I, like almost the entire Western World, was utterly and completely convinced, up until the very day it happened, that Trump would never be our President. I did not just think he couldn't win. I knew he couldn't win.
Yes, he had large crowd and apparent unflinching syncophants, mobs of zealots at each and every appearce who not only did not wilt away in the face of his absurd, crude, and wildly offensive utterances, but actually seemed energized and motivated by them. Yes those people existed, but surely they were just a loud minority, not a real political threat. Or so I thought…..or so I knew.
Then he won. Against all odds (and against the results of the popular vote) he won.
And then began the impossible to imagin dumpster fire that is the Trump administration, a Trumpster Fire if you will. Virtually everything that was suspected or feared about a Trump presidency during the campaign began to come true, and then some. Wild scenarios that would have been deemed the ridiculous realm of political farce only a few short years ago became our daily reality.
And in spite of all of it, in spite of the thousand variations of ineptitude, deception, dictatorial tendencies, unfitness for office, and manifest disdain for decency, his supporters remain steadfast, no, not just stead fast, but further mobilized, more committed, with a deepened loyalty to the man. Not only not repulsed by his behavior, but rallied by the fact that anyone else sees something to criticize.
To quote Theoden from Lord of the Rings, “What can men do against such reckless hate?”
I don’t understand. I do not understand the spell this man casts over the hearts and minds of his followers. I simply do not understand. I think that I, along with much of the rest of the Western World, simply underestimated the level of long repressed authoritarian brash nationalistic fervor and conservative resentment there was in this country, a bed of fervor that Trump tapped into then stoked the flame of.
And one particular and distinct trait of these people that I discovered after spending some time debating and discussing with them, was how manifestly disinterested they seemed to be in reasonable discourse or interfacing with any critical information about their dear leader or the ideology he represents. A shockingly high percentage of conversations with Trump supporters very quickly devolved into being called a “snowflake” or a “cuck” or and “austist” or any one of the slew of strange in group jargon terms these people use. Most criticism of Trump, even if thoroughly sourced and utterly reasonable causes for concern, were immediately labeled as being a “sore loser” crying “liberal tears” who is spreading “fake news”.
Now of course it’s the Internet, and since the internet brings out the very worst in people, you expect to always have to wade through some amount of the kind of behavior from any side in order to get to a reasonable conversation.
But what I seemed to be finding is that with Trump supporters, unlike with most other groups I disagree with, I wasn’t able to dig through a layer of reactionary name calling to get to reasonable conversation, there seemed to be no reasonable conversation to be had, no “pay dirt” so to speak to find. Just endless layers of name calling, obfuscation, and redirection, with virtually no one willing to meaningfully interface or respond to any critical conversation or probing questions regarding Trump and/or their views of him.
Fascinated by this almost ubiquitous refusal to interface directly and meaningfully with criticisms of their leader, I recently conducted a number of experiments on a popular online debate forum: Debatepolitics.com
Over the course of a few months I asked a series of questions meant to gauge the willingness of Trump’s supporters to change their mind, be receptive to competing information, and to honestly answer probing questions.
Now, it is worth mentioning that this case study is by no means definitive. My sample size is relatively small, and one could make that argument that by the nature of the setting, the kind of Trumpsters that are most likely to be active on a debate forum are exactly the kind that are the most sanguine and least likely to be reasonable. I understand that caveat and want to make that known up front, but I still think my results tell a relevant (if not surprising) story.
My investigation took the form of soliciting this community to answers to the following questions:
1: Are there any Journalists who have published articles critical of Trump who have done so with integrity, pursuing a true stories and valid points, or have all pieces critical of Trump been fake news and/or propaganda.
2: If it is shown that Trump did fire Comey for the stated purpose of interfering with the ongoing investigations, would that alter your opinion of Trump or would you support impeachment?
3: If it is shown that Trump’s campaign did knowingly and willingly work with Russian powers to alter the outcome of the election, would that alter your opinion of Trump or would you support impeachment?
4: Were you once a Trump supporter, but have since withdrawn support from him, and if so, why?
These all seem, at least as far as my judgment is concerned, to be fair and reasonable questions that a thinking person should be able to respond to in a meaningful way. With all such questions I always do a self-test before I ask them. I ask myself, “If I were asked such questions about a Politician I support and admire, would I be willing or able to answer them?”. In each case, the answer is and easy yes.
While did expect to find dismissal, obfuscation, and refusal to answer these questions when I began my study, I can hardly express what a frustrating and Herculean task it turned out to be to pin respondents down to a meaningful reply.
Question 1: Out of 15 replies, not a single respondent was willing to acknowledge the existence of any new media critical of Trump that was valid and accurate Journalism.
Questions 2 and 3: Out of 170 replies to these two questions, there were a handful of people who were willing to say their view of Trump would be changed and they would support impeachment if those were proven to have happened. Which at first seemed promising. But when I followed up with those people, following Trumps admission that the Comey firing relieved the pressure of the Russian investigation, and the recent definitive proof that Trump campaign officials cooperated with various Russian actors to defeat Hillary, every single person who has previously responded in the affirmative expressed that no, despite their assertion that such thing would change their mind’s about Trump, their minds remained unchanged as these now verified and proven acts didn’t really count. Of course each Trumpster had their own reasons and justifications for why it didn’t count, and the details of those arguments are not important. What is important is that despite the concession that such things would change their mind, when such acts were proven, every single supporter without exception in my study found some way to re-frame or justify and keep their support from Trump in tact.
Question 4: Out of 69 replies and almost 700 views, not a single respondent reporting having once supported Trump and chained their mind on him.
Despite months of trying and entire reams of conversation, I was unable to find even on single Trump supported on a popular debate forum who had changed their mind on their candidate, who was willing to express any concern at all over the proof of campaign cooperation with Russian interest, Trump’s statement that he fired Comey to take the pressure of the Russian investigation off of himself, or who was even willing to admit that accurate and valid journalism critical of Trump even exists.
What I did find was an inexhaustible supply of justifications and defenses, no matter how strained, insults and demeaning language thrown at Democrats and Liberals for having the audacity to be concerned about these issues, and near constant changing of the subject to criticizing Hillary and Obama. In fact I got more of that than essentially anything else. Virtually every statement asking what a Trumpster would feel if X unsavory or illegal thing about Trump were proven was met with at least a dozen varieties of not answering the question but instead listing various supposed sinister acts of Hillary and Obama. Which are of course fine and valid subjects to discuss, but did not serve as answers to my questions.
Again, while not conclusive by any means, this long and frustrating case study gives some valuable insight into the kind of supporters Trump has attracted, the kind of people that have become his acolytes. These are people who have no interest in changing their mind. These are people for whom support of Trump, as if the case with many other authoritarian leaders in our world (Hugo Chaves, Kim Jon Il), has become a sort of pseudo religion, and statement of faith, a sort of absolution and axiom that people are not interested, or perhaps even capable, of being argued to reasoned out of. And as I stated above, some measure of that is true for any position. There were people for whom that was true of Bernie, Hillary, Obama, or anyone else that you can name. The difference with Trumpsters, in terms of this quasi-religious conviction about their Candidate, is not so much a difference of Type, as a radical and alarming difference of Degree.
To give one notable example: One particular Trump supporter made the claim that “Trump never mocked a disabled report, that was a fake news story.”
And so I replied by simply linking the well known clip from the Trump campaign where Trump mentions a particular reporter with a degenerative conditions and proceed to do a limp-wristed stuttering imitation remarkably similar to the mocking depiction of “retards” that I recall from the playground when I was in grade school. The footage speaks for itself in a way that it would seem difficult to deny.
And yet deny this Trump supporter did. He proceeded to tell me that Trump was in no way mocking that man in particular or disabled people in general, but rather than was a generic teasing/criticizing voice and mannerism that was not intended to parody or mock a disability. If it has been a while since you watch the clip, please go watch it again, it strains all reason to believe that Trump was not mocking the disability, and yet this Trump supporter, not being open to criticizing even the most blatantly obvious of tasteless misbehavior by his candidate, happily allows his reason to be strained, and denies what is so clear on it’s face.
And, above and apart from all of that, is the massive looming hypocrisy, the utterly true and undeniable reality, that if Obama or Hillary had done even a fraction of the things we can absolutely confirm Trump has done, let alone those things still being investigated, the entire Right would have screamed themselves hoarse calling for impeachment. And if you want a truly unique and disturbing experience, try asking a Trump supporter how they would have reacted if Obama had done (instead just about anything Trump has been criticized for). I absolutely promise what you will not get is a strait answer or reasonable concession.
That is the kind of voter who won the last election (well, kind of, Trump did lose the popular vote by millions, a whole separate issue in and of itself). That is the constituency that has won the political day in our country this time around. I am firmly convinced, after hours, weeks, months of trying, that these types of people simply are not interested in a conversation. They willfully, gleefully, refuse to interface with intelligent discourse or meaningful questioning on the subject.
They cannot be reasoned with. They can only be defeated.
For the love of all that is sacred and dear, go vote in the mid-terms, I beg you.
Are you or have you been a Trump supporter? Have you changed your mind?Are you aware of any valid and true journalistic criticism of Trump? Does the confirmed meetings between his campaign and Russian information dealers worry you at all? Does the fact that Trump fired Comey to take investigatory pressure off of himself worry you at all? If so, I would love to know that you exist, please sound off in the comments below. If you’d like to see more political opinion piece and amateur investigation, please follow me.