Love him or hate him. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground with the current president of the United States. Americans are decisively split in their views of Donald Trump. About a third of the country loves him, and most of the rest of the country can’t abide him. (A small percentage is tolerating him, either out of party loyalty or because they don’t spend a lot of time thinking about him at all and just accept that he was elected and is, therefore, deserving of the respect the office elicits.)
To be sure, the American presidency is an office that engenders intense feelings, if for no other reason than that the man (and someday the woman) who occupies it is easily blamed or credited for whatever is happening in the country during the period of his (or her) tenure. Most presidents are either liked or disliked by the country’s residents. Some are fervently liked or disliked. But few in the country’s history have caused the intensity of feelings that Trump is provoking. The man is either loved or hated by people who, in most other respects, are perfectly normal, rational, Americans.
Trump has now been the president for 15 months, and in that time he has fully revealed who he is and what he represents to the American electorate. In this first of a two-part summary of the attitudes about Trump, I’ll list the reasons those who are on the Trump bandwagon love him as they do. And, as you might suspect there are many. So, with apologies to those who feel their love for Trump is not adequately represented by this admittedly arbitrary list, here are an even dozen reasons why fans of Trump love him.
1. He says what he thinks and doesn’t worry about how he sounds when he does. Even his most ardent supporters would like him to use Twitter less frequently, but Twitter is Trump’s primary mode of communication, and in his tweets he says whatever he is feeling without fear of editing by White House aides. “Telling it like it is” might be what many of his fans love most about him. Whether it is in response to something he has just seen on “Fox and Friends,” or a reaction to something nasty someone has said about him, Trump on Twitter is politically incorrect in the extreme, and it endears him to his base.
2. He wants to “Make America Great Again.” Next to the promise to “build the wall” (see below), this pledge sold Trump to his quickly formed base early on in his candidacy. The phrase, catchy though it is, is enigmatic for those who don’t react to it viscerally. But for those who do, nothing more need be said. To make America great again means somehow recreating the feeling that emerged from World War II (assuming your skin was white and your religious preference was some version of Christianity), when a burgeoning middle class was discovering the benefits of prosperity and when the country was truly viewed as “God blessed.” Trump captured the hearts of those Americans who fondly remember that time from their youth and want it again.
3. He projects success from his careers in business and on TV. Never let it be said that Americans aren’t impressed with celebrity. Trump splashed onto the political stage as one of the most recognizable celebrities in American history, and he has manufactured myths (some might call them lies) about just how successful he was before he decided to throw his hat into the biggest of political rings. It definitely got him a head start in the primaries, and it is still a big reason his base loves him. The feeling is that anyone who can make the billions in business (as he claims) and have a number one rated TV show for years (as he also claims) is sure to be a great president as well.
4. Those first three reasons might sound unimpressive, being far more form than substance, but Trump is attractive for his perceived substantive perspectives as well. And being pro-business generally and pro-American business in particular is a big reason Wall Street and corporate icons love him. To be sure, much of this love is fickle (a sudden stock market crash or a big spike in interest rates to combat the return of inflation would quickly turn the love to hate), but for as long as profits are up and inflation is down, Trump will get the love for his perceived support of America’s corporations.
5. After only a few months of the Trump presidency, Steve Bannon spoke of the dismantling of the administrative state, and for those who understand the term, Trump gets the love for his anti-regulation view of all things bureaucratic. Trump lovers love his cabinet heads (like Devos, Pruitt, Carson, and Perry) who are all about de-regulating everything their respective agencies have authority over. “Red tape” is anathema to Trump’s base, and his followers love every executive order that overturns one of them.
6. Of course, just cutting regulations would never be enough for those who want to “Make America Great Again,” and Trump gains more love for his commitment to tax “reform” and “fair” trade. Whether the tax cuts will ultimately benefit those who cheered the passage of the bill and whether the demand to restructure Nafta and withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (or maybe not if last week’s news is correct) will have a similarly positive effect remains to be seen. But for now, those planks in Trump’s platform endear him to his base.
7. But, of course, to really “make America great again” it has to be made white again, or at least whiter than it has become. Here’s where the pledge to build the wall resonates and secures the love for Trump. It isn’t really bigotry or racism. It’s just a recognition of the essence of the America that was great back in the day. Immigrants back then were mostly from Europe and far fewer were from the various “shithole” countries that are sending darker-skinned people (some of them perhaps rapists and criminals) into the country. A wall (even if Mexico doesn’t pay for it) will fix some of that. And more restrictive immigration policies will keep out potential terrorists. And expanded deportations will reduce the xenophobia that many Trump lovers currently feel.
8. Another way to “make America great again” is to build its military might. America won the Second World War with its military might, and it won the Cold War with its military might. Now that it is facing terrorist threats from Islamic fundamentalists, it needs to be militarily mighty again. Trump’s commitment to rebuild what he claims is a deteriorated military is another reason he is beloved. And when he uses that might, as he did last week against Syria, the level of adoration soars, irrespective of the consequences of the action.
9. And if fighting terrorism is important—and how can it not be?—then supporting Israel is essential. Trump’s most recent predecessor had a strained relationship with Israel’s leaders and Trump was quick to change that dynamic. He and Benjamin Netanyahu are fast friends, and they have common enemies in the Iranian government and the Palestinian militants. Trump’s support for Israel is clear evidence of his understanding of the importance of that country’s existence. That support, epitomized by the recognition of Jerusalem as the country’s capital, garners him love from Jews and Christians alike.
10. Israel’s existence is extremely important to America’s evangelicals, and Trump is also firmly supportive of their recognition of the other lessons from a strict reading of the Holy Book. Thus, his federal court nominees (with Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch leading the way) are exceedingly important to his base. And Trump is not letting them down. Pro-life is not just a litmus test, it’s a great equalizer. Never mind that you have never tried a case or filed an appellate brief; if you are pro-life and have a law degree, you can be appointed to a federal court. And his fans love him for it.
11. But evangelicals aren’t the only core constituency in the Trump fan club. The Second Amendment is critically important to another segment of his base, and his support for gun ownership (and his rejection of any form of gun control, even if he may waiver slightly after major incidents of gun violence) ensures the backing of the NRA, which, together with the evangelicals and the de-regulated, lesser-taxed companies who hire more Americans, spreads the love far and wide.
12. And, finally, there are those who fell in love with Trump a little later than the rest. These are the voters who love Trump for the simplest reason of all: because he’s a Republican. Yes, he badmouths other Republicans from time to time (even past presidents like George W. Bush and his father), but for some Americans, party identity is everything, and Trump, even if he occasionally doesn’t sound like a Republican, is the party’s leader, and he won the presidency (beating the hated Hillary in the process), and that fact alone, for life-long Republicans, ensures that he must be loved against anyone who seeks to tear him down.
Next week: The reasons Trump is hated by those who hate him.