For a long time I’ve wondered how President Donald Trump’s loyal supporters can remain so fiercely loyal to him. “My goodness gracious, he’s been storyin’ to us every single day,” as my grandmother would say. To grandma, “storyin’” meant saying things that aren’t true, lying in other words.
Beyond that, Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct 26 times, gone through six bankruptcies while claiming to be a great businessman, did not separate his presidency from his financial interests but did separate parents from their children and put children in cages. He’s given his approval to white supremacists, praised and emulated rank dictators, presided over our nation becoming the world leader in suffering with the pandemic, and has done all he could to take medical coverage from millions of people.
Much could be added to this list. My grandmother would have complained most about our president playing golf on Sunday. Since I’ve done the same more times than a preacher should, I part company with Grandma on this one.
Still, the reasons not to support Trump are legion, and yet he has ardent supporters all over the land. People are willing to risk their lives to go to his rallies, and almost half the people voted for him. Had he made a halfway decent effort to fight the coronavirus, he probably would have won. And so I’m thinking something is going on here that goes beyond reason, something emotional, something spiritual even.
At this point my uncle Fred comes to mind. He was just a great guy, a wonderful husband to my aunt Grace and a great father to his three daughters. He worked for Standard Oil in Richmond and then, during the war, went to Hall Motors to make engines for PT Boats. He finished up by going all over the Bay Area keeping electric typewriters in repair at big companies.
Fred could look at a malfunctioning machine, watch how its parts were working, and know how to fix it. He taught me how to change the oil and replace distributer caps and air filters on the jalopies I drove around in as a youngster. He even helped me move two or three times.
But when I was in college, my uncle Fred began to jibe at me some. Once when we were working on my car, I dropped a bolt that fell someplace in the inner workings, and Fred had to take things apart to get to it. “Seems like they could teach you to tighten a bolt without dropping it in that college of yours,” he said in a snarly tone I’d never heard from him before.
This sort of thing went on for years. This fine man who cared for me would make snide remarks about my being in college. Other than that, everything was fine between us.
My uncle Fred came of age during the Great Depression when young people were quitting school and going to work to help feed their families. I’m not sure he finished high school. It seemed my uncle Fred carried a load of resentment about that and was directing it toward me. He couldn’t help it.
I’m thinking that at least some of Trump’s supporters carry a resentment something like my uncle Fred’s. I’m thinking they feel shoved off to the side by circumstances beyond their control, and Donald Trump speaks to their resentment and frustration. He calls elites with their college degrees names like “Watermelon head” and “Pocahontas” and his people love it.
Our society has left a huge number of people feeling left out. Only one third of the populations has a college degree, and President Trump got most of the votes of the other two-thirds. It’s all too clear that after studying for years and years, people can come to feel they know more than they really do about what’s good for everybody. And so I’m thinking that Trump gives a lot of people a sense of having a place in an America that has been leaving them out for a long time. As one woman said outside her polling place, “I voted for Trump because I feel he will take care of people like me.”
So, if President-elect Joe Biden is able to fulfill his promise to become a president for all Americans, it will be a good thing. One way for this to happen is to make sure people like my uncle Fred receive the level of pay their important work deserves.