So where are they?
Donald Trump has been taking our nation by storm, driving nearly unopposed to the Republican presidential nomination, and I can honestly say I only know of one Trump supporter in Athens County.
And he’s a wonderful human being, an older gentleman (well, older than I am), and one of my favorite local people.
Don’t get me wrong. I know a lot more than one Trump supporter hereabouts; I just don’t know who they are. Either I’m not asking or they’re not telling.
Plus, I do have a pretty good idea, in general, who Trump supporters are. Polling and demographic studies paint a detailed picture of Americans who are supporting this renegade Republican. The presidential Primary Election results for Athens County also fill out the picture.
They’re by and large white working-class Americans for whom this country’s economy hasn’t been doing any favors over the past 30 years. They feel left behind in regions that have lost a huge segment of manufacturing jobs, and not been able to replace them with anything. They feel resentment at demographic changes in this country, and blame minorities, foreigners, environmentalists, corporate elites, establishment conservatives, establishment liberals and the mainstream news media, among many others, for this country’s troubles.
They despise international trade agreements because inevitably, while trade deals like NAFTA and TPP may provide more net benefits to the nation and its economy (why do you think all that Walmart stuff is so cheap?), they haven’t provided many jobs in the places where Trump supporters are most likely to live. These are areas such as the Ohio Valley, Appalachia and industrial cities in the Northeast, where foreign competition and unions that over-played their hands conspired to drive away manufacturing, starting in the early 1980s. Nothing much came to revitalize those economies, though the recent deep-shale oil-and-gas boom has made a pretty good stab at it in some of these chronically depressed areas.
Many people and their leaders in these areas long ago reluctantly accepted a tradeoff between the quality of their air and water and local jobs. They’d tolerate a small bit of the former if it meant more of the latter. And if these folks are willing to accept the risk of toxic air and water in their own communities, or don't have much choice, persuading them they should be concerned about the impacts of climate change in other parts of the world is not just a hard sell; it’s an impossible one.
So if you’re curious about where Trump supporters live, it’s right here. If not in “the Republic of Athens” itself, then the rest of southeast Ohio, including the northern part of Athens County, is prime Trump territory. In a lot of ways, most of them good, Appalachian Ohio is closer in character and attitude to West Virginia – the state where Trump enjoys the highest proportion of support – than to the rest of Ohio.
In an article for The New York Times’ data-driven “Upshot” column on Dec. 31, Nate Cohn described the type of people who tend to support Donald Trump:
“His very best voters are self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats. It’s a coalition that’s concentrated in the South, Appalachia and the industrial North, according to data provided to ‘The Upshot’ by Civis Analytics, a Democratic data firm.”
SO WHY SHOULDN’T PEOPLE who feel they’ve been screwed by leaders in both political parties over the past two or three decades support Donald Trump for president? If he can make a good case for “making America great again,” they shouldn’t have to apologize, right?
That’s correct; they shouldn’t… except that there’s a lot more to Trump than promising an economic rebirth through trade protectionism, mass deportation of undocumented Mexicans, lower taxes, and a dismantling of regulation.
He also is a cheerleader for racism, sexism and bullying nationalism. Next to Trump’s extensively verified exaggerations and lies, Hillary Clinton is a Girl Scout (though brainwashed FOX News junkies might disagree with that).
Perhaps the scariest aspect of this candidate is his recklessness and unpredictability. He’s prone to do anything, and has shown no indication of being able to control his words or actions, or in fact, wanting to control them.
What a terrifying prospect for the leader of the free world – a vulgar, bellicose, lying bully who thinks nothing of slandering, threatening and scapegoating his critics and enemies, who interprets the law and Constitution any way he wants, who isn’t likely to listen to anybody, and who is only consistent in his unpredictability. His ego is so massive that he never stops to think before saying anything, and so far, incredibly, that has worked for him.
Despite all this, Trump is a superhero to his supporters because he pushes all the right buttons while promising to make America great again.
It’s no longer necessary to compare Trump’s rise to Germany in the early ’30s. The similarities are obvious, and pooh-poohing the notion that Trump would exterminate six million people or start a Third World War doesn’t make the comparison go away. Ten thousand orders of magnitude less than the horrors of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany is still something to avoid at all costs.
I will have to give Donald Trump props for one thing. In their respective revulsion of this candidate, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats have reached agreement. I’ve even heard movement conservatives admit they’d vote for their anti-Christ, Hillary Clinton, over Donald Trump.
Now that’s saying something.