The day after the election I was distraught, angry, and ashamed of a whole section of the American population (some 62,979,636 people, to be exact). I couldn’t understand the type of person that would vote for trump*. So, I decided to find out. I talked with the trump voters that I know in my day-to-day life, I read several of the “Must Read This Book To Understand Trumps Win” books, I visited the websites a lot of trump voters depend on for their news. I listened to conservative talk radio, read as many articles as I could about the root cause of the anger and frustration so many Americans feel.
In looking back on all my research, on all the listening and reading that I’ve done, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three main buckets of trump supporters**.
The trump Buckets
This is the simplest bucket to describe. These are the Neo-Nazis, the Alt-right, the misogynistic crowd, the overly nationalistic and xenophobic groups. They heard trump loudest when he yelled about a wall, when he called for a ban on Muslims, when he openly disparaged the women that accused him of sexual assault. They see in a trump presidency the normalization of what before had been fringe views. They are horrible humans.
This is the group you’ve probably heard the most about from the most sources. These folks are most often associated with other phrases like “rust belt” or “working class” or “coal country.” In recent years they’ve seen jobs leave their towns, they’ve faced harsh economic conditions, and they haven’t been able to see a way forward. They aren’t exclusively white, and it would be a stretch to call them racist. That being said, they do tend to live in very “traditional” lifestyles – focus on heterosexual marriage, male dominated society, distrust of outsiders. It’s with this group that “Make America Great Again” resonated the strongest. So, while they they have many outdated and harmful opinions about a great number of people, they aren’t driven by hate.
To be honest, this is the group that I have the most sympathy for. Not only did they get duped by trump’s campaign promises, but they are the group that will be most negatively impacted when he either fails to follow through (bring back manufacturing jobs, reopen the mines) or when he does exactly what he has promised (repeal Obamacare). This group is angry and scared. They, by and large, lack the ability or time to wade through the massive amounts of misinformation out there and made a decision in the election based on an odd combination of fear and hope. When, in one or two years down the road, you read about downtrodden trump voters regretting their decisions, keep these folks in mind. They don’t deserve your anger and they’ll need your help – both for their sake and for the sake of our country’s conscience.
The Hateful are beyond reproach. They are sick and twisted and not worth your ire. The Desperate a reminder that our country has a ways to go, but that we should continuously strive to get there. They’ve been beaten down through a combination of pure, unadulterated capitalism and a raging selfishness. The root of the problem can be found in our third bucket.
Otherwise known as the Republican elite, this group has implored you to vote Republican for “the economy” and will often times describe themselves as more “fiscally conservative” than anything else. For them, trump represents deregulation and privatization – both opportunities for corporations to increase market share and drive up profits. For them, trump represents tax breaks for the wealthy, more focus on state legislature (which, due to their contacts at the state capital, often translates to greater access to power), and a focus on helping small businesses succeed.
Here’s the rub with this group. They are, due to their socio-economic status, largely immune from the worst of what trump will bring about. They either work at companies that supply health insurance or can afford to pay for their own. As a result, they don’t have to concern themselves with the repeal of the ACA. Their kids probably attend private schools so they don’t have to worry about the worsening conditions of public schools. Or, if they do send their kids to public schools, they can afford to move to the best school districts in their area. They work white collar jobs, they network with local and state politicians. In essence, they have barriers between themselves and the worst of the potential changes.
So, they vote for trump. Never mind that millions will lose their health insurance. Never mind that people of color, the LGBT community, and the working classes are afraid for their literal lives. Never mind that college is becoming increasing expensive and job prospects are dwindling. For The Greedy, the fact that others will suffer is always secondary to their own comfort.
And the thing that gets me the most is that THESE are the folks that have the best chance of changing things for the better. They have the money, the power, and the access. And they spend it all ensuring their own personal gain while the vast majority of the country suffers.
Despise The Hateful.
Pity The Desperate.
Hold accountable The Greedy.
*I’ve made the editorial decision to never capitalize trumps’ name.
**And, to be clear, not every trump voter fits firmly in just one bucket. It, like most things in life, is complicated and more often than not represents a sliding scale. I’ve put together a simple Venn Diagram with a handful of theoretical supporters to try and represent the range. Check it out here, if you’d like.