This time, America not merely surprised but shocked the pundits. The polls were wrong, the projections were off, the media was biased, and Donald Trump’s hidden base came to vote. Now the same pundits are scratching their heads. Why were the president-elect’s supporters—many of whom were uncomfortable with his blustering and self-contradictory rhetoric, his statements about patriotic veterans and his possible misconduct towards women—so mobilized to come out and support a tainted candidate?
Some of the credit must surely lie with the pundits themselves, along with the rest of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s base. They do not see this, and will surely never admit it, but they themselves helped to galvanize lukewarm support for Trump and gave him the election.
It’s about fairness. People resent seeing others attacked unfairly, completely independent of their opinion of the victim or his views. Transparent lies and slander offend us. Even a neo-Nazi could garner our sympathy if others were to assault him for peacefully expressing his vile opinions.
The media was not content to merely discuss Trump’s real failings, though they are many. Instead, it repeatedly engaged in unfair and unreasonable condemnation.
Every American pays the least possible tax owed by law, as Judge Learned Hand observed in 1935, yet we were told it was “reprehensible” for Trump to do the same. We were informed that Trump favors eugenics for his uncontroversial observation that intelligence is a gift that often runs in families.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine declared that Trump had praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “great leader,” and media outlets dutifully concurred with an obvious lie. Trump assessed Putin as stronger than Obama; Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte not only agrees, but recently proved that the perception of weak American leadership is detrimental to the spread of liberty and human rights around the world.
These few examples are merely representative an ongoing effort to misrepresent and even falsify the statements of candidate Trump. Everyone following the election surely noticed multiple instances where they compared a quote from Trump to its portrayal by the talking heads, and found themselves declaring, “that’s not what he said!”
Clinton herself described Trump supporters as “a basket of deplorables,” and the media and her fans not only agreed, but acted upon her description. As Scott Adams (of “Dilbert” fame) observed, “If you have a Trump sign in your lawn, they will steal it. If you have a Trump bumper sticker, they will deface your car. If you speak of Trump at work you could get fired.”
This was no exaggeration. Viral video captured the verbal and physical assault upon a student wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat on campus. Though the victim was married to an immigrant, his assailant continued to berate him for racism, sexism and hatred towards immigrants until a third party grabbed the hat from his head and ran off.
I experienced this personally. One Clinton supporter called me “a rabbi supporting the next Hitler” for a brief pro-Trump comment on Facebook. Another bizarrely called Trump a “candidate who says about other ethnic groups what Hitler said about Jews,” and accused me of abandoning Jewish values. Others merely said that voting for Trump encourages anti-Semitism and is tantamount to a personal endorsement of Trump’s failings.
Adams’ response to the rhetoric and actions was to brand Democrats the “Bully Party”; he endorsed Trump because “I oppose bullying in all its forms.” Yet this alone does not explain why so many voters identified with Trump and came forward to support him. Truth is, they felt bullied in other ways as well—and not, as one CNN commentator insisted, because they are white. On the contrary, Americans of all ethnicities and national origins identified with similar “liberal” persecution directed at their core values.
People are tired of being characterized as sexist and homophobic because of their sincerely held religious beliefs. They object to being told that support for the moral virtues found in the Holy Bible is somehow immoral. And they do not feel it is the place of the Supreme Court to unilaterally overturn the definition of matrimony used for thousands of years.
Even those who do not share those religious beliefs cannot help but identify with small business owners facing legal and financial persecution for their failure to endorse and participate in those nouveau “marriages.” And most parents find abhorrent the idea that a young man in a skirt should be entitled to follow their daughters into the restroom, merely because he claims to “feel female” himself.
Trump spoke for those parents.
They did not merely identify with him due to his plain talk and unpolished speech. They certainly did not sympathize with his unseemly conversations and alleged misbehavior. But they rightly perceived him as a fellow victim of irrational, no holds barred, over the top assaults from paragons of “liberalism” who believe that traditional values are hateful, that verbal assaults, bullying and vandalism are justified “responses” to that claimed “hatred,” and that democracy itself must be subverted for the “greater good” which they alone can identify.
These voters may well have chosen not to respond to polls, fearing for their own safety. They may have been justifiably reluctant to support Trump at all. Yet when the time for choosing arrived, the very rhetoric and behaviors designed to bully them into silence may well have inspired them to come out and stand against the relentless pursuit of liberalism over moral values and democracy.