opinion

Trump Supporters Either Act Dumb, Feign Ignorance, or Change the Subject

If confronted with the foundation of Donald Trump's beliefs—or even the basic facts of current events—Trump fans react in the stupidest possible way. Even when confronted with his past crimes, they willfully defend him.
December 4, 2020Updated 25 days ago
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Trump Supporters Either Act Dumb, Feign Ignorance, or Change the Subject
3 Reasons
His supporters often feign total ignorance of his platform (or are genuinely uninformed about it). His supporters have so little knowledge about his platform that they are frequently speechless when confronted with details of his beliefs. Rather than react genuinely and show concern for holding a foolish position, they pause, laugh awkwardly and change the subject—or continue to hold their ground without reason.
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Trump supporters staying positive about him even when the questions were about Nixon's presidency instead.
There are numerous videos, articles, and interviews in which Trump supporters will support him at any cost. They will even defend things he hasn't done. This is often because they themselves are so ignorant of Trump's own policies that they can't have an opinion about them, choosing instead to put their blind faith in the man they idolize. For instance, late night TV show host Jimmy Kimmel interviewed Trump supporters about Trump's political record—only the questions weren't based on the president's recent impeachment; they were based on the Watergate scandal and former President Richard Nixon. As a joke, Trump supporters on the street were asked about the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon's impeachment, as well as the Vietnam war. When asked about Watergate, one Trump supporter simply said “I have an opinion about it but I don’t want to speculate.” When the reporter asked another supporter if she thought Trump’s war in Vietnam (a war which took place in the 60s and 70s) was justified she said yes. “I like the guy,” the woman added. Even when the decisions and policies have nothing to do with Trump—and were the actions of someone 50 years ago—Trump supporters willfully follow as soon as they hear his name. Trump supporters simply say there's nothing that he can say or do would change their minds. Some will feign ignorance over some of his checkered history, and others are more forthcoming in their belief that none of his past actions or indiscretions will change their mind. “No matter what he says or does, I would vote for him," one supporter told Daily Show correspondent Jordan Klepper. Other supporters continued to regurgitate Trump's lies about former president Barack Obama and the birther controversy, namely the false notion that Obama was not born in the United States and was instead born in Kenya. One woman even went so far as to say that she continued to believe that Obama was a Muslim terrorist. “Do I have proof? No. Do I have articles? No," she said. Trump's base is not only ignorant about his own record in office; they are willfully ignorant about nearly all else related to politics and governance. When confronted with facts (or lies) about his political record, they struggle to respond because of their blind allegiance to him.
Many Trump supporters don't understand the basics of his platform. They resort to feelings or beliefs instead of facts. When quizzed on his actual policies, they are often ignorant of even the most foundational things. Favoring feelings over facts is a way to both avoid engaging with Trump's platform and to continue blindly defending him.
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Facts do not necessarily matter to Trump supporters, as evidenced by the phenomenon that they frequently misunderstand or are not familiar with the basics of his policies or platform. Rather, they instead make their decisions based on rhetoric and beliefs over substance. Thoughtful debate is forced out of the room as supporters instead rely on gut feelings. For instance, throughout his first campaign, Trump repeatedly exaggerated or embellished crime statistics to make it seem as if there were a real threat of violence to Americans. CNN's Jake Tapper confronted Trump's then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, with the falsehood. Tapper noted that FBI statistics showed crime had been declining for decades. Violent crimes, such as murder in particular, peaked some 30 years ago in the 1990s and have been declining ever since. Rather than engage with this fact or offer counter statistics Manafort instead leaned on the language of feelings and beliefs. “People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” Manafort said, dismissing the data. This rhetorical strategy appeals to emotions over reasoning. It is a tactic that is typical of both Trump supporters and staff. They will frequently dismiss facts in favor of their own "feelings." They exhibit a similar reaction as soon as they are asked to dig deeper on Trump's plans to carry out campaign promises. For instance, when the Daily Show's Jordan Klepper asked a Trump supporter who was going to pay for Trump's proposed border wall on the U.S.'s southern frontier with Mexico, the man could only reply: “That’s what we’re gonna find out." Because he had no clue. Similarly, when Klepper asked about how the impeachment trial unfolded, supporters could only respond with vague generalizations such as “It’s bullshit.” They struggled to point to specifics as to why they believe what they do (or why Trump believes what he does). Another frequent tactic for deflection of discussing any concrete policies is to simply parrot what Trump has said on a particular issue. For example, surrounding the impeachment trial, Trump repeatedly urged critics to simply read the transcript, saying it would cast aside any doubt of his innocence. Trump supporters similarly repeated: “All you have to do is read the transcript." At the same time, many of those supporters being interviewed admitted that they themselves had not yet read the transcript.
They focus on slogans over substance. They repeat Trump's catchphrases over and over. This way, they don't have to engage in any real debate on his ideology. Parroting Trump's favorite phrases is yet another refrain for supporters to avoid having to engage in any meaningful dialogue, either with fellow Republicans or members of the opposition.
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P_Wei/Getty Images
Trump supporters have taken to the president's slogans like few other supporters of a candidate in recent history. Whether calling his political rivals by their nicknames, or screaming his catchphrases at rallies, Trump's support is built on mimicry. Video footage from rallies shows supporters screaming such slogans as "Make America great again," "Build the wall," "Lock her up," or "Drain the swamp." It's almost a form of call and response that goes beyond usual political rallies. As are many tactics of Trump supporters, this one is built to allow them to sidestep real debate of Trump's policies or beliefs. They can simply repeat a slogan instead of having a real discussion. One of Trump's most popular slogans during the campaign was "drain the swamp." This was meant to reference what Trump claimed were corrupt, career-politicians whose seats in public office had been paid for by big banks. And yet, when Trump was elected, one of the first people he selected for a cabinet position was Steve Mnuchin to serve as secretary of the treasury. Mnuchin is a former investment banker with Goldman Sachs, the essence of the "swamp" that Trump spoke out so vehemently against. When confronted with this reality, Trump supporters can only offer weak explanations that somehow manage to still incorporate the slogans themselves. For instance, one supporter shrugged and simply said: “There are parts of the swamp that are gonna come in.”
CLOSURE
Trump supporters are incapable of defending his platform on its own merits. So instead they play dumb or simply parrot Trump's many slogans—completely avoiding engaging in real discourse about his ideology.
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