Donald Trump’s campaign for President has brought out the worst in America. The real estate mogul has incited the type of anger and passion from some quarters of the citizenry that we have not seen publicly in the national electorate since the 1964 through 1980. Donald Trump is scaring the political establishment more than any candidate perhaps since William Jennings Bryan in 1896 and his supporters in many places are the craziest since George Wallace in 1968.
It’s become a common theme on social media among liberals, many of whom read this website to castigate Trump supporters as fringe elements, neo-fascists and ignorant. While this is certainly true of MANY Trump supporters it is not true of ALL supporters of the real estate mogul. In fact, I have spoken to multiple people I know and respect in recent days who are backing Trump. One of them cannot vote Tuesday because he is an NPA voter but the others are GOP primary voters in Florida.
The support for Trump is often related to two factors from those who don’t view race as the primary factor in their vote.
1- Trump is not a politician. The political parties and politicians have ruined America. This is similar to the types of voters we saw support Ross Perot in 1992 and to a lesser extent in 1996. In an era of extreme partisan polarization and nonstop noise thanks to the cable news channels, Trump represents something new and entirely different to these types of voters.
2- Free trade. This issue has the potential to hurt Democrats and while I think the views of many Trump AND Sanders on this issue are reactionary and ill-informed (I oppose agreements like NAFTA, etc but am not a protectionist – I suspect many Sanders and Trump voters ARE protectionists) it is a reality that is driving many voters toward Trump. Fear of China and the supposed job losses associated with that nation also drive some of these views.
No question exists though that Trump himself is inciting the Wallace/Reagan voter particularly in the South and rural Midwest to embrace a certain form of racism that is unhealthy for our country. But liberals who are after all at least in theory more tolerant than conservatives need to appreciate the other two reasons some voters have opted to support Trump at this point. To malign them all as racists or fascists makes liberals no different than conservatives with regards to tolerance and understanding the diversity of our country, while further encouraging Trump himself to attack those of us on the left as troublemakers and beatniks among other things. A distinction needs to be made between some Trump supporters and others.
Trump’s rhetoric is no doubt very dangerous but the concerns of many of his supporters are legitimate. It is critical as we seek to unite the country behind progressive governing that we liberals find a way to listen to those supporting Trump for reasons other than race or immigration. Unlike the GOP establishment we should be willing to comprehend and understand why such a mass movement has such a appeal and open discussion as to how we can win those concerned about the current state of American politics and the perceived imbalance in trade agreements over to our side.