Maybe It’s Simple

I could be reaching here.  Maybe I’m trying to make sense of a phenomenon that defies reason.  Or, I’m over-simplifying.  I’ve been banging my head against the wall since Election Day, trying to figure out how in the bloody hell to account for 73 million votes for the abomination in the White House.  Impossible as it seems, the psychopath-in-chief garnered over 10 million more votes this year than in 2016.  Even granting that overall turnout was much higher, it still seems impossible.  He got more Black votes and more Latino votes than previously.  What in the world happened?

Some have postulated that it was a matter of fear.  People are scared of the coronavirus and afraid of what will happen with the economic downturn, and they are hesitant to change horses in midstream, lest conditions spiral down even further.  I can accept that explanation for a minority of voters, those who don’t read much, don’t contemplate much, and are therefore susceptible to panic-mongering headlines. 

But after reading some online comments, my deduction is that the support for the outgoing incumbent comes down to one thing:  selfishness

Commenter McGloin, in Brooklyn, replied to Nicholas Kristof’s NY Times column, 11/15, “As If We Didn’t Have Enough to Worry About…” by relating a short history of conservative thought:

“…Conservatives were loyal to the king and opposed the Revolution because they
Believe in a political hierarchy ordained by their god. They believe in the power of
Belief, and are not interested in the doubt that is necessary to do science, create markets
(which Conservatives manipulate or blow up), or to Reason that all Citizens are Equal.
They opposed the 14th Amendment. Conservatives cannot imagine that the rest of us do
not want to do them harm. It is easier for them to imagine that Democrats drink the
blood of babies than to imagine that Democrats would do unto Republicans as they
would have Republicans do unto them. Their golden rule is “do unto others before they
do unto you.” The[y] believe that the ends justify the means, so lying, cheating, and
killing are all acceptable.”    

SRF in New York, posting in response to the same article, says, in part, referring to votes for the Orange one, “The short answer is that Trump supporters don’t pay attention to big-picture issues. Typically they mention their own welfare (or perceived welfare) as their reason for supporting Trump. End of conversation, end of interest. This narrowness and selfishness on the part of Trump supporters and the party that represents them cannot be excused or overlooked.”

I read these submissions and concluded that the long and short is that the divide may appear to be clear-cut between conservative and liberal; the 90% and the 10%; the religious and the secular; urban and rural, but none of the above categories is monolithic; there are shades of opinion and belief across each one.  Some people are socially liberal but fiscally conservative, for instance.  Some of the 90% are generous in donating to those less fortunate.  But rabid rightwingers in general and Orange factionalists in particular are all looking out only for themselves.

Obviously, it’s natural for each person to be concerned about his/her own survival and family welfare; we’re wired that way to ensure the existence of our species.  Many, though, then extend their compassion beyond themselves, their families, and immediate necessities. I’d like to think they’re in the majority. We’ve seen their opposites, however, more and more openly these last four years. People who won’t wear masks care nothing for those around them, not even their friends or extended families.  They see no responsibility for keeping others safe.  The same is true of the racists who are eager to stamp out all “others,” so as to eliminate perceived competition.  Or the evangelicals who believe that people who don’t subscribe to the same canons are irredeemable.  They would impose a theocracy proscribing all but their system of worship and personal conduct.  The citizens who refuse to acknowledge climate change because to do so would require sacrifices on their part, either behaviorally or monetarily, are in the “me, first” category as well.  Likewise, those who oppose universal healthcare out of the [unjustified] fear that it would cost them money or alter their current arrangements.  Ditto the clean-energy opponents, who want to maintain fossil fuel use as long as possible, or the gun fanatics who endanger those around them.  The individuals who adhere to any or all of the above mindsets are almost unanimously MAGA fans.  Of course, such persons are not limited to the confines of the United States; similar factions are stepping out of the shadows all over the world.  Recent violent mask protests in Berlin demonstrate the universality and newfound boldness of self-centered minorities, particularly among Western nations. 

All of the above is not to say that there are no greedy, selfish anti-Orange people, but those who genuinely abhor his policies and actions (in contrast to mere political rivals) are much more characterized by an expansive worldview, including concern for other humans and the rest of the planet.  A cursory look at the Green New Deal, for instance, reveals the diametric opposition between its proponents and the Orange crowd.  Its premise involves working toward the betterment of all, not just some selected groups or races or income categories.  The Green New Deal is the signature proposal of the UNselfish people in the country, and polls show that its concepts of universal healthcare, clean energy, greater income equality, a stronger infrastructure, and better education opportunities have wide support among the population. 

I think I’ve finally got the formula nailed down:

extreme right = MAGA support = extreme selfishness ==>  disaster for the country

10 thoughts on “Maybe It’s Simple

  1. this is a keepsake and a periapt for, respectively, my near-naked desktop monitor and my unadorned neck for securing cortical safeguards. your elenchus, denise, is a savoury mix of prelapsarian sagacity, an eloquent diathesis of compassionate adherence to the needs of others, and a cogent elucubration of current trends in voter-dynamics that reflect an alarming predilection toward me-ism which might disillusion steven pinker. i wonder if he would now concede that the ‘better angels of our nature’ thesis no longer remains statistically valid.


    1. I haven’t delved into Pinker’s work, but as you’ve mentioned him in this context, I may have to read his theories in depth. On the surface, I find it very hard to believe that violence is declining. Perhaps some types in some locales, or perhaps the physical is being subverted into mental/emotional mayhem in some cases, but overall… I’d have to see a boatload of statistics.

      At any rate, thank you for your kind words.


  2. I remember in 2016 the biggest predictor of support for Trump was whether a person had an authoritarian bent. Trump knows this: he ran on “law and order” in 2020 and almost won. Of course, we always have to ask, whose law and whose order? Trump is not a lawful person, and his idea of order is unquestioning loyalty to himself.

    Nevertheless, or rather because of this, he has gained a cult-like following, partly because he says he hates some of the same people his supporters truly do hate. For his supporters, Trump is a liberator, in a sense. He liberates them from guilt. And he liberates their dark sides.

    That said, the DNC (establishment democrats) refuse to run a candidate who’s not a tool of the corporate elites. So some people vote for Trump because the Democratic choice, from their perspective, is worse. Trump gives them a form of dark hope; Democrats give them none.

    These are a few things that occurred to me as I read your article.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Right you are. And it seems to me that authoritarianism is selfishness on steroids: do it my way because that’s what I want. Or, to put it another way, authoritarians are the ultimate selfish people.

    I read a comment today that many people are tired of having to be politically correct. That fatigue, again, can be extrapolated outward to racism or sexism or “name-a-group-ism,” all of which are closely related to being obsessed with oneself to the exclusion of others and their welfare.


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