Alan Zendell, February 21, 2021
Don’t let the title fool you. I have no idea what goes on in the mind of a Trump supporter. The things they say usually make me roll my eyes. Absent any other information, it would be easy to conclude that they’re stupid, ignorant, and uninterested in thinking for themselves. But I know that’s not true as a generality. I know too many intelligent, well-educated people who call themselves Trump Republicans. If anyone out there can explain how they think, please let me know.
Watching Trump take over the Republican party and savage the other contenders in the 2016 presidential election was a humbling experience. I used to be pretty good at predictions, at least when they were based on a sound analysis of valid data. In 2016, I understood why people responded to his populist appeal and why they gave him a pass on having no respect for truth and even less character. They had been harboring years of built-up anger and frustration, and for all that time they had nowhere to vent it and no one at whom to direct it. Trump gave them both, and they loved him for it.
But I had no idea that there were so many Americans looking for someone to blame for their unhappiness, so many millions who could be easily provoked into what was effectively a lynch mob with a moving target. Trump’s tweets might have been the Pied Piper’s flute. “Yesterday we hated immigrants. Today let’s go after the courts. Tomorrow – let’s see – let’s string up every pro-choice woman in our neighborhoods.” The crazier his claims got, the more violent his exhortations, the more people he attracted. I realized, then, that my knowledge of human nature was inadequate, so I stopped making predictions, except one, that Trump would overreach until he finally undermined himself. That was an easy one. There was no way he would ever represent the majority of Americans.
I also made an exception for COVID. Once there was solid data for professional modelers to sink their teeth into, I was back on solid turf. I even bought a tee shirt that says, “In Fauci We Trust.” Last Spring, I predicted that the COVID death toll would reach a quarter of a million Americans by Election Day, and some of you scoffed. When I said 400,000 by Inauguration Day, there were still people claiming that either the pandemic was a hoax or it was being exaggerated just to hurt Trump. That somehow got merged into the Big Lie that the election was stolen, and I began to wonder if among Trump’s gifts was the ability to drive his supporters crazy and make loyalty to him a psychological imperative. The death toll reached a half million today.
And then came the ultimate test on January 6th. We all saw the insurrection at the Capitol and the events that led up to it. We all know what happened. We saw the Proud Boys and the Oath Takers lead the assault on the Capitol in the name of their president and loudly proclaim that he had ordered them there to interfere with the Congress’ business of certifying the victory of Joe Biden. Yet, a new USA Today poll of Trump supporters reported that 58% of them believe the riot was perpetrated by Antifa, the largely fictitious organization of left-wing terrorists who support the Green New Deal and eat babies.
After living through a year in which Trump’s criminal malfeasance allowed the pandemic to spread out of control and destroy the lives of tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs, homes, and families, many of whom were Trump supporters, 41% said they would follow him if he formed his own Party. More than 90% think he is not responsible for the insurrection, and 85% said they’d vote for Trump again if he ran for president in 2024. To me, the result that best describes their mentality, is that of the 58% of Trump supporters who said Fox News was their most trusted source of information last October, that number is only 34% today. The others all defected down the rabbit hole to Newsmax and AONN.
Despite now having a president who cares so much he brings tears to my eyes when he speaks, Trump supporters have a new mission – preventing President Biden from getting anything done. If nothing else, that puts Mitch McConnell who has made a living obstructing Democrats in an interesting place in his fight to regain control of his party.
Knowing all this, I have to ask again. Can anyone explain how these people think?