I really don’t know what they see in him. It's like they're watching an entirely different guy. Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the streets continue supporting President Donald Trump—his approval among Republicans remains in the mid 80s—even as his presidency rambles through its first months like a runaway tractor trailer that’s loose on the highway with no brakes.
What is it that Republicans are getting that makes them still so happy with Trump? He’s failing to truly advance on any significant promise (see health care, tax reform, the Wall, the ban, etc.) and the specter of scandal via former FBI director James Comey and potential Russian collusion will live, rent-free, in a cloud parked over the White House for the rest of his days in the Oval.
This is an ineffective, unmoored, scandal-plagued White House and we're not even six months in. Either this administration fails to see how valuable it would be to have the Russia allegations investigated and laid to rest or they’re guilty and afraid of being discovered.
So either they’re blind and incompetent or they colluded with a hostile world power. Maybe both. Great. I struggle to think of anything that’s going right in this White House. So how is it more than a third of the country is very happy?
Most Republicans think the Comey situation is fine and don't see it as a troubling attempt to try to stop an investigation into whether the current president worked with Russia to get himself elected.
Recent NBC/SurveyMonkey polling shows Republicans find the firing of Comey to be appropriate (79 percent of Republicans said it was, only 38 percent of all adults agreed) and they believe that Trump really did fire Comey over Clinton’s emails (43 percent said that, only 24 percent of all adults agreed) and they think that the Russia allegation is a distraction (78 percent of Republicans said so while 54 percent of all adults disagree and say it is a serious issue).
Gallup finds Trump’s approval is a robust 84 percent among Republicans but an abysmal 41 percent among all adults. We are so deeply divided that it’s as if we’re in two different realities. But why is there such a deep disconnect? Maybe it’s three things.
First, it’s him. Many Republicans simply like him. They admire him in a way that few politicians will ever know. For his folks, he's aspirational. And more they see him as an extension of themselves. That’s a power that’s hard to shake.
Second, there's the continuing disinformation campaign flowing out of the programming of Fox News and right wing radio. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh, et al, love Trump and paint a fantasy portrait where a great man is getting things done and sticking it to the spineless Democrats every chance and protecting the country.
They see no emerging autocrat, no flailing nincompoop, no not-really-conservative Republican In Name Only who doesn’t care about ideas. They see a tough guy who's pissing off the left and if liberals are mad then mission accomplished because all of this isn't about the future of the country and helping people's lives, no it's about scoring points in the big game that is politics. Great.
There is, of course, a self-reinforcing circle at play within this. The base loves Trump so right wing media loves him and feeds the base stories and opinions that make Trump look great thus making them love him more. And with those two building each other up the Republicans on the hill have every reason to serve those folks what they want. It’s sad because so many people are being lied to by their media and it’s blinding them to political realities that could damage their own lives.
They deserve to know the truth about what Trump is doing to their health care, to their taxes, to their country. But Fox and the right radio mafia are in the business of political-flavored entertainment that pretends to be news as opposed, say, the news. If you listen to them you would think that Trump fired Comey over Hillary Clinton's emails, which beside being insanely ironic is a story that was abandoned as soon as Lester Holt and Trump started talking.
That it was about Hillary's emails was the initial spin and Fox viewers continue to believe it. That's just one of the more simple examples of how their disinformation campaign has led directly to misinformed voters who've been trained to distrust experts and that builds a moat around the ignorance that Fox incepted them with.
Third, it’s race. Of course it’s partly about race—do you really think any major American conversation isn’t, at some level, going to involve race? I love the 2011 Harvard study called "Whites See Racism As A Zero Sum Game That They Are Now Losing.”
It lays bare what’s really going on: the gains Black Americans have made over the past several decades is very threatening for a lot of white people. They see it as a loss. That's why you can always expect any gain, like the election of Barack Obama, to be followed by a backlash, like Trump. The study also unveils how many whites now feel racism is more directed at them than at people in oppressed communities. It's a dangerous situation when white people feel like whiteness is becoming undervalued and even stigmatized.
Blacks seemed to be surging ahead, taking their power. Within a few decades America will be a minority-majority country and then what? Taco trucks on every corner? If you were feeling like you don't recognize America because of the Black president and the trans folks on TV and Black Lives Matter and Central American kids streaming over the border and gays teaching in the schools and whiteness slowly losing power…
In that world, Trump restores whiteness to the throne of supremacy. He is an avatar for white privilege unapologetically asserting itself. He's like the human example of pissing on your territory to make sure the other animals know it's yours. He is making whiteness great again. And for that they’ll love him forever.