There are two thoughtful articles that express both my frustration with, and hope for, Trump voters.
The first was written the day after the election by Jamelle Bouie and the title says it all — “There’s No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter.” In a nutshell, Trump voters brought their racism, privilege, and recklessness into the voting booth, completely disregarding everything and everyone Trump — with his extreme and well-known positions — promised to harm. These voters knew full well what they were doing and they should have known better.
And it wasn’t just the racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Trump voters also chose to destroy public schools, dismantle medical care for 40 million citizens, wreck environmental protections, and they actually chose to give themselves a tax increase so that a few billionaires could pay lower taxes or none at all.
The word “idiots” doesn’t even begin to describe them. But there’s also a more charitable view.
Justin Gest writes in POLITICO (“The Two Kind of Trump Voters”) that Democrats have to make a distinction between the new crop of proto-fascists in the GOP (along with their supporters) and the other numbskulls who cast their irresponsible votes for Donald Trump.
Gest writes off those whom Bouie does — he calls them the Nationalists — but holds out hope for those he calls the Exasperated, voters who were disappointed by Democratic Neoliberalism and wanted to try something new.
These Exasperated voters also heard the same Mexican rapist rhetoric we all did, and there’s no letting them off the hook. Bouie’s arguments apply completely. They voted for Trump because their [only slightly less ideological] racism and xenophobia made anyone else’s concerns invisible and irrelevant. But they still voted to screw their neighbors.
But Gest has a point. Many of the Exasperated were once Democrats, whether Southern Democrats or Democrats from Southie. Just from the numbers we know that many of them voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 but changed their minds in 2016. Gest suggests that they may be irresponsible, unreliable, and unpredictable — but they aren’t stupid. They will turn on Trump as quickly as they did on Obama if he can’t deliver. And they can smell a bullshitter a mile away.
Democracy is dirty, reckless and untidy. And so is the American electorate. But Democrats have to reach out to these Exasperated voters and — most importantly — have to offer them something new and real — and something they honestly intend to deliver.