A relative of mine who is not my creepy Mormon uncle in Colorado* is a Donald Trump supporter.
Most of the people around me are Hillary Clinton supporters, or rather they’re determined to vote against Donald Trump. A select few are really thankful to finally see a woman as a primary candidate running for President, and really want a woman in the Oval Office. Another one or two are loyal to the Democratic party based on specific platforms (e.g. women’s rights or gay rights). But for most of the people around me, a vote for Clinton is a vote against Trump, necessary because Trump is amazingly, unbelievably awful.
For many of the issues about which I worry, neither candidate is very interested in changing US policy**. My vote for Hillary is to keep Trump out of office. I expect that Hillary’s opinions might be able to evolve with pressure and shifts in popular opinion much the way that Obama’s did regarding gay marriage.
What is curious to me is Not My Creepy Mormon Uncle In Colorado is a true believer. He genuinely thinks Trump can Make America Great Again. He thinks the US economy will grow under Trump.† He is post-graduate educated and employed in a scientific field, and yet he can’t seem to see Trump for what he is. I’m terrified that Not My Creepy Mormon Uncle In Colorado is the same kind of demagogy-vulnerable bigot that is stereotypical of his demographic. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, that there’s more nuance to his position. There has to be.
Regarding those who vote for Trump, I’ve seen a number of positions as to why. Disclaimer: Obviously this is not intended to be a complete index of the only reasons someone might vote for Trump, just the ones I’ve observed enough to grasp.
‣ Republican / conservative / religious loyalism: Human society often holds loyalty to each other as a greater virtue than rational choice (id est voting in one’s personal best interest). Loyalty is so strong a tradition (and in some cases a compulsion) that the common drive to loyalty should inform how we prosecute aiding and abetting crime. A lot of people vote in accordance to their church or their societal involvements, or by consensus with friends and family, rather than based on whose policies serve them personally. Loyalism represents a failure of Madison’s hypothesis that people vote in accordance to their best interests. I suspect Not My Creepy Mormon Uncle In Colorado falls into this group, being a staunch Republican even back before the Southern Strategy started influencing the GOP platform.
• Misprioritized Issues: This is the category in which single-issue voters are a subset. Some people vote only based on a single issue, often ones that do not directly affect them. Religious-based issues, often against gay rights and women’s reproductive healthcare access, are so common that even the Holy See notoriously prioritizes them over more universally accepted (and expansive) issues such as world poverty and hunger. If an anti-abortion activist imagines all abortions as ID&Es (in reality, 0.17% of all abortions, done only in extreme circumstances) it becomes an easy step to imagine this is more important than everything else ever.
I probably suffer from misproprioritized concerns, myself, considering that most of my list below doesn’t affect me directly. Still, I can empathize with those who fall victim to US policies, and some of these are violations of rules that are supposed to be sacrosanct in the US. Besides, we now live in a nation that tortures, spies on ordinary civilians and massacres civilians, which all are about as unamerican — as inhuman — as I can imagine.
• Clinton is a symbol of the establishment, and a vote against Hillary is a symbolic vote against the status quo. Much the way that Obama was the Hope and Change candidate in 2008, Trump is the change guy this time around. Clinton was part of the current administration. There’s a demographic of people that vote against the incumbent to send the message that any change is better. Trump is that message, this year.
• Clinton is a symbol of privilege, and a vote against Hillary is a symbolic attack of the caste system in the US. Clinton’s email affair is representative of our officials’ collective evasion of public oversight. (If they’re hiding what they’re doing, then they’re probably doing bad things.)‡ And we only have the word of the Government (by the FBI, who also hides shit, and we also distrust) to say she didn’t hide anything terrible from the public. Given how the Department of Justice has approached cybercrime committed by people who are not rich or in official positions (e.g. the Aaron Swartz affair), this presents a concrete example of how people in privileged casts (official agents, affluent families) are treated differently than the rest of us. So a vote against Clinton is symbolically a vote against (for instance) letting Brock Turner out of jail, and a vote against the officers who shot Tamir Rice
This is to say, in a lot of cases, people voting for Trump aren’t voting necessarily to put an contradictory, lying, unscrupulous Islamophobic, slanderous, litigious, immigrant-hating, bullying, misogynist, sexual predator with no morals into the White House, but rather they’re voting for a thing that Trump symbolically represents, whether it’s solidarity with one’s community, or affirmation of a specific position, or a stance against ongoing injustices.
Sadly, we human beings aren’t very good at assessing the overall picture when we’re emotionally invested. It takes effort to step away and say (for instance) I want change, but I don’t want that change. Or to say I want justice, but this isn’t going to bring justice. This time around, I need to give people, including Not My Creepy Mormon Uncle In Colorado, the benefit of doubt, and assume that, with rare exception, they do not want to watch the world burn.
* I actually have a creepy Mormon uncle in Colorado. It’s been a long time since I’ve corresponded with him. I hope he is well and his family is happy. I’m most concerned for his daughter who was growing up in a staunch Mormon household, was already looking a bit scary-sad and oppressed in her teens, and was being steered to inevitably become the help-meet of some patriarchal, dominant Mormon husband. I hope she’s been able to make educated life choices and find a happy place in this world, whether in or out of the LDS church community.
When my uncle and I did last talk we were fellow acolytes of the Church of Muppetology. Only I discovered that he was only there to recruit our fellow Muppetologists into the fold of the LDS church. He was also interested in recruiting me with the promise that religion might make me less sad. (I was suffering / do suffer from major depression.) Instead, I chose psychological treatment, and that was that. Though I still correspond with fellow Muppetologists occasionally.
As I have not stayed in touch with my creepy Mormon uncle in Colorado, I don’t know what his opinions are about our 2016 presidential candidates. It would not surprise me that he was, at some point, a Trump supporter. He even may still be. If that’s the case, I have no doubt that the recent revelation regarding the hot-mic conversation between Trump and Billy Bush is really hard to bear, and if prior revelations didn’t drive him to abandon Trump, this probably will.
** To name a few (off the top of my head, so in no particular order):
• copyright maximalism
• The surveillance state
• Overclassification. More importantly, lack of, or evasion of public oversight and scrutiny — We don’t know what the heck our agencies are doing.
• Regulatory capture — Every official is owned and controlled by monied interests, which means the people are no longer represented by their… well… representatives
• Extrajudicial detention and torture (of US citizens, no less) — Extrajudicial in this case means without due process. If an official doesn’t like someone, they’re disappeared.
• Bombing the fuck out of innocent brown-skinned civilians
Protection for Egregious persecution of whistleblowers
• Internet security, The lack thereof regarding government databases (note the surveillance state, above), and the intent to mandate crippled security of private individuals, in service of the surveillance state, the police state, and hacker interests everywhere
• Movement towards corporate sovereignty as within the TPP and the TTIP, to dismantle consumer protections and safety regulations of products
• Religious preferentialism in what is supposed to be a nation that holds no faith over another, or over secularism
• Police militarization, blue privilege, police brutality and the ongoing asset forfeiture racket. Also no oversight for our agencies who will often even lie to our nation’s legislators.
• The continued prevalence of systemic elitism in US society towards healthy white Christian males, and against anyone who is missing any of those properties.
• Our heinously cruel (yet usual) penal system, made worse by our weighted judicial system that chooses scapegoats before evidence is gathered scuttles public defense (or the ability to afford defense) and secures a 90% conviction rate.
† So far no politician has the solution for growing the economy, and even if they did, in this clime they’re so beholden to specific industries, they can only make decisions that don’t conflict with their campaign obligations. That said, John Green’s explanation of Clinton’s and Trump’s respective tax plans (less dry than it sounds) suggests that yes, Trump’s plan (according to his platform) would lower corporate and high-bracket taxes at the expense of revenues in line with classic trickle-down theory, which is to say, by adjusting the taxes on the rich we encourage / discourage business and investment spending. So yeah, Not My Creepy Mormon Uncle In Colorado may be thinking that Trump will ease up taxes on the rich (at significant increase to our debt) thereby encouraging investment, thereby growing the economy.
Of course there are problems with this notion, manifold, that would require another blog post to explain. Or five. And in this case it means putting a very scary man in the White House.
‡ Some of us are peeved that her private network wasn’t even sufficiently secured. The server is still a legal safe-haven to protect what are official emails from FOIA requests, and we US citizens cannot requisition them, yet hackers seem to have easy access to them.