Jeanette Strong: The devotees of Donald Trump
Devotee: an ardent follower, supporter, fanatic.
On December 20, President Donald Trump had been in office for 11 months. He’s boasted that he’s done more within that time than almost any president in U.S. history. In fact, Trump has accomplished little except to demolish a lot of the progress made by President Barack Obama.
Do Trump’s followers feel betrayed that he has fulfilled so few of his promises? No. They slavishly believe every word he says, including blaming the Democrats (who are not in power) for all of his failings. To them, his ignorance, incompetence and bullying attitude are evidently part of his charm.
“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Trump said on Jan. 23, 2016. Did he lose voters when he said this? Apparently not; whatever Trump says is fine with them, no matter how vicious or disgusting. He bragged about grabbing women by the ***** and walking in on half-naked teenage pageant contestants. Just fine with his followers.
Not only do Trump’s followers excuse everything he says or does, they also believe things that aren’t true. One follower praised Trump for repealing and replacing Obamacare. Hasn’t happened. Others believe Trump created more jobs in three months than Obama did in eight years. Obama saved 1.5 million auto industry jobs and created 15 million net new jobs. Jobs have been created since Trump took office, thanks to Obama’s policies, but Trump still has over 13.5 million new jobs to go. It’s difficult to discuss things intelligently when Trump’s followers flatly refuse to look at facts.
One insidious result of this refusal to accept facts is calling everything that shows Trump in a negative light “Fake News.” I have a conservative friend who admires Trump. I sent her the September 2017 jobs report, showing a net loss of 33,000 jobs. This was the first month in over seven years that the economy had lost jobs. She called it fake news. These numbers are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and have been calculated in the same way for decades. But to her, facts didn’t matter. Trump can do no wrong, so there were no job losses. That’s a very dangerous way to think about anyone.
One of the biggest dangers of the Trump presidency is the “normalization” of his behavior and attitudes. His vulgarity, his threatening those who don’t unconditionally admire him, his apparent extortion of our allies (“Pay up or else!”), his cozying up to brutal dictators, his “Pay to play” at Mar-a-Lago, where he meets foreign officials in secret, his lack of transparency regarding his taxes and the White House visitors’ logs – all of these behaviors are extremely disturbing.
Trump’s followers still worship him, through missteps and scandals that would never have been tolerated in any other president. They don’t seem to care what he actually believes or does. In fact, Trump himself said, “I don’t stand by anything.” (CBS interview, 4/29/17). This lack of principle seems fine with his followers.
I received a post on my Facebook account that says, “In America, we don’t worship government. We worship God.” Front and center was Trump’s face. If anyone thinks I’m reaching here, on Sept. 30, 2016, two Trump supporters named Sandee and Noreen were interviewed in Novi, Michigan, by an NBC reporter. I saw the interview myself. Here are their words:
“Sandee: We all feel the same way. We always have — for years. So, we finally have this god that’s gonna come down and help us all.
NBC Reporter: You just referred to Trump as a god.
Sandee: Yeah, he is. Well, like she said. Jesus, then Trump.”
Trump is not God, but it’s frightening that many of his followers feel this way. We’ve seen the results of such blind worship in the tragedies of Jonestown, Guyana; Branch Davidians, Waco, Texas; and Heaven’s Gate, San Diego. That kind of blind devotion is dangerous under any leader.
Trump is attempting to turn our great country into a tin-pot banana republic dictatorship. His devotees are aiding and abetting him. All Republicans are certainly not like this; I know many fine Republicans. But I believe that the Republican Party they believe in, the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Eisenhower, no longer exists. Those men believed in facts.
Today’s Republican Party has a leader who disdains facts and truth and twists reality to suit his purposes. Someday, reality will fight back, and the results will be tragic. Happy New Year!
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.