Martin Schram: Trump voters' migration: From mad to misled

By Martin Schram, Tribune News Service on

Published in Op Eds

Today, in this last column of what had better be Donald Trump's last presidential campaign, we are focusing on the same folks we spotlighted in our first column on Trump's first presidential campaign.

Namely: Those mad-as-hell, not-going-to-take-it-anymore voters who became Trump's core supporters.

Ever since that June 2015 day Trump rode down his gold-colored escalator and into our presidency, that astonishingly solid base of Trump's voters were ignored, misunderstood and definitely underestimated by the professional politicos and the folks who cover them. Except here. Our sharp-minded readers will of course recall that on July 22, 2015, just four weeks after Trump began running for president, I warned my colleagues they shouldn't be dismissing the reality TV host and real estate tycoon (see also: typhoon) as just a national punchline.

Here's what we told you a year and a quarter before Election Day 2016:

"Millions who watch reality TV believe they are watching reality. ... Trump's believers are our reality. ... They are America's fed-up voters of 2015. They desperately want to be led and are easily misled. ... They are drawn to Trumps, Perots and Tea Party fulminators for the same reason they might heed the impassioned command of filmdom's ... truth-talking anchor in 'Network,' (who told his audience): 'I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' If you hear those words echoing through America's swing-voting cul du sac suburbs on Election Night 2016, you will know America's fed-up, mad-as-hell voters just chose your next president."

The frustrations of many Trump voters always seemed understandable to me. Because I had met folks just like them a half-century earlier, as a kid reporter covering my first presidential campaign in 1968. Back then, they were union members working in Northern factories but backing the conservative independent presidential candidate Gov. George Wallace, a segregationist from Alabama. He was giving speeches filled with lines like Trump's today. But when I talked with those 1968 Wallace backers, many told me that at the start of the year they were for the liberal integrationist Robert F. Kennedy (who was assassinated in June). They saw no inconsistency. They simply said Kennedy and Wallace were the only two candidates talking to "people like me."

Fast forward to Thursday: MSNBC anchor Ari Melber asked two 2016 Trump voters (women from Michigan and Wisconsin) who they had voted for in the primaries. Bernie Sanders, both said. And now both are voting for Joe Biden. And so it goes.

Today, many 2016 Trump voters who desperately wanted to be led aren't feeling mad-as-hell this year, but are feeling misled-as-hell. And rightly so. The man they made our president keeps assuring them we have "rounded the corner" in combating COVID-19 – on the same newscasts that have just reported the pandemic in America is worse than ever. They are jammed into Trump's rally spaces and are maskless because Trump leads them by ridiculing mask-wearers. Days later they discover their rally was a lethal superspreader.

In the final campaign daze of 2020, those of you who are among Trump's misled-as-hell waverers have a big presidential decision to make — or, more precisely, to unmake. Many of you Trump '16 voters — especially those who are Christian fundamentalists — are rethinking how you can square a Biden '20 vote with your faith. So you will be interested in the conclusions of Elizabeth Neumann, a pro-life supporter who was Trump's assistant secretary of Homeland Security for threat prevention and security; she has resigned and is now supporting Biden.


"It wasn't my faith that led me to vote for Donald Trump (in 2016)," she told MSNBC's Nicole Wallace. Neumann said she had a "naive" hope Trump "would rise to the occasion," but "I came to the realization that I can't vote for him purely on the grounds that he just can't do the job. He is dangerous."

Neumann said she "went back to the Scripture and really kind of had my eyes opened that what the Scripture teaches doesn't align really with either party." But she said Biden represents "what God calls to us (for) in leadership."

The Homeland Security expert said she especially focused on "the horrible, horrible things we saw happen at our border and child separation. ... It's just morally repugnant ... There is no Scripture basis that a state gets to intervene between a family that God created, absent the life of the child being endangered in some way."

"They have lost their moral compass," the ex-Trump official said. "... And from the faith perspective, it becomes very, very easy for me to support Joe Biden over Donald Trump."



Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at martin.schram@gmail.com.

(c)2020 Tribune Content Agency, LLC, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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