Yes, in real life.
This particular Trump supporter is an otherwise perfectly-reasonable, perfectly-likeable woman. She is generally very nice and hard-working (she designed the interior of the restaurant I work in). A middle-class, self-employed, married-with-children white lady from the Philadelphia area.
I guess maybe I should back up a bit, provide a little context. So, I’ve been working during the day over the past week while the restaurant gets its final touches, and naturally I ended up meeting the designer. We’ll call her Jane — because I’ve given you just enough context clues about what she does and where she does it for you to figure out who she really is if I used her actual name, and I’d like to respect her privacy at least a little. Anyway, Jane asked me what my story was, so I told her, and it turns out that her daughter is studying similar subjects to what I did at university. We got to chatting, and she asked me who I was voting for. I have no shame in admitting that I am voting for Sanders in the primaries, and will work from there if it ends up that he is not nominated.
We keep talking, and throughout the conversation I gather that a) she definitely leans to the right-wing; b) she’s not thrilled with Obama, specifically Obamacare; c) she likes that Bernie is shaking up the establishment but doesn’t like his ideas in general or that he “seems to think that it’s his way or the highway, which is dangerous”; d) she thinks that Trump would be a good president because he’s an outsider who tells it like it is and wants to save the middle class and is just dumb enough to be swayed by better minds who hopefully wouldn’t let him destroy too much of the country; and lastly, that e) the “world order” is screwing up my generation’s prospects and we need to wake up and realise that a select few people control what goes on across the world (she used the example of the Bush and Clinton families).
I’m not even going to touch on subject (e). Who runs the world could take up at least three posts itself.
Anyway, you can imagine my shock when I am having this conversation with this woman I generally like and respect and end up realising halfway through it that while Jane is more intelligent and reasonable than the average Trump supporter, a Trump supporter she is nonetheless. Now I’m not saying that my respect for her went down just because of this conversation and its revelations, but if I’m perfectly honest, it made me look at her differently.
I won’t go into detail about why such a disturbingly large section of the country supports Trump. I know the spectrum of people who support Donald Trump is wide and varied and that many of these people are motivated by fear — fear of the way the economy is going, fear of supposed-terrorists and immigrants, fear of losing their privileged place in the fabric of American society. Others respond to what is seen as his ability to basically say “fuck off” to political correctness.
But I (and so many others) would argue that the last-mentioned quality is not one the United States needs in its president. His rhetoric does nothing productive and instead incites people to verbal and physical violence against those who dare to protest it, as we saw demonstrated in small isolated events earlier this year and then in larger scale yesterday in Chicago. Anti-establishment is good, if it were coming from a place of equality and progress (#FeelTheBern). But in Trump’s case, with the vitriol he spews at immigrants, refugees, peaceful opposition, even his GOP rivals…it clearly isn’t.
I also don’t want to get into why so many of his political campaign promises would be either be absolutely catastrophic or completely unworkable, or both. (Although during my conversation with Jane, the IR nerd in me was yelling to be let loose on how illegal it would be to follow through on his stance of “going after the terrorists’ families”. Not to mention how ridiculous he would look standing next to, say, Vladimir Putin, let alone getting Russia to agree on anything.)
In conclusion, this post has been 700 words of me trying to work through the fact that I actually met a Donald Trump supporter and that I survived the encounter without yelling at anyone or feeling like I needed to take a scalding hot shower to scrub off the racism and bigotry that might have rubbed off on me.
For your entertainment, I will leave you with John Oliver’s video, because he always has “the best words”.