Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has more diverse support than one might imagine, even if it’s probably not enough to win him the Presidency in November.
By now, you’ve probably seen videos from Trump rallies, and how his supporters behave in and around them. Videos like this (warning for hateful language, racial slurs):
No one is surprised to see Trump getting support and endorsements from white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups. But these people represent his most motivated, most engaged supporters. Anyone willing to take the time to show up to a really is more than a casual fan. So let’s not take the worst of the worst as representative of his base.
Who else is supporting him?
A common narrative is that he’s getting a lot of support from the white working class, especially in suburban and rural areas which have been economically blighted by declines in manufacturing, mining, and other industries upon which working class people have depended for decades. It’s true that this support exists, but it’s rather overstated. For one thing, working class white people tend to vote at low rates. For another, this vote is more or less split down the middle between the parties, if one excludes the South. In the South, however, about 70% of the white working class votes for Republicans. So even if Trump is getting a lot of support from that demographic, it’s not a new development.
Indeed, his supporters are overall more well off than average. This brings me to the demographic of Trump supporter that tends to go overlooked: the consistent Republican voter who isn’t particularly ideological, who doesn’t pay much attention to politics, and who has spent the last 20 years hearing about what a bad person Hillary Clinton is. These are people who don’t follow the news cycle, who either don’t hear about Trump’s gaffes and his ridiculous behavior, or lump it in with the rest of the American political sideshow. They might think the media is exaggerating or making up his missteps–blowing things out of proportion. In short, they don’t see what all the fuss is about, nor do they want to. Their minds are made up and, for better or worse, they’re voting for Trump.
It seemed baffling to me at first. Why would otherwise decent people vote for such an obvious monster? But that’s the thing: to his average supporter, he’s not a monster. His outrageous statements? Clever media fodder to raise his profile. Supposed mistakes and turmoil? Inventions of a partisan media that wants to help Clinton win. Most Americans simply aren’t very politically engaged, and those who vote regularly tend not to switch parties. The share of the vote that jumps back and forth from election to election is ever shrinking. This is what it means for a country’s electorate to become more and more polarized. No matter what Trump does, he likely has a popular vote floor around 35%. And it’s not because 35% of the country is extremely hateful and racist–rather, most of them just aren’t paying much attention, and don’t care to. Any generic Republican would get their vote.
With all the media attention on the absolute worst of Trump’s backers, it’s worth remembering that most of his support comes from people who aren’t card-carrying KKK members or neo-Nazis. These are people who may, on some level, still be reachable. People of empathy, of good conscience, people who care about their communities and their country–there’s still time to reach out to them and possibly convince them not to support such a terrible, hateful, incompetent candidate. Then again, maybe that’s naive and it won’t work at all. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?
This election has brought out the worst in a lot of people, and may bring out even worse behavior yet. That means it’s a perfect time to show our best qualities, too, to offset the horror. Is Hillary Clinton the best, most amazing candidate to ever run for the Presidency? Well, who is? Is there some reason we have to make it a choice between perfection and doom? Just don’t choose doom. Anything’s better than doom, I’m pretty sure. And Clinton is a hell of a lot better.