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Why does Donald Trump have so many followers? Part II

New York, (Prensa Latina) Many academics and commentators have puzzled over why Donald Trump is so popular despite his disregard for democratic norms.

We have analyzed the psychological traits of more than three million US citizens, and matched them with other factors such as demographics and economic situation. The analysis incorporates 18 distinct measures including birthweight, obesity, health, income and education, as well as the presence of traditional industries in their regions. The outcome showed a unique cocktail of factors contributed to Trump’s support.

From a psychological perspective, people living in regions that voted for Trump in both elections have higher levels of neuroticism, a personality trait characterized by negative emotions such as anxiety, fear and anger. Those who have higher levels of neuroticism agree with statements such as “I see myself as someone who worries a lot” and as someone who feels “depressed, blue”. But circumstantial factors were also at play: people in poorer areas were more likely to vote for Trump, as were white voters and those prone to anti-Black racial bias.Trump also improved his vote in 2020 in regions with poor health standards, where voters are traditionally Democrat

Trump voters generally live in areas where manufacturing and farming are in decline, and feel they have something to lose. Living in regions with low incomes, lower levels of internet access and less geographic mobility, they’re not part of the new tech economy for instance, and it may be that the threat of falling further that feeds their fear and anxiety.

Interestingly, the very poorest in the US still tended to vote Democrat: for Hilary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. This includes people who have dropped out of high school and are on the breadline. Meanwhile, voters in wealthier areas of the country tended to back more traditional conservative candidates.

As we see, there has been a lot of controversy about the demographics of Trump’s supporters. For example, they have been described as uneducated, white, and poor. The percentage of Trump supporters with college degrees in the primary was about 20 percent, about half the overall percentage of Americans with college degrees. But in many primaries in 2016 and 2020, many Republicans with college degrees voted for Trump. Similarly, it’s true that, on average, Trump supporters earned less annually than those who backed their main Republican rivals, but considerably more than the average American salary. ($56,000).

What does seem certain is that Trump’s supporters are primarily white and lived in areas of “long-dormant economic dysfunction” even if they themselves were not poor. “A common thread of its supporters is that they have largely missed America’s generation’s transition from manufacturing to a diverse, high-tech, information-driven economy.” That is, Trump’s constituents were largely people who are part of a declining sector of the economy, a sector that is stagnant at best and has been hurt by trade deals that have opened the United States to competition from low-cost manufacturing from other parts of the world.

The second characteristic of Trumpists is their lack of trust in politics, politicians, and political institutions. In this mistrust, they were not alone. Back in 2015, a Pew Research Center report showed that overall trust in government had fallen from 73 percent in 1958 (peaking at 77 percent under President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964) to just 19 percent in 2015. Only 20 percent of Americans in this poll thought government programs were well-managed. At the end of 2023, they were between 17% and 26% depending on which region of the United States

Less than 10 percent of Republicans trust the Biden administration. And even for Democrats, that same figure was just over 30 percent. Moreover, if people feel alienated from the government and believe that the government does not represent them, there is good reason to conclude that this is rooted in their actual experience. If economic elites and business groups (most notably the Military Industrial Complex) have considerable influence on U.S. government policy, average citizens and minorities have virtually none.

Trump’s political achievement was to take these feelings of decay and marginalization and give them a perspective that not only made sense of them but also provided a solution. In doing so, he acknowledged his audience’s real problems (while others ignored them or even contributed to them); He “understood” them and empowered them to supposedly “participate” in the process of solving those problems. But he also did one more thing: because his demagogic rhetoric was not only about the world, about the United States and his audience’s place within it, but also about himself, his own messianic place and his role as a guide and leader of that audience.

A prototype (or perhaps stereotype?) of the “ordinary American”

To start with, Trump has interpreted himself as a prototype of the “ordinary American” inner group. It’s not remotely true. Trump is far from typical. How many ordinary Americans have billions of dollars – they have their own towers, golf courses, and airplanes?

One instance is the arrival to South Carolina February 20th for his current campaign. The former president’s visit to Greenville overlapped with former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley’s tour across the Upstate. Haley appeared at a campaign stop in Greer Monday night, an event in downtown Greenville Tuesday afternoon, and spoke at Clemson University, her alma mater, that evening.

The former presidente D. Trump with the FOX News presenter Laura Ingraham at the Greenville, S. Caroline Town Hall. Photo. Greenville News.

A crowd of about 100 people gathered at 11:45 a.m. for Trump’s arrival and continued to grow until the former president touched down at GSP International Airport a little over two hours later.State troopers and sheriff’s deputies from Greenville and Spartanburg counties assisted airport security for the event. Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright, who endorsed Trump, was in attendance.

Trump disembarked his jet, Trump Force One, shortly after 2 p.m., and was greeted with cheers of “U-S-A” and “President Trump.” He spent about 15 minutes signing items and greeting fans before leaving for the town hall.

Trump arrived at the Greenville Convention Center around 2:40 p.m. and walked out to thunderous applause welcomed by interviewer Laura Ingraham. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott also made an appearance toward the end of the taping.

At least a dozen protesters stood across the street from where supporters lined up for the town hall taping at the convention center.

Carl Prestipino was the first of the protesters to arrive and held a sign listing Trump’s criminal and civil trials. He said he worries the country will move backward with Trump as president.

“I’m concerned about the direction of our country and that specifically, right now, we’re risking our credibility in the world,” Prestipino said. “Our reputation has always been for fair elections, rule of law and to support NATO. What Trump has done is all against that. It’s all about him, it’s not about us. He might say something to the contrary, but his actions in trials speak louder than words.”

Mary Wright, 70 years oldsaid that she has a moral obligation to protest for a better future for her family and others.

“Donald Trump does not represent the integrity and the ethics of this nation. I feel like I have a responsibility to stand up for all the people of this nation,” Wright said. “For my children, grandchildren, and for all the children that will be here and that the United States of America should stay the United States of America.”

But the MAGA said to the other followers, that these protesters are paid by the Biden – Harris campaign, or by the “communist”, “antifa” or other enemies of America.

The way Trump dresses and speaks has long been part of a carefully crafted image as an “exemplary and successful American,” which helps explain how an immoral billionaire businessman can win the support of a significant portion of the working class. Photo: Redux Pictures

In short, Trump’s campaign focused primarily on creating a particular sense of “us” versus “them” and then establishing how Trump himself is the genuine representative of the group in both a symbolic and practical way, capable of representing the group on a political level. The skill, complexity, and subtlety with which he accomplished this feat (even when it comes to the use of vulgarity) helps us understand why Trump was so appealing to his audience.

Added to all of the above is the high unpopularity and lack of appeal of the candidates he has faced, Hillary R. Clinton and Joseph R. Biden, despite which he obtained almost 3 million votes in 2016 and in 2020, about 8 million fewer votes than them.

With the Republican elite, the modus operandi is quite different

All of the above is to try to explain the reasons why tens of millions of fully or partially sane Americans voted for Trump. With respect to the political elites, Trump’s policy is much simpler and reminiscent of an early 20th-century Cuban politician: “He who is not with me, is without me,” and whoever does not support Trump is thrown out, period. As happened recently to the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee and in the past to more than 200 officials, dozens of lawyers, etc.

(End Part II)

*The author is a political analyst who lives in New York who often writes for Prensa Latina