It is a sad but well-evidenced fact that people in politics, the press and other forms of public life often make harsh observations about large swaths of our population with little or no grounds for doing so. Witness, for example, Mitt Romney’s assessment that 47% of Americans are freeloaders, or Hillary Clinton’s characterization of nearly half of Americans as “deplorables.” None of us entirely escape this tendency. It is an essential part of our prejudices — that black people are inferior. that Muslims are anti-American, that Jews are somehow sinister. These are all common holdings, and these are all unfounded.
Recently the press has taken to making one of these unfounded characterizations about what they like to call Trump’s “base.” Using poll findings about people inclined to vote for Trump, the press announces that the “base” makes up 35-40% of the population. It then paints the entire group with a single brush, announcing that the entire group endorses Trump and everything that he has done, is doing and proposes to do. They are, the press concludes, therefore endorsing his racism, his sexism, his misogyny, his fondness for dictators, his dedication to the superrich, and, most devastating of all, his commitment to raw self-interest.
In doing this, the press makes several glaring mistakes. First, the people who did vote for, and may intend, at the moment, to vote for, Trump again, are a far more diverse group than those misguided folk at Trump’s rally chanting “SEND HER BACK!” People voted for Trump for a variety of reasons — religious (reverse Roe v. Wade), financial (cut taxes), or merely frustration (Hillary would be worse).
Secondly, many, many of these voters have motivations and ideals far removed from that small group of people who are as politically and morally depraved as Trump. I give you, as a clear example, Kronenwetter.
In the runup to the 2016 election, I volunteered to canvas for the Democratic party in north central Wisconsin. I was assigned to Kronenwetter, a suburb for the fairly substantial city of Wausau. The first person I approached was out cutting his lawn. I asked him if we could talk politics, and, with a welcoming smile, he said, “Sure, but I’m voting for Trump.” I was to hear that from virtually every person I approached. It was clear to me that the vast majority of the people of Kronenwetter were going to vote for Trump.
I got to make some other observations about these folks, however. They were friendly, thoughtful, willing to reason and discuss. They were family people with young children. Judging on the number of churches in the area, they were religious people. Their homes were modest, but it was clear that they did as much as they could to maintain those homes. They all indicated they would vote, and so they are obviously interested in the issues affecting their community.
In sum, these were folks with a substantial moral base. They care about their families and their communities, and their political issues reflect that care. They want what we all want — good education for their children, good health care for their families, good wages to provide for the basic needs of their families, with maybe a bit more for a boat or a vacation trip. They do not seek large fortunes, and they would never, ever undermine someone for their own profit.
They very likely voted for Trump because they felt they had no choice. They are also likely disgusted at the conduct and language of Trump. In sum, these are not the kind of people who show up at Trump rallies.
So it is a gross mischaracterization to say that 35-40% of our population endorse the conduct, and misconduct, of Donald Trump. It certainly shouldn’t include the good folks of Kronenwetter, and it is likely not to include suburban areas like Kronenwetter around the country. All those good folk, however, will be asking the same question when they go to vote that they asked in 2016 — which candidate will be best for my family and my community?
It is up to the Democrats how that question will be answered. If they do not put forth a candidate who addresses those questions in a way that meets the concerns of those families, those good people will very likely hold their noses and vote as they did in 2016.
The mobs that populate Trump’s rallies cannot even come close to having him reelected. It is the Democrats who have that power. Whatever else they do, they had better talk to the folks in Kronenwetter.