Monday, October 19, 2020


Sarah Longwell, a prominent Never Trump Republican, regularly conducts focus groups of voters who chose Donald Trump in 2016. In The Atlantic, she writes:
In 2020, I narrowed my research primarily to white women in swing states who give him the lowest performance grade.

These women generally loathe Trump. When I ask why they rate him as doing a bad job, they rarely pull their punches. He’s a “narcissist,” “bully,” and “racist”; he’s “unprofessional” and “embarrassing” as well. They are dismayed by the chaos, the tweeting, his general nastiness and divisiveness.
Many of these Trump-loathing women won't vote for him again. But some will.
Even in the past six months, some participants have continued to say they’ll back Trump.
They don’t think Trump is doing great, but how could he? He’s constantly contending with obstructionist Democrats, a biased media, and a bunch of Never Trump Republicans in Name Only.

Some meaningful number of voters who are clear-eyed about Trump and his manifest failures—even those who think he is plainly doing a bad job—will stick with the president because they believe Democrats are worse and the media aren’t to be trusted.
Sounds as if they're parroting what they hear from the right-wing media. But Longwell says that's not exactly the case.
And these aren’t voters who are glued to Fox News and reading Breitbart News. Often they don’t think about politics at all—and they certainly don’t follow the daily machinations of Washington. They’re typically not on Twitter. Instead they swim in a cultural soup of Trumpism, surrounded by friends, family, and social-media acquaintances who do live more exclusively in a right-wing-media ecosystem.
I regularly write about the fact that Republicans maintain a 24/7/365 operation to demonize Democrats, liberals, and all groups that can be even remotely linked to them (Hollywood celebrities, academics, and so on). This work is full of distortions -- left-centrists are regularly described as "far left radicals," and people who have little common ground (Joe Biden and antifa) are portrayed as comrades in arms.

But it works. If Longwell is right, it works even on susceptible people who don't directly pay attention to it. Imagine how well it's working on people who do pay attention to it. It's possible that the cult of Donald Trump has little or nothing to do with Trump's policies and everything to do with the fact that he's the loud, angry embodiment of this negative partisanship.

Democrats continue to do nothing comparable. They don't even seem inclined to say, Our party has the right ideas. Republicans have the wrong ideas. In fact, they've run this election predominantly on the message See? Even some Republicans like us. That means you can trust us.

In the 1990s, James Carville wrote a book with a simple title: We're Right, They're Wrong. I can't remember the last time a nationally prominent Democrat made a similar assertion.

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