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Why Trump Voters Don’t Care about Russia

July 19, 2018


Trump’s disastrous European trip culminating in his ritual humiliation in Helsinki doesn’t seem to have put a dent in his support base. Here’s my theory about why not: His base despises the US government and is in full rebellion against it, and they believe Trump is leading a revolution that is on the verge of triumph. The fact that he gets foreign support from someone like Putin doesn’t make them angry. Most of them refuse to believe it, and the others either don’t care or actually welcome it. In no way does it affect their loyalty to Trump because he is doing what they want him to do, which is to destroy and replace the government of the United States.

To make an historical analogy: If Trump’s base believes that the US government is a tyrannical King George III, then they have no problem with accepting help for their rebellion from Louis XVI. The Revolutionary War parallel isn’t far-fetched–after all, the Republican radicals named themselves the Tea Party.

Violent resistance by groups who oppose what the central government is trying to force them to do is an integral part of American history. The most obvious example is the Civil War, but other less well-remembered insurrections go back even before independence. The main reason gun-rights advocates want to keep their arsenals is because they fear the US government.

Our current rebellion parallels the 19th century Civil War in several important ways:

  • It is regional–now it’s rural vs. urban, insular heartland vs. the cosmopolitan coasts.
  • It is fundamentally racist in its origins and expressions.
  • It is an older economy vs. a new one.
  • It pits radical individual freedoms against equality and the common welfare.
  • It enlists cultural prejudices and resentments of the many in service of economic benefits to the few.

What wasn’t present in the first Civil War was today’s sharp religious divide with Christian evangelicals in rebellion against a secular urban society and the constitutional separation of church and state. The fact that Trump’s cynical embrace of the Christian right is transparently false doesn’t matter. He does what they want, so they believe in him.

Another difference is a vast and well-funded propaganda machine that incessantly spouts a unified reactionary message. Fox News is unapologetically partisan and propagandistic, unlike most other television news organizations which still feel obligated to present a “on the one hand, on the other hand” version of events, making them essentially irrelevant. Local newspapers, which once presented a variety of viewpoints, are dead or dying, and local TV is overwhelmingly under control of Sinclair, which broadcasts a political message virtually identical to Fox News. Then there is the unrelenting background noise of conservative talk radio which amplifies the same message, validates proven falsehoods, and invents new conspiracy theories. People in Trumpland don’t read the New York Times or the Washington Post. They simply don’t hear an opposing message. They have had drummed into their ears for 40 years that the federal government is the problem, and they are no longer loyal to the America that it represents.

For them, the US government keeps imposing things that they hate, and the resistance changes strategy and tactics but never ceases. Desegregation, enforced school integration, civil rights for minorities, progressive taxation to counter income inequality and provide programs to help the “undeserving” poor, affirmative action, gay marriage, equal housing laws, voting rights for minorities, environmental regulations, immigration rules that are making white Americans a minority in their “own” country–the list goes on and on. The resistance has fought each of these in every possible way, but the election of a black president galvanized it into a rebellion as nothing else did before.

All that the reactionary revolution lacked was a charismatic demagogue, and now they have their hero in Donald Trump. For his followers, he can do no wrong. Attacking the free press? They deserve it because it’s fake news. Serial adultery? No problem. Corruption? No problem. Trade wars that hurt American industries and agriculture? His heart is in the right place. Locking up and deporting immigrants and taking away their kids? So what, they’re not white and we don’t want them here anyway. Collusion with Russia? Not true, but even if it is we don’t care because he’s our savior. Nothing matters. We believe.

TrumpWorld is a cult, and cult members will die for their beliefs.

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