Just to be specific, when I refer to Trump’s “supporters” in the title, I’m not talking about the drooling morons who roll around on the floor at Trump rallies, speaking in “Trump tongues.” I’m talking about the more normal, “tired of the status quo,” voters who pulled a lever for Trump thinking they might actually get a positive outcome from a total outsider. You know, fuckers with jobs.
I saw an excellent episode of VICE News on HBO Saturday night, called “Trump’s Trade War.” It was a deep dive into the root causes, and resulting effects of Trump’s economic spat with the rest of the world (excluding Russia). They spoke to executives of two Missouri companies impacted, an aluminum plant, as well as a nail manufacturer, and multiple farmers. There were several interesting takeaways from the show, along with one huge flashing red light for the HOP overall.
First, when it comes to business, the reaction to the trade war depends on your personal experience. They spoke to an executive at the aluminum plant, who gushed like a ruptured dike about the magnificence of Trump’s tariffs, crediting it with “saving the entire aluminum industry.” But when the interviewer contrasted his enthusiasm with the dire straits that soy bean farmers have been placed in, his response was something like, “Our industry in concerned with maximum shareholder value to our investors. It’s far above our pay grade to evaluate the tariffs on a national level.” In plain English, “Fuck them, we got ours.”
The reaction of the nail manufacturer was somewhat different. A month previously, the plant, which consists of two factories, was operating at 100% capacity. Now, the plant is running at 60% capacity, the second factory closed, with dusty machinery, and boxes full of unshipped nails. They’re unshipped because their buyer canceled the order when he couldn’t afford the 19% tariff charge on top of the purchase price for “American made nails.” The plant manager was honest enough to admit that the only reason the plant was operating at all was because it was a subsidiary of a larger corporation, which could afford to take the loss write off in the short term. He also admitted that other smaller, privately held companies would not be that lucky.
The soy farmer was equally blunt. He admitted that the way things were going, it was possible that after the expenses of operating the farm, his profit for the year may well be basically zero. The farmer was supposed to be in the process of beginning the planting cycle for the next crop, but he had no idea of how much to plant, since he had no way of knowing how much demand there would be, based on how long the tariffs continued. His confidence level was somewhere down in the vicinity of his projected profit margin.
Even people who should know better have been sucked in. They spoke to noted economist Arthur Laffer, whose famous ( or infamous) “Laffer curve” graced us with such economic buffoonery as “trickle down economics,” and “Reaganomics,” and Pappy Bush’s “voodoo economics.” While Laffer admitted that Trump sometimes scared him silly, he still felt that Trump was on the right track, simply because his tariffs were intended as an “attention grabber” to start negotiations with China and the other affected countries, and wouildn’t last. What Laffer was ignoring was the fact that subject ignorance, along with a lifelong history of pampered stubbornness, most likely meant that Trump was in this for the long haul. Just like the aluminum dick was blissfully ignoring the fact that if manufacturers can’t actually sell their tariff laden products, they won’t need all the aluminum that’s being made.
But the most stunning takeaway for me was the air of resignation with most of the people they talked to. Almost all of them admitted to having voted for Trump in 2016, but there was an almost sheepish, scraping their toe on the ground look to them. Even three steel workers, who had been rehired since the sanctions, claimed continued support for Trump, but oin a rather muted way, like survivors who know that there are still people left in the burning building that they just got hauled out of. One Trump supporter from the nail factory, when asked what he would do if the factory shut down, sand, “Umm…..I guess I’ll just go home.” What was left unasked was for how long, in a small, company town, when the mortgage money runs out? Mostly what they looked like was people sitting in a conference room, waiting for their lawyer to come back in after talking with the prosecutor about their DUI charge. They know they’ve done something stupid, now they’re just waiting to find out if they’ll have to go to jail, or just get off with a fine.
This fatalistic resignation is the flashing red light for the GOP going forward. It is already pretty much accepted that whether it is in 2020 or 2024, once His Lowness slithers back to his gilded birdcage, the vaunted Trump “base” slithers back under their rocks too. Trump is a one trick pony, and once his show closes, there is nobody who will be able to ignite their passion and intensity again. But the people who were interviewed for the program were not blathering idiots wearing MAGA hats, and proudly holding QAnon signs aloft, these were Trump “supporters, who rolled the dice, and came up craps. They may still cling to their support of Trump, like any other mark waiting for that $17 million from the Nigerian prince to hit their bank account, but they don’t look like they’re all that hep to go out in November and support a bunch of GOP candidates who aren’t named Trump.
Nothing tends to make you realize when you’ve been played for a fool quite like the moment when that cold slap of reality clips you across the chops. Trump’s racist base will already disappear once he’s gone, and from the looks on the faces of these “ordinary” Trump voters, it is going to be a long time before they believe anybody with a (R) after their name once they wake up form this nightmare. Would Ronna Romney McDaniel please turn out the lights, and lock the door when she leaves?