I intend to debunk the mythology of the Obama-Trump voter we hear about so much on MSNBC, Fox and CNN discussion panels. The oft-repeated claim that there is some significant number of people in America that fit this description is a giant hoax. The fact that all media outlets are synchronized in their perceived importance of this particular voter is reason enough to draw the skepticism of an objective observer. But before I launch into the political calculus that led me to this conclusion I have to stipulate to an important fact: Because we have secret ballots in America the only thing we know about how an individual votes is by what they tell us. And a person can tell you anything. Someone can say one thing to a pollster or a reporter or a friend and then turn around and do the opposite in the voting booth. There is actual proof of that dynamic operating in American elections and blowing up prediction models.
But it is not often discussed because if it were then we all would finally realize that the media really doesn’t know what the hell is going to happen in any given election- and then people may not tune in to watch those snappy panel discussions and expert interviews. That, of course, is bad for business. So our mass-media political debates are driven by Liar Deniers- people who embark on seemingly complex political analysis without ever accounting for the basic truth that many of the voters they are polling and interviewing could just be lying to them.
So my calculus begins with the basic truths we all know but pretend not to: People lie and people lie a lot. And even more important than that people lie for a variety of motivations both large and small. Anytime you find yourself saying “I don’t understand why he/she would lie about that!” just stop right there. You are already off base because the fact that you can’t understand why somebody is lying does not make their lie the truth. Innocent men have been rotting in prison for decades over that bit of collective cognitive dissonance that America can’t seem to get over. That frustrating dynamic is most apparent when political pundits are discussing the tortured soul of the mythological Obama-Trump Voter.
I am going to shine a spotlight on why people lie about having been Obama voters and then turning into Trump voters. Let’s take the small motivations first: People love free food; people love to be on camera; and people love to talk about themselves. As crazy as it sounds, these simple motivations helped create one of the greatest political con-jobs of all time. Every person who has ever been invited to one of those made-for-TV focus groups got there because they conned some junior-varsity level staff pollster into believing they are one of the amazing creatures that somehow voted for Barack Obama (twice) but then voted for Donald Trump. And every one of them is full of sh*t- bar none. The little political melodrama they put on for the audience watching at home works for everybody involved: It gives each of the panelists the deluxe package “15 minutes of fame” they have been waiting their whole lives for and it lets the pollsters keep billing the networks for their difficult work of cracking the complex code of this voter who is equally motivated by a message of “Hope and Change” and “Build The Wall!”
The reason why I am calling bullsh*t on the whole “Obama-Trump voter” charade is not because of the small motivations listed above but because of the large ones: Nobody wants to be labeled as a racist and openly supporting the openly racist Donald Trump makes that label quite difficult to escape. UNLESS of course (wait for it) you state publicly that you voted for Barack Obama. Then you CAN’T be a racist, right? I mean what kind of a racist or racist sympathizer or racist apologist votes for a black man for President of The United States? How can a person square that circle? The truth is they can’t. I’m not buying it. I have had the privilege of traveling all over this country and even of traveling abroad as an American- meeting and engaging people along the way on political matters and that “Obama-Trump voter” story just doesn’t pass the smell test. I doubt I am the only person who has always looked upon people who self-report this peculiar voting pattern with a furrowed brow and intense skepticism.
We may know it with our minds but we are still emotionally resisting the frightening reality that we are living in a time of escalating racial hostility. That hostility is a result of many white folks freaking out when a black man became president and moved his black wife and black children into the White House. Then he put his big black feet up on Lincoln’s desk and wore that tan suit to a press conference. Then he said a white police officer acted stupidly for arresting a world-famous Harvard professor while entering his own residence. Then he tried to solve the health care crisis that has dogged American citizens since the 1960’s. The nerve.
It stood to reason that white folks who went off the deep end over these major infractions would find themselves gravitating toward the guy who attacked that uppity black and then upped the ante by saying he wanted to ban all of his Muslim relatives from entering the country. Somebody telling you they voted for Obama and then voted for Trump is a person who wants the adrenaline rush of saying out-loud that they voted for the racist without any of the social costs that should come with it.
The bigger the lie the more likely people are to believe it. That was an article of faith for the Nazi Party in the 1930’s in the power-grab that preceded World War II. At variant points in world history people have proven it to be one of the more durable and dispiriting realities of human nature. We happen to be living at such a point in history right now. Lies, especially big lies, are being rewarded with enormous power and wealth. And if ever called to account for the lies any punishment pales in comparison to the reward that was reaped. Lying boldly can get your kid admitted to an elite university where they are unqualified to be; or get you almost a billion dollars in financing for a fake business selling a fake invention; or even get you to the presidency of the United States. And since lying boldly is so richly rewarded it is so often repeated.
So what is the measurable reward for the lie that there is such a thing as an “Obama-Trump voter”? The payoff is that Democrats will court this mythological voter above all others and in so doing will be too afraid to advocate aggressively or govern boldly. Unfortunately, that has proven to be the gift that keeps on giving.