Probing into the Mind of a Trump Supporter

A Conversation about the Pandemic, Science, Truth, Politics and Culture

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It is amazing to me that Donald Trump still enjoys support from about 40% of American voters after the shocking leadership he has shown during the worst pandemic to hit America since 1918. To help discover the reason for this anomaly, I interviewed a Trump voter from Texas whom I knew from a former life. He’s not an uneducated man, as you will note. Let’s give him the name “John” to hide his true identity, for reasons which will become apparent. Below is a record of that conversation, expletives deleted:

Me: Do you think Donald Trump has shown good leadership qualities during the Covid-19 pandemic, and if so, why?

John: Yes I do. To change our way of life for a virus is letting it win. President Trump has the right idea: just get on with life. The virus will go away eventually.

But don’t you think that he is misrepresenting the facts?

Do you mean that he’s creative with the truth? All politicians are. Admittedly, he has turned it into an art form. I don’t blame him though. It’s just politics; he’s defending his turf. He’s fighting back against the Democrats who hate him.

Surely it’s not good for the nation if its leaders lie?

If it has a worthwhile political purpose, and it’s not hurting anyone, then it’s OK to lie a little. Trump stands for the same things I do: that’s the main thing.

And what are they?

Jobs and freedom. I like the way he has favored the economy over the virus. He’s not going to let the virus ruin the greatest economy in the world; not on his watch; certainly not in an election year. Why that would only help those Democrats get back into the White House, causing carnage on the Stock Market as they give away my hard-earned money to those lazy bums who don’t deserve it.

Surely you don’t mean the sick and the poor?

Many of them are only sick because they don’t look after themselves; and they are poor because they don’t work hard.

Isn’t that a callous way to think of your fellow man?

I look after my family and friends. As for the rest: I’m sure they don’t give a damn about me. So why should I give a hoot about them?

Early in the pandemic Trump first ignored the virus, then attacked it as a hoax, as fake news, as a left-wing conspiracy, as being a little like the flu which will go away very soon. Setting such a bad example, arguably, led to a cavalier approach to the virus, especially among his supporters, and resulted in Government inaction at the national level. This contributed to America’s poor showing against the virus compared to other countries. How can you still support him after that?

You have to look at what has been happening over the past 3–4 years. The Democrats hate him, and have been trying to bring him down the whole time. With regard to the virus, he thought they were engaging in scare tactics to undermine the economy, and hence his chances of re-election. So, he bolstered Americans’ flagging spirits by reassuring them that we had the virus under control, to avoid panic.

But the virus wasn’t under control.

Yeah. So it seems. That’s why it was a smart political move to play it down. Some people were already scared. Why make it worse and cause their spirits to drop further?

Don’t you think Trump encouraged the re-opening of the economy too soon after the lockdown?

He wasn’t going to let the virus dictate economic terms to him. If it wasn’t done with us, then he wasn’t going to wait any longer. Otherwise the American people would make a terrible mistake and kick him out, as no president has ever won re-election in an economic recession in the past eighty years.

But re-opening the economy now is killing Americans.

Sure, it is going to kill more people, but the virus is what it is. After all, it’s sparing the young and the healthy.

What about the old and the sick?

They’ll just have to get the best care that they can find under the circumstances. For many of them, they will ultimately end up in hospital anyway, even without the virus.

Don’t you think it would have been better for Trump to have been brutally candid about the dangers of the virus, as the Prime Minister of New Zealand was? New Zealanders then all pulled together and eliminated the virus with an early and prolonged lockdown.

Maybe that would work in New Zealand, a socialist country, but it wouldn’t work here. Candor would have caused morale to drop across the nation, in an election year, what’s more. The optimistic promoter in Trump knows you have to give people hope, even if the situation is ambiguous; especially if it is so. Otherwise we will have an economic depression.

But the Democrats and many experts claim that the economy cannot recover while the virus is still raging.

What is the alternative? Sit around on our asses and wait, and see our livelihood go down the plug hole?

Do you think your fellow citizens are so polarized that they are incapable of accepting the truth and all rallying to the flag in this emergency; like they did for George W. Bush after 9/11 or Franklin D. Roosevelt after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor?

The truth is relative, depending on whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. As a Republican, I don’t think the virus is another Pearl Harbor. Anyway, the Democrats won’t follow Trump, whatever he says or does; but my guys will.

But what about the scientific and medical experts? Surely they speak the truth?

Depends whom you listen to. Some say it’s OK to re-open the economy. Some say it’s not. Even the very same experts who told us at first that there was no need to wear a mask, then changed their minds and said we must. What are my buddies from around here to think about wearing the hated mask, when so-called experts cannot make up their minds?

It is supposed to stop you spreading the virus to other people.

But if I know I haven’t got the virus, then why should I wear a mask? If I had the virus I would stay at home. People have to be responsible for themselves. Trump gets it. That’s why I trust what he says.

But you may be asymptomatic with the virus, or you may be coming down with it. There are a lot of vulnerable old and sick Americans out there whom you may infect.

They should stay at home, and keep clear of those of us who have to go to work and feed our families and keep the economy running.

What do you think about Trump’s homespun remedies for the virus, recommended to him by quack doctors, despite warnings to the contrary from the nation’s experts.

The President cares about us. He is prepared to share miracle cures because of his frustration with the delay in finding a regular cure. It’s then up to the individual to do what he thinks best.

Some vulnerable people may try these quack remedies and kill themselves.

I trust the President. He wouldn’t recommend anything that would kill you.

Ingesting household bleach? Surely not?

He was only joking about that. Who would be stupid enough to swallow bleach?

Trump has been heavily criticized for not following the science.

How you interpret science depends upon the narrative. When there is uncertainty, as in the case of the virus, alternative opinions are possible. Then it becomes a matter of whom to believe and the political perspective they take. Trump and I would rather believe a Republican scientist or doctor than a Democratic one, because his slant would be similar to ours; and there are plenty of Republican doctors who say it is OK to re-open the economy. Trump hasn’t blinded us with science. Most of us wouldn’t comprehend it anyway. Sooner or later science will fully understand the virus and how to deal with it, if it hasn’t already gone away by itself. In the meantime the nation has to be governed, and the economy has to be resurrected.

Trump is not the first to have his views challenged by reputable scientific opinion. Look what happened to the Catholic Church in the 16th and 17th C when Copernicus and Galileo challenged its sacred creed that the Earth was the center of the universe.

The Catholic Church in the 17th C was in a similar predicament to Trump today. Millions of people relied on it as a source of the truth and wisdom of their beliefs, which underlay political and social cohesion. It couldn’t let Galileo upset the apple cart.

What about global warming? The science is pretty convincing, but you guys don’t believe in it?

Another scare tactic by the Democrats. Once more, it all depends on which scientist you talk to and their politics. The planet has been running hot and cold for millions of years, in and out of numerous ice ages, according to geologists. How do we know it won’t happen again and again? In the meantime, we are being asked by Democrats to hog-tie the economy and kill jobs by switching to solar.

Aren’t you cherry-picking scientists who support your point of view?

The Democrats do it. So why can’t I?

Trump has been accused of firing his experts if they disagree with him. Do you not think that practice is dangerous for the nation?

Well you can only have one boss. Some experts have made the mistake of disagreeing with him in public. That erodes public confidence in the Office of the President. Anyway, it doesn’t hurt his electoral chances with Republicans to be seen as domineering and needing to win at all costs. My buddies from around here regard that as a sign of strength; the mark of a true leader.

Trump’s latest move to reform the US Postal Service in the lead up to the election has been criticized by Democrats as sabotage, so postal votes cast during the pandemic do not arrive in time to be counted. What do you think of that?

I think it is Democrat paranoia. A storm in a teacup. Postal votes tend to favor the Democrats. If it were the other way around, do you think the Democrats would be worried about votes not being counted? The Postal Service has been losing billions for years. It needs reforming. The votes will get counted. People just have to vote early.

On a more general note, Trump has been accused of hating women, and of making sexist comments. Do you agree?

Well, his critics also say he has loved women too much. Sure, he calls some women “nasty”, because he doesn’t trust them. They are usually Democrats who don’t like his choices of conservative judges for the Supreme Court, or smart women from the media who try to make a fool of him on TV.

Doesn’t that confirm that he disrespects women? He wouldn’t refer to a man as “nasty” just because he disagreed with his politics or asked a trick question on TV.

I don’t think he hates women. After all, he has a beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters, who seem fond of him and help him in his work.

What about charges that Trump is a racist?

Once more, accusations made by Democrats to try to turn Blacks and Latinos against him. He’s not racist. He just thinks people who don’t want to pull their weight should go back to where they came from, as they are diluting the American work ethic and sponging on the taxpayer.

What about the kids?

Any kids who have lived here long enough to be educated in our schools should be allowed to stay if they want to.

End of interview.

Well readers, there it is. I rest my case. You be the judge and jury.

Phillip has an MSc from the University of Sydney and attended Stanford University. He became a scientist, diplomat, CEO and writer. He lives in San Francisco.

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