Liberty Expose: Fifty Shades of Trump Voters
There is no way to say it without sounding painfully obvious: the 2016 election was the most bizarre, controversial, and divisive in recent American history. The only election arguably more divisive in American history was the election in 1860 that resulted in hundreds of thousands of Americans killing one another.
It was not the standard presidential elections of recent past that consisted of stereotypical moderate Republicans like Mitt Romney, John McCain and George Bush against stereotypical Democrats such Barack Obama, John Kerry, and Bill Clinton. The 2016 election featured Hillary Clinton, why personifies corruption and entitlement, against Donald Trump, a vulgar reality TV host.
No matter who won, America would lose. Third parties were not a feasible alternative; even if they were, the choices would have included the equally dismal Gary “and what is Aleppo?” Johnson and Jill Stein, who walks a line between ideological extremism and insanity.
Many on both sides of the political spectrum, but the right was in a partially gloomy situation. While much of the progressive argument against Hillary Clinton was her entrenchment in the establishment, the right had to endorse with a man, who by ideological standards, was not a Republican.
Social conservatives would have to support a man who brags about his adultery. Free marketers would have to support a candidate who repeatedly denounced free trade. Foreign policy interventions would have to vote for a leader who contently bashed NATO as obsolete. There was no enjoyment for traditional Republicans this election cycle. Yet Donald Trump won because many people voted for him.
There was no one singular reason voters supported Donald Trump in the election; indeed, many conservatives abstained from the election (National Review, the premier conservative journal, had an entire issue dedicated as to why their staff would not support the Trump candidacy.) But as Donald Trump was an unconventional and ideological diverse candidate, he attracted unconventional and ideological diverse supporters
There or multiple factions of Trump supporters, but in the name of simplicity, there are really three main groups of supporters: traditionalists, free marketers, and the populists.
The traditionalists are the social conservatives that have had a presence in the Republican party for decades. These are typically loyal Republicans whose main incentive for voting was to pursue their cultural and social worldviews - issues such as the right to life for the unborn, and cultural Christianity. These social voters are the dedicated party members that dominate both sides of the political spectrum, and are hardly unique or interesting
The second group of supporters are the free marketers. These are the more ideological conservatives who supported Trump not because his policy positions appealed to them (for the most part they didn’t) but because they wanted to vote against Hillary Clinton. These are the traditional Lockeans who are more philosophically and policy inclined; they are supporters of free trade and free markets, take positions that support American involvement on the global stage, and are more metropolitan.
This demographic tends to be the more educated, white collar, and views limited broadcast media. Much of the debate on the right surrounding whether a conservative should vote for the Republican candidate existed amongst this group. About everyone in this faction agreed Donald Trump was vulgar democrat who lacked even a rudimentary understanding of what conservatism is. Arguments (at times were very heated) centered on whether it was morally acceptable or strategically wise to vote for Donald Trump just to stop Hillary Clinton. Many ultimately did, though a significant number did not.
The last faction is the populists. These people have endured many labels; from alt-right, to anti-elitists, to Trumpkins. Populists is the term I find more fitting. They are ideologically diverse in their own way: many (along with Bernie Sanders supporters) fear the establishment as the greatest threat to equality and prosperity. Wall Street bankers, long-term politicians, and other one percenters are a source of suspicion and resentment.
Not surprisingly, many of these people have relatively progressive views on economics, and differ greatly from traditional free market conservatives on issues such as protectionism and social programs (many of these voters are former Democrats). These people tend to be more conspiracy-oriented and are more exposed and are likely to spend a significant amount of time watching TV.
A small group of people are members of the alternative right, commonly referred to as the alt-right. The alt-right seek to replace conservatism, which is predicated on the classical liberalism of John Locke, with European style nationalism. As those familiar with nationalism understand, nationalists do not hold the same small-government views that traditional American conservatives have. Politicians such as Marine Le Pen in France are what nationalists tend to support.
The alt-right influence has been overstated though, few identify with the movement, and its influence has been overblown by the media. Undoubtedly, many populists who supported the Trump campaign are true believers who see Donald Trump and his unfiltered rhetoric as the jumpstart America needs to bring it back from cultural decline.
The 2016 election will continue to be studied, and people will continue to be surveyed as to why or why not they did not support the Trump campaign. Why anyone would want to spend their time reliving the horror that was the last election is beyond me, but research on the subject is constantly being conducted by social scientists, and years in the future, historians will be studying the election in its aftermath. We are indeed living in historic times, which is not necessarily good thing.
It is difficult to explain to explain the ideological views of others accurately but briefly. consistent readers of this column will probably be able to figure out which side am sympathetic with, and which I am the most critical. I have tried to be fair in my assessment, by as I am of the right, I criticize my own side more harshly and more often since I expect more. Dedicated followers of sports will understand the feeling. Though few enjoyed the election, it is difficult to describe the pain in caused the American right.
Of the many qualified candidates, a couple of them truly outstanding, the most anti-conservative candidate won the nomination. The civil war on the right was vicious at times, and many respected commentators lost their dignity in the fight. The fight for the conservative identity continues, and perhaps only time will heal the wounds. For conservatives, the 2016 election was a tragedy.