Why We Shouldn’t Hate Donald Trump Supporters

Trust me, I know. I can’t believe that I’m adding my two cents to this mass hysteria either. I told myself that I would try to stay out of it, let the chips fall where they may. But then, I realized something even more necessary to talk about than the man himself: his supporters. Something culturally important is happening here and surprisingly I’m not talking about Trump’s toupee.
Yes, it’s easy to make fun of him. He practically writes the jokes himself. It’s easy to call him xenophobic, racist, sexist, predjudices, arrogant, ignorant, selfish, a failed businessman, wishy-washy, but the question is: what does that really do? Obviously his supporters are still adamantly behind him, and we know what positing half the country against the other half has done in the past, so let’s take a second and understand where these people are coming from.
 
I’m going to take this opportunity to break down something I’m going to call Trump-mania in order to add an element of humanity to a campaign that can sometimes look plain evil. In a class I’m currently taking, we broke down his success into three of the most popular reasons that people might vote for him. 
  1. He’s not “typical” or “politically correct” as a politician  
  2. He’s a “self-made” man who is not reliant on donors because he can fund himself
  3. He’s a “smart businessman”, he’s “tough” and he’s not a pushover like those other guys 
What has not been realized by most of the people who are trying to disprove him is that this rhetoric is founded deep in American cultural beliefs. Each one of those comments is made from an ideology that has been ever-present and has saturated American minds since birth. I’ll translate each of the numbers above to an ideology we value in our society in order to discuss Trump’s rise to political fame.
  1. He’s not “politically correct” is an ideal rooted in Individualism. He’s the pioneer or cowboy of our age. He doesn’t work like the sheriff, but he’s going to save the town from outsiders.
  2. The concept of him being “self-made” is rooted in the American Dream that has been an important ideal of our country since before Horatio Alger’s “Rags to Riches” tale. Trump seems as though he’ll strive to succeed and he instructs Americans that pulling themselves up by the bootstraps is all they need to get ahead in life.
  3. His being a “smart businessman” and “tough” is rooted in Capitalist ideals that we’ve been taught to uphold. Stars of this system have been Andrew Carnegie and Teddy Roosevelt who set the foundation for someone like Trump being praised for his financial success. 
All of these concepts attract Americans who believe wholeheartedly in the American Dream. His simple and tough rhetoric makes politics accessible and entertaining to them and his message to them is simple: “You, who do everything right, should have it all if you just work hard.”
And that sounds nice. Like really nice.  We can’t dismiss how nice that sounds. “If you just work hard you’ll be rich like me” sounds like a message we could all get behind. But then he convolutes that message, and here’s where it gets confusing. He does it by setting US against THEM. And it’s no coincidence that I’m capitalizing US, by us, he literally means the U.S.
 
So who are the “them”? You don’t have to look hard to find them. 
  • “When do we beat Mexico? At the border…”
  • Women who undergo abortions should face “some form of punishment”
  • On ISIS: “I would knock the hell out of them, but I would put a ring around it and take the oil for our country
At first, it seems ridiculous that he would receive support for these kinds of statements, but on a closer look it becomes obvious what he is trying to do. This is the real reason why you shouldn’t hate the people who support him: He’s playing off of American fears.
 
You look on the news and what do you see? Bombs in Paris. Bombs in Syria. Syrian refugees. People deported. People coming over the border. Crime. Rape. Crime. Persecution. Crime. Drugs. Crime.
 
The media has created a mass hysteria about what it means to live in the world we do today. They have expanded off of people’s fears, feeding them with ever-rising statistics about the horrible world that lies right outside their door, just for viewers. People are terrified. And when you have a disproportionate amount of these stories about crime pointing to people of color, people of other countries, and people of other religions, Trump can look like a savior.
He screams from the podium, as angry as other Americans are about what’s going on in the world, saying that he’s going to kick out the bad guys. It’s like he’s a superhero in a business suit. He looks tough, mean on crimes and drugs, sniffing out the bad guys and kicking them out of our country. He promises to get rid of the people taking “our” jobs, causing problems, the morally-low-other that have supposedly invaded our country.
 
How could he not seem like a hero to those who can’t understand: A) That reality isn’t even close to what the media is portraying and B) That he’s never done anything to back up the promises he’s making.
 
His hegemony succeeds through making Mexicans and other people of color look like trespassers and threats to the U.S. By doing this he erases any alternative stories and histories that they have lived. He erases the hard work they’ve done, the wonderful community they have created, and the way that they have built our country strong. He uses a rhetoric of saying “some, I assume, are good people” to focus on those individuals he feels are deserving, all the while, positioning the rest as “rapists” or criminals involved in the drug trade.
Trump constructs an Anglo-Saxon, Christian, white citizenry as the “US” and then constructs an opposing, racialized, other. This is nothing new. There’s an extensive history in the United States that sets the races into a hierarchy, with whites at the top. And here’s the problem: all throughout history philosophers, politicians, and scientists have used this racial separation to conclude that non-whites are incapable of self-government. It’s incredibly restrictive to those groups who are made to seem barbaric when compared to the white American “good citizen.”
 
The “good citizen” is part of a language that had demonized those not a part of the traditional look of our society. It was popular in the Western films starring Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. And it’s still seen today in movies like Sicario. There has been a new emergence of the “domestic foreigner.” The domestic foreigner consists of groups like Native Americans, African Americans, and newly Mexicans and those of the Muslim faith. These groups are seemingly at war with the law-abiding, God-fearing “good  citizen” who just wants to protect what’s his. So tie together what I was saying about the history of these groups, it seems as though they want to bring anarchy to our country that just wants a good-old-fashioned Democracy. These “uncontrollable” groups of others are trying to take what’s ours, and THAT, Donald Trump preaches, is what is causing the downfall of our country.
 
It’s cultural, it’s historic. There’s nothing new here. He tells the American people that there won’t be any political correctness about it, he’s going to get out the bad guys to make room for the “good citizens” and bring our country back to its rightful place at the top.
 
He continually feeds into the fears of the American people by using language such as “destroy” and “assault.” It’s all a part of his tough-guy image that makes him seem like he’s the kid sticking up for you on the playground, when maybe he’s really the bully. He says things like it’s “an assault on everything we stand for” to help the people of this nation to see citizens of the Middle East and Mexico as attackers who come violently for us in the name of anarchy and terrorism.
 
The problem arises because Americans are so scared and so understandably worried that this is working. He promises to build a wall 20-feet-high to keep out intruders, which sounds like the right solution to anyone whose been watching a little too much Walking Dead. He promises to end Birthright Citizenship, kicking out citizens who’ve never lived in or known another country except for the U.S. And his supporters are so excited to hear the words “I’ll make it better” they don’t focus on who this type of legislation will hurt. 
I don’t know how to make it better. I don’t know the right way to handle him, but I do know that spewing hateful insults at his supporters isn’t going to work. His campaign is built around excluding outsiders and the more you position yourself as an outsider, the easier it will be to dismiss what you’re saying.
 
What I’m saying is that there’s no way you’re going to be able to bridge this divide with hatred and judgmental posts about how dumb Trump supporters are. They’re just as scared as everyone else. They feel tension around them, racial tension, class tension, tension around sexuality, religion, and nationality. They’re responding to this tension the best way that they know how, it just landed in a different place. You can’t start a discussion through raising your own political beliefs above theirs. This gap must be filled with understanding and respect for what others are going through. Trump is a symbol of other discourses in American society so take a look and realize why someone might stand the way they do. Approach the election with grace and appreciate that everyone is coming from the place of being scared of what the future might hold.
 
For an alternative view on the subject, check out this artlce, "Why We Can't Be Friends If You Support Donald Trump."