CONSERVATIVES HAVE IT EASY: SO DOES TRUMP
The impeachment struggle is really over. The Republicans have won a victory. It is probably “pyrrhic”. Their victory will cause their party to lose in the long run. But having suppressed further embarrassing evidence and testimony, Republican senators will manage to keep the president in office. We now face nine months until the November election. It is probable that more embarrassing news will come out for the White House (certainly John Bolton’s book and in all probability, Trump’s long hidden tax returns). The Trump path to reelection may be more bumpy than it now appears.
If Donald Trump does manage to be reelected, his ability to do anything in office will depend on what happens in the Senate. With two exceptions every Republican, while scanning the evidence with somewhat less than withering fervency, will vote to let Donald Trump escape expulsion. Some of those Republicans will be running in districts where their impeachment vote may result in their having to leave all that comforting marble behind. Donald Trump could find himself facing a united Democratic Congress.
If recent history is any predictor, the president’s critics will continue to live in a kind of frustrated frenzy. Their frustration will relate to the fact that, not only may Trump survive but his rallying supporters seem more committed than ever. All those promises about reviving coal, cleaning up the “swamp” in Washington, even building at enormous cost, his Great Mexican Wall have come to nothing. His great tax reform was a gift to the supremely wealthy that those people at his rallies professed loudly to despise. So, on the face of it, his support should be fading away. It is not. It might be useful to think about why that is so.
Conservatives in American politics seem to have a built in advantage over those more liberal. They are not asking for change. They are not asking for anything. Voters are told that they should work hard, be honest, and should depend on the government for as little as possible. They should keep on doing what they have been doing.
Liberals imply that people must endure change. The climate is changing, we must prepare. Wealth is hugely unequal. Those disadvantaged need help. We, through our government, should come to their aid. Racial inequality is still built in. We should do something about it. Gay people are treated unfairly. If they want to marry each other we should accept that. Medical care is simply not available for many people. We should change our system so that medical care is available free to all.
Change is really hard for people. It is particularly difficult because individuals are usually surrounded by others who share the same views and values. Those values may make some of the changes liberals are asking for seem morally wrong. It is also really anxiety producing to know that any stated change of views may mean rejection by those in our personal world. It is always easiest to do nothing. Conservatives have it easy.
Donald Trump is not a traditional conservative and he only became a Republican to run for office. Traditional conservatives did try to learn the historical basis for their beliefs. They often did and do work hard. Good hearted self-restraint was and is a value. Donald Trump is hardly ever accused of good hearted self-restraint. Hardly ever! Donald Trump seems unlikely to learn beliefs from anyone else.
Now picture the people chanting at all those Trump rallies. They are certainly not being moved to traditional conservatism. The Donald doesn’t deal with any traditional truisms. He calls people insulting names and swears a lot. He doesn’t talk about anything in detail because there is a good chance that he doesn’t know much detail. He does insult the people that the crowd likes to hear insulted (they are still hard on poor Hillary). He talks a lot about his Great Mexican Wall (and fails to mention that less than two miles of it have been built). For the chanting crowd it is just really fun!
There are pretty obvious reasons why they continue to be supportive: Unlike the Democratic candidates, he isn’t asking them to do anything. They don’t have to know anything and no one is asking them to learn anything. Others will reopen the coal mines. Others will provide them with jobs and with higher pay. They can just chant.
They will hear the names of some symbolic things: They will hear about the Deep State. No one knows what the Deep State is. In fact the Deep State doesn’t exist (but by learning two syllables, they can talk about it). They will hear about the horrible liberals although other than a few political celebrities it will not be clear who they are. They will hear about socialism. They will be able to refer to the horrors of socialism without having to know what it is. Certainly no one will explain it at the rallies.
So, it is no wonder Trump voters are enthusiastic. They get to have fun. They get some words they can toss around. And they don’t have to learn anything new. They don’t have to worry about the future stress of change. With fewer foreign workers and industry coming back (provided by some one else; Donald Trump will see to it), the change they do face will reduce stress. Who would not be enthusiastic?
Donald Trump, the Republican’s only serious presidential candidate should not find it hard to hold his enthusiastic base. He will get the largest share of his votes from the sometimes reluctant support of many traditional voters who feel uncomfortable not voting for a Republican (The struggle among the rather diverse Democratic candidates campaigning for change is hardly designed to win them away.).
By promoting complex plans that require voters to face real potential change, the Democrats, are making their way forward more difficult. At least with his rally based followers, Trump will have it easy. More thoughtful voters may be a challenge!
H.J. Rishel 2/05/2020