I normally only post links to my new blog articles on Facebook group pages where I know that they will be well received by friendly audiences. I make only one exception to that practice. I also post links on one Facebook group page which is frequented by both Trump supporters and people who can’t stand Trump. Often the resulting interface between these two groups of people is interesting, but what I find most enlightening is the responses of the Trump supporters.
Some of you may have read my recent blog article, “The Noose is Tightening on Trump and His Gang” That opinion piece covered the meeting which Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort had with a Russian lawyer (and what we have since learned was three other Russians and a translator). In that article I pointed out that, based only on the email string which was used to set up the meeting (we don’t know what occurred during the meeting itself), we can be sure the Donald Jr., Kushner and Manafort were at minimum receptive, even anxious, to embrace Russian meddling in our election process as long as that interference hurt Hillary Clinton and helped Donald Trump.
What was very interesting was the response to my post containing the link to that article on the mixed group page. One person posted a picture of a “nothing burger”, a drawing of a couple of hamburger buns with the words, “Nothing Burger” between them. That was followed by post by another individual with a very similar drawing. I assume that these responses signified that the Don Jr. story had a level of credibility one up from “fake news” which would have surely been the reply had the New York Times rather than Don Jr. himself initially released the email string.
Cute! I was amused and eager to engage in a “dialog” with these two individuals. When I responded with something along the lines of , “How could you possibly not believe that the email itself shows at least that top level Trump campaign staffers were eager to use whatever damaging information the Russians were able to provide?” Their responses were something along the lines or, “You’re assuming things that aren’t really present in the emails”. However, when I responded with a detailed explanation of how the lines in the emails could not be interpreted any other way, the other two individuals failed to respond. This behavior proved to me that they would rather live in their own rationalized little world than deal with the truth of the situation.
While there are indications that Trump’s base of support has been slowly eroding – see Nate Silver’s article on his FiveThirtyEight website, “Donald Trump’s Base Is Shrinking” – many of us are still astounded that a sizable portion of the population still supports Donald Trump despite everything that has occurred during his first six months in office.
A weighted average of the all recent polls on the 538 site shows Trump with a 39.1% job approval rating while 55.3% disapprove. That is approaching a record low for a President anytime in his first term, but it is very difficult for many of us to believe that 4 of 10 American voters still support him. A Gallop poll taken after the Don Jr. story was released shows only a 2% change from the same poll taken before the story hit the headlines.
Why, pray tell, are Trump’s supporters not beginning to abandon him in droves? I am convinced that these people simply don’t want to believe all of the negative revelations about Trump and his campaign and White House staff. They want all of this bad news to go away and they are willing and able to rationalize just about anything that would force them to face the truth. The reasons for this are varied and differ from one group of Trump supporters to next.
Evangelicals are willing to overlook the non-Christian and non-patriotic aspects of Trumps behavior as long he supports their goals of a very conservative Supreme Court, a relaxation of the separation of church and state, de-funding of Planned Parenthood, etc. Others who have grown to hate the Washington establishment relish Trump’s role as a disruptor. Traditional Republicans have had the hardest time maintaining a positive view of Trump, but those still in his camp recognize that he is essential to accomplishing their conservative agenda.
What is interesting is how Trump supporters go about turning a blind eye to the attitudes and behavior of Trump and his closest disciples. Evangelicals have fallen back on the rational suggested by their religious leaders on their websites who point out biblical examples of God doing his work though “less than perfect people”.
Conservative talk show hosts have sent a large percentage of their time on the air over the years railing against the liberal main stream media and they have a huge number of followers in the Trump camp. This widely held opinion among conservatives accounts for the popularity of Fox News. Trump has catered to this attitude by explaining away any negative stories about him as the inventions of the very unfriendly media and summing up this rational with the expression, “fake news”. (Never mind that we all know the media would relish going after a Democratic President in Trump’s position just as hard.)
Then, when the veracity of a damaging story cannot be questioned, Trump’s supporters fall back on rationalizing their continued support by refusing to believe that the story has any significance. Here you will encounter another term which Trump’s media team made popular among their base – they will call it a “nothing burger”.
Trump supporters are to a large extent able to rationalize in this manner because most of them are basically not very well informed. They depend on opinion leaders to guide them on how to view the world. If their opinion leaders, such as their favorite talk show hosts, step forth and disingenuously label a news story as “fake news’ or a “nothing burger”, that good enough for them. They darn sure don’t want to hear from us how the facts don’t support their beliefs.
One thing that can be said of Trump and his team; they understand their base. They thoroughly understand their tendencies and their thought processes. And they know how to use that information when communicating with them in order to ensure their continued support. Trump supporters want with all of their hearts to continue to support him for whatever reason and are willing and able to rationalize almost anything to continue that support.
Will this situation change? In my opinion, it will not change anytime soon. Only when the Republican leaders that these people respect (and they don’t respect all Republican leaders) and/or their favorite talk hosts, turn against Trump, will his most avid supporters start to have a change of heart. However, that is not likely to any time soon. While less than 40% of American voters support Trump, Republican Senators and Representatives in red states fully understand that those voters still make up a large majority of the Republican voters in their home districts or states.
These politicians know that they can’t afford to rile those people up by coming out against Trump if they expect to win the Republican nomination in their next election. Conservative talk show hosts have the same problem if they want to maintain their audience share.
So it is a chicken and egg situation. Trump’s base will continue to be loyal to Trump at least until their opinion leaders turn against him, and maybe not even then. At the same time the opinion leaders will not turn against Trump until his base starts to desert him. So the tendency of this situation is to remain stable with only minor changes around the edges over time. This will be true especially if Trump continues to play to his base even at the expense of his popularity with the rest of the population.
In summery Trump’s supporters not only don’t want to believe anything negative about Trump, they don’t even want to hear it. They are the personification of Trump’s three little monkeys; they want to see no evil, to hear no evil, and to speak no evil about Trump.