The Trump faithful are really faithful. Not all are for Donald Trump as opposed to against Hilary Clinton, but still they seem to be unshakable in their support for the republican presidential candidate. They stick with him regardless of what he says and does, and they’ll gladly vote early and often in unscientific internet “polls” to give the candidate more material to confuse the electorate. To a logical person – me – the truth is the most important factor in how I feel about a person. If you are caught in lie after lie, wouldn’t that shake your supporters’ trust, and wouldn’t some of them abandon you? Yes, if the truth matters to you; but no, if change is your most important concern.
During the first presidential debate on Monday, Donald Trump said that there is a stock market bubble that will burst when the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, and that those rates have been kept artificially low by the Chair in order to make President Obama look good. I expected some negative reaction in the stock market on Tuesday, but there was none. Or rather, Trump’s statement was ignored and the market rose because of the consensus that Clinton won the debate, and her chances of becoming the president increased. Investors don’t like change, especially when the economy has been growing for six or seven years.
That was a revelation for me. Because Donald Trump tells so many untruths (the New York Times has begun calling them lies), his proclamations carry little weight. The stock market didn’t react negatively because those who own enough stocks to move the market didn’t believe his bubble statement. And why should they? The fact checkers quickly identified the 51 things he said during the debate which were not true, and they provided links to videos or tweets which proved their points. To use the tag line to the television show The X-Files, the truth is out there, and it was a lot easier to find than what Mulder and Scully had to go through.
So what’s going on? Why does proof of his lies not convince his supporters that he is untrustworthy?
Well, in the simplest terms, the truth doesn’t matter that much. To quote one woman from Columbus, Ohio, shown in a clip on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, “I am voting for the conservative party, and if this jackass just happens to be leading this mule train, so be it.”
So, for many of Trump’s supporters, truth doesn’t matter, change does. When he says that he will build a wall and Mexico will pay for it, they are probably thinking, “I doubt that, but at least we will have a chance for a conservative Supreme Court justice.”
When he says that cutting taxes for the rich will create good jobs for the middle class, they may think, “The rich have gotten much richer over the last sixteen years and the good jobs have been disappearing, but perhaps things will be different under Trump because he is successful in business.”
When Clinton points out that Trump’s business success is often built on the backs of the little guy and small businesses because he underpays or doesn’t pay them, his supporters could be thinking, “But this time he says he will be making good deals for the American people, so he won’t crap all over us like he did with those others.” (I may be paraphrasing there.)
When Trump said during the debate that he is smart to avoid paying federal income taxes, his supporters could be thinking, “I wish I was smart enough to not pay taxes. He really is a genius because the government is not good at spending taxpayer money, so they shouldn’t have any to spend.”
When Trump repeatedly said during the debate, “I didn’t say that,” and there were lots of video and tweets to prove he did, perhaps his supporters thought, “Ah, Donald.” And then they brushed off the lies – at least he is not Hilary Clinton.
This big question for Mr. Trump is whether “change” trumps “truth” with enough of the electorate to win the election. The answer is “Maybe.” There appears to be such a strong force for change blowing through the country that he could get enough college educated, suburban voters to win the election. Even for the highly educated, the desire for change exercises a strong pull. This is true in successful communities with good jobs and in struggling communities with fewer prospects.
I have speculated that we humans have a built-in need for conflict, and perhaps war. Much of the world is experiencing some form of this conflict. Ultranationalist political parties are gaining ground in many European states, and the favorable reaction to Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric shows the people’s willingness to draw “Us” versus “Them” lines. Perhaps the predisposition toward conflict is genetic. More of the weak (physically, emotionally, less able to roll with the punches) are killed off in war than the strong, so the species is better off after a war ends.
It is basic “Survival of the Fittest” thinking, but we are talking about killing people off, and there will be news coverage. Let’s not forget about that four-year old boy in Aleppo, Syria, whose photo taken in an ambulance after he was pulled from bombed out rubble went viral. It’s a bit harder to make an “Us” versus “Them” argument, when “Them” are traumatized four-year olds. That is why Donald Trump said that the vast majority of Syrian refugees are men in their 20s and 30s – another untrue claim. That’s a “Them” we feel better about killing off.
So, the logical money is on a Clinton victory, but Trump’s sails are filled with the winds of change, and logic may mean squat this year. Trump is sailing through choppy waters to be sure, but those waters have been stirred up by the many things he says which insult or degrade people and make the electorate uncomfortable. And yet, he is still close to the lead. The other thing that makes for choppy water – strong winds. So while it’s certainly a bumpy journey, those winds of change could propel Trump into the White House.