July 23, 2018

Continuing to Misunderstand Support for Trump

Serious Trump supporter (23418926494)
By Marc Nozell [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Henry Olsen opens his article, What liberals (still) get wrong about Trump's support, in The Guardian with the following:
Liberals and progressives are forever predicting Donald Trump’s political demise. After each purported outrage – Charlottesville, separating children from their immigrant parents, now Helsinki – they confidently contend that this latest event will finally force Trump’s supporters to abandon him. Yet not only does this not happen, Trump’s support has actually risen by 6% since late 2017. How do they keep getting it so wrong?
Good question. I'd say that it probably has something to do with the same sort of wishful thinking we see among religious believers. They really want support from Trump to decline, so they convince themselves that it will despite evidence to the contrary. Some prominent Republican politicians who have been willing to speak out against Trump; however, most Republicans continue to support him. There is little evidence that Trump's support among the Republican voters who elected him is eroding.

And despite liberal efforts to paint Trump supporters as outliers, racists, or whatever else helps to convince them that the entire 2016 election was just a fluke, Olsen notes just how ordinary most of those who voted for Trump were.
...more than 80% of his votes came from men and women who voted for Republican nominee Mitt Romney just four years before. This group contains the usual suspects among American Republicans: tax-cut advocates, religious evangelicals and Catholics, gun rights supporters and business types eager for deregulation. Trump has made sure to give each faction what they most desire just like any good politician would.
It looks like one of the main reasons Trump's support remains strong is that his supporters perceive him as delivering what they want. This shouldn't come as a surprise. We tend to like politicians who we perceive as working to advance our agenda. The key question for those who support Trump appears to be whether he does what they want. As long as he does, they are willing to overlook or forgive the things they don't like. That seems unlikely to change.

If Olsen is correct about Trump voters being motivated by "intense opposition to liberal views" in 2016, then we ought to brace ourselves for a repeat in 2020 because these voters will likely have even more to oppose.
The latest progressive cause célèbre is for eliminating America’s border enforcement agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice). One can be outraged at how Trump is enforcing America’s immigration laws without thinking that eliminating all border enforcement is a good idea. An idea like this keeps Republicans united in their support for Trump as it clearly shows how unacceptable the alternative is.
I agree. One can be opposed to the manner in which the Trump administration is enforcing our immigration laws and still believe that border security and enforcement are valuable. The calls to abolish ICE are precisely the sort of thing the right will use to motivate their voters to show up.