Understanding Trump supporters, with empathy

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I wonder about the narrative I see. It seems like when Trump was popular to a few, so many people were willing to leave it at “racists gonna racist”, and only now that he is well on his way to being candidate they are opening up to other explanations. Because what, we should consider that racist attitudes might actually be that widespread? Nope, never, back up because we have to instead consider that anti-expert culture thing being ignored before.

Well, there is a lot of truth in what is said here, but at the same time supporting Trump still means being at least indifferent to some very serious racism. In other words, I’d argue there is more than one serious thing happening here, and it feels a little as if one keeps being used to cover another.


I’m super sweet to these people on a one to one basis, it’s mobs I have no sympathy for. I know that doesn’t work, it’s just how I feel.


Empathy is critical. But there’s a bit of a kink in the wire: if what you want is an authentic and trustworthy candidate, you have to first stop voting for hucksters and demagogues. Trump proves that the GOP electorate isn’t really ready to stop doing that yet. They know that the System is broken, but they can’t see that Trump’s “authenticity” flags are false and hollow and meaningless and that he will disappoint them as much if not more than any other Republican candidate. They don’t want to hear it. They stick their fingers in their ears in denial, or, worse, they just don’t care and want to watch the world burn because they’re becoming political nihilists.

The antidote is right in front of them, has been for years, and it’s the one thing they’ve been refusing to do since Dubbya: accept compromise, and admit new knowledge.

The first steps to addressing your problem is to admit that you have a problem and that you need help. Those are two things that the GOP seems rather fundamentally opposed to at the moment.

Maybe Hilary will bridge that gap (ugh).


Tyrion doing the “Trump Shuffle”.


I do recall at the beginning of Obama’s first term all the dire predictions, like “America will be unrecognizable after four years of Obama”, etc.

And conservatives still talk as if Obama has ruined the country, like they think the real estate crash and subsequent recession started the day he took office. At worst he’s been a competent caretaker President.

There is a complete unwillingness to work across the aisle on the part of Republicans, they have made it so any kind of compromise with Democrats is seen as treason; they are prisoners of their own take-no-prisoners attitude (meanwhile they accuse Democrats of being “partisan.”)

Part of this is that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have made it a business decision to promote how dire the situation is, to promote conspiracies, to look at everything from a partisan political angle-- it guarantees a loyal audience and a certain amount of revenue from advertisers. But at the same time their audience stays roughly the same in size. Their ideas get little or no traction with people in the middle or the left, so McCain and Romney lose by that small percentage of the middle they can never win. And that’s just fine with Fox News, because they can continue to ramp up the rhetoric and paranoia. Whatever happened to the “Obama Youth” brigades we were warned about? It doesn’t matter.


I read something on Twitter this morning (can’t find the tweet now or else I would link to it) where somebody said that the GOP is now the populist party and Democrats are the party of elites. I think there’s something to that.


I would argue that racism is so endemic that it might not provide a uniquely meaningful or consistent explation for any major American political movement. It’s not like the population can be neatly divided into Trump supporters and antiracists. I find the “inoculation against facts” more compelling because there is a causal relationship between that and racism. It also has greater explanatory power when you’re looking at other issues like why people believe he has actual business prowess.


Trump came out of the gate with maximum bluster, saying any crazy thing that came into his head to get attention, and boy, did it work. But every once in awhile, he’s been slipping in little comments about how “I know this isn’t the way a President behaves” or “I’m actually a nice guy”. And now he’s starting to talk about being a unifier.

I think he’s going to quickly position himself as a friendly, charming, presidential guy, a new Reagan, compared to the loonies he’s running against. He’ll chuckle about the Mexican wall as something to figure out later once we’ve dealt with ‘real problems’. He’ll try to keep his nutjob fan club while appealing to populist causes. And it might actually work.


Good points well made.

(Turns on TV and sees interviews with Trump supporters)

OK, I’m back to antipathy again.


A less generous interpretation is that he’s mixing some populist socialism with his nationalism.

People act more authoritarian and racist when they’re frightened and austerity is extremely frightening. Bernie could reassure these guys, but Clinton is campaigning on neoliberal permanent austerity, plus has the baggage of decades of slander against her.

Sanders seems to not understand or acknowledge how racism drives inequality, which makes him less than inspiring, but, I mean, this is the best we’re going to get this year.


I’m so tired of all this “Trump can’t be bought” rhetoric. You don’t need to be bought when your primary concern is already your own profitability, and bending the country in ways that help your bottom line. He’s not subject to money–he IS money, or at least the ugliest illusion and worship of it.


I’m currently re-reading The Name of the Rose (Eco). His explanation of the apocalypic cults of the 14th century in Europe has some remarkable resemblances to what’s going on in the US now. Perhaps it’s just a depressing sign that nothing really changes; the lords screw the poor, charismatic leaders lead them to disaster or get adopted by the power structures. It happened with Luther too.


Yes, there’s a wide streak of horribly misplaced “understanding” for Trump supporters, which to me feels like a basic misunderstanding of democracy. The point of democracy is not that popular ideas are right, merely that we agree to let the popular position win, even when we know it to be evil.
But the corollary is that each person has to stand for what they believe in. If you think Trump’s positions are loathsome then say so-- don’t patronisingly assume that anyone else needs you to make (a more civilised-sounding version of) their argument for them. It’s like trying to sympathise with the social conditions that led someone to crime while they’re mugging you.


People are obsessed with the Kardashians, reality TV is like half the new programming now, and half of your “news” is celebrity gossip and shenanigans.

And you wonder why Trump is popular?

He’s a clown, and everyone likes clowns. He’s a showman and entertaining. God knows he didn’t get where he is on skill or knowledge.

Yep. And mark my words - if he wins the Republican nomination, see him suddenly slant left on everything to pick up the disgruntled Democrats. He will either deny past statements, or say he thought about it and there is room for non-rapist Mexicans.


This brings to mind Reagan’s remark about the most dangerous phrase being “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”. I made the mistake of saying to a family member, “As president isn’t he part of the government?” and I was told to keep my mouth shut if I didn’t want to be hit again.

Anyway the problem doesn’t seem to be that faith in experts has been destroyed but rather that faith instead has been placed in “experts” who’ve managed to convince a large number of people that any domestic problem can be solved with tax cuts and any international problem can be solved with military force.


Admittedly my first thought was that I’ve never encountered “Trump supporters with empathy” before, which I realize is not actually a useful response.

I will say the core idea here is something that Paul Krugman, at least, has been saying for more than six months - that the GOP knowingly created the conditions that let Trump get where he is, and shouldn’t be too surprised at the result.

Okay, let’s all repeat now: I shall not call up that which I cannot put down.


That’s because the cost of production has dropped, outlets have multiplied, and audiences have fractured. You complain about TV, but I would argue that television has never been better than it is now.

I would say the same goes for news. If you don’t like what CNN or Fox is serving you, get an RSS newsreader and subscribe to sources you like and you will never run out of stuff to read and watch.


That’s very fair. Nonetheless, it still seems to me like a lot of discussion is dodging around the possibility Trump’s support might be in part because the sort of semi-fascism he espouses is actually popular with a lot of Americans. It all has to be pinned on one small group or another, first the tea partiers, and now that they’re insufficient the sleeze of GOP leaders.

Well, I agree that the latter deserve full censure for spending decades fanning these flames in hopes of taking advantage, so clearing the way for him. But I’m concerned that it seems like the focus on them is only coming about as it’s necessary to avoid considering their fuel. Again, I think there is more than one serious thing here.


I hope you’re right man.

I hope once in office Trump won’t sell America out for his personal wealth in the short term. However i have no faith in anything but the dismantling of America for the same of Trump’s own ego.

Then again I see him as a loudmouthed asshole that was gifted a fuckton of money and has this cockroach like unkillability about him.

However, and i say this as someone that is a firm Bernie supporter. I like Trump better than I do about Hillary. He at least is honest about the whole ‘I’m in this for me’ thing.

Note i don’t think either would do a good job, but that is partially because of how fucked up politics have gotten, especially when it comes to compromise being seen as treason to your party.

Who knows. Maybe trump can sell compromise as ‘extend, embrace, and consume.’ Try making it sound less like giving something up and more potentially winning later.

If he could do that, if I had any faith he could try helping to undo the crazy in the republican party if only to save his own neck, I would support him. I just don’t have any faith he’ll do that.