In a truly disturbing report released this week in the Guardian, a worrying number of Trump supporters revealed a hatred for Hillary Clinton that runs so deep they were unconcerned as to whether Donald Trump cheated to win the election in 2016. The report, based on a Trump stronghold in Pennsylvania, showed that the president’s supporters are still true believers, no matter how bad the scandals are in Washington. Why? Because of ‘The Media’, and the maniacally evil Hillary Clinton:
The thrill of victory, for many Trump backers, has been replaced by something closer to disgust – the kind of disgust that makes people turn off the news.
They still back the president. But they express sharp resentment of the president’s perceived enemies in the media and official Washington, and describe fatigue from defending a political figure who does not always make it easy. In a striking number of interviews, the conversation eventually turns to the candidate Trump beat eight months ago – Clinton – whose alleged trespasses are brandished to answer questions about Trump’s alleged trespasses.
To the extent that Trump may be corrupt, his supporters say, Clinton would have been worse – so much worse, to the thinking of some Trump voters, that even if Trump had cheated to win the election, it was worth it.
While the investigation into Trump’s potential collusion with Russia has yet to be concluded, his supporters unwillingness to take the basic tenants of democracy and the rule of law seriously is incredibly troubling. Being fine with subverting the democratic process in order to keep a highly qualified, experienced and immensely capable politician like Hillary Clinton out of office is not just idiotic, it is actively dangerous.
The tribalism on display in the Guardian report is a frightening reminder of just how divided American society is, and just how prone it is to media propaganda. Trump supporters, who overwhelmingly go to Fox News for their political coverage, have been led to believe over the years that Hillary Clinton is the source of America’s political problems. Decades of misinformation, outright lies and repulsive innuendo have created a monster in the minds of Republican voters (and in many on the left too), making an objective perspective on Clinton almost completely impossible. As my dearly departed colleague Chez Pazienza wrote in what turned out to be one of the most shared articles in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton’s reputation is “largely the result of a quarter century of visceral GOP hatred”. Wrote Chez:
With the exception of maybe Barack Obama, whom they’ve irrationally loathed with the fire of a thousands suns, it’s tough to name anyone conservatives have more vigorously derided throughout the years than Hillary Clinton. Even her husband, as much as they tried to take him down at every turn, earned a begrudging respect from many in the Republican party. Beating him up for, say, his sexual proclivities was the height of Beltway hypocrisy and they knew it, but politics demanded they grab onto any potential scandal they could with both hands and ride it as far as it would take them. While it’s true many were bitterly jealous of Clinton’s seemingly depthless charisma and sorcerer’s way with voters, for the GOP leadership at the time it wasn’t personal — just really dirty business. Hillary on the other hand has always been cast as an arrogant bitch, a soulless bête noire, an irredeemably corrupt and fundamentally dishonest political hustler. From the very beginning of her time in the national political limelight, she was vilified for refusing to simply sit back and be an ornament on the White House Christmas tree, as she was apparently supposed to. And when she ventured out into her own separate political career, what was considered calculating but somehow forgivable from her husband became merely calculating — and nefariously so — from her. Bill was allowed to be Slick Willy. Hillary was just a rotten to the core.
This myth still persists, and the Trump administration is shamelessly still using Hillary Clinton to distract the president’s supporters from his obvious crimes in office. Propagandist in chief Kellyanne Conway has been trotted out by the administration to continually bring up Clinton whenever the subject of collusion comes up, and it is evidently working given Trump supporters are unwilling to acknowledge any of the president’s faults.
Trump supporters still loyal to the president are human beings with thoughts, feelings and emotions like everyone else. They should not become objects of hatred for the left, and it would be wrong to blame them entirely for their destructiveness. But their ability to reason and be honest with themselves has been destroyed, and it seem like an impossible task to reach any common ground. Trump supporters like the one interviewed for the Guardian report are a product of a deeply dysfunctional society and an even more dysfunctional media system, and if there is any hope in reaching them, it lies with reforming the system that created the extreme ignorance in the first place.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.