Part 2—"Who cares what they think?" we reply: We hate to be the ones to say it, but quite a few members of the public still support Donald J. Trump.
In the Washington Post's new poll, 36 percent of respondents said they "approve of the way Donald [J.] Trump is handling his job as president." The current Gallup tracking poll puts the number at 38 percent.
Judged by historical norms, those are low approval numbers. So is Trump's latest "favorability" rating, which stands at 37 percent, as measured by CNN.
Judged by historical norms, that favorability number is low. That said, Trump's "favorability" wasn't much higher in the months before the November 2016 election. In CNN's final two measures before the election, the future president's favorability stood at 39 and 41 percent.
Our view? Like nostalgia, historical norms possibly ain't what they used to be. Donald J. Trump's poll numbers may seem to be low—but a fellow can win an election today with numbers like that.
Presumably, he can also stave off impeachment and/or removal from office, even if Democrats gain control of the House and/or the Senate. Numbers like those make it hard to oppose Trump within the Republican Party.
It was within this context that the edutors of the New York Times engaged in a radical act. Last Thursday, they published letters from fifteen Trump supporters, leting the miscreants try to explain why they still support Trump.
You can read those letters here. As presented online, the first letter goes like this:
To the Editor:Oakdale is part of the Modesto Metropolitan Statistical Area. According to the leading authority on the small city, Oakdale goes by the slogan "Cowboy Capital of the World!"
Donald Trump has succeeded where Barack Obama failed. The economy is up, foreign tyrants are afraid, ISIS has lost most of its territory, our embassy will be moved to Jerusalem and tax reform is accomplished. More than that, Mr. Trump is learning, adapting and getting savvier every day. Entitlement reform is next! Lastly, the entrenched interests in Washington, which have done nothing but glad-hand one another, and both political parties are angry and afraid.
Who knew that all it would take to make progress was vision, chutzpah and some testosterone?
Despite its humble point of origin, that letter from that Trump supporter rattled off quite a few points. The letter from the second supporter picked up where the first one let off:
To the Editor:That letter came from Long Island. It presented an even longer list of policy claims, and it started with a chastening point:
I voted against Hillary Clinton more than I voted for Donald Trump. That said, President Trump has exceeded my wildest expectations. Yes, he is embarrassing. Yes, he picks unnecessary fights. But he also pushed tax reform through, has largely defeated ISIS in Iraq, has named a number of solid conservative judges, has prioritized American citizens over illegal immigrants, has gotten us out of several bad international agreements, has removed a number of wasteful regulations, is putting real pressure on North Korea and Iran, has reined in a number of out-of-control agencies, and so on and so on.
I loved George W. Bush, but he failed on policy over and over again. If it takes putting up with Mr. Trump’s brash ways to see things get done, that is a deal I’m willing to accept. To be honest, I’m not sure he would have accomplished what he has so far without being an unrelenting public bully.
The writer says he voted against Candidate Clinton more than for Candidate Trump. Indeed, her favorabilities before that election were almost as low as Trump's! This may be the way the game will be played in the years to come.
Thirteen more letters followed these two. The letters expressed similar views about Trump's tenure to date. The writers voiced support for the "tax reform" which Trump's detractors tend to hate. Concerning that and many other points, we wondered what a discussion would sound like—a discussion between these Trump supporters and regular, run-of-the-mill average folk Over Here in our tribe.
Why do those Trump supporters favor Trump's tax reform? What was "bad" about the international agreements he has removed us from?
Which "wasteful regulations" did that second writer have in mind, and what made them "wasteful?" We wondered what the writers would say to such questions. Beyond that, we wondered how well members of our own tribe would be prepared to discuss such complex topics.
Alas! Those writers are part of a fairly large group who still support President Trump. Because so many people still see the world the way they do, Donald J. Trump remains the master of his political fate—and possibly of his legal fate, even if Robert Mueller ends up issuing ugly claims.
Under our system of government, those voters hold plenty of power. At some point, people who want to defeat or undermine Donald J. Trump may well have to change some of those peoples' minds.
How exactly could our tribe go about achieving that end? If we sat down to debate those writers, how would we seek to change their views?
How might we change Trump supporters' minds? There's a good chance that we'll never find out! Just consider the letters the New York Times ran the next day.
Last Friday morning, the editors let us Trump detractors fight back. They published seven letters from our crowd, letters in which we were allowed to reply to the Trump supporters. You can read those letters here.
Let's be clear—the seven letters the Times ran that day were not a "scientific sample" of current anti-Trump thinking. They are simply the seven letters the editors chose to run.
Still and all, we were struck by the attitudes and viewpoints expressed in those seven letters. They did express views we often encounter Over Here in our tribe's liberal tents.
We were struck by the very first letter, which came from "a former newspaper editor" way out in the Hamptons. Starting off with a now-famous term, he quickly delivered a form of the D-bomb.
We'll look at his striking letter tomorrow. But good lord and holy mackerel! The fifth letter, from liberal Austin, Texas, started off like this:
"Why do you keep asking questions of Trump voters? Who cares what they think?"
That's how that letter began. The third letter stated a similar view in a more insulting way.
Trump voters hold a lot of power, but this fellow down in Austin doesn't care what they think. Beyond that, he wants the New York Times to stop talking to them altogether.
We were struck by that fiery suggestion. We thought of what Gene Brabender said, so many years ago:
"Where I come from, we just talk for a little while. After that we start to hit."
That's what Brabender said, long ago, sitting out in the bullpen. The fellow in Austin holds similar views. He brought an award-winning thought to mind:
Could our species perhaps be wired that way? Wired for lack of sound?
Tomorrow: Missives from liberal tents