I live in an extraordinarily diverse townhome community in Durham, NC, a city that recently voted for Joe Biden by a margin of 80-20.  When I walk around the block, I feel confident my neighbors share my political outlook even if we may have little else in common in terms of age, ethnicity, race and religion.  But there are still the twenty percent.  For instance, a gay couple, Pete and Jeff, shocked me when they moved in shortly after the 2016 election and, unasked, proclaimed themselves to be “proud Republicans.”  

     “How is that possible?” I asked.

     “We’re from upstate New York,” Pete responded.  “We’ve always been Republicans.”

     “Okay,” I said, cautiously.  “But being a Republican can mean you just don’t like taxes or you say you care about the deficit, or something.  It doesn’t mean you support….” 

     “We like Donald Trump,” said Jeff.  “He won’t be so bad.  You’ll see.”

     Fast forward to late October 2020:  After assiduously avoiding politics for nearly four years in favor of observing the weather or petting their dog, when I saw Jeff standing in his driveway one day, I thought I’d ask how he felt about Joe Biden.  After all, Biden should be his hero.  He’d declared support for gay marriage ahead of President Obama, pulling the latter along.  And, surely, contrary to Jeff’s prediction, the Orange Menace had not been as bad as originally feared; he’d been much, much worse.  Anyone could see that.  Couldn’t they?

     “We still like Donald Trump,” said Jeff.  “We think he’s good for the country.”

     I was so shocked I lost all sense of tact.  “I’m sure some Jews thought Hitler would be good for Germany, but…”

     Jeff had already turned his back on me and headed inside.  “That’s offensive, he blurted.”


     Journalistic careers are being built speculating how 72 million of our fellow citizens voted to keep a mendacious sociopath in office for four more years.  The NY Times has an article or an op-ed nearly every day on the subject; it’s also a staple of The New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly and every other outpost of the presumably literate and rational.  

     Perhaps I’m not qualified to opine on the subject; then again, how qualified were the pundits and pollsters who predicted a victory for Clinton in 2016 or a blowout by Biden in 2020.   So here goes, a no-holds-barred analysis of Trump supporters.

      First, Trump voters fall into three categories:  1.  Low-income and/or low information racists;  2.  Greedy bastards;  and, 3.  Evangelicals, a/k/a/ Hypocrites.  No new ground will be broken by me on the first group.  Low-income whites find comfort believing someone is below them on the ladder of society, and they look to black and brown people to fill that role.  When the “minorities” get uppity, as when Obama became president, their anger and insecurities are triggered.  And we all know how they love their triggers as well as any other part of a gun.  Promise them coal jobs.  Promise them a wall to keep out more black and brown people. Promise then “cheaper health care.” It doesn’t matter what they are promised since they don’t care or notice when the promise is not kept.  Just keep messaging to them that their “supremacy” as the “real” Americans will be preserved.

     Next, the greedy bastards.  They are also fairly easy to analyze.  These are people who care exclusively about their individual financial situations.  No other issue matters.  Protect the capital gains tax rate, lower the corporate tax rate, keep interest rates low to juice the stock market, eviscerate the estate tax so they can salt away their winnings for future generations, and they will be happy.  The common good?  Forget about it.  Equality, forget about it.  Clean air or water?  Forget about it.  The message for them is “nothing will change.”  Their castles will not be breached.  

     Finally, the evangelicals, the religious, observant, God-fearing people who voted by 85-15% margins to have a philandering thrice married buffoon who makes fun of handicapped people and Gold Star parents atop our government.  How can they not be described as hypocrites?  Some, though not too many, are also greedy bastards and many are also low-information racists.  Of the three groups, to me, evangelicals are the most interesting and confounding.


     When I venture outside, I sometimes encounter our across-the-street neighbors, Dell and Christina.  Neither of us goes out of our way to chat but we wave and exchange pleasantries whenever we see each other.  Dell and Christina are retired IBM employees who married late in life and who make clear their social lives revolve around their evangelical church.  Dell happens to be Black and Christina is not, which is irrelevant except insomuch as it created in my mind an assumption of political liberality on their parts.  Both are gentle in manner, and I’ve always been impressed by Christina’s thoughtfulness.  She is the only neighbor who commemorates my birthday each year with a card, a REAL, PAPER card.  Yet, Christina is another person who shocked my wife, Katie, a year or two ago, by telling her she “supports our president.”  

     “How is it possible?” Katie and I asked each other, when she relayed what Christina had said, our assumptions blown to bits.

     As with Pete and Jeff, we subsequently confined all small talk with Christina to the weather or gardening.  Dell’s politics remained ambivalent.  In conversation he presents himself as a deeply spiritual person inclined to view all earthly politics and even all human affairs as “insignificant in the cosmic sense.”  I respect that view – he may be right.  Who knows?

     But last summer, in an unusual move, Dell purposefully strode across the street to talk to me while I was puttering in the garden.  

     “I’m so upset about George Floyd,” he said, his voice cracking.

     “Yes, it’s awful,” I agreed.  

     George Floyd, a Black man, had been murdered the previous week by Minneapolis police.  Caught on video, the act was brutal and callous and without ambiguity.  The nation was wracked with demonstrations and expressions of agony.  However, the president could barely acknowledge George Floyd’s humanity; he focused on the violence being perpetrated by a small minority of demonstrators.

     “What is wrong with this country?” asked Dell.  “Where is our leadership?”

       Dell’s pain surprised me because of how emotional he seemed, without his usual detachment.  I didn’t really know what to say except to agree, of course, that what had happened was terrible.

      “I don’t know who to talk to,” he continued.   “I’ve experienced my own pain with the police.  It’s not easy being who I am.  And my own wife is blind to what’s going on.”

     My mind was racing through various responses.  Obviously, Dell was a Black man and, as such, far more entitled to emote about George Floyd’s murder than I.  But to me, his race had never seemed central to his being.  As he was a retired professional, now focused on gardening, bicycling and church-related activities, I did not associate Dell with the greater African-American community or its suffering.  And I certainly didn’t want to get in the middle of any marital issues.

     “Um,” I said.  “I’m sure Christina cares…”

     “She cares,” said Dell.  “But she supports whatever the president says.  She is pro-life and the president is pro-life.  End of discussion.”

     “That’s ironic,” I offered, thinking about what had happened to George Floyd.  “So that is her basis for admiring Donald Trump?”

     “She doesn’t ‘admire’ Trump,” clarified Dell.  “But she does support him because of the one issue.  She likes the judges.  That’s her thing.”

     “So if your main issue is equal rights,” I said, piecing my thoughts together, “or my main issue is environmental protection, and someone else’s issue might be health care, Christina feels her issue outweighs all of those.”

     “Precisely,” said Dell.  “It’s very frustrating.”

     It should not have come as a revelation, I suppose.  I’d often heard of the one-issue “pro-life” voters.  I disagreed with them and vaguely disapproved of them.  However, I didn’t realize until I spoke with Dell just what about them so infuriated me:  They are hypocrites!!! The newest Supreme Court justice, Amy Coney Barrett, for instance, has made a career of being “pro-life.”  No doubt she would deny a woman’s right to an abortion and will do what she can to limit a woman’s ability to obtain one. 

      Barrett and other “conservative” judges will not only limit reproductive choice, but will also be less likely to support reasonable gun regulations, environmental protections, universal health care, and be more likely to support the death penalty and harsh border protections such as family separation. In balance, they are the complete opposite of “pro-life.”  In her first vote, just last week, Barrett supported the right of religious institutions to hold large gatherings during a pandemic in direct opposition to the recommendations of public health professionals.  Will she “own” the additional deaths that ensue?  Of course not.  She’s a hypocrite!

     Furthermore, self-proclaimed “pro-life” politicians and judges ironically support a set of positions that may as well be called fourth-trimester abortions: they wish to require poor women (because wealthy women who want to end their pregnancies will find a way) to give birth whether or not the child is desired, but these “pro-lifers” are less likely to support that child’s eventual access to healthcare, education, housing, voting, or nutrition.

     With my newfound clarity, I said to Dell:  “I appreciate that you told me about your feelings.  It helps me to understand many things, about you, and about so-called ‘pro-life’ voters.  Come talk about it any time.”

     “Thanks,” he said.  “It feels better just to have spoken to someone.”


     Now that I’ve pondered the three segments of Trump supporters, I wonder what can be done to reach them.  First, I call on Democrats to declare themselves the PRO-LIFE candidates and explain the myriad ways that is true.  No longer should they cede that wonderfully clear message to the other side.  To me, “pro-choice” sounds like part of a cable television promotion.  

     Second, drop the “Green New Deal” as a slogan.  Given the ignorance of our electorate, I’d bet less than ten percent even know what the 1930’s-era New Deal involved.  Instead, call it the JOBS AND HEALTHCARE Act.

     Third, (and this idea is not original to me) cease referring to “defunding the police.”  Perhaps, “repurposing” is a helpful term, or “refocusing.”  In any event, it should be clear that everyone, of all political persuasions, appreciates and supports police officers who “Protect and Serve.”  Police work can be difficult and dangerous.  However, the minority of officers who tend towards panic and/or sadism must be ferreted out.  A concerted effort to have social workers take over most interactions with the mentally ill, homeless and non-violent domestic disputes could, it is hoped, limit the number of disastrous encounters.

     Fourth, Democrats have already moved towards referring to “gun control” as “commonsense gun regulations.”  That’s an improvement in messaging, but doesn’t have the bite of something like:  “Suicide and Mass Murder Protection Act.”  For instance, everyone in America should know that a stunning 90% of suicides occur in gun-owning households!  They might also be intrigued to learn that Australia hasn’t had a single mass murder since the 1990’s when they outlawed private gun ownership.  But I’m sure that’s a step too far, alas.  So stick with the suicide statistic that is readily available in about thirty seconds of research. 

     The election of Joe Biden, a normal (for a politician) person with a sense of empathy, is a good start to returning our nation to some sense of decency.  My benediction is this: May his and his party’s messaging be clear enough to penetrate some ignorance and dogma, and make my future walks around the block less fraught.