April Fools

Donald Trump’s first hundred days as president are nearly tallied.  Enough time has passed that we can now divide people who voted for him into two groups:

1. Those who: never liked Trump (but made a calculated decision to vote for him); have more  recently developed doubts; or will soon become disillusioned when Trump not only fails to deliver on his promises but actually does the opposite in many respects (eg., loses good paying blue collar jobs instead of creating them; contributes to a national healthcare scenario that’s worse than ObamaCare; doesn’t build a wall or at least doesn’t get Mexico to pay for it, etc.)

2. Suckers

Ahh, the sucker.

Most of us like to pretend we’re immune to crass charlatanism.  I’m not that gullible, you tell yourself, refusing to believe you could be seriously suckered.  Surely, someone as smart as you sees through the vulgar farces dangling before us.

The embarrassing truth, however, is that we all get taken for the proverbial ride now and again.  It’s not easy to admit, but really, there is no shame in it.  Everyone has vulnerabilities and prejudices.  Even the most skeptical and jaded among us are occasionally susceptible to a snazzy sales pitch.  Sharp logicians and clever rhetoricians can still be manipulated by a well aimed guilt trip or melodic seduction.  No one is perfect, and a good con artist can size you up, get you to look away, and then go right for your soft spot when you’re not paying attention.

It can happen to anyone.  All the people, as the old adage states, can get fooled some of the time.  That will never change.  The important thing is that we recognize and learn from our mistakes.

All of us are wrong on occasion.  We can stumble over trivialities, or choose incorrectly on matters of grave import.  To err, after all, is human.  And if forgiveness is indeed divine, then it is precisely because we all require a pardon now and again.  Salvation is a truly universal need.

Genuflect, admit your sins, work to better yourself, and be absolved.

But the gravest sin against the gods of redemption?  To deny your guilt.  To double down on your errors.  To stubbornly roar with hubris, feign righteousness, and insist upon your rectitude.  To set yourself up as a false god and never admit the wrongness of your ways.

There is no helping such miscreants.  The perverse degenerate who cannot confess sin must be cast out of the temple and banished from the community!

So sayeth this atheist.
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There is of course no one generalization we can reasonably make about 62,000,000 Trump voters, other than that they all voted for Trump.  To the contrary, once we peel back the clichès and stereotypes, we find there are actually many different reasons why people voted for him.  Likewise, Trump supporters have, are, or will react in a variety of ways to the mounting evidence that our president is a dangerous putz, a wailing bully unworthy of winning election as dog catcher, much less commander in chief.  And so it might do us well to recognize the various reactions of at least some Trump supporters, and then consider how we should approach them.

To do so calls for categorizing Trump supporters, which is problematic.  I have no interest in trying to jam every square pegged Trump supporter into round holes of my own design.  Rather, I’m merely identifying a few segments of the Trump electorate that I think are worthy of discussion, with the understanding that many millions more (perhaps a majority) fall outside my very incomplete taxonomy of Trumpatistas.

With that in mind, let us think about the dialogs with Trump supporters, ranging from wretched to hopeful, that we will face in the near future as his fortunes decline.
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I was wrong.  I put my faith in this man and believed what he said.  That was a mistake.
These people will be few and far between.  When you meet them, break bread and readily welcome them into your fold, for they are the rarest of all beasts: an open minded human being who is willing to publicly (or at least in private conversations) admit mistakes.  A true gem of a person, don’t let one get away.  Yes, they displayed poor judgement and even bad values by voting for Trump.  But guess what?  We all make mistakes, including the kinds we come to regret.  Especially the ones we regret.  No one is infallible.  The important thing is to learn from those mistakes, and these people are learning.  They’re doing that magical thing which makes humans almost worth keeping around on this little rock of a planet: they’re getting smarter.  Don’t mock them.  Love and support them.
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He turned out to be a bad president, but I have no regrets.  It just didn’t work out.
In most cases, this is about as good as you can hope for.  Did this person learn anything from the experience?  At the end of the day, are they smarter?  Maybe, maybe not.  Sadly, some of them will make these types of mistakes again, falling for the next charismatic asshole who compliments them.  But at least they have the wherewithal to eventually come around.  They may not actually confess their mistakes, and that obstinance mitigates their ability to learn.  But they’re not disconnected from the larger society.  Rather, they can read the writing on the wall and figure out, after a certain point anyway, that they don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.

Unlike the confessor of sin, this person is not your ally in the grand struggle before us, but they can help you do what needs to be done right now.  What’s more, these folks are open to positive influences, so keep working them.  Under the right circumstances, they can improve.  Maybe next time they won’t vote for a sexual predator.

Then again, that wouldn’t stop a lot of Democrats from voting for Bill Clinton again if they could.

Remember to be mindful of your own hypocrisies.
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{Silence} A.K.A. The Masses.
In the 1972 presidential election, incumbent Richard Nixon hammered Democrat George McGovern, taking 49 states and over 60% of the popular vote.  By 1974, amid the tumult of the Watergate scandal, only a minority of Americans being polled claimed to have voted for him.

It was not an isolated event.  Such “misrememberings” occur periodically.  We are about to witness another one.  Trump’s record-low approval ratings are a sign of things to come.  In the weeks, months, and years ahead, erstwhile supporters will, without any fanfare, abandon him like the tipping of so many dominoes.  Their numbers will be vast.  They will be his ultimate downfall.

Many Trump voters were never that avid or public in their support to begin with.  They liked Trump, but they’re not fanatics.  Some cared only a little bit and will lose interest as it all unravels, many of them detaching from politics altogether, at least temporarily.  Others were drawn to Trump with a little more intensity, and are now probably a bit embarrassed by what they did, which is good.  Shame isn’t just a tool of repression; under the right circumstances it’s a sign of genuine humanity, an indication that someone has a conscience and occasionally listens to it.

However, whether driven by bitterness, detachment, or shame, none of these people will engage you.  Some of them don’t like “Liberals” and will either find comfort in the Conservative echo chamber as it turns against Trump, or even remain in the nationalist propaganda bubble til the end.  Some are non-dogmatic but eschew public discussions of politics generally, and particularly highly partisan battles such as this one.  And some are simply embarrassed.

Most of these people emerged from America’s ideological middle, and thence they will return.  No reaction is merited.  Just take solace in the fact that it is already happening.
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Angry Fuckers Til the End
These people betray the facile narrative that Donald Trump rode to the White House upon nothing more than a wave of working class frustrations.  You see, these folks are actually doing pretty well.  They’ve got good jobs, often of the white collar variety.  They’re financially sound.  Many are formally educated.  They live downtown or in nice suburbs or gated communities.  These people don’t actually have anything to be angry about, but boy are they pissed.  They are furious for no discernible reason.  They are bile, and Donald Trump is the political duct work that allows them to vent.

ObamaCare?  It enrages them, even though they have health insurance through their employer.  The economy?  It makes them apoplectic, even though their annual earnings are near or at six figures.  A white elephant border wall?  They’ll go hoarse screaming for it, even though they live over a thousand miles from Mexico.  Black and brown people?  Scared shitless of them.  But they’re loathe to admit it because voicing such fears is “unmanly” or simply doesn’t go over well in their circles, so they speak in coded language.  Same with their insecurities about women like Hillary Clinton.  Lock her up before she emasculates me or challenges my sense of femininity.

Many of these raging cranks see through Trump the con man, and some don’t.  But even the ones who know better are hard pressed to give him up.  Why?  Because Trump is like a powerful drug to these folks.  They’re addicted to agida.  They get off on getting agitated and turning red.  Of course, that’s often an unacceptable form of public behavior, but Trump allows them to cover their explosive personal issues with the socially acceptable veil of “politics.”

Scream at people because your parents loved a sibling more than you?  I don’t know man, that’s a little heavy, and we just met.  But publicly seethe at casual acquaintances about a porous border and the press’ unfair treatment of The Donald?  Sure, have at it.  That’s democracy in motion.

One day, if they don’t stroke out or suffer a major coronary first, the folks in this category will come around and admit that Trump was a disaster.  But that’s okay; they’ll have found some other dying light to rage against by then.

Avoid these people like the plague.  And not because of their politics.  Weed them out because life’s too short.  Honestly, who needs this shit?  The definition of an asshole is someone who, instead of dealing with their own baggage, finds an excuse to dump it on you.

These people are assholes.
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The April Fools
Donald Trump is a con man, and these are his marks.  But unlike the jolly Johns who eventually figure out the error of their ways, these people will never move forward, believing and embracing Trump’s nasty fantasies until their dying day, and using him as a cipher for many more of their own.  And worse yet, they will not even have the good graces to shut up once they realize their on the losing side of history.  These pin heads will continue to bellow about the Great Man come hell or high water.

These people cannot be saved because they refuse to save themselves.  They will never find truth for the simple reason that they will never seek it, and even turn away when it is presented to them.  They will never find redemption because they will not let it into their lives.  They will continue swallowing Trump’s ludicrous lies because not only are they incapable and/or unwilling to recognize falsehoods as such, but because they want to believe them.  They cling to the lies, ingesting and becoming one with them, redefining their identity through The Donald.

These people will never, ever admit that Trump did anything wrong at all, much less that they made a mistake supporting him.  Far from it.  These people will find absolutely any excuse, no matter how ludicrous, to justify and rationalize their love of Trump.  These people will reify Trump until he is naught but a stain on the pages of history.  These people will defy reason to glorify him.  These people will build statues of him if you let them.  When it’s all over, these people will claim Trump as their martyr, passing out blame like communion wafers on Easter.

These people are the worst.  These are the nut jobs and the ideologues, the star fuckers and the jack asses.  These people still go to his rallies because they are somewhat detached from reality.  These people turn in circles.  These people have brains that do not work well.  These people, although we love them, are the scourge of any democratic republic.

These people are fools, still blathering in April.  These people live in the winter of discontent while Spring flowers bloom around them.

They are the 16% who believe we can build thousand mile wall and not pay for it.  They are the hundred-thousand who heart Trump’s tweets and lovingly call him “Daddy” and the “God Emperor.”  They are the sacks of angry pudding who’ve convinced themselves that whites are oppressed by blacks, men are oppressed by women, heteros are oppressed by LGBTQs, native borns are oppressed by immigrants, and fat people aren’t actually oppressing anyone, but by golly, it sure is fun to insult and bully them.  They are the gullible guys and dolls who believe that Congressional Democrats, in front of an entire nation, refused to stand in honor of a dead Navy Seal’s widow.  They are the screaming loonies of Crazy Town who believe Hillary Clinton trafficked child sex slaves through a Washington, D.C. pizzeria.  They are the slobbering tail waggers who think “draining the swamp” means increasing the number of Goldman Sachs honchos in the White House.  They are the fiercely unhinged who insult and even threaten female and Jewish reporters that dare to expose Trump’s lies and hypocrisies.  They are the pigeons who once bought Trump steaks, vodka, real estate seminars, and “university” class, and still think they got a great deal on all of it.  Like, even the criminally fraudulent shit that Trump’s still paying damages for.  They are the babbling, bubbling base that thinks ObamaCare is TrumpCare, TrumpCare is Medicare, Medicare is Meidcaid, Medicaid is Social Security Disability, Social Security Disability is private health insurance, and tax credits for private health insurance are invisible little miracles born upon the shimmering wings of angels that will one day lift them and their small dogs up to Heaven.

Do not engage these people in political discussion, unless you’re just feeling mean and looking to blow off some steam, in which case, feel free to verbally beat the living shit out of them, knowing that they fill no other acceptable role in pubic discourse than that of rhetorical punching bag.  Any further form of political engagement with these people will lead you to do worse than doing nothing; you will waste energy that you could have spent on worthwhile efforts.  Do not let these people drag you down.  Do not allow them to exasperate you with their ludicrous assertions, their predictable chants of dogma, or their rambling non-sequiturs.  Do not let them tangle you in fits of rage and depression.

If these people are your loved ones, talk about sports or President’s Day mattress sales or how beautiful the sunset is or how you sure do miss good ole Aunt Betsy, god bless her, she really was the glue that brought this family together every Thanksgiving.  If they are loud strangers at a safe distance, feel free to use them as a dire warning to precocious children.  “Eat your vegetables and do your homework, dear, or you might end up like that crazy, angry reactionary screaming in the corner.”

When it is over, and these people look worthy of your vengeance, resist that malignant urge.  Never promote vindictive policies against these people, lest you become what you set out to destroy.  Recognize these people for the broken, angry shells of humanity they truly are; under more normal circumstances they are deserving of our pity and help if they are open to it, but not our hatred.

Yet, shed no tears for these people when they die; in different times and places, these people are perfectly fine with Adolph Hitler and Pol Pot and Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin, so long as they are on the winning side, baby.

To hell with these people, and to hell with Donald Trump, the reprehensible man child around whom these people continue to rally.

Soon it will be May, and April Fools will be naught but a bad memory.

This essay first appeared at 3 Quarks Daily.

Let it Rip