Over the past few months there has been a constant stream of articles, written with varying admixtures of sorrow, contempt, and schadenfreude, about Trump voters who are now dismayed because they never supposed that he was actually planning to take away their health insurance, eliminate reproductive rights and medical services, or deport her husband.
These articles calm with facepalm quotes about how they deceived themselves about Trump’s intentions. “She thought Trump would deport only people with criminal records — people he called ‘bad hombres’.” This is contrasted with Trump’s very explicit promises to do exactly what they are now appalled that he is now doing.
I agree with this sentiment up to a point. And yet, I have to admit that I also ignored most of what Donald Trump said. It was impossible not to, given how much he contradicted himself. I assumed that he meant to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and not “make sure everyone is taken care of”. That he would deport mercilessly, and not focus on stopping international gangs or terrorism. That he would reduce taxes on the wealthy and restrict women’s reproductive rights, and that his concern for the workers pushed aside by globalisation was just made-for-TV bullshit. That he would “bomb the shit out of ISIS”, and not resist foreign military interventions (as he falsely claimed he had done farsightedly before the Iraq war).
I was right, it turns out. I think I was right for the right reasons: Not that I recognised his nefarious true beliefs, because I don’t think he has beliefs in any normal sense, but precisely because he has no beliefs, but he has political alliances, and these would push him to abandon any taint of progressive policy. Lacking any ballast of knowledge or conscience, he has always shown himself to be easily manipulated by whoever most recently spoke with him, and he could be expected to surround himself with conservatives and neofascists.
But the much-ridiculed nervous Trump voters also thought they know which part was bullshit. It’s all about the psychology of the con, as I discussed here. The master conman — and Trump will surely remembered by posterity, if there is any — as history’s greatest conman — makes the sale by convincing the mark that she is in the know. She’s seen how the pea got hidden, so she’s the one taking advantage here.