Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Thrill Is Gone

John Judis at TPM meets a Trump voter who realizes that he fell for a con.

“I guess the thrill is gone,” J says to me. J owns a small landscaping business. He drives a pickup truck. He is in his fifties with long hair. He is prone to conspiracy theories. He used to recommend these suspect websites to me. I was surprised last winter when he admired my “Bernie for President” sign. He liked Bernie. But his candidate was Donald Trump, and he voted for him last November. Now he was telling me that the thrill was gone.

Why, I asked, and he explained that he figured out that under the Trump-Ryan health insurance plan, he would be paying $8000 to $10,000 more a year than he is now. That had soured him on Trump, although he still didn’t think much of the Democrats, who, he thought, would oppose Trump even if he proposed something good.

I know some regular Republicans who are now disillusioned with Trump, but they were never that excited about him in the first place. They voted for him because he wasn’t a Democrat. J is different. He has the sensibility of the white working class voter. I don’t think he would call himself a Republican or a Democrat.

Some liberals believe that all Trump voters were consumed by racism or sexism and voted accordingly, but that’s not been my experience with Trump voters. It’s also defective political psychology. Like J, many of them thought Trump would make their life better rather than other peoples’ lives worse. And maybe a lot of them, like J, have now realized that Trump is full of hot air.

This happens with every candidate, every president; I know a lot of progressives who to this day still think Barack Obama sold them out to get elected and he turned out to be just another human being who had to make deals and think of the overall bigger picture than just become a shining symbol of liberalism and the hallmark of post-racial America.

This disillusionment would have happened with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or anyone else: nothing is as good as it is advertised.  There is always the fine print, the “batteries not included,” the “other items sold separately,” or worst of all, “some assembly required.”  The fact that it is now happening with Trump voters like J was as predictable as the sunrise.

What’s all the more predictable is that it was going to happen with Trump.  He oversold himself so much that even if he had the sincere belief that he could solve every problem and that he alone could fix them, anyone who has ever been to a carnival sideshow, bought a used car, or sat through a two-hour time-share pitch should have known the 90% of what they were hearing was bullshit and the rest of it was exaggeration, if not just plain unconstitutional.  But some people never learn and it keeps on working, which explains why you’re still getting calls from the guy from “Microsoft Windows” who is there to help you install his malware.

If the Democrats think they can scoop up the disillusioned Trump voter, they’re going to have to do it not by saying “Ha, told you so,” even if the temptation to indulge in schadenfreude is powerful and satisfying.  They’re not going to do it with their own version of left-wing overselling and promises they have no way of delivering.  It’s going to have to be done like an intervention: we have to solve these problems together, but first you have to realize the damage that has been caused by the guy you voted for and now it’s time to fix it.  The problem with that is that it doesn’t exactly fit on a hat.

Bonus Track: Alex Pareene looks at the implosion of the right-wing bubble.

Rather rapidly, two things happened: First, Republicans realized they’d radicalized their base to a point where nothing they did in power could satisfy their most fervent constituents. Then—in a much more consequential development—a large portion of the Republican Congressional caucus became people who themselves consume garbage conservative media, and nothing else.

That, broadly, explains the dysfunction of the Obama era, post-Tea Party freakout. Congressional Republicans went from people who were able to turn their bullshit-hose on their constituents, in order to rile them up, to people who pointed it directly at themselves, mouths open.

Now, we have a president whose media diet defines his worldview, interests, and priorities. He is not one of the men, like most of those Tea Party members of Congress, whose existing worldview determined his media diet—who sealed himself off from disagreeable media sources. He is, in fact, something far more dangerous: a confused old man who believes what the TV tells him.

This is just the beginning.