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Why Insulting Trump Backfires: Two Views

I had a long discussion with an old friend today. He thinks that Democrats hurt themselves when they call Trump a racist or a misogynist. Attacking someone by slapping an ugly label on them, he said, diminishes the person making the accusation because it’s just classic stereotyping and is a cheap and ineffective way to try to win an argument.

This is an interesting point, one I’d not thought of before. I think it’s wrong though because it doesn’t look deeply enough into the phenomenon that is the Trump candidacy.

Trump’s base is made up of largely of racists, Evangelicals, defenders of “family values” who are anti-women and anti-LGBT and those who’ve gotten hurt financially. These are, of course, the very folks the GOP has been courting since Lee Atwater. But they got nothing the GOP promised. They feel lied to, reneged on.

In fact, things got worse. Wages stagnated. Jobs moved overseas, Wall Street grew while their wallets shrunk. Gays got the right to marry. Women were in combat roles. Planned Parenthood was a strong lobby for women’s reproductive rights.

And, God forbid, a Black dude got elected President — twice.

The Trump phenomenon is these people angrily reacting to the feeling of being fucked over. They’d been holding onto their beliefs, fears, confusions and angers for decades — but nobody, till Trump, ever actually said the things they were thinking.

When he speaks white racists hear racist messages; anti-feminists hear attacks on women; Evangelicals hear that abortion will be criminalized and women punished; anti-LGBT people hear messages that demonize gays, lesbians and the trans-gendered; those who’ve lost jobs or haven’t had a raise in a decade hear him blame immigrants for taking their jobs and applaud calls for them to be banned and deported.

It is true, as my friend said, attacks on Trump for being a racist or a sexist do seem to boost his ratings. But I don’t think it’s because voters are reacting angrily at people for stereotyping Trump. I suspect it is precisely because they are racists and misogynists and it reinforces their attachment to him for just these reasons.

Reader Comments (1)

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