wasn't "attacking one religion" and saying it should be banned.
He said he didn't think that Candidate Trump meant that. Is it possible he was telling the truth? In this regard, we were intrigued by the way Maddow jumped in to "correct" what this Trump voter said.
Rachel could see that this person was wrong. Here's what she helpfully said:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (12/10/15): I don't think he meant all— You know, he wasn't attacking one religion and saying banning an entire religion. I don't think he meant that.Maddow jumped in to quote from Trump's original statement, which had been made on December 7. This helped us see that the Trump voter was wrong in what he had said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One Donald Trump supporter in New Hampshire speaking with NBC's Katy Tur tonight, saying that he does not believe that Donald Trump meant to ban everyone from an entire religion from this country.
I have to say, for the record, that is in fact what Donald Trump is proposing. He is proposing banning all Muslim entry into this country, quoting from him directly. It was a written statement. He is—and I'm quoting him. "Calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."
His supporters may not believe that's what he meant, but that's what he's proposing.
Starting the very next day, of course, Trump had begun to revise and extend and sand his remarks, as he commonly does, especially when he says something that occasions substantial pushback.
By the time he went to New Hampshire, Trump had stressed the fact that his proposed ban wouldn't apply to American citizens. He had also said that the ban would be temporary. On the morning of Tuesday, December 8, he said this to Chris Cuomo:
"Look, I'm talking about a temporary situation until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on, Chris. We have to figure it out." That same morning, he was even saying that "maybe it could be a few weeks."
By that Thursday night, those Trump supporters knew that. But so what? Maddow jumped in to read from Trump's initial statement. In part, she "corrected" Trump's male supporter by disappearing the ways Trump had softened and clarified his stand through amendments to the original stance which Maddow had never discussed.
We often get our facts this way on this, our own liberal program.
Remember—we're not asking if you think that Trump's proposal made sense. We're not asking if you think it showed good judgment.
We're asking you if someone who isn't as perfect as you could support Trump's rather fuzzy proposal without being an anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, sexist, misogynistic fascist supremacist. A bit more simply, we're asking if Donnelly could be a decent person while still supporting Trump.
For our money, we'd say yes. Linda Sarsour says no, as she deploys our array of bombs. As is now the way in our tribe, she says no 100,000 supremacists at a time.
We've known a lot of people who talk like Mary Donnelly. In our view, her political judgment isn't all that great. (We'd say she might not be "sophisticated," but that might trigger tribals to call her a low-information voter.)
In our view, Donnelly's political judgment may not be real great. But then again, neither is Sarsour's. As a courtesy, we're going to call that a wash.
For ourselves, we think Candidate Trump represents the ongoing, very dangerous disintegration of our political and intellectual culture. In our view, though, so does Kristof's New York Times, an organ which pretty much beat this candidate in the race to the dumpster fire.
So does a lot of the work being done by our corporate liberal stars. That includes the endless bomb-throwing which has led scholars and experts to refer to 2015 as "the year of liberal loathing." That includes the destructive past work of Chris Matthews, who played the role of Donald Trump long before Trump came along.
Can we talk? We modern liberals love our hatred and loathing! Beyond that, the simple truth is, we just aren't especially sharp. Nor are we especially different from The Others, from Those People, the people we love to deride.
We liberals seem to love our loathing; we just don't like to admit it. Tomorrow, as we finish this award-winning series, we'll recall a great American tradition—a brilliant American moral tradition which took, and still takes, a different approach to matters of this type.
That tradition came center stage last year. We liberals tried to squash it.
Tomorrow: Liberals, please! Ignore those calls for forgiveness