For innumerable Americans, it has become a daily occurrence to look down at our iPhones and see push notifications confirming that some of our worst fears about President Trump are coming true. From his Muslim ban and laws regulating public bathroom by trans people to cutting free school lunches, the 45th President has unleashed a battery of terrible policy on the American public.
In the run up to the election, Trump supporters swore than much of his agenda was “just talk,” but now it’s clear that he is making good on his campaign promises (unfortunately, a rare instance of this actually happening). Though Trump has shown nothing but a mix of evil and incompetence during his first month in office, many of his diehard supporters have clung to their Cheetoh-dusted champion. Here’s how Trump supporters are still defending the President, when all evidence points to the Commander-in-Chief screwing over just about everyone but himself.
The current most regular talking point of Trump supporters standing by their man is “fake news.” His administration has repeatedly badmouthed America’s respected news outlets like the New York Times and CNN while propping up right wing mouthpieces like Breitbart, Alex Jones, and One America News. Recently, the conservative blogosphere has fallen in line behind Trump’s claims that reports of his administration’s contact with the Russian government are greatly exaggerated, despite extensive reporting depicting the contrary. During his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Trump doubled down on his opposition to the mainstream media, saying, “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake. Phony. Fake. A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.” This is ironic, given that Trump himself was a regular anonymous source to a variety of publications throughout the ‘90s.
Many Fox News-loving conservatives already spent the entire Obama administration distancing themselves from reality with wild conspiracy theories about the then-President, and now they’re primed to believe whatever distorted vision of the real world is tossed out by their favorite outlets. If they’ve already trained themselves to believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim, Pizzagate is real, and Benghazi was a vast government conspiracy, we shouldn’t be surprised that the MAGA crowd is willing to believe that Obamacare is a failure and tax cuts for the rich will make their lives better. Many conservatives are even prepared to believe stories that run contrary to observable facts: after CNN and New York Times protested their exclusion from a White House press briefing last week, Breitbart was quick to brand their complaints “fake news.”
PLAYING THE VICTIM
Another long-favored conservative coping mechanism was on full display this past week at CPAC: playing the victim. Just as the GOP loves to talk about the “real racists,” many Trumpers focus on how they’ve been “discriminated against” for being conservatives. Conservative outlets have run a rash of articles complaining that Trump supporters don’t feel comfortable in the workplace and on college campuses because of their political leanings. The Right has long conflated being able to say and do whatever you want without response or repercussions with discrimination. With a president actively pursuing policies most Americans are against, conservatives feel this is a good time to go back to this well.
In particular, right wing writers like to conflate this perceived bias with religious persecution. As a recent Washington Times op-ed put it, “Whether we are religious or not, whether we pray or not, whether we are political activists or not, many of us know what it feels like to be mocked to the point of less than ‘other’ status.” Later in this piece, author Marc Seigel compares the treatment of Trump voters by the rest of America to, you guessed it, the Holocaust. Seigel goes on to say, “Being a deplorable is the freedom to be obnoxious or disliked if you feel like it without being punished or ridiculed for it.” Of course, being obnoxious without being ridiculed is not a First Amendment right, while being able to fly into an airport without being singled out by your religion is.
One of the strangest lines of defense for a party usually so obsessed with tradition and the status quo is that Trump should be give room to grow into the responsibilities of the presidency. His supporters have long said that they think a businessman would shake up Washington, but it seems many of them never considered that may not be a good thing, or that it wouldn’t be a quick process. Republicans have been quick to make excuses for Trump as though the Presidency were a middle school recreational soccer league. Myra Adams took this party line tone in her National Review piece “Defending President Trump Is Becoming More Difficult,” where she repeatedly used terms like “learn” and phrases like “[Trump] can still earn the respect of the American people,” advocating for a presidency judged on growth and not on results. While other politicians are monitored by the right for even the semblance of a gaffe, Trump’s honeymoon period, according to these columnists, deserves an indefinite extension, and should be graded on a curve.
The most depressing breed of Trump voter is the one slowly opening their eyes. There have been many profiles on Trump supporters like Kathy Watson of Florida, who had dismissed Trump’s promise to dismantle Obamacare as “just bluster,” and is now dealing with the harsh realities she may soon face. Watson owes her life to the ACA; without it she would never have been able to afford cancer treatment. For these people, many of whom felt left behind by the recovery from the last recession, a simple desire for change has led to a potential nightmare. Watson insists she still has faith in Trump, but it’s difficult to blame her given her given her terrifying alternatives. All that remains in defense of Trump by Watson and those like her is the hope that he may still not follow through on his most destructive campaign promises, promises that could ruin their lives.