It's a provocative title, intriguing, because to me, understanding how it is that good, good people find Donald Trump so appealing remains the mystery of the Trump era. I like Joe Biden. I voted for him (by mail), but the truth is, I could have been faithful to any number of Democratic candidates this time around. I was pleased to hear every one of them speak.
But I'm not madcap bonkers about Biden, not as crazed as Trump's panting fans, not obsessed or bewitched, willing to risk Covid just to welcome him mask-lessly on a cold airport tarmac. What on earth makes Bible-toting evangelicals buy into a grotesque storyline that a cabal of heinous Democrats and RHINOs, plus some Hollywood star types, and any number of "elites" (of whom I must be one, I guess) gather together ritually to kill children and drink their blood? QAnon anyone?
But let's leave the madness out. Why do ordinary people slavishly pull on their MAGA caps or hoist Trump flags for a Trump flotilla? On that subject I read because I just don't understand.
An opinion piece in the New York Times some time ago made some limited sense. It doesn't explain the evangelical swoon, but abortion IS the Trump card there--and I understand. I don't fall in line, but I understand. If Democrats are baby-killers, as my five-year-old son said of Obama in 2008 as he crawled into my lap, I get that. I don't agree, but I do understand.
In "Why They Loved Him," Farah Stockman, an editor at the Times, took a close look at a man named Tim, who, like dozens of men and women she'd interviewed, lost his job and his way of life by way of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, when thousands of blue-collar jobs went south to Mexico and made fatter cats out of men who had been loaded already.
"A machinist named Tim," she claims, "carried his steelworker union card in his wallet for years after the factory closed, just to remind himself who he was." NAFTA didn't simply steal his job, it robbed him of something far more important--identity. "Tim grew up in a union household. His dad had been an autoworker; his grandfather, a coal miner." He lost his job, AND he lost his way of life.
That Tim would drop his own, generations'-old commitments to the Democratic party, a party that, he said, once stood up for the little guy, and instead surf a big orange wave behind a man with weird hair who promised to bring those jobs to boarded-up main streets all over the rust belt makes good sense. Men and women like Tim have every right to say, "Give me back my life." It wasn't only the living wage those steelworkers wanted returned, it was a loving community, a way of life that gives meaning and order to any of their/our lives.
What resonated with me was that union card, something he couldn't and wouldn't toss. Somehow that union card meant more to him than the unemployed or underemployed guy he saw when he looked in a mirror. Enter Donald J. Trump.
To understand the significant social problems of our reservation, my Lakota nurse told me, start there--with a way of life entirely erased by way of an inky thumbprint, a way of life ended forever.
What Trump offered Tim and so many others is hope, as Stockman says, "false hope, but false hope is better than no hope at all."