This past week Mitt Romney gained media attention for his statements about Donald Trump. While I generally agree with Romney in his comments about Trump, I disagree with the way he approached the situation. He essentially shamed Trump supporters and called them idiots. Shaming them only reinforces their support and shows the disconnect between the political establishment and the rest of America.
I have nothing positive to say about the current leader in the GOP primaries other than the fact that he has made the debates must watch TV. He is a corrupt, power hungry narcissist. He is a failed business man who has more than once filed for bankruptcy. His companies include casinos and strip clubs, two industries that systematically prey on the most vulnerable in society. He is nowhere even close to being a Christian. He has mocked communion and more than once said that he has never asked God for forgiveness. Justin Taylor summed up his theology as moralistic therapeutic deism without morality or therapy. I would add to that, that he sees himself as the deity. He is an adulterer and perhaps a rapist. His ideology that he probably does not even believe in himself, is more akin to fascism than true conservatism. His pseudo-conservative policies are built upon racism, nationalism, xenophobia, and thoughtless populism. He has vowed to commit war crimes and his antics have turned our attention away from the insanity of Ted Cruz, the scandals of Hillary Clinton, and the ludicrous policy proposals of Bernie Sanders. He is the least presidential candidate perhaps ever and above all he is a con-man. He has duped millions both with his products and his politics. Trump University was a scam and his presidential candidacy is a scam. He will not “Make America Great Again.” He cannot “Make America Great Again.” But as repulsive of a human being as he is, I cannot shame those who have voted for him. It is not all their fault.
Those who are voting for Trump are largely (though certainly not always) lower to middle class, white Americans living in rural areas or struggling manufacturing towns, who have been forgotten and disregarded in recent years. They are lost in a globalized world and feel that they have been left behind – pun intended- by the political establishment Many do not have college degrees and work blue collar jobs, if they are lucky enough to have a job at all. Their communities have poorly funded schools and drug problems are rampant. They are shamed and despised by liberal elites, labeled as “backwards”, “rednecks” and “white trash.” Even more well off white conservatives do not want to associate with them. We are not like “those white conservatives.” After all, I do not listen to country music, wear camo or watch NASCAR. And I am definitely not an Alabama football or Kentucky basketball fan. God forbid you confuse me with one of those. We are cultured and we have moved on from the shameful history of racism among many white conservative leaders. As Anthony Bradley said:
“Lower-class whites are viewed with contempt. They’re the only group that no one gets rebuked for mocking or stereotyping.”
Add all of this together and you have a group who feels demonized and desperate. They, like Bernie Sander’s supporters are looking for a political messiah that will shake things up. Then a charismatic leader comes along who says he speaks for them. Trump looks nothing like the politicians – liberal or conservative – who have ignored them for years. He claims to have policy solutions that will help their situation. It doesn’t matter that he is simply power hungry and couldn’t care less about them or that his wall and his vague policy proposals will inevitably fail. He sells it well. Millions of people finally feel heard. They finally fell like they have a voice in Donald Trump. Is systematic racism a huge issue in our country today? Absolutely, and racism plays a part in the appeal of Trump. Has the rhetoric of blabbering conservative talking heads like Sean Hannity, Matt Walsh, Ann Coulter, and Todd Starnes contributed to the rise of Trump? No doubt, but neither this nor racism can exhaustively explain the Trump phenomenon. I believe evangelicals should raise their voices against the bigotry and immorality of Donald Trump and criticize the endorsements given by the likes of Jerry Fallwell Jr., but this must be done in a way that respects those who who vote for him as human beings made in the image of God, many of who are struggling and all of whom were have a unique story.
Alistair Roberts, who has written the best piece on Trump that I have read so far,sums it up well:
“The success of Trump, if I am correct, is in no small measure a result of the failure of other politicians and the establishment more generally to take a number of genuine public concerns seriously, to treat the working class with respect and dignity rather than self-righteous superiority, to address the ineffectiveness of government…When the establishment has demonstrated its lack of genuine respect or concern for a large segment of the population, it is not surprising that such pronounced anti-establishment sentiment should arise.”