Trump’s campaign has stripped from much of the “conservative” movement the illusion that they care about policy. Entertainers like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity just want listeners. Politicians just want power. Many of the voters just want someone who looks like them and espouses vague cultural views with which they agree.
This theory has been proven clearly this election cycle, and now even the power players are close to publicly admitting it. When Trump expressed support for universal healthcare and expressed every position under the sun on other issues, it was evident that policies didn’t matter for his supporters, but it was not evident that they themselves knew it. It was possible they could have been deluded, believing in Trump.
Trump’s flip-flops and fake positions have been coming quicker and quicker now that he’s trying his “pivot” with two months left till the election. He followed through with a “softening” of sorts on illegal immigration, giving up his promise to deport all 11 million illegal aliens. (That wasn’t necessarily a conservative position, but it was one that his supporters presumably supported.) Now that he made a show of claiming to have proposed a maternity leave plan, leading self-proclaimed conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh threw aside concerns about the impact of the “big government” program.
I think they’re gonna respond so positively to this, and it’s gonna disappoint a lot of people. “Oh, my God, do people not even understand the whole concept of Big Government destroying the country?” They don’t, folks. They don’t look at it the way you and I do in that regard.
His argument, as he expanded, was that it might be a popular proposal that would help Trump win the election. He didn’t address whether it was a good policy for workers or for the economy. If he thinks Trump is the right choice, then maybe he just wants Trump to win and do anything to win. But why does he think Trump is the right choice? Is it because he supports the policies Trump would implement as president? Such as maternity leave?
A Trump voter, @VileStyle, told me on Twitter, “I don’t care about policy or government bro Hillary sucks Trump is awesome simple as that.”
When asked why “Hillary sucks”–was it because she supported liberal policies?–he avoided the question and just said that Hillary “sucks.”
@VileStyle is really just a less eloquent version of Rush. If you strip away policy, you can still make arguments based on qualifications (which Trump doesn’t have, but which his supporters argue is his business experience) and trust (which Trump lacks, but about which his supporters say Hillary is worse). That Trump supporters trust Trump more than Hillary, despite him having abandoned so many of his positions and having lied about everything from policy to his own past statements that are on the record, could indicate there are other reasons than honest that they “trust” Trump.
The other reasons come out when you see Trump supporters talk about “taking back” their America, having a “pro-American president,” or grievances that the government doesn’t “understand” the “people.” These are cultural grievances that don’t affect people’s lives. They don’t affect how much people pay in taxes or whether the country goes to war. If the billionaire Trump seems to be “more like you,” because he takes pictures of himself eating McDonalds and (like Obama) playing golf, then that is irrelevant to how he will serve as president. It will, at most, impact superficial things like speeches and showmanship.
Trump has a lot of experience presenting himself as a mass personality, honed on his reality TV show. But there’s a reason why when he does some of the same things as Obama, Trump is regarded by his audience as being “like us,” rather than “arrogant.”
So there’s a reason why people who wear “Hillary sucks, but not like Monica” tee shirts don’t like Hillary…
Back to the question of maternity leave and trust. It could be, actually, that they don’t all trust Trump. Introducing a quote from Rush Limbaugh after Trump began his “softening” on immigration:
“You know, I could choose a path here to try to mollify you,” he said to a caller angry that Trump lied in the primary about supporting deporting every illegal immigrant, “but I never took him seriously on this!”
For Rush, it’s not enough for policy to not matter. It’s not enough for him to say, “Any position is fine on illegal immigration.” He actually claims that he ignored Trump’s policy claims entirely. He doesn’t take them seriously!
Trump issued a pretend maternal leave policy today with the hope that 5-10 percent of the white suburban women who care about policy will take him seriously, knowing that the 70 percent of the angry white men who support him now don’t give damn about it either way.