Recently, a noted psychiatrist made a profound observation. It was not proper, he said, to describe Donald Trump as mentally ill. Call him crooked or ignorant or self-absorbed, but these are not characterizations of mental illness. The truly mentally ill are not defined by these characteristics. Therefore, he concluded, to call Donald Trump mentally ill is an insult to those who are truly mentally ill.
There is a truth here even beyond its own startling acute application to the mentally ill. Political reporters constantly refer to Donald Trump’s base, and they all imply that the people included in this base are in lock step with whatever Trump says or does. This, I put to you, is an insult to the people generally characterized as being in “the base.”
Take, for instance, the people of Alabama. Much of the reporting on the recent senatorial election seemed to assume that those who voted for the much maligned Roy Moore did so because they were simply and blindly following the recommendation of their demi-god, Donald Trump. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We really are a confederation of states, and the people of each state tend to share a certain character. Each state even tends to share its character with its neighbors. Think, for instance, of the character of the states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, or the character of Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. The people of these states are. with remarkably few exceptions, good and caring and decent folk, wanting only to have meaningful live and to live those lives and raise their families in relative comfort and safety. The differences in character among these states really differ only in the means by which those ends are best achieved. Those means are chosen for various reasons — philosophical, political, religious, historical, etc. Whatever their source, these determinations constitute the character that defines a state like Alabama. The good people of Alabama vote for one candidate or another, not because they follow some individual but because the candidate they choose is most likely to promote the policies that most comport with their character.
So, for instance, that large minority of people who did vote for Roy Moore likely did so despite, rather than because of, that sick man’s deviant conduct. He would, for instance, oppose a woman’s choice to have an abortion, and the majority of Alabamians share that opposition on the admirable grounds that they hold all life sacred. There are, equally, solid moral grounds for virtually all of the determinations that make up the character of Alabama and of each of the states.
The simple point here is that this “base” that liberals so much enjoy caricaturing is every bit as grounded in moral commitment as these liberals who claim to define themselves by such commitment. It is an outrageous insult to the people we typically cast as the “base” to claim that they are blindly committed to such an outrageous aberration as Donald Trump.
We will recover from the devastation Trump is causing, and we will return to our commitment to the American ideals from which he has caused to stray. But we can only do this if we stop viewing those with differing views in cartoon fashion and deal with all of our sisters and brothers as just that, brothers and sisters, and incorporate all views in fashioning American policy.