My Struggles to Categorize 63 Million People

trump votersLike many people, I have struggled for over a year to understand how anyone could support Donald Trump. Yet, 63 million people voted for him in the 2016 Presidential election. Donald Trump is our current President and problem, but the solution isn’t simply getting him out of office. It goes much deeper than that. We need to understand who these 63 million voters are and why they felt compelled to vote for a man not qualified to run a country and who has no moral backbone. Over the last six months, I have been on my own journey trying to wrap my head around why anyone would vote for someone so vile, unintelligent, and narcissistic. Through reading and conversations with people on both sides of the campaign, I am continually evolving in my understanding of these 63 million voters.

Some of these voters can be easily and obviously grouped into buckets such as those so fiscally conservative they could never vote for a Democrat, or those social conservatives who believe liberals are destroying America’s moral fiber, and of course those who simply didn’t want a “liberal” nominating Supreme Court Justices. Other small buckets include those who hate the Clintons and those who are worried Democrats care going to take their guns. Most certainly, some of the 63 million voters go into these buckets. And although I don’t agree with any of those positions, I can at least comprehend why these voters went with Trump. But, I strongly believe these voters make up only a small percentage of the total Trump vote. So, we must press on.

The Bigot Bucket
Six months ago, when I first put an effort in to understanding Trump supporters, I threw all of them in to one bucket; the bigot bucket. I absolutely believed if you supported Trump it was because you were a racist, a misogynist, or a xenophobe. Essentially, supporting Trump made you a sexist egotistical lying hypocritical bigot. I like things neat, and putting everyone into that bigot bucket was neat. But also terribly wrong. First and foremost, there is no voting data that shows 63 million people are bigots (actually, to the contrary). And secondly, and maybe more importantly, calling someone a bigot or racist with no real proof is a horrible thing to do. Think of all the things someone can call you. If you’re white, and not a supremacist, being called a racist is like someone saying you are stupid, evil, and a dick. So, new personal policy, I’m done calling people racist because of a “gut feeling.” I now need a little harder evidence. That’s not to say there isn’t a bigot bucket. Oh, there’s still a bigot bucket. It just doesn’t include 63 million voters any more. The journey continues.

End Entitlements Bucket
The next group or bucket I have come to appreciate is the group that should be getting all the attention from the anti-Trump movement. This is a rational group which could eventually change their opinion of the Trump administration if they were communicated to appropriately. This group is comprised of those who are misinformed about “entitlement” programs. They believe if you work hard, you will be fine. And, if one is struggling, the community will take care of them. The government shouldn’t be giving “handouts” to a bunch of freeloaders. They see a country where people like themselves are busting their butts to provide a living for their family and doing whatever they can to help neighbors, and then they see a whole group of people mooching off the government and taking advantage of a terribly broken system. They can’t, in good conscience, vote for someone who in any way supports these handouts.

These voters aren’t dumb or heartless; they just have an ideological misunderstanding. Most all of them come from rural areas or blue collar factory or mining-type towns. They have learned two main things growing up in these hardworking, compassionate communities. The first one is that hard work is king. If you want something, you have to work hard. They are intelligent enough to understand hard work won’t necessarily make you a millionaire, but if you work hard, you will be able to support yourself and your family. The second thing they have learned is that you are obligated to do what you can to help those in your community in need.

Let’s first examine hard work, and to communicate this properly, I’m going to discuss the great state of Iowa, my home state. One of the great things about Iowans is their appreciation of hard work. Iowans don’t care how much money people have, what they own, or what they do. They value people based on how hard they work. That is the measure of success in Iowa; your work ethic. Iowa is a farm state, but the majority of the population still lives in cities. But at some point those city-dwellers have been exposed to farm work, so they respect it. Because it’s hard work. It’s no coincidence that wrestling is so popular in Iowa, because the sport epitomizes hard work. Basketball is still slightly more popular as a winter sport in Iowa, but even the star basketball players revere the wrestlers because of their understanding of a wrestler’s work ethic. Because of this appreciation for hard-work, Iowans, like others from similar areas across the country, have come to believe that everyone can work their way out of or into something.

But that’s simply not true. There are those born into circumstances so dire that not only will hard work not dig them out of a hole, they themselves have had little to no exposure to the type of appreciation for the hard work I have described above. Work ethic is not spontaneously created. You can’t give someone a pill to make them work hard. The “hard work is king” belief has been passed down through generations and generations in these communities. Now understand this; there is whole other group of people who have been taught through generations that “you can work as hard as you want, but people are still going to do whatever they can to keep you down.” Those people are not born into equal circumstances as those born into these rural and other blue collar towns where hard work has been instilled in one’s upbringing. But, in defense of these rural and blue collar towns, these residents have not lived in a city or traveled enough to see the other side of this coin. Nor has it been appropriately explained to them. Like everyone, they only have their eyes to see through and learn through, and what they have seen tells them we can all work hard enough to not need the government to help us.

Now let’s look at the second thing the rural and blue collar voter has learned through generations; you are obligated to do what you can to help those in your community in need. Again, to illustrate my point, I will use Iowans. Like anywhere else, people do fall through the cracks in Iowa. They don’t go to college or trade school or get a job right out of high school. They stick around in their small town while they try to figure out what they should do. During this time, they typically have supportive parents who try to steer them in the right direction, or get them work, even if it’s temporary. They may ask the Henderson’s if they need help on their farm, or if Gene’s Tire & Auto needs an extra hand, or if the local Kwiki Mart needs another employee. And many times, this works out, because the people in the community want to take care of each other.

But, unfortunately, there are large cities in America where people who need help may not have supportive parents, and even if they do, fallback jobs aren’t available. It’s not that the people in these communities aren’t supportive; it’s that they simply can’t afford to be supportive. They themselves are barely getting by, they don’t have the connections to help someone out, and many times, the number of people who need a hand is overwhelming. For those who do not live this life or see those living in it on day to day basis, it is hard to understand why the government needs to help people. These folks are used to taking care of each other. Again, why would anyone need the government?

I believe this segment of Trump voters may not agree with the President and probably don’t like him. But, they have been so mislead in regards to how and what entitlement programs are, they felt a Trump vote was the only way to stop this massive waste of government spending. These voters aren’t unintelligent or bigots, they simply haven’t been informed properly.

Star-Struck Bucket
The final bucket of Trump voters came to me when I read a fascinating stat; 67% of white non-college educated voters voted for Trump compared to just 28% voting for Clinton. This 39% margin dwarfed the Republican margins in 2012 (25%) and 2008 (18%). How did such a large swing occur in this segment? Well, I have a theory.

As we get older, most people respect wisdom and intelligence more. We want the leaders of our businesses, schools, and our country to be thoughtful and smart. Furthermore, we want people to feel we are intelligent, so we try to remain informed and well-read so others respect us. But, this is a big shift from when most people were in high school. When we were young, people aspired to be the fastest, the strongest, the funniest, the best looking, the kid with the nicest clothes, best house, and nicest car, etc. In most high schools, the smartest kids are not the most popular kids. Sadly, this is often the contrary. Smart kids not only are rarely the popular kids, they are often picked on for being smart.

I feel there is a whole group of Trump voters who never graduated from their high school mentality of picking the popular kid over the “nerdy, know-it-all.” Think back to the factors that often made a kid popular at your high school and let’s see how Trump compares. New kid: check. Loud and brash: check. Pretty girlfriend: check. Rich kid: check. TV star: check. These voters have been fooled into thinking that Trump is cool (he is not) and that they should trust the cool kid.

I feel most sorry for the star struck bucket, as they will ultimately be the ones who get burned the most. Trump, like the cool kid, pretended he was their friend just so he could get something from them (their votes), but they will now be disregarded along with everyone else, except for the other rich kids already in his circle.

The Journey Continues
I will continue to evolve when it comes to my thoughts on why 63 million people voted for Trump. I may add buckets, delete buckets, or slightly redefine some. The important thing is we all try to understand how we got here. And the reality is that 63 million people voted for Trump. The problem may be Trump, but the solution is figuring out a way to more effectively communicate to those 63 million people.

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