Part 3—Or so one Trump voter says: "I am not an animal!"
One Trump supporter has now made this claim. Down below, we'll review his more precise statement.
The Trump supporter who made this claim hails from Brooklyn, New York. He was one of fifteen people who got a chance to explain their support for Trump in last Thursday's New York Times.
On that day, the Times devoted its entire editorial page to letters from those fifteen Trump voters. The next day, the Times published seven letters of rebuttal. Those letters appeared beneath this striking headline:
"The Furor Over a Forum for Trump Fans"
Tomorrow, we'll consider "the furor" which resulted when the New York Times had the gall to publish the thoughts of Trump voters. For today, let's consider the letters those Trump supporters composed—the good, the bad and the otherwise.
Why do people still support Trump? The question strikes us as important. Given the way our system works, those Trump supporters pack plenty of clout. A sensible person might want to know why they support DJ Trump.
People don't have to tell the truth when they write such letters, of course. Beyond that, the fifteen letters the Times chose to publish don't constitute a scientific sample of Trump supporter sentiment.
Still, we found those letters intriguing. Let's tick off some basic points:
For starters, one Trump supporter after another said Trump has a lousy temperament. One such Trump supporter hails from Chatham, New Jersey. His letter includes this assessment:
LETTER FROM CHATHAM, NEW JERSEY: Opinion polls give Mr. Trump a low rating, and I would, too, for character, personality and temperament. But I would give him high marks for policies and programs that are stimulating the private sector...Oof! This Trump supporter even assailed the character of the man he supports. But he gave the president high marks for policy, as most other writers did.
Yesterday, we posted the text of the first two letters from those Trump supporters. Those letters praised Trump's performance in a long list of policy areas.
In what areas do Trump supporters think he's performing well? In those letters to the Times, they praised him for "destroying ISIS" and for his support for Israel. They seem to like his "tax reform." They like the judges he's picked.
Again and again, the supporters say they like Trump's work in "stimulating the private sector," the phrase employed by the Chatham resident—in producing a "roaring economy." We'll admit that we wondered how much expertise the writers brought to this matter.
How much has the economy actually grown, or roared, under Trump, as opposed to under Obama? Could these writers actually say? More generally, how often do we voters, of whatever stripe, know what we're talking about?
We often wondered if these Trump supporters knew what they were talking about. Meanwhile, a few of the letters seemed basically absurd on their face. One such letter said this:
LETTER FROM CINCINNATI: A president like Donald Trump only appears every 100 years or so. He came to office with a solid Electoral College majority and a history of strong leadership of people from all walks of life. His positive agenda can be boiled down to national security and economic growth.That was the entire letter! It mixed a pointless, semi-hundred year claim about "a solid Electoral College majority" with the iconic comical claim in which a politician says that his greatest flaw is the fact that he's sometimes "too honest."
By any measure President Trump’s first year has shown prodigious progress. As a child of the ’60s I admire his iconoclastic nature, optimism and unapologetic humanity. When asked during the campaign about his truthfulness, he replied that maybe he is too truthful. He does ruffle feathers, but seems to end up being right about most important things. I think Mr. Trump is doing a terrific job against all odds, and is getting better. I am proud when I see the First Couple representing us on the world stage. Tens of millions of thoughtful, compassionate Americans agree with me.
That letter struck us as absurd on its face. A letter from a professor in Greenwich struck us as pretty silly too—but other letters did not.
We often wondered to what extent the writers knew whereof they spoke. But various writers made various points we can't quite deride as bogus.
For one example, consider the letter from Jimmy Stewart's fictional Bedford Falls, by way of New York City.
Needless to say, the letter isn't actually from the fictional Bedford Falls—but it could have been. Today, the Trump supporter who wrote the letter lives in New York City. But here's what he wrote about where he grew up and why he still supports Trump:
LETTER FROM NEW YORK CITY: My hometown, Newton Falls, Ohio, was once a working-class Mayberry. Though not rich, the men and women of the town had pride and worked hard for their families and for their share of the American dream.In Jimmy Stewart's dream of the future in the film It's A Wonderful Life, Bedford Falls has come to ruin because of a banker's greed. In this young person's letter, his own home town has fallen apart due to several causes.
I am 28, and in the nearly three decades I’ve been alive, I’ve seen Newton Falls and its surrounding environs succumb to a despair reflected by the opioid crisis. I have seen Republicans and Democrats sell out through a false dogma of free trade. I have seen my friends sent abroad to foreign lands with ill-defined military missions, coming back mangled or not at all. I have seen a political class eager to replace a working class with an imported labor class, driving down wages.
One candidate sought to address this—Donald Trump. While admittedly a gamble, he promised to address the trifecta of poor trade deals, an end to needless foreign wars and a crackdown on immigration. On these three goals, he has done an excellent job so far and I support him wholeheartedly.
According to the leading authority on Newton Falls, the small Ohio village "is known for its ZIP code (44444) and for its covered bridge, which is the second oldest in the state." In 2010, Newton Falls was 97.6% white. This lets us maintain our favorite stance in response to voters like this.
This young man attributes the demise of his home town to the opioid crisis; to "the false dogma of free trade;" to a set of foreign wars; and to the desire for cheap "imported labor."
Does he know what he's talking about? We have no idea. But very few Clinton voters would really know how to discuss those topics either—and have you ever seen Democrats shut down the government over anything that's negatively affecting places like Newton Falls?
We liberals don't see these topics discussed on our own corporate "cable news" news channel. Instead, we receive a nightly "true crime" drama, featuring the entertaining chase after Trump—full stop.
Remember when Chris Hayes and Bernie Sanders went to West Virginia and heard about opioid infestation? Have you seen followup on that discussion from our multimillionaire cable stars?
We also don't see discussions of Detroit's 48,000 public school kids, or of Baltimore's dead. Simply put, our stars don't care about people like them. For the most part, we liberals don't notice.
Have these Trump supporters been misled about the destruction of ISIS? About the roaring economy? About Trump's role in same?
Do they know what they're tallking about? Do their perceptions make sense?
By and large, we'll guess the answer is no—but we liked that young man's letter. We were also struck by this part of the last of the fifteen letters:
LETTER FROM BROOKLYN: Before I respond to your questions, I have a question of my own: Did you run similar surveys for Obama voters? Or, for that matter, Eisenhower voters? Trump voters are not circus freaks to be displayed or singled out.Trump voters aren't circus freaks? Where in the world did this Trump supporter ever get that idea?
The Times published fifteen letters from these Trump supporters. Tomorrow, we'll review the seven letters of rebuttal which appeared the next day. Those letters were part of the "furor" the first fifteen letters caused.
Do liberals want to speak with Trump supporters, hoping to change their minds? The letters which emerged from that furor suggested that, in some cases, no, we pretty much don't.
In our view, the letters of rebuttal were perhaps unintentionally funny, but were also perhaps revealing. All in all, our species may be wired for (lack of) sound.
Are we wired to loathe The Others more than we're wired to listen? Could this be true of Us, Over Here, as much as it's true about Them?
Tomorrow: The Ghost of Gene Brabender Present