The last year has seen a lot of ink and pixels devoted to figuring out why people support Donald Trump. I think no other candidate's backers have been scrutinized as intensely, in fact I don't think it's even close. They have been described as angry, or crazy, or fearful, or racist or all of that and more in some articles. This week James Kirchick argues at Tablet Magazine that they are just not very nice people.
It is preposterous to think that Trump supporters are created by economic or regional characteristics. The rural white working-class may be more susceptible to Trumpism than most people, but I doubt that preference is inherent. Hispanics are barred, but that’s an arbitrary, circumstantial ruling. I know lots of Hispanics who are born Trumpkins and many others who would support Trump tomorrow morning if given an opening to do so. Trumpism has nothing to do with class, ethnicity, or even gender. It appeals to a certain type of mind.
Kirchick has decided that "personal integrity," or more precisely the lack of it, is what defines the Trump supporter. He goes on to quote Dorothy Thompson on people who supported National Socialism in the 1930s and tries to make the case that Trump supporters today are of a similar mindset:
Ask yourself: Among the men you know who support Trump, are they unlikely to be bothered by their candidate’s lecherous musings and admitted sexual predation because they view women in a similarly odious fashion? As for the women who support Trump: Are they the kind who gravitate toward abusive men? Is the uncle or work colleague who always puts an emphasis on the president’s middle name backing Trump? “Kind, good, happy, gentlemanly, secure people never go Nazi,” Thompson observed. “But the frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success—they would all go Nazi in a crisis.” Much the same can be said of those who go Trump.
It's an interesting word for this election cycle, and a concept that has been widely used as a mallet against Trump and his supporters. As in "How can you vote for someone with such a lack of integrity?" Well, there's certainly some truth there, but a disappointed and cynical public has decided that integrity doesn't matter anymore, at least in national politics. It may even be a characteristic of a chump. And if you think this is just a Republican or Trump thing you're wrong. Democrats are being just as willfully blind to Clinton's just as serious flaws as well.
"Trump is a liar." Who cares anymore? The president looked America in the eye more than 30 times and deliberately lied to us that we could keep our health insurance plans and our doctors when he knew that Obamacare would impose mandates that would make that impossible. Hillary has lied so many times about her email server, besides so many other things, that it's tough to keep track. Lying has become a way of life for our political elites. People have watched the lies used to savage effect on decent politicians(Romney/McCain) with no damage to the liars and it's not surprising if the other side has decided that they don't care about lying as long as the candidate is lying for them.
"Trump is vulgar towards women and a misogynist." Some people have discounted that, at least partly, due to the media hysteria in presenting the stories. But I have no doubt that some people are shrugging because they aren't going to be lectured about propriety toward women by a bunch of assholes who unwaveringly support Bill Clinton and viciously attack his accusers. Why should they maintain their integrity on that issue when Democrats tossed theirs away 20 years ago and have never looked back?
"Trump will have a reckless foreign policy." More reckless than declaring Iraq a "success" and then walking away only to watch as it fell apart and ISIS rose? More reckless than taking out Gaddafi and leaving a bloody mess of terrorists in his place? More reckless than siding with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? More reckless than advocating a no-fly zone in Syria and therefore a likely conflict with Russia?
I could go on with a lot more, including all sorts of bad precedents set by Mr. "I've got a pen, and I've got a phone." If Trump wins Democrats will howl about his unilateral actions, but they have made that bed themselves. In fact, in important ways Democrats, their media allies, and the Republican establishment have created Donald Trump the candidate. We are witnessing a lack of integrity being met by lack of integrity on a massive scale. Fire fighting fire as they say.
James Kirchick wants to blame Trump supporters for a lack of integrity while ignoring his own. The truth is that there is precious little integrity left when it comes to politics this year, from the presidential candidates to the parties to the press to the voters themselves.
We will survive this election, but I'm worried that this is a symptom of an even deeper lack of integrity that is hollowing out our society. There's a growing lack of respect for truth and honesty when it butts up against our preferred politics and ideology. There's a growing lack of respect for each other when we are on opposite sides of issues. None of that is exactly new in American politics, but I don't believe I have ever seen it on this scale. I fear we have reached a tipping point in our politics akin total war, where all is fair.
How many "nice" people are really left?