2016-12-21

They Love Trump Because You Hate Him

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Tim Widowfield

The French smoke because Americans don’t. Or at least that’s what they used to tell us, only partly joking. But nobody would injure himself just to spite someone else, would he? Seems unlikely.

But if you skim the web looking for reasons why people smoke, beyond the typical reason (they enjoy it), you’ll find a surprising number say that they do it because they know it’s bad. If it annoys others, then so much the better. In a world where people have precious little control over their own lives, smoking can become an act of individuality and rebellion.

In the first episode of True Detective, Rustin “Rust” Cohle asks for “a sixer o’ Old Milwaukee or Lone Star, nothin’ snooty.”

 

When I heard him say that, I immediately thought, “I know this guy.” I grew up when mainstream beers in the U.S. were pretty tolerable. Did they become more watered-down and more bitter over the past few decades? I would argue that they did. Some of the low-calorie beers that people drink by the gallon every weekend barely taste like beer to me.

Just the fact I admitted publicly that I hate cheap American beer shows that I’m outside of Rust’s circle. Only a fool would pay more than he needs to to get drunk. Only a snob would ask the bartender, “What’s on draft?” Authentic people see value in bad beer, bad coffee, and gummy white bread.

That’s one of the keys to unlocking the mystery behind Donald Trump’s winning the presidency. If you didn’t vote for him, you can probably rattle off a hundred reasons why you think he’ll be a disaster. You may even be in the middle of “explaining it” to somebody on Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit right now. Or maybe you’re laying out your case in an strongly worded email email to an uncle who doesn’t have the good sense to keep his racist comments to himself.

I’m not going to tell you to stop what you’re doing, but you should know that nothing you say will help. Do you think people don’t know by now that smoking is dangerous? Or that not wearing a seat belt could kill them someday? They know perfectly well, and yet you have the nerve to lecture them as if they were ignorant.

You’re making the same mistake liberals and educated elites keep making over and over. Remember the old taste-test commercials that asked consumers to compare Coke and Pepsi? They almost always picked the taste of Pepsi, but did they change brands? Of course not. Coca-Cola lost millions if not billions of dollars changing its formula to taste more like the competition. It was a disaster.

People remain loyal to Coke because it is Coke, and because the acts of buying, holding, and drinking a mass-produced bottle of sugar-water are identifying characteristics. People don’t choose brands for rational reasons. They don’t compare features by plunking numbers into a spreadsheet. They identify with brands.

Rust doesn’t just drink Lone Star. He is a man who is a Lone Star drinker.

They identify not only with their products, but with others who do as well. The guys out on the loading dock, huddled together, smoking their Marlboro cigarettes — they’re being individuals, together. They’re showing defiance of the dominant culture by forming a subculture. Do they care that they’ve surrendered their individuality to the subculture? Of course not, because they’re being “authentic.” As they see it, they’re being true to themselves.

And they differentiate themselves against the over-educated elites who care about frivolous things and worry excessively about their own health. They, on the other hand, are “keeping it real.”

The marketplace of ideas is no different. You keep throwing out numbers explaining why universal coverage under a single-payer system like Medicare for All costs less than our spotty private system based on profit. They don’t care about your numbers, because the government (which they hate) being in charge of anything sounds like the worst idea ever. And besides, the authority figures with whom they identify are against it.

You know why else they hate Medicare for All (which they immediately translate in their minds to “government-run healthcare”)? Because you like it. If your first inclination there was to try explain why it’s cheaper and provides better outcomes, you are not listening. They don’t care about your so-called facts.

I’ll say it again. They know the current system is terrible. But the very fact that liberal elites want to do something about it is enough to sour them on the idea. For as much as they identify with their tribes and their authority figures in the media, they identify just as strongly with their distrust and hatred of “liars in mainstream liberal media,” “eggheads in universities,” and “bleeding hearts in government.” They savor their hatred and love to see their enemies fail.

So when you post memes about Trump’s bankruptcies, infidelities, mistakes, foolish statements, or his links to white supremacists, you are giving them fuel. When you sound the alarm, they laugh. When you admit that you’re depressed, they feel nothing but warm joy inside.

They love him because you hate him.

31 Comments

  • Andrew Lucas
    2016-12-21 00:19:28 UTC - 00:19 | Permalink

    Thanks Tim. You’re right. I’m following a discussion on FB right now that I haven’t contributed to for this very reason (not about Trump, but in a similar Australian context). Nothing I say will affect anyone’s thinking, so I just stay out of it. If I think a certain outcome is a no-brainer because it’s reasonable, I know now that I am out of touch with many Australians who just hate everything to do with the Government. Over on Twitter, people I follow regard the Government as intentionally evil and the Labor Opposition as sell-outs. All I can do is shut up and vote according to my own reasoning when given the opportunity to do so.

    • Tim Widowfield
      2016-12-21 01:07:26 UTC - 01:07 | Permalink

      At some time or other we’re all guilty of discarding evidence for our gut feelings. But for the true-believing Trumpsters, evidence and rationality never enter into it. So my advice to those who oppose them would be the same as Thomas Paine’s — to remind them that trying to convince them through a structured argument is “like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.”

      • ellen1910
        2016-12-21 19:33:43 UTC - 19:33 | Permalink

        I’d like to add “Like A Rock” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keIvA2wSPZc] and a hundred Chevy Truck ads.

  • Tige Gibson
    2016-12-21 01:38:40 UTC - 01:38 | Permalink

    If it takes 60 million lives so that Trump shoots himself in a bunker all of them will either be silent or pretend they didn’t know.

  • Proctor S. Burress
    2016-12-21 02:10:00 UTC - 02:10 | Permalink

    Wrong! Reasoning here is a product of a contrarian mind if not one that has descended into a twisted pool of distorted interpretations of a personality that is socially in the middle of a continuum between narsiscism and sociopathy.

    Here we have a true immoral man in a moral…morally confused…society who wears values as a suit of clothes for his advantage and always has.

    Of course, people are economically hurting and identify with his wealth while willingly setting aside the moral values that allows some of us to moderately prosper in a bizarre and destructively competitive world…as they see some advantages that out weighs their moral convictions.

    Those evangelical convictions are being set aside signaling the slow death of American evangelical Christianity born as it was in the early 20th century.

    Most observers would not have thought 81 percent of us would have over looked our values for the slick manuvers of a man whose achievements/identity are those of a gambling impressario!

    • Tim Widowfield
      2016-12-21 16:37:42 UTC - 16:37 | Permalink

      Proctor wrote: “Most observers would not have thought 81 percent of us would have over looked our values for the slick maneuvers of a man whose achievements/identity are those of a gambling impresario!”

      Really? I grew up with these people. I remember how they reacted when ministers and traveling evangelists were caught with drugs or the wives of friends or underage girls or prostitutes or — you name it. If it suits their purposes, the well of forgiveness is boundless.

      The love their authority figures. They worship the strong man as a manifestation of their testosterone-fill god.

      I was surprised the percentage wasn’t more like 90.

      • Proctor S. Burress
        2016-12-21 22:16:36 UTC - 22:16 | Permalink

        So you put them all down? Not like a person who really grew up with them…or anything like a good sample. Over the top and distorted IMO.

        Many Nazarenes, Church of God, Free Will Methodists, etc do not fit this ill considered rant…not unlike DT sad to say.

        People with advanced degress ought to sample more widely.

        • Tim Widowfield
          2016-12-21 23:30:38 UTC - 23:30 | Permalink

          Well, obviously I was wrong, as was already demonstrated. I fully admitted that I expected 90 percent of white evangelicals to vote for Trump, and it was only 81.

          Live and learn.

          • Proctor S. Burress
            2016-12-22 18:41:06 UTC - 18:41 | Permalink

            Check out the people who have a better handle on the stats!

  • Alif
    2016-12-21 10:13:43 UTC - 10:13 | Permalink

    “Did they become more watered-down and more bitter over the past few decades? I would argue that they did.”

    Why do I find myself rejecting this grammar and correcting such sentences to

    “Have they become more watered-down and more bitter over the past few decades? I would argues that they have.”

    Yes, Trump is the anti-hero, anti-establishment figure- whose grammar and syntax are even worse than yours!

    • Tim Widowfield
      2016-12-21 14:44:34 UTC - 14:44 | Permalink

      Alif: “I would argues that they have.”

      I could learns so much from you. Please tells me more.

  • 2016-12-21 16:00:28 UTC - 16:00 | Permalink

    This is the phenomenon of polarization, and I think it shows that Trump can be explained by 9/11.

    At that point, we were all one. Everyone felt together. We all went to the right, not just because Bush was president but because when a nation is attacked, everyone moves towards right-wing nationalism.

    But Liberals got over it. We realized it was only a small percentage of Muslims who were willing to die to kill us. So we resisted the Iraq War. And that was what was so unforgivable. We chose “The Ones Who Attacked Us” over Daddy President.

    Republicans will deny it now. But that’s because 72% of the population was for the Iraq War and now 71% are now against it. Sigmund Freud said that all of our actions are based on a single event from our past that defined us but that is so deeply repressed we have no memory of it, and for Republicans, that repressed memory is Iraq.

    But that’s what caused the polarization. They will say it’s over economics or abortion or whatever, but what really drives the culture war is ACTUAL WAR. What caused the culture war in the 60s? Vietnam. What caused the culture war of the 2000s? Iraq.

    I was just arguing with a Republican over Vietnam. He served in Vietnam himself but he was trying to act like “Democrats” had started the war, as if the culture war was Right-Wing Hippies vs. Left-Wing Patriots. Yes, of course, Kennedy and Johnson started the war, but Nixon is the one who killed Johnson’s peace deal and kept it going past the point when we knew there was no such thing as winning. It’s the same mentality as Republicans blaming Hillary for Iraq when they were the ones pushing it long after everyone knew there was no such thing as winning that one as well. They’re in full denial because it’s been repressed.

    It’s this polarization that has caused the Right to hate the Left so much, they will take Anyone or Anything over Liberalism. It’s like Trump is a used car salesman who convinces your elderly Dad to go in one some pyramid scheme and we’re trying to tell him, “Can’t you see what an obvious flim-flam man he is? Are you really that blind?!?” But Dad distrusts us so much that he chooses the used car salesman. And that’s what is driving the frustration on the Left.

    There was no al-Qaida in Iraq before we attacked Iraq. Now there is al-Qaida in Iraq but have mostly been abandoned for ISIS because al-Qaida was too soft. There was no worldwide Islamic terrorist organization bent on destroying America before 9/11. Now there are tons of them. On 9/11, we were attacked by some tiny rebel group fighting over whatever goat-herding scraps you can find in the mountains of fucking Afghanistan, the toilet bowl of the world. But thanks to our over-reaction, they got millions of rich, smarts Muslims around the world to join their side and now they are a major world force constantly pulling off major attacks all the time. Muslims were polarized against us and now there are a lot MORE Muslims who fit the stereotype of violent hate-filled men who want to destroy America. That causes more terrorism which in turn means there are more Americans who believe there are no good Muslims so they call for more death and destruction on Muslim lands, which causes more anti-American reactions.

    The Republicans who are not part of the alt-right but defend the normalization of racist politics also helps contribute to the polarization of people by skin color. White Republicans call for stricter drug laws, which puts blacks in jail longer, ensuring their kids grow up without a parent and become more likely to follow suit. More stop-and-frisks means blacks become more angry at whites for having to constantly undergo discrimination. More white flight and Republican gerrymandering of districts means blacks end up being represented in government less and end up paying more money for crappier housing, which leads to ghetto life, which leads to more white flight and more Republicans winning elections to do more gerrymandering.

    Polarization was also the point I was trying to make about Iraq. Liberals are trying to say that the reason nothing hurt Trump was because whites are feeling the economic pain and blaming it on race. That’s true to an extent. Just look at Greece where an economic crash led to the Neo-Nazi Rising Dawn party coming up. Brexit follows the same kind of phenomenon. But I think the better explanation is that it’s just a continuation of the polarization that came with 9/11 and the Iraq War. 99% of the people were behind Bush after 9/11, then the Far Left, about 25%, rebelled against Bush when he went to Iraq. That became the New Vietnam, polarizing the Left and Right just like Vietnam polarized Red Scare Neo-Conservatives and Hippie Liberals. Now 75% of the people are against Iraq, but it doesn’t even matter. 12 years ago, every Republican would have agreed the number one reason Liberals suck is because they were cowardly Frenchmen who were against the war. Now Trump won the election after blaming the Iraq War on Hillary. So the reason changed, but the polarization remained. Absolutely nothing would make a Republican vote for a Democrat or a Democrat to vote for a Republican because the two parties are just too far apart now. Looking at the voting statistics, there was virtually no voters whatsoever that mixed their votes between Republicans and Democrats. Before the Iraq War, it happened all the time. That shows the reason: polarization.

    • 2016-12-21 16:54:15 UTC - 16:54 | Permalink

      I apologize for the potty mouth. Couldn’t edit it after I posted. You can edit it out if you want.

      Jeff Q.

    • ellen1910
      2016-12-21 18:51:27 UTC - 18:51 | Permalink

      To the extent that Vietnam and Iraq teach similar lessons, I don’t think it’s polarization. Rather, it’s the effect on the polity of the failure of elite leadership.

      Six years after the end of American combat actions in Vietnam 64 million viewers watched “Friendly Fire.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friendly_Fire_%281979_film%29]

      Reagan cured the “Vietnam syndrome.” I don’t know what we would call our post-Iraq syndrome, but Trump is promising to cure it.

      • Tim Widowfield
        2016-12-21 21:09:35 UTC - 21:09 | Permalink

        I strongly doubt that even one American in ten could explain why there was a war in Vietnam, why we got involved, and why we left. As long as we can’t face up to the real reasons, the lessons we learn will be false.

        If the Trumpian Cure is similar to Reagan’s Remedy, future generations (should we survive) will seek a cure for their Iran Syndrome — and heaven knows what else.

      • Hayward
        2016-12-22 04:43:18 UTC - 04:43 | Permalink

        Lest We Forget.

        That it was in 1954 that a Republican President, Eisenhower, took the USA into the tunnel that was to become the Viet Nam Farrago.

        There were 15 Saudi Wahabi, 2 from the Gulf States and 1 each from Egypt and Lebanon not one Iraqi. And as the CIA and DIA ascertained no link of any sort to Saddam Hossein.

    • C.J, O'Brien
      2016-12-21 20:03:54 UTC - 20:03 | Permalink

      The big-picture backlash is against the Civil Rights Movement. The proximate humiliation is the two-term presidency of a black man. The Confederacy never went away; the North did not win the Civil War in any meaningful sense, and so America is still fighting it.

  • Ed-M
    2016-12-21 20:11:19 UTC - 20:11 | Permalink

    “They don’t care about your numbers, because the government (which they hate) being in charge of anything sounds like the worst idea ever.”

    That’s because it’s the United States Government, not a government that can do anything without tripping itself up and falling flat on its face, the way governments of other countries can: like those of Canada, the UK, France, Germany and even Russia.

    • Hayward
      2016-12-22 05:31:21 UTC - 05:31 | Permalink

      “We should stop going around babbling about how we’re the greatest democracy on earth, when we’re not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic. The founding fathers hated two things, one was monarchy and the other was democracy, they gave us a constitution that saw to it we will have neither. I don’t know how wise they were.”

      Gore Vidal 2001′

  • C.J. O'Brien
    2016-12-21 20:48:07 UTC - 20:48 | Permalink

    I agree with the broad strokes here. The attitudes you describe quite accurately are nothing new. And, to some extent, this kind of class and/or ethnic conflict seems to be a basic human tendency for which examples abound, and not just in US history. But looked at from another angle, there’s something new happening with the fragmentation of media and the complete failure of “traditional” media to act as a check on those who would exploit the “post truth” climate (see we what I did there?) to both inflame resentment and neuter potential political opposition. When you describe the resentful not caring that, for example, smoking is bad for them, or even embracing it, the context is that they do agree that the fact that it’s probably bad for them is based in reality. We seem to have got to a point past any kind of shared reality, and that’s what I’m afraid of more than almost anything else. Orwell on controlling the future and all… but what if there is no past? What if, instead of a “memory hole” (bad enough), would be authoritarians could subject history to not just outright suppression, but to comprehensive distortion, such that it becomes near-impossible to ascertain the truth and actually impossible to convince anyone of it who is not already so inclined?

    • Tim Widowfield
      2016-12-21 21:15:25 UTC - 21:15 | Permalink

      Alongside the memory hole, we see a new mode of thought in which Kettle Logic has become the norm. People will simultaneously argue that Global Warming is a hoax and that it’s really happening, but a good thing. Rational thought has been replaced by a kind of flexible mental spackling compound — talking points and fake facts they plop in the cracks.

  • Joe
    2016-12-22 02:07:04 UTC - 02:07 | Permalink

    Great article.

    I admit I came to similar conclusions just recently. In an article about one of Trumps potentially disastrous cabinet picks (I forget which, there are so many), there were Trump supporters posting memes designed to offend ‘liberals’ or ‘progressives’. They were reveling in our horror, oblivious to the fact that they would be the ones to suffer most from this decision.

    This article also reminds me of the pushback against Government health initiatives here in Australia. Any attempts to curb, say, electronic poker machine use are met with protest and uproar that the government are targeting the ‘common man’. Never mind the fact that they will most likely know somebody who is in the middle of a gambling addiction, or who lost everything they had to gambling.

    I admit I’m just musing here. I certainly don’t have a solution to this problem.

  • R Pence
    2016-12-22 21:22:08 UTC - 21:22 | Permalink

    It’s dispiriting on a blog otherwise devoted to careful inquiry to read these sorts of run-of-the-mill political rants.

    The question as to why some people supported Trump is an empirical question, no? As such, it’s a question whose answer is likely to have the variety and complexity of everyday reality. Whereas this post sort of asserts that it’s simply out of a desire to be contrarian that anyone supported Trump. But this is a view that is two-dimensional enough that it surely qualifies as partisan fantasy.

    Also, the idea that political liberals have a lock on objective reality and ‘facts’ seems naive to me in the extreme. Thus the idea that Trump supporters are simply immune to ‘facts’, well…

    • Greg Pandatshang
      2016-12-23 15:24:45 UTC - 15:24 | Permalink

      Oh, I didn’t think TW was saying that political liberals have a lock on objective reality. For one thing, if they did, they would stop trying to harangue their Republican FB friends with putatively logical arguments. That kind of thing works on nobody, so the fact that one keeps trying it expecting a different result is evidence that one is deluded oneself.

      • Tim Widowfield
        2016-12-23 17:08:20 UTC - 17:08 | Permalink

        Exactly, Greg. In fact, this year I officially exited the Democratic party. No faction, no person has a lock on objective reality.

        R Pence, the point of my post is not so much who is right and wrong, but why people hang on to what they believe in the face of factual evidence to the contrary. For example, in spite of an army of climate scientists and countless studies, people hang on to global warming denialism.

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2016/12/22/weather-buoy-near-north-pole-hits-melting-point/?utm_term=.0c7a003e1115

        We’re seeing record warm temperatures at the north pole, which startles experts in weather and climate. But in the meantime, I’m being told to “calm down” by people who are highly skilled in politics and Freudian projection.

        Finally, the cottage industry of debunking that has grown up around right-wing fake news needs to admit that it hasn’t worked and isn’t doing much good. Facts don’t win arguments. Facts don’t change people’s minds.

        • R Pence
          2016-12-24 08:14:56 UTC - 08:14 | Permalink

          Not sure that this is interesting enough to engage with at length. But the focus of the article was certainly on Trump supporters who are said to favor their identifications despite the facts. But this is already a certain kind of projection. All Trump supporters are opposed to single-payer universal health care? All Trump supporters actively identify as anti-elite (e.g. “I only drink *cheap* beer!”)

          And as for the ‘facts’ to which Trump supporters are supposedly blind: his “bankruptcies, infidelities, mistakes, foolish statements, or his links to white supremacists” – ? How many of these are actual ‘facts’? And of those: are they facts with one possible interpretation?

          This – in my view – is the essence of the problem. A certain cultural orientation, let’s call it ‘left-leaning’, has identified with the factual and made it part of its discourse. This isn’t to say that those who share this cultural orientation have any greater access to what in the past we understood as fact. Rather, they’ve made intelligence a sort of brand, adopted it superficially, and it is now part of their territory. (Think NPR listeners.)

          Probably some segment of Trump support comes from the counter-thrust to this orientation, e.g. FOX News-types who actively position themselves a certain way in the ‘culture wars’. But does this constitute enough Trump support to make it appropriate to discuss it as if it were the primary or exclusive mode of Trump support?

          This is why I pointed out that the nature of Trump’s electoral support is an empirical question. My sense is that a significant portion of Trump support comes from people who don’t take an active role in either side of the media-driven culture war in the US. That is, rather than being proud ignoramuses who actively identify with cultural blindness, they exist outside the political universe.

          A final point: in defense of being stubbornly immune to facts. There is, any time you ‘present’ someone with facts, a kind of performative built in to what you are doing. And another person will sense this. Any time I say, “Here! This is a fact!”, I am really also saying “I want you to think this way.” I rather think a certain ‘immunity’ to facts is a natural reaction to the overabundance of information in this day and age being used constantly by everyone against everyone else. Media organizations are guilty: one day coffee is good for you (i.e. “Here! Drink this!”) and the next it’s bad for you (i.e. “Don’t drink this!”). Social media is full of superficial warring over ‘facts’, fallacy hunts, political talking points repeatedly endlessly by people who think they thought them all up themselves. Some of this is a function of today’s politics. Today, precisely because of issues like the environment, health care, and so on, which involve social and economic costs for ‘bad’ behavior, we are increasing interested in what other people are doing, and more and more irate when they don’t behave the way they should because of the perceived cost to the rest of us. This carries over into caring about how people think. Thus the hysteria today over ‘fake news’, talk of dangerous ideas, a growing tendency to want to limit free speech, etc.

  • Hayward
    2016-12-23 00:17:30 UTC - 00:17 | Permalink

    “The question as to why some people supported Trump is an empirical question, no?”

    Empirical yes and based on observation and experience as such it does appear that facts played little part in what Trump was about, yes?

    “Also, the idea that political liberals have a lock on objective reality and ‘facts’ seems naive to me in the extreme. Thus the idea that Trump supporters are simply immune to ‘facts’, well…”

    See above and further more the Trump campaign appeared to be more about “truthiness” for when confronted with facts that were the opposite of what Trump claimed in a wide ranage of interviews, Trump would bluster saying that may be what the interviewer understood to be a fact, but not so in Trumpland.

    Somewhat similar to the strange outpourings from the last Republican encumbrance in the White House,, The Faux Texan, with a a Faith Based Administration in another reality.

  • flumoxed
    2016-12-23 22:17:42 UTC - 22:17 | Permalink

    Remember the Alamo!
    Not quite sure why I wrote that.

  • 2016-12-30 00:10:16 UTC - 00:10 | Permalink

    Just thought this was relevant: https://today.yougov.com/news/2016/12/27/belief-conspiracies-largely-depends-political-iden/

    46% of Trump voters believe leaked emails from Clinton campaign talked about pedophilia & human trafficking
    50% of Clinton voters, 9% of Trump voters believe Russia tampered with vote tallies to get Trump elected.

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