Trump Voters Can't Be Won Over; They Have To Be Outvoted
May 15, 2018

I agree with Paul Waldman that Democratic efforts to win the respect of Trump voters are futile:

... the mistake is to ignore where the belief in Democratic disrespect actually comes from and to assume that Democrats have it in their power to banish it.

It doesn’t come from the policies advocated by the Democratic Party, and it doesn’t come from the things Democratic politicians say. Where does it come from? An entire industry that’s devoted to convincing white people that liberal elitists look down on them.

... The right has a gigantic media apparatus that is devoted to convincing people that liberals disrespect them, plus a political party whose leaders all understand that that idea is key to their political project and so join in the chorus at every opportunity.

If you doubt this, I’d encourage you to tune in to Fox News or listen to conservative talk radio for a week. When you do, you’ll find that again and again you’re told stories of some excess of campus political correctness, some obscure liberal professor who said something offensive, some liberal celebrity who said something crude about rednecks or some Democratic politician who displayed a lack of knowledge of a conservative cultural marker. The message is pounded home over and over: They hate you and everything you stand for.

Right -- little of the so-called disrespect for Trump Country voters is coming from Democratic politicians. Most comes from people outside politics whose words are hung around the necks of Democratic officeholders and candidates. When a Dem politician does say something offensive to white heartlanders -- Barack Obama's "cling to guns and religion" remark, or Hillary Clinton talking about "deplorables" -- the statement is put on auto-repeat in the right-wing press. Consumers of right-wing media never hear words of sincere outreach from Democrats (Waldman quotes examples from Clinton and Obama). The words that give offense remain front and center.

But that's not the only reason Trump voters are unreachable for Democrats. Another reason is that Trump voters identify with the president so closely that you literally can't criticize him without making his supporters believe you're criticizing them.

Consider the new book The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics, written by journalist and "Trump whisperer" Salena Zito and GOP political consultant Brad Todd. Emma Green has reviewed the book for The Atlantic, and it's clear that many of Zito and Todd's interviewees believe Trump is them and they are Trump.

Green writes:

... voters who had lived through a major crisis or setback felt drawn to Trump’s narrative of self-reinvention, Zito and Todd argue. “One of the things I really don’t get about the Democratic Party or the news media is the lack of respect they give to people who work hard all of their lives to get themselves out of the hole,” said a Michigan woman who owns a variety store. “It is as though they want to punish us for the very things we hold dear: hard work, no dependence on the government, no debt, and so on.”

Try to ignore the notion that living with "no debt" is one of things Donald Trump "hold[s] dear" -- what's clear from this is that the Michigan woman thinks Trump, like her, is a self-made bootstrapper who overcame setbacks through nothing but determination and grit.

More from Green:

Conservative Christians who stuck with Trump through scandals did it for political ends, the authors write. “I was looking for a warrior for our values, for righting the direction of the country,” a 44-year-old woman from Bristol, Wisconsin, said. “When [Trump] said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would uphold the values of our country and our Constitution, I started to bend towards listening to what he stood for.”

This is another voter who thinks Trump shares her values.


Then there were the Rotary Club presidents and civic leaders from middle-class or rural areas—the college-educated professionals who didn’t feel the same kind of Trump-shame as their urban peers. “There was this sense of reality with him,” said a 39-year-old restaurant owner from Pennsylvania. “It has gotten so in this country that you are not quite sure what you can say to people that might offend them. Things you would never think would make people offended. The politically correct stuff has gotten overboard.”

Translation: Trump dares to say what I think.

Why should Democrats try to win these voters over? How can they possibly do that and still be Democrats? To be a Democrat is to believe that Trump's policies (and rhetoric) are overwhelmingly wrong -- but if you think anything about Trump is wrong, Trump voters won't just say you're insulting him, they'll say you're insulting them.

It's hopeless. They can't be won back. We can't persuade them -- we have to outvote them.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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