The recent US election had its highest voter turnout in 120 years. More than 80 million people voted for Joe Biden and 74 million for Donald Trump, making them the most-voted-for politicians in the history of the country.
It was initially thought that the pandemic – along with President Trump’s early claims that there would be fraud – would dampen voter turnout. This was not the case. Sixty-seven percent of the electorate voted either in person or by mail.
The other surprise was that 74 million people voted for Trump – 10 million more than voted for him in 2016. This was surprising because of what those voters didn’t care about as well as for what mattered to them and motivated their support for Trump.
If the 74 million don’t care about the multiple complaints of sexual harassment against the president, shouldn’t they care about the health of the planet?
They didn’t mind, for example, voting for a president who consistently lies and is exposed for it, too. Shouldn’t compulsive lying be enough to get you defeated at the polls? Seventy-four million Americans don’t think so. They don’t believe Trump is a liar, or they don’t mind, or they have goals, needs and hopes that are more important to them than the honesty of the president.
And shouldn’t the fact that 26 women stepped forward to publicly accuse Trump of sexual misconduct – including, in some cases, rape – be enough to lose the female vote? Isn’t the Access Hollywood video enough to alienate female voters who heard and saw Trump tell host Billy Bush that, when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the pussy”? Well, no. About half of white women voted for Trump.
But if the 74 million don’t care about the multiple complaints of sexual harassment against the president, shouldn’t they care about the health of the planet? It seems not.
Trump has denounced the fight against global warming as a ruse by China to weaken the US economy. President Trump’s decisions have been devastating for the environment. Not to mention very lucrative for the companies that pollute the most, as well as the lobbyists who represent them. Do Trump’s supporters care that he has filled the top positions in regulatory agencies with the very lobbyists that represent the industries that they are supposed to regulate?
Do they care that the Trump administration has been both chaotic and inept and that it bungled the pandemic so badly? What about his disdain for experts, scientists and the professionals that run the complex machinery of government? Apparently not. The 74 million Trump voters also don’t care that two important documents remain secret: Donald Trump’s tax returns and his healthcare policy. What’s in Trump’s taxes that has made the president willing to go to such great lengths to keep them out of public scrutiny? Shouldn’t voters know what financial obligations the president has and to whom? Shouldn’t it be known if the president is a tax evader?
The list of reasons that disqualify Trump from leading the nation for another four years is long
The other document that still hasn’t surfaced is Trump’s proposed healthcare plan. The president has been very explicit about his intention to undo Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. He has repeatedly promised that he will replace it with “something much better.” The president’s political operators have offered voluminous and confusing documents, but so far, they have not disclosed the details of what that “something better” is. What is clear is that repealing Obamacare without giving the public some alternative will cause a lot of harm to a lot of people, including of course, millions of those who voted for him. Either they don’t know, or they don’t believe it, or they don’t care.
The list of reasons that disqualify Trump from leading the nation for another four years is long. His reluctance to denounce white supremacists. His disinterest in confronting institutional racism. His meager achievements in foreign policy and the fact that, in important matters, he has ceded America’s international influence to China and Russia. His extensive conflicts of interest. His authoritarian tendencies and the myriad corrosive ways in which he has undermined American democracy. None of that seems to matter enough to the 74 million.
But then what do they care about? What moves them to support Trump so unconditionally? Many things. They range from the very material (“don’t raise my taxes”) to the highly spiritual ( “Trump understands how I feel”). From the positive (“Let’s make America great again”) to the negative (“If Biden wins, African Americans will invade the suburbs”). From the defense of rights (the right to bear arms) to the defense of values (“I am against abortion”). From blocking illegal immigration (“a big, beautiful wall”) to opposing economic globalization (“China and Mexico are stealing our jobs”).
The demographics of the 74 million are diverse and confusing. It includes significant percentages of Hispanics, the rural population, white men with no college education, evangelical groups, businessmen, workers, and many other groups. The economic geography of Trump’s supporters is also striking. According to a study by Brookins scholars “the Biden’s winning base in 477 counties encompasses fully 70% of America’s economic activity, while Trump’s losing base of 2,497 counties represents just 29% of the economy.”
Moreover, the fact that polling organizations failed to anticipate the behavior of these 74 million voters confirms that we still don’t know what really drives their unconditional support for Donald Trump.
We have four years to find out.