“In Spite of Everything, I Still Believe that People are Really Good at Heart”

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With Anne Frank’s words in mind, I made one of my periodic visits to FiveThirtyEight.com, to see how the Trumpster is doing this morning. The FiveThirtyEight folks, with their poll of polls, confirm what has been apparent for some days now: the Mueller report peeled away a few Trump supporters, but not enough to make a blip in the statistics. And in fact, his approval is trending up just a soupçon over the past days.

Why? It must have been the stock market—which was doing really well before Trump’s weekend tweets about China. We’ll see whether the bad market today moves him down by a fraction of one percent. I suspect it will.

In any event, we may count ourselves fortunate that there remains a 9.6 percent spread between Trump approvers and Trump disapprovers. That’s a little larger than the Democratic margin of victory among 2018 voters in races for the House of Representatives. Both the polls and the logic of events would predict a 2020 result much more like 2018 than 2016. Nevertheless, there remains a big “Democratic Debate Over Winning Back Trump’s Base.” Are some of them,in Anne Frank’s words, really good at heart, or are they all pretty much a lost cause?

Well, clearly some of them are not worth the effort. Read the first part of Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland. There you’ll meet Trevor, who is dying at the age of 41, who would probably live if his state had extended Medicaid, and who would rather die than live in a state where poor black people get help with their medical care. Trevor values his white “privilege” over his life.

I really don’t know what you can do with people like Trevor, except stand aside and let them win their Darwin Award.

But I have postulated that there is a group of people, comprising perhaps a quarter of Trump “supporters” and ten percent of the entire electorate, who “support” Trump because they think he is the instrument to advance their tax cuts, or their deregulation, or their desire to be free of black and brown people, or their love of fetuses.

I have argued that if, hypothetically, we substitute the goals of preventing climate change, creating a workable health care system, and addressing income inequality, we progressives might put up with a leader of defective moral character. In other words, balancing out important policy goals versus individual bad character, and choosing the leader of bad character for the sake of advancing goals, does not necessarily make you a “bad person.” It makes you a person who knows it’s sometimes necessary to pick the lesser of two evils.

But here is the problem for the Tax Cut People, the Fetus People, and the rest of the “pragmatic” Trump “supporters.” Or, rather, two problems. Karl Rove was really good at driving wedges into the body politic. Ditto, Donald Trump. But Rove was careful to drive in the wedge at a point where his side got 52 percent of the vote. The Donald, however, knows how to drive wedges into the spot where he gets 42 percent.

In the long term, and even in your medium term, you can’t keep your tax cuts and protect your fetuses unless you appeal to at least a bare majority of the voters. But Trump’s repellant horseshoe is not going to stop. So the Trump-“supporting” “pragmatists” have bet on the wrong damn horse.

And here’s the other problem. I suspect that a goodly number of the Trump pragmatists, not to mention most of the most deplorable one third of our fellow Mericans, would be just fine with overthrowing the constitutional republic and establishing a joint dictatorship of the Randy Racists and the Richie Riches.

A saner would-be tinhorn dictator might have achieved that objective. And, God knows, Trump is still trying. But if I were a Fetus Person or a Tax Cut Person, I wouldn’t bet on the end of the republic and the overthrow of majority rule–even if I thought that, in principle, a dictatorship would be fine and dandy.

These folks really would be a lot better off finding another Karl Rove.