The Trump Voter Is One Unified Cancerous Mass, Or Not

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

In the weeks since the election, “Analyzing the Trump voter” has become the whip we Democrats use to flagellate each other.  There have been thousands of articles analyzing The Trump Voter – they voted for Trump because they were afraid for their jobs, except studies show The Trump Voter was well-off and hence racist!  The Trump Voter slavishly believed what Donald had to say about building the wall, except no, The Trump Voter took what Donald had to say figuratively and not literally!  The Trump Voter wants to build a plan, but The Trump Voter wants to tear everything down, The Trump Voter would be dismayed and/or enthused when Obamacare’s benefits are repealed without replacement…

And Jesus, no wonder The Trump Voter is terrifying.  The Trump Voter is this terrifyingly contradictory amalgam of stories that no Democrat can make sense of.

Because there’s not one unified Trump Voter.

The Trump Voter is an uneasy coalition, like any Presidential voting bloc.  There wasn’t The Obama Voter in 2008 either – there were uneasy conservatives who couldn’t quite pull the lever for a ticket that included Sarah Palin, and heartbroken, and shaky racists who still thought Obama would give them the best hope for their business, and sick people who hoped Obama would deliver on his promises of health care, and cults of personality who just loved the way Obama talked.

There was never an Obama Voter – just endless, loosely-affiliated groups who happened to pull the same lever.

And when we Democrats talk about The Trump Voter, we talk about it like there’s only one reason someone could vote for Trump, and we must find it or die.

Which is a one-way ticket to absolute despair if your asshole Uncle at Thanksgiving is the worst kind of Trump voter who voted out of pure spite.

Truth is, there’s a hundred reasons people voted for Trump.  Some stemmed from “I don’t trust Hillary.” Some stemmed from the fact that people in rural countries felt like the Democrats were ignoring them – and even then, the reasons they felt ignored varied from group to group.  Some stemmed from the belief that Trump would bring back manufacturing, some stemmed from a despairing nihilism to try anything other than what we’ve been doing, some stemmed from pure-D-fucking racism, some stemmed from the delight of hearing a politician say the impolitic, some stemmed from the idea that Trump was less war-crazy than Hillary….

And everyone has a pet theory as to Why Trump Won, and most of them seem to involve The Trump Voter – almost half the electorate swayed by a single issue.

You know why that line of thinking sucks?

Because that implies we have to find an idea that sways 48% of the country, as opposed to 2%.

Because if 2% of the country had voted differently, Hillary would be in charge.   And the poisonous rhetoric of The Trump Voter means that if your asshole uncle wore his MAGA cap at the Thanksgiving table and flung mashed potatoes at you while yelling “SUCK IT LIBTARD,” well, then that voter represents all Trump voters and we might as well give up.

Look.  The honest truth is that 49 out of 50 Trump voters can be utterly unreachable.  They can be cloistered in their Fox News bubble, reading fake news on Facebook, completely unswayable.

All you have to do is find the 1 out of 50 who might listen to reason.

And you’re not gonna find that voter if you’re thinking everyone who voted for Trump is the same as the worst of them.  The truth is, there were Trump voters who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.  There were black and hispanic voters who voted for Trump – and they did so in greater numbers than they did for Romney.

There are Trump voters who might be persuaded back, with the right efforts.  But you have to find their reason!  You can’t just one-size-fits all The Trump Voter and go, “Your reason for voting Trump is *spins the Trump Voter wheel* RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA LET ME EDUCATE YOU” and move forward –

– no, you actually have to do the hard work of listening instead of shoehorning.

(Even though, it should be said that I firmly subscribe to the Cinemax Theory of Racism.)

And yes.  It’s exhausting.  Because the truth is, a conversion rate of 1 out of 50 feels more like hunting for a job than it does engaging in political rhetoric.  And it’s probably more like 1 out of 200, because the people who are enthusiastic enough to go engage online in politics in these are pretty set in their ways; I’d bet dollars to delicious donuts that most of the reachable Trump voters are going to be converted, if at all, in quiet conversations away from the thundrous trash-fire arguments of the Internet.

But to have a hope of converting them, you have to give up the idea that 47.5% of the country went crazy in the exact same way.  They didn’t.  They had a hundred different reasons for voting, and if you assume that every Trump voter pulled that lever out of KKK-style racism, or redneck job-terror, or Russian propaganda brainwashing, then you’re quietly buying into that idea that politics is all about reaching everyone and if that one Trump voter is an asshole than you might just as well give up.

But we can be smart enough to hold two truths up at the same time:

  • Yes, most Trump voters won’t change their minds no matter what we do.  There are unreachable voters, and it’s a waste of time to try to talk to the people who’ve proven hostile to our best intents.
  • Yet if we could have persuaded one out of fifty of them, we would have won the election.  And we can win the next election.

And yes, there’s the alternate theory that if we Democrats had rallied our base better in red states, we also would have won.  Again, that’s not a contradiction of the “one in fifty” theory; that’s another tactic we can use.  Because just like there’s not one mythical Trump Voter, there’s not one mythical Path to Victory.

Smart people can fight on multiple fronts.  And God, in this dark time, we Democrats need to be smarter.

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Abby Goldsmith
    Dec 7, 2016

    Woot! This was a great post.

    Almost everyone has a relative or coworker whose opinions are despicable, whose outlook on life is abhorrent. The human brain looks for patterns, so when the vote went the way it did, a lot of people seemed to conclude that “all those voters are just like my racist uncle Jimmy” or “just like my conspiracy-theorist coworker Bob.”

    As long as people (on both sides) keep thinking this way, the schism will grow.

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