Not too many things are as confusing as Donald Trump’s popularity with conservative Americans. There’s that waterfall in Newfoundland that seems to spout upwards, I guess. That spot in New Brunswick where your car goes backwards up a hill comes pretty close. But neither one is as baffling as why conservatives would vote for a guy like Donald Trump.
If you look at the things that are supposed to define modern American conservatism – small government, respect for individual rights, social conservatism informed by a Christian worldview, personal responsibility – Donald Trump doesn’t pass the test. He’s talked about expanding police powers, tossing Muslims out of the country; he’s vulgar and crude and disrespectful of women in particular and deflects responsibility whenever he can. He’s not only a liar but contradicts himself almost every time he speaks – or tweets, for that matter. He’s been vile in business, painfully stupid in interviews and mocking and contemptuous of the disabled, obese women and Latinos – to name a few.
Clearly, Donald Trump isn’t presidential. He’s barely even presentable. He’s a vulgar, lemur-handed, Cheetos-faced little man. And yet he’s the presidential standard-bearer for the American Conservative movement. Christians are voting for him. In fact, some of them openly thank God for him. For a man whose every word and action flies in the face of all that Christianity espouses, and who the pope himself has condemned as “not Christian.”
Why? How did this guy get through the primaries and why on earth is he standing on stage representing the party of Lincoln?
Well, that’s the confusing part. I mean, don’t conservatives KNOW that their nominee is a horrible human being and a poor choice to lead the country?
I recently read something in the right wing blog “American Thinker” that sheds a little light on that, though. Some guy named David Carlin put it this way:
“We like Trump because he’s bad. He’s vulgar. He’s a liar and a hypocrite. He’s appallingly egoistical. He’s terribly ignorant about many things. We know that. But we don’t care.”
Wait – what? The author realizes that Trump is the worst candidate for high office since Richard the III decided “Hey, why don’t I have a go at the whole ‘king’ thing.” So why vote for Trump?
Carlin goes on to say:
“For it’s all those negative characteristics that send liberal elites up the wall. Trump drives them crazy. No other possible candidate could have irritated them one tenth as much as Trump irritates them. That’s why he’s our man. We realize he’s a risk to lose an election that could easily have been won. But the pleasure we get from maddening those liberal bastards is worth the risk. Go, Trump.”
And there you have it. It’s not about supporting someone you believe in. People don’t support Trump because they believe he has better ideas for where America should go next. They don’t support him because they believe he can improve the economy or improve America’s standing in the world. In fact, nearly half of all voters believe he’d start a nuclear war. Nope – conservatives support him because they believe in “sticking it” – or, as it’s come to be called online, “stigginit” – to liberals.
You see, liberals have called the conservatives some bad things over the years. When conservatives don’t accept climate science, liberals call them “deniers.” When conservatives can’t bring themselves to give gays the same rights as everyone else, liberals call them “homophobes.” When they fail to understand or accept the most basic scientific truths, liberals call conservatives “anti-intellectual” or “stupid.” When Conservatives are more concerned about their right to own a gun than someone else’s right to not get shot by one, they’re called “gun nuts.” When conservatives don’t confront systematic racism, liberals call them “racists.” And when conservatives profess to love Jesus but fail to act in a way that is Christ-like, liberals call them “hypocrites.”
And all of this has some conservatives mighty upset.
And they figure the best way to get back at the liberals is to double-down on the denialism, the homophobia, the stupidity, violence, racism and hypocrisy by embracing a candidate that represents all of these things in the extreme. And why? Not because they believe those things to be virtues, but because they believe in stiggint to the other guy.
I guess conservatives could try to prove those criticisms wrong by taking an informed interest in science and technology. I guess they could treat their fellow man with empathy and understanding, live in a way that is truly Christ-like, ask hard questions about gun violence and take personal responsibility for their actions. I suppose they could stop embracing what American political conservatism has become – a shallow, reactionary and – yes – deplorable shell of itself – and work on making conservatism what it could be: a vibrant, caring, passionate, smart and principled alternative to liberalism.
They’re stigginit. And they don’t care if the world burns while they do it.
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