• Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 12/1/20

Good morning, The election has entered the end game. We now have resources being devoted to the transition, state certifications are being completed in a timely manner, over 30 cases in the bogus “massive voter fraud” conspiracy have been dismissed or withdrawn, and we now await delivery of the elector lists a week from today and the December 14 Electoral College vote. While we will have plenty of time to dissect exactly what our country has been through these past four years, it all begs the question many of us have been asking… HOW CAN 72 MILLION PEOPLE POSSIBLY BE ENAMORED WITH THIS PRESIDENT? How, exactly, can so many people willfully disregard the lies, ineptitude, vile comments, and erratic behaviors of this president and still vote for him? This is a serious question. It is not a satisfactory answer that everyone was brainwashed or that they're all racists. Certainly there are the radical right and unpersuadable partisans. But we need to figure out what animated so many people to vote for him after the lessons of the last four years and figure out how to address their concerns. I’d suggest there are several “voting blocs” that caused this election to be so much closer than many of us imagined and several have little to do with Mr. Trump. A number of their concerns deserve to be heeded:

  • The one-issue anti-abortion voter. This is the most intractable of all problems facing our society. If we assume the sincere beliefs of anti-abortion voters are deeply held—that abortion of a nascent human being is akin to murder—and if they believe that preventing the murder of innocents is the most important policy objective in their world view, how can we expect that this group ever will vote for anyone who condones a woman’s right to choose above the rights of the fetus?

  • Voting one’s own pocketbook. There, I said it. There is a significant segment of the population that simply doesn’t want their taxes to go up. They don’t even want the poorly-conceived, horribly one-sided and ineffective Trump tax cuts to be reversed. This position as actually non-self-serving. If one doesn’t acquiesce to reasonable changes to the tax system now, one invites overreach when it finally happens.

  • He loves Israel. The Jewish voting bloc is small and has been reliably liberal since the days of FDR and the New Deal. But there is a small segment that sees Trump’s unqualified embrace of Netanyahu and the settlements as proof of his love. The evangelical voters are similarly fired-up by this full-throated commitment to the policies of Likud. That they can’t see that Trump is, above all, transactional and not ideological in his stances, and that these policies may actually be harmful in the long runm does not enter into their calculus. More next week…

  • Giving Trump credit for the stimulus package. President Trump did a great job of spinning the earlier stimulus cuts as his gift to the unemployed and underemployed. Forget that he and his Republican Senatorial allies have spent the last several months fighting against further stimulus payments. The Democrats failed to take appropriate credit and failed horribly to articulate that the President and his allies stood in the way of continuing stimulus checks. Curiously, I recently learned that federal food program packages were stuffed with “personal” letters to the recipients from the Glorious Leader (something highly irregular and bucking with traditions and norms). He is excellent at taking credit.

  • The disaffected. There still is an enormous of swathe of America that is part of the bloc that originally elected Mr. Trump, whose feelings of grievance and alienation propels them to support his rhetoric to tear the system down and to right the wrongs of federal largesse to help others in need (particularly those described as from the “inner city”).

  • Law and order. Some believe the President is all that stands between us and total anarchy. He continued to stoke the right-wing resistance and overstate the vandalism associated with Black Lives Matter protests. There needs to be better messaging over just how much lawlessness there may have been and the perpetrators of these actions. The narrative instead has been shaped by the president and his allies, who tried to use racial conflict as a campaign tool. While most of us can see the dangers in his pronouncements, there are many who bought into notion that only he could control the burning down of cities and rampant crime. This narrative—that only the leader can keep you safe—has kept many a despot in power far beyond their shelf life.

  • The Second Amendment. There is a segment of the population that fears their guns will be taken away. Regardless of the misreading of the Second Amendment, those who want serious controls that do not threaten general gun ownership will need to present concrete proposals to break this group off of slavish support of those who purport to want to "save the Constitution."

  • Fear of Communism/socialism. Rampant in Trump-circles on Facebook and Twitter and in the right-wing media is the notion that Trump is all that stands between us and unfettered socialism and the death of the American experiment. These people fail to realize we already are a mixed economy. They also fail to concede that the “free hand” of the market still needs rules and regulations in order to make it fair. And then there are people who have come from Communist countries who vote based upon “right versus left,” such as segments of the Cuban-American population.

  • Backlash to political correctness. I think there are many people who see the rush to create new descriptive nouns and impose newspeak that takes out any semblance of offense as overreach. Is it “homeless? “Houseless”? The “unhoused”? The “housing deprived”? Whatever we call them, they need to be housed. I also believe that people are tired of being told they are racist and/or intolerant as the entry point for any dialog at addressing societal injustices. It would behoove us to return to the discussion of solutions and turn back (at least a bit) from semantics and the labeling of others in ways they find offensive (even if in some cases it is true). Plus, free speech needs to be protected everywhere—including on college campuses. We can’t continue to have speakers whose views we might question be shouted down.

  • Climate change deniers, mask deniers, and other patriotic individualists. There is a significant group of folks who simply don’t think they should be told what to do. Yet they wear seatbelts and (at least so far) don’t murder their neighbors. If we had a president and an administration that circulated definitive advice and helpful information of experts in support of safety, science, and facts, it would help. But in the meantime, people don’t like being told what to do and seize upon the president’s words to support their “rugged individualism” and their “choices.”

WHERE IS THE LINE IN THE SAND? I’m sure there are other reason why people voted for this charlatan. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they find the president vile, offensive, juvenile, ego-maniacal, etc. But in the same breath they say, “but I like some of his policies.” As Lauren told me over a year ago, everyone has their line in the sand that they believe a president shouldn’t cross and the dangers caused by these breaches should be enough to reject him. It’s fair to state that he has crossed a former inviolate line or another for virtually everyone. I think people will overlook nearly everything because he makes people feel like they are doing better. And that he cares for them. Even though they aren’t and he doesn’t. We will read a lot about the Trump phenomenon in coming months and years, but in the meantime we have some hard work ahead to speak to the people who supported him and to work with them so that important compromises on a variety of fronts can be achieved. Glenn

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