Within in the last several days, I reached out to two old and now former friends. Both reside in Michigan. One is a conservative and was a local officeholder, the other has raised funds for GOP candidates for over 25 years. When police began rioting (again) in cities across America following George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis cops, I asked both of them to speak out against the lawlessness of the Trump Administration. One provided a bullshit response about not being able to comment on political matters. The other, my best friend of 30 years and “Best Man” at both of my weddings, did not reply at all.
Bear in mind these folks had political careers which began long before Trump announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for president. They were both fairly typical Midwest Republicans, one being more focused on social issues and the other more centered on economic and defense concerns. Neither would be out of place at a Chamber of Commerce gathering.
Yet neither of these supposed “small government” aficionados could muster the moral fortitude to speak out against the authoritarian tendencies of the current regime. Why are they in thrall to the Trump Administration? Is it because of careerism? Is it the money? Or are they true believers?
I wish I had written more about emerging conservative voting blocs a few years back. I had this idea that a particular group, represented by the Ted Nugent archetype, would play an influential role in the 2016 elections. These are conservative but not particularly religious, blue collar or mid-management white collar, racist, white men. While they would prove to be highly susceptible to Trump’s message, I did not think they would gravitate (as they did) to Trump the man.
Let’s face it, if Trump were growing up in their neighborhoods and went to their public schools (which would not have been the case with Mr. Private Boarding School), they would have recognized him as an entitled prick and kicked his ass whenever he started shooting off his mouth. They never would have hung out with him. Later on, while some of them went to go fight in Vietnam, they would have rolled their eyes upon hearing that he received four draft deferments (“His rich old man musta pulled some strings…”).
And do you think Trump would have wanted to get to know them when he was busy leeching off his dad’s pocketbook? Of course not. He would have looked down at them, because that is the kind of person he is.
So why do so many follow him? I can only believe it is because they are genuine adherents to Trump’s twisted ideology or because they are willing to be complicit in his and his minion’s wrongdoings (including committing acts of violence against fellow Americans, especially Black, Brown, and Indigenous people). His supporters have proven to be so willing to go along with this aspiring despot, this hollow man, that one must ask, who is truly “deranged?” Yet, unlike those who suffer from actual mental illnesses, Trump and his ilk are fully accountable and fully culpable for their words, their actions, and their silences.