Will we ever learn?
In the wake of 2016, many on the left, in the media and certainly on blue-check Twitter were caught off guard by Donald Trump’s unfathomable win. I count myself among the surprised.
Over the past four years, however, we’ve seen over and over again that Trump’s appeal wasn’t merely the result of a fluke or an irrelevant procedural mishap.
It was real.
Supported by real people. For real reasons.
These people support Trump despite what I may think are unforgivable and disqualifying transgressions. As he grew more emboldened, so too did his corruption and abuses of power. His stoking of racial tensions pitted Americans against each other. His war on the press and free speech made us less free. His affection for dictators made us less safe. And his incompetence and denials about COVID-19 has cost lives.
It’s easy to assume these are clear and undeniable failures, that anyone who disagrees is a quack, a racist or living in an alternate reality.
Anyone who made that assumption may have been surprised, therefore, to see so many people of varying backgrounds tell compelling stories of why they still support the president at the first two nights of the Republican National Convention. I was not.
Among them, everyday workers like Maine lobsterman Jason Joyce; Minnesota dairy farmer Cris Peterson; and Wisconsin’s John Peterson, owner of Schuette Metals.
There were women, including pro-life activist Abby Johnson, Angel Mom Mary Ann Mendoza and Florida’s first female Hispanic Lt. Gov., Jeanette Nunez.
There were Democrats, including Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones and the mayor of Eveleth, a mining town in Minnesota, who blasted former Vice President Joe Biden in a scathing rebuke of his trade policies.
And there were people of color, including Kim Klacik, a Republican congressional candidate from Baltimore, and the Black Republican attorney general of Kentucky, Daniel Cameron, who also swung hard at Biden for his past policies and recent comments on race.
No, these people don’t represent all working-class voters, all women, or all people of color, obviously. But they are real, and they do represent real voters, many of whom believe their values are under attack, that Democrats are pushing a socialist agenda, that politicians and government have made their lives worse.
While many on the left and in the media have hyped how crazy the RNC would be — and sure, there’s been plenty of crazy — there’s been plenty of compelling, effective and, for lack of better word, “normal” too.
While we’ve been shuddering at the infiltration of the GOP by quacks and conspiracy theorists like QAnon, millions of sane and rational voters are there, too — people and prescriptions I may not agree with, but whose perspectives are hardly fringe.
While we’ve been correctly cataloging every one of Trump’s colossal failures, his naked corruption, his rank abuse of power, plenty of ordinary people still believe that he’s better than the alternative.
And while we’ve been hammering away at Trump’s obvious racism and fomenting of white supremacist rage to gin up his base, we may forget that some of his voters really do just care about the fate of their small businesses, the burden of unfair trade deals on their manufacturing industry, the ravages of an opioid crisis in their community.
The first half of the RNC has been, in many ways, a total whitewashing of Trump’s first term, dishonestly ignoring the many demonstrable failures of his administration. But it has also been an important reminder that as much as Trump props himself up with baseless boasts and an artificial edifice of success, there are real people supporting him for real reasons. And if 2020 is anything like 2016, they may be undercounted and underreported.
Every time a new poll of Trump’s approval comes out, the “resistance” earnestly asks, who are the people who could actually approve of this?
Maybe enough to keep him in office, it turns out. As someone who wants Trump gone, that worries me, and it should worry the left.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.