We have learned that confirmation bias, extreme hostility to the mainstream media and refusal to admit one was conned serve to prevent President Donald Trump’s supporters from abandoning ship. He no longer is an ordinary president in their eyes, but rather a cultural spokesman for their anger, fear, resentment and, yes, xenophobia in some cases. Many of his supporters do not expect him to deliver on promises, either because the Great Leader has decided otherwise or because they blame other politicians. Some convince themselves that he has already improved their lives.
But this doesn’t mean that all supporters will stick with him indefinitely. Some actually care about outcomes. Others will get bored with the constant whining about the media and other politicians. Some Republicans who thought they’d at least get something out of his presidency (for example, tax cuts) will figure out that they aren’t getting much of anything.
Whatever the case, there need not be one cataclysmic moment that convinces Trump supporters that they should jump ship. More likely, they’ll drift away in drips and drabs, either finding other political entertainment or losing interest in politics altogether, perhaps before 2018 but more likely after the midterms if the GOP gets shellacked.
A new Reuters-Ipsos poll bears this out:
“The Republican president’s popularity is eroding in small towns and rural communities where 15 percent of the country’s population lives. The poll of more than 15,000 adults in ‘non-metro’ areas shows that they are now as likely to disapprove of Trump as they are to approve of him. In September, 47 percent of people in non-metro areas approved of Trump while 47 percent disapproved. That is down from Trump’s first four weeks in office, when 55 percent said they approved of the president while 39 percent disapproved.”
His core support — “among men, whites and people who never went to college” — is dipping. His net approval (approval minus disapproval) on health care (-24 points), the economy (-10 points), national unity (-13 points) and immigration (-17 points) have dropped precipitously since he was elected. That suggests the notion that Trump voters are impervious to reality is overbroad and unfair.
Sure, some cannot come to grips with their heartthrob’s failures. But many others who might not follow every twist and turn in politics or know the ins and outs of every policy issue can sense things are not going as well as they hoped. The shift in numbers also tells us that despite the constant drumbeat in Trump’s culture wars, Trump voters have not been entirely bamboozled by the president. A particularly telling sign is that the net percentage of people who approve of “the way he treats people like me” has dropped 12 points.
Maybe the bullying act — which now extends to San Juan’s mayor, virtually every member of Congress, Muslims, Hispanics, non-whites who oppose monuments glorifying the Confederacy, sports figures, immigrants of all types, his own attorney general and, of course, the media — has begun to turn people off. After all, if he treats everyone else poorly and respects no one (other than a general or two), what must he think of people who aren’t part of the billionaire club? Rural voters aren’t blind or dumb. They’ve seen how Trump spontaneously reacted to victims of natural disasters — complaining about the coverage or congratulating himself. It might strike voters as peculiar, even distasteful, that Trump’s all-consuming ego allows no room for others’ suffering.
They might not have realized it a year ago, or perhaps they did and loathed Hillary Clinton more, but it seems that people in rural America — who should like him the most — like him a whole lot less. Familiarity certainly does breed contempt.