Trump’s Narrative As Mercilessly Persecuted Outsider Is Still Strong

At first debate

You probably already had to be Trump supporter for that to still ring true. But that’s still a lot of people…

Why isn’t his support going to fade significantly probably after a debate performance where he struck one single chord: that of petulant child throwing his mashed potatoes on the carpet?

Because why should he behave any differently when everybody’s out to get him “and they’ve been caught!”? Why should he follow the rules he agreed to when he agreed to do a debate, when the powers that be in this country and around the world and crawling out of holes wherever he looks, never play by the rules when it comes to him?

And of course this seems ridiculous to us Liberals because:

  • Trump is now the “powers that be.” He’s President. Right now. He’s not an outsider. And anyone can see how often his presidency is predicated only on meting out punishment to those with whom he has grievances. No more, no less. Beyond where they might even be possibly “getting what they deserve”.
  • Most of what spews forth from the President’s mouth is a tapestry of conspiracy theories Trump’s sewn together. And relies on the concept that Democrats trying to win an election is something inherently unfair and dishonest. It’s not. That’s what they’re supposed to be doing.
  • And also, even though we can’t really what’s going on in the mind of a Trump supporter, we Liberals can tell you what’s going on in our minds. And we firmly know we aren’t actually doing the things Trump says we’re doing to undermine him. Because he really doesn’t need any help undermining himself.

So it’s not necessarily that his supporters actually think he’s doing a good job on COVID-19 and getting no credit for it even though there is still no comprehensive national plan or guidelines for mitigation beyond waiting for a vaccine. Nor may they even believe he’s really, actually got a better, cheaper alternative to Obamacare that actually does protect pre-existing conditions in his pocket; just hasn’t bothered to show it to anyone in the 3 1/2 years he claims it’s been done.

He’s punishing the right people. And it feels good to be one of his “chosen ones”.

And that creates a dynamic we Liberals simply cannot understand: throngs of people rallying around a bully because he claims to be the biggest victim of all, with outpourings of love and gratitude, even though he shows no empathy toward them. Skipping over basic decency. Teaching people not to love thy neighbors, but turn against them. Especially in the suburbs.

Tearing down the stuff his supporters don’t like, and going after the people they don’t like seems to be more than enough.

It’s never going to be a majority of Americans, but it is always going to be a very angry and fearful slice of America. And anger and fear are great motivators. More powerful probably than asking people to come out and vote because their vote’s a bet on a vision of a more harmonious future.

Even if people have different opinions about what constitutes the public good, and how to best contribute to the advancement and exceptionalism of Americans: contributing to the public good is inherently not about mowing great swaths of people down. For the simple reason that belittling and humiliating people to settle scores never results in greatness. Just as a cheap and petty, false and godless idol can never transform himself into a Colossus no matter how hard he tries. Took a lot of different people—many of whom had virtually no money themselves—to complete the construction of the Statue of Liberty. Because it always takes a lot of people to truly build a legacy of wonder.

Knocking stuff down is a lot easier. So back down in the paranoia-filled slag heap, a debate question about racism elicits an answer from the President that’s 100% about supporting police. We’re liberal: we support police; doesn’t mean there isn’t racism in society. And why do we even have to clarify that though?

One of the most difficult things to us about Trump’s overall approach is when he says providing basic protections–like Obamacare–or staying in treaties or agreements–like the Paris Climate Agreement–put unfair burdens on Americans. But if those things really can help Americans live better lives, we should have an outsized role. Because we can handle it. Because we are amazingly innovative, entrepreneurial, and kind. We can handle playing a big part in promoting big ideas, because we’re built for it.

Americans can acknowledge more than one source of greatness. And it’s no sign of weakness to admit more than one fault: gives you something to work on and make things better. Things can always be better. People can look to acknowledge more than one source for inspiration. Parents, friends, siblings, coaches, clergy, role models in the public eye, even strangers sharing different experiences, all can have profound influences, which are not exclusive, are not competitive, and do not need to be cancelled out save for one. Society can benefit from more types of people than one. And empathic Americans have the strength and skills to help more kinds of people than one.

But the President doesn’t even claim to be in that business anymore.