Trump voters — three groups with different motives — hold fast amid chaos

Robert Emmett Curran
Robert Emmett Curran

Donald Trump’s presidency has been singular in many respects, not least in the political bombshells his erratic and destructive ways have frequently produced.

Last week it was The New York Times’ anonymous op-ed by a senior member of the Trump administration. The author confirmed what has been known to any informed person of principle since Trump became a presidential candidate and documented subsequently by insider accounts: This president is impetuous, profoundly ignorant on domestic and foreign affairs, psychologically unstable, and has no moral center. In sum, he is manifestly unfit for the office.

Trump, of course, immediately cried “TREASON!!” as though treason was not something against the state but against the chief executive. Of course, if you are of the mind that “l’etat c’est moi,” then that is the charge you would make.

That accusatory essay has sent Trump on a Queeg-like hunt for its author. At least two dozen top officials have denied authorship.

Vice-President Mike Pence assures us in his super-pious manner that everyone on his staff has too much character to have written it. (Pence, like most of those in Trump’s orbit, has no acquaintance with irony).

He and Kellyanne Conway, the president’s official apologist, insist, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that the president is a thoughtful person who weighs all of his options before taking action. One wonders how many of the president’s pre-dawn tweets they have read.

Trump’s best congressional buddy, Sen. Rand Paul, has egged him on by recommending lie detector tests for all suspects. As journalist Bob Woodward cites chief of staff John Kelly in his new book “Fear,” this really is “crazytown.”

In normal times, such indictments of a sitting president by insiders and journalists would activate congressional oversight, which the Constitution provides for, as a check against the executive’s abuse of power or other behavior that endangers the Republic.

But this Republican-controlled Congress has not the least intent of looking into the true state of the White House.

Some individual representatives or senators may scruple over the president’s rhetoric or erratic nature, but the Faustian bargain they have made with Trump over tax cuts and court appointments, plus fear of Trump’s base, keep the Republican Congress utterly inert as a counter-force to the president’s mad course.

That base is driven by three impulses: racism, absolutism and greed.

Much of the success the Republican Party has enjoyed since the 1960s has been due to its “southern strategy” of coded racist appeals. It is safe to say that no Republican candidate has been as blatant in his manipulation of racist proclivities as Trump.

His policies on immigration, guns, education, voting and crime are all contrived to maintain the support of this racist base.

The second Trump cohort are the stalwarts of the culture wars who have made their bed with him over guns, abortion and gay rights. They expect him to nominate Supreme Court justices who will rule according to the NRA agenda and repeal both Roe and Obergefell. This is all they care about.

The final Trump constituency are the plutophiles, the rich and those who aspire to be such. They knew perfectly well that his blather about draining the swamp, all his invective against Wall Street was just populist rhetoric, Trump’s latest and most consequential con.

They knew that Trump was going to leverage the presidency to the max for his personal benefit and that of his family. But they knew, too, that in pursuit of that narcissistic goal, he would assemble a corporate-heavy cabinet and champion corporate-friendly policies on an unprecedented scale. And so he has.

It is no accident that the sole major legislation that Trump has signed was a massive tax cut which bestowed four-fifths of its largesse on the super rich, foreign and domestic. So, too, the manic deregulation of the economy and the environment by Trump’s executive orders and his agencies’ sabotaging of rules are a dream come true for the industrial and financial barons.

Little wonder that close to 90 percent of those who still identify themselves as Republicans stand by their man. As long as they do, the Republican Congress will as well.

Meanwhile the soul of this democracy remains in critical condition.

Robert Emmett Curran of Richmond is professor emeritus of history at Georgetown University.