A brief conversation with a non-MAGA Trump supporter

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I recently had the pleasure of watching the movie “Thirteen Days,” a brilliant film from the turn of our century starring Kevin Costner about the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Throughout my viewing I was struck anew with the danger the human race confronted for those few short days. Those of us who were alive then (and any subsequent generation) were lucky to have John F Kennedy at the helm. Other presidents might have done well enough, but few would have done as well. And well enough might not have been well enough, if you take my meaning.

But one thought in particular kept nagging me. Thank God somebody like Trump wasn’t president back then. Thank God a latter-day Cuban missile crisis didn’t happen on Trump’s watch. Because if it had, you can bet his response to it would have been all about him, and all about his infantile, thin-skinned temperament. Trump did not possess the maturity to navigate the complicated and subtle position Kennedy and the world was in. That alone, for more than any other reason, is why the convicted felon Donald Trump should never be president of the United States — ever again.

In fact, that is why Donald Trump should have never been president in the first place. Not only was he incompetent, he was the worst kind of incompetent, the kind that thinks he’s smarter than everybody else. The kind that’s dangerously stupid. His was a Dunning Kruger brand of incompetence.

Which brings me to a recent brief interview I had with a friend and Trump supporter who hates Trump and emphasises that he is “not a MAGA cult type member.” He is an intelligent and well-educated professional who spent 50 years in broadcasting. He is also a writer with an active blog. And yet he plans to vote for Trump.

At least, that’s what he told me he was going to do before Trump was found guilty on 34 felony counts. So I asked him recently, does he still plan to vote for Trump despite this? Yes he does. So I asked him why.

“I still plan to vote for Trump because from everything I’ve read,” my friend responded, “his indictments and subsequent convictions were blatantly political … Why will I vote for him? Because I was a lot better off when he was president than I am now.”

I didn’t dispute his claim. That was not my purpose in asking him. We have a stated agreement that we stay away from political debate. But I did make note of his primary focus. I have found this before in Trump supporters. They are all about what Trump can do for them.

I cannot dispute whether or not my friend was better off four years ago than he is today. That’s a very individual question. But I do know that most of us weren’t. Four years ago we were in a major lockdown and tens of thousands of Americans were dying from Covid every week. The economy was in shambles and businesses were failing every day.

While the pandemic was not Trump’s fault, his response was. We know he lied to us when he told us it was not a big deal and it would go away in the Spring, when he privately told Bob Woodward the exact opposite. We know that America led most of the world in per capita Covid deaths, thanks to Trump’s disastrous response.

When I pointed out Biden’s many successes to my Trump-voting friend, he told me that Trump’s record on immigration kept us safer. But did it? I don’t see how safety was an issue. Trump had asylum-seekers who LEGALLY came to America sent back, sometimes into deadly dangerous situations. He separated LEGAL immigrants and LEGAL asylum-seekers from their children. To this day some of those children have not been restored to their parents. Trump built a tiny part of his wall that didn’t work. And Mexico never did pay for it. How did that somehow keep us “safer”?

So I asked him if Trump had committed worse crimes, like murder or treason, would he still vote for him? My friend said he probably wouldn’t. Under those circumstances he would hope the Republican Party would put someone else forward. Preferably someone like Ron DeSantis. DeSantis, the man who was also cruel to immigrants.

I would like to stress at this point that I do not think my friend is either cruel or evil. He is thoughtful and decent and reasonable. If he met some of those immigrants and their families I believe his response to them would be kind and compassionate. I think what’s really going on here is he’s a lifelong conservative and, as such, he’s never really had to contemplate voting for a Democrat. In the past, his choices have always been reasonably sane ones. When confronted with an insane choice, the habit is so deeply ingrained that switching sides is no longer a sustainable idea.

In fact, I think if Trump were exactly like Biden and Biden were exactly like Trump in every single way (except Party) my Trump-voting friend would enthusiastically vote for Trump and he would vigorously denounce Biden. There’s just one difference between us in this instance. I would be joining him.

With too many voters today the choice is all about symbols. Many on the right today have descended to the point where if you have an “R” next to your name you’re okay, and if you have a “D” next to your name you are not. R good, D bad. R means the flag and patriotism and traditional values, D means degeneracy and corruption and “wokeness.” That is how the conservative media presents it, no matter what the actual differences.

I think that simplistic view is true for many Democrats as well. It no longer matters with most Americans how their candidates would handle another Cuban missile crisis. We have lost touch with the idea that a president should have actual experience or competence. We are prepared to put forward anyone, as long is the letter is correct. Only the symbols matter. It’s all become a kind of game show. But I do know this much, if another Cuban missile crisis should happen just now, I’m glad Joe Biden — and not Trump — is president of the United States.

There’s another difference between my friend and I. I do not think Hunter Biden’s verdict was political. His prosecution may have been, but his conviction was not. Like Trump he faced a jury of his peers. Like Trump those jurors were picked by his lawyer. Like Trump his side of the story was heard by the jury. And like Trump Hunter Biden was found guilty. I accept that the jury reached a reasonable conclusion in Hunter Biden’s trial. My friend does not think the jury reached a reasonable conclusion in Trump’s trial. And therein lies a major difference between him and me.

I repeat. Many Republicans today who will vote for Trump are not bad or evil people. They simply live in a world where partisan politics is no longer merely part of their calculations, it’s the whole ballgame. There no longer exists any choice outside of their party. And that is a very dangerous place for us to be in.

That is why we must take this election seriously. Our problem isn’t that only fools are voting for Trump. Our problem is that reasonable and intelligent people are voting for Trump as well. And they will do so no matter how many commercials we run, no matter how much evidence we bring them, no matter how clearly insane a Trump presidency might be. We can’t simply campaign against Trump, we absolutely MUST vote against him — in overwhelming numbers. It really is all up to us and our vote this November. The danger we face is not MAGA alone. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

Important Note: Palmer Report is moving to a reader-supported format with a significantly reduced number of ads so we can reach a broader audience at this crucial time for our democracy. Support us via PayPal and GoFundMe.