WaPo's Marc Fisher profiles The Kind Of People Who Would Vote For Donald Trump and finds out that yes, they are exactly who you think they would be: mostly older white men who want multicultural Millennial "participation trophy" America off their goddamn lawn already (and more than a few white women too.)
The way Joe McCoy sees it, the last time America was great was when Ronald Reagan was president, when people played by the rules. No, it was in the ’70s, Holly Martin says, when you could depend on Americans to work hard. No, to find true American greatness, Steve Trivett contends, you need to go back to before the Vietnam War, “when you could still own a home and have a good job even if you didn’t have a college education.”
Even if they don’t have “Make America Great Again” campaign caps, Donald Trump’s supporters easily recite the signature slogan of the real estate developer’s insurgent presidential bid. And even if they don’t agree on exactly why the country lost its way, they do accept — give or take a few degrees of hyperbole — Trump’s contention that the United States has become, as he has put it, “an economic wasteland” that is “committing cultural suicide.”
The premise behind “Make America Great Again” is that the country is no longer great. It can be great again, and the campaign has a certain can-do billionaire in mind as the guy to make that happen, but at the moment, the leading contender for the nomination of the party that regularly touts the notion of American exceptionalism is arguing that the country ain’t what it used to be.
The Rise Of Trump makes perfect sense if you realize the dog whistle is on the third word of his slogan compared to who is in the White House now. The Republicans who drove our economy into the ground from Reagan to Dubya somehow weren't the problem, it's the guy right now who's causing it. There's something different about him, you see.
For some supporters, especially those in the second half of life, Trump’s slogan is a tribute to a simpler time. “He could have said, ‘Make America what it was before’ and I would have voted for him,” said Jane Cimbal, 69, who lives in Winchester and signed up to collect signatures to get Trump on the Virginia ballot. “The last time we had good jobs and respect for the military and law enforcement was, oh, probably during Eisenhower.”
Cimbal doesn’t view Trump as an optimist of the Reagan stripe, but she’s okay with voting for a harsh critic. “He speaks his mind,” she said. “So many of the others are wishy-washy. Mr. Trump isn’t a provocateur to annoy people but to get them thinking.”
Cimbal, a loyal Republican, wants people to think about how to curb illegal immigration and protect Second Amendment gun ownership rights, but she’s mainly drawn to Trump because she thinks his plain talk can get things done. Her goal is to restore a time “when there wasn’t as much animosity toward each other, when everything wasn’t about race and people just got along.”
A nearly 70-year old white woman in Virginia wanting "America what it was before" when "everything wasn't about race" could not be a clearer set of lines to read between, folks. Back to before America had a non-white President. Back before we had an electorate that would elect a non-white President.
And younger white guys want a piece of that action too.
The crowds at Trump events tend to be older and whiter than the national population, but so is the party whose nomination he seeks, and so are frequent voters generally. If younger supporters don’t have firsthand experience of the Eisenhower, Kennedy or Reagan years, they nonetheless share the older generation’s sense of loss.
Joe McCoy, who is 31, says he started out this campaign season “laughing at this Trump guy like everyone else.”
Still, the more he heard Trump, the more the greatness slogan resonated. “He boasts a lot, he’s got trophy wives, he’s not exactly Mr. Clean, so I was skeptical,” said McCoy, who lives in Norwich, Conn., where he does tech support from home for a multinational company.
“Mitt Romney was more my kind of guy: practical, a nice guy. But you know, people don’t like a nice guy. They like this guy because he’s right about us losing our country. I really don’t think we should be letting kids go into whichever bathroom they want to in school. The Democrats are really reaching too far on the social issues. And there’s no retirement anymore, no pensions.”
McCoy laments the pervasive sense that it no longer pays to play by the rules. That’s where immigration enters the equation: “When my wife came here from the Philippines, she had to go through a health assessment, background checks and interviews to become a citizen. Now, these people come in from Mexico and Central America through some mule, just whoever comes.”
Never mind that illegal immigration is actually sharply down under Obama, and that Reagan, Poppy Bush, and Dubya were huge on looking the other way. When Joe here was born, Reagan was happily offering amnesty to undocumented people in the country. Trump's "deport all of those people" nonsense is what Joe wants. It's time to punish the folks that made America "not great".
When Joe laments the rules, he's talking about the unspoken ones, where guys like Joe ran the country and reaped the benefits. In 2015, not so much. I bet Joe hates unions too and can't understand why there's "no retirement anymore, no pensions". A guy at 31 complaining about no pensions is definitely a big, big clue.
“I’m not a rigid tea partyer,” he continued. “I’m in favor of government paying for roads and the fire department. Social Security is a great thing. But I don’t think Trump is really much of a conservative; he’s definitely more moderate than the others.”
McCoy recognizes that his sense of lost greatness is probably different from that of others who are drawn to Trump, but he says that’s all right. When Trump talks about losing the country, “it’s about whatever you want it to be,” McCoy said. “He lets you fill in the blanks.”
And that's the real draw, those blanks. That's the definite signal of success of a 100% dog whistle campaign. The people who like Trump are hearing precisely what they want to hear and nothing else. And in America, that works far more often than not.