Why are some people supporting Donald Trump for president? I think that most reasonable people recognize that there are many different reasons why someone might support Trump, although there does appear to be a sizable contingent on the left who have convinced themselves that anyone supporting Trump is doing so because of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and fascism. But if we set all that aside and actually listen to what the people who support Trump are saying, we just might learn something.
Take Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero), for example. He's been quite vocal in his support for Trump. Across a number of interviews (which can be found on YouTube), he's put forward a fascinating theory about the nature of Trump's support. His most startling point is that it has little to do with any of Trump's policy statements. While he says he supports Trump's plans to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and to fix the problems related to poor trade deals, he acknowledges that he does not expect Trump to accomplish much else. In fact, he seems to view this a positive.
According to Milo, many of the younger voters supporting Trump are not particularly interested in policy; they are drawn to Trump because they are putting cultural considerations ahead of policy. At the center of the cultural considerations Milo talks about is the classic liberal commitment to the free expression of ideas as our most important value. In this way, Trump's rise is a backlash to the last couple decades of political correctness, more recently to the behavior of social justice warriors, and even more recently to the regressive left's misguided approach to Islam. Many young people are fed up with the social media call-outs and public shaming that greet them when they express opinions that deviate from dogmatic multiculturalism, the efforts to inject social justice into their games and other entertainment media, and the elevation of feelings over facts.
When I watch interviews with Milo, I find myself agreeing with a relatively small proportion of what he says. This is exactly why I've watched so many of them lately. I don't know whether he's right about many younger Trump supporters being more interested in these cultural issues than they are in policy. If so, it seems like we would do well to listen. The mainstream news media often mentions "anti-establishment sentiment" in their election coverage; however, they seem to mean something fairly different by this than what Milo is talking about. If he's right, even partially so, it seems like we're missing an important part of why Trump is as popular as he is.
Initially, I thought there was an important flaw in Milo's theory because I kept thinking that nobody could reasonably expect a Trump victory to somehow end political correctness and all the rest of this. It isn't like a president can dictate culture even if he or she wanted to do so. I think I was being too literal here. It seems like Trump is more of a symbol. He's the antithesis of political correctness, dogmatic multiculturalism, radical feminism, social justice warriorism, Islamism, and the like. It is not that President Trump would snap his fingers and make all this stuff evaporate; it is that his election would signal that we'd had enough and that it was high time to start dismantling the more toxic aspects of these ideas.
The more I think about it, the more plausible Milo's theory is beginning to sound. When I was young, I wasn't all that interested in policies either. I was far more interested in the cultural issues that seemed to be in my face in a way that policies rarely did. At that time, the efforts at cultural oppression were coming mostly from the religious right, and so that was where most of my negative attention was focused. Today, such efforts seem to be more likely to come from the left.
I would have a difficult time voting for Trump because policy matters a great deal to me. Even if I can find some things to like about what he has to say on certain cultural issues, I believe that his policies would do more harm than good. That is more than enough to keep me from voting for him. If I found policy to be largely irrelevant and could put cultural considerations ahead of everything else, I might arrive at a different conclusion. So yes, I can imagine how some people could come to support Trump for president. In other words, interacting with ideas with which I largely disagree has made it easier for me to understand where others are coming from.