I would like to respond to "pissy" attorney John Donegan's opinion piece concerning his difficulty reconciling what he calls the liberals' two caricatures of the Trump voters and conservatives in general: the deplorables and the 1 percent oligarchs ("Oh, those stoopid conservatives!" March 12). He writes that they are rarely mentioned at the same time, seemingly because few oligarchs live in shabby trailers in Appalachia. I am going to attempt to address this. And based on his definition of an "educated" person, I think I can, even though I learned my simple math in a public grade school, graduated debt free from a state college, and spent my spring breaks visiting family and friends in my hometown ... not the Caribbean.
From a position in the middle, without a strong emotional attachment to either the conservative or liberal philosophy, one can reconcile the Trump voters' duality. Trump voters I know don't label themselves as conservatives. Liberals I know don't think of all the Trump voters as knuckle-dragging conservatives. If they give them a political label other than "Trumpers," it is Republicans; after all Trump ran as a Republican, and the GOP machinery supports him.
Let's face it, the GOP body has two arms. The right arm consists of conservatives, whose grasping hand is the 1 percent clutching more and more of the economic pie. The remainder of the right arm is the rank-and-file who Donegan correctly believes the liberals see as intelligent, law-abiding, self-supporting taxpayers who don't need to be cared for by the government. Historically, both parts of this right arm shared many conservative principles: small government, state rights, balanced budget, free trade, a strong military. However, more recently, it seems to have dwindled down to the shared economic view focusing on lower tax rates and more tax loopholes. Their mantra, of trickle-down economics—a rising tide that lifts all boats; pull yourself up by the boot straps—is being chanted more and more frequently while standing on the backs of others.
When the conservative arm suffered a big time defeat with Barry Goldwater, who lost his bid for president in 1964, they knew they had to expand the ranks of the GOP. They focused on a culture war to do so, thus building up the other arm, the cultural arm, of the GOP. The civil rights movement and the Great Society brought the Dixiecrats on board. Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley launched the war by loosening his police force on the hippies and anti-war activists, followed shortly by the National Guard shooting of Kent State student protestors. Roe v. Wade stirred up the anti-abortion sentiments. Women's liberation let loose cries of "FemiNazis." Gay pride fueled more prejudice and caused foot dragging on the treatment for HIV. Sept. 11, 2001, brought out the Muslim haters. Increased gun violence in the streets and schools strengthen the influence of the NRA and its supporters. All of these movements added cultural war soldiers to the second arm of the GOP. And then, in 2008, just when we faced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, a black man was elected to the White House! OMG, the conservative senators threw a hissy fit, McConnell declared not to cooperate, and they sat on their hands for eight years.
This is the GOP that Donald Trump found in 2016, adding his strain of narcissism to the mix, making it more acceptable for the bedsheets, torches, and swastikas to come out from the bushes. He appealed to and brought on board a sector of the electorate whose economic situation was precarious: cost of living increasing, wages stagnating, and job security decreasing. He was cheered by people who felt ignored, put upon, beat down, and treated unfairly by the existing system. Trump promised to be their savior and they believed him.
The liberals don't view all Trump voters as mouth-breathing dimwits. They understand why many Trumpers would choose a populist leader, but why Trump? This is what the liberals don't get. To them, he is the most obvious con man and crook who has come down the pike in decades. This might be where the liberals contemptuous tone of voice arises. Strangers, maybe, but how could their own family and friends be taken in by this man? What are they getting out of this? If what they want is to stick their collective thumb in the eye of the government or wave their middle finger at the establishment, he does it. If they want someone to crap all over the norms and traditions of political life, he does that, too. Trump delivers the rhetoric to gain the support of cultural soldiers but provides little substance in return. Can't they see this? Don't they realize that all the economic goodies have been handed over to the conservative right arm of the GOP body?
Thus, the duality of the GOP. The rich and self-supporting party conservatives recruited soldiers of all stripes for their culture war. Donald Trump, the billionaire, con man, and perpetual liar, created a canteen where he could entertain the troops. He added Kool-Aid to the menu, placed neon flashing lights on the walls and on the roof. This way he can distract people both inside and out.
I could do hit a job on the libs/Dems too, but Donegan has done this already. Instead, if he is a man with truly conservative beliefs, not just a cultural recruit, I'd suggest he encourage his fellow travelers to start their own conservative movement. They may not be as politically strong but they might be more politically honest. Maybe even be a role model for the real liberals. Δ
Sharon Jones is self-quarantined with too much time on her hands. Send comments through the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org or write a letter for publication and email it to email@example.com.