Trump may fizzle, but the nation’s political system will still need to address his core supporters.
Well, now Donald Trump says he is unchained, free now to run his campaign any way he wants without acting all civilized. That’s almost amusing.
What isn’t amusing is that he has a lot of followers, and they and their concerns will still be here after the election next month. I’m assuming he isn’t going to win, though it’s been hard to be sure of much in this election cycle.
Reporters fanned out to check his base after all the excitement over a video of Trump saying despicable things about women and his actions with, or rather against, women. His base stood by him. And on Wednesday it was revealed that several women — including Miss Washington 2013 — say Trump groped them.
Remember when he said he could shoot someone down in the street and his core would stick with him? I thought maybe he was exaggerating a bit, but it sure doesn’t look like it. Anyone who wasn’t of like mind would have quit on him long ago.
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But sometimes it’s still surprising how far people will go to justify their support of him. Susan Hutchison, former television journalist and current head of the Washington state Republican Party, had a moment in the spotlight. Her response to criticisms of Trump talking about groping women was to tweet: “Donald Trump’s indecent comments in 2005 (11 yrs ago) — were made when he was a Democrat.” He was just following Bill Clinton’s lead, she said. The current Republican version of Trump wouldn’t be so vile, right?
Trump’s record of offensive comments goes way back, but more to the point it just keeps going in the present.
Every week we are treated to Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, or supporter Kayleigh McEnany or some other surrogate explaining why the latest thing their guy said wasn’t really what it sounded like, or wasn’t really a bad thing, or was actually someone else’s fault.
Of course, he wasn’t really stoking the birther fires, he was just trying to bring the whole thing to an end by forcing President Obama to produce his birth certificate, and anyway it was all Hillary Clinton’s fault.
Fact checking doesn’t matter to Trump’s most ardent supporters, but that’s not unusual. People who have a stake in a candidate are like that, but the degree to which his positions fall outside what’s been considered proper behavior makes it clear that deeper than run-of-the-mill loyalty is at work.
He appeals to people who feel they are under siege and no one in power is listening. In some cases they’re right but other times they and their candidate sling mud in every direction without justification.
They worry about unfairness in the economy, about national security and dysfunction in politics. Lots of people are concerned about those things. But Trump’s core turns its anger toward people who aren’t the cause of their problems: immigrants, minorities. They’re not bothered that he demeans whole groups.
Academics and political journalists have pointed out that Democrats have largely ignored many who now support Trump. Republicans have milked votes from their fear and anger without actually addressing their concerns. Trump became their champion.
Those Trump voters represent a good chunk of the electorate and they are energized.
There are also people sitting on the political sidelines today, who could be part of a post-Trump political force. Who are those undecided voters TV anchors keep interviewing? I can certainly get that there are people who don’t feel their interests or values are reflected in either of the two candidates. But what set of political agendas or personal values would have someone swaying between these candidates, who are not just from different parties, but different universes?
One month and the election will be over and somehow the political system will need to rearrange itself to account for all of those people. Can it reach them without playing to fear and anger?
At this point I’m not betting on anything.