I want to address this note to Trump supporters and others who may be considering voting for him. You are the ones stereotyped by critics as being all alike in your hatreds, resentments, closed minds, prejudices, and fears. While you may hoot and holler at his mass rallies, people like you defy these stereotypes back home where you live, work, and raise your families. When asked, you may call yourselves Republicans, conservatives, or patriots. Yet you want many of the same things in life as neighbors who call themselves liberals or progressives.
Both want clean and fairly counted elections. Both want law enforcement against businesses that cheat, bully, and harm their families, often by directly selling things on television that are bad for their children, bypassing parental authority. They are angry over big business and the superrich not paying their fair share in taxes, even as they can afford to buy politicians. (Who doesn’t object to all the maddening fine print in the credit card agreements, health insurance policies, and pension contracts that deny customers the benefits and services they’ve already paid for?)
Both want their cars recalled when there is a manufacturing defect. Both want safe medicines, clean food, air, water, and a safe, respectful workplace. They expect their taxes to be used to repair and upgrade their community’s roads, schools, drinking water, and public transit systems. Probably many Walmart workers voted for Trump, but that doesn’t mean they think it’s fair for them to be paid a wage they can’t possibly live on while their top boss makes $12,000 an hour plus huge benefits. During his campaign, by the way, Trump, the vastly overpaid failed gambling czar, asserted that American workers were “overpaid.” How do his supporters let him get away with that?
The commercial drive to overcome more important civic and human values doesn’t distinguish between conservatives and liberals, between Republicans and Democrats. They are all fodder for profit. Did you know that every major religion warned its faithful not to give up too much power to the merchant class? More than two thousand years ago, merchants, even then, were running roughshod over civilized values in their quest for profits or riches.
Today they know how to get you in so many ways and to get away with it. Only a democratic society can make these big corporations our servants, not our masters, by subordinating their commercial greed to the supremacy of the law and to civic values that allow people to enjoy freedom, justice, and decent livelihoods.
I’ve always been amazed at the success that so many politicians have with voters just using a few repeated phrases. Is it because they are boldly saying out loud what certain voters have been thinking about unpopular segments of the population, and keeping it to themselves? So someone like a Trump, even as he lavishes tax breaks on corporations, can make the quick sale exploiting real resentments about job losses by blaming them on imports and immigrants.
Many Trump voters blame their labor union leaders as well. Trump may be losing the trade war, with arbitrary tariffs costing us jobs, raising consumer prices, and losing farmer markets, but, hey, at least he’s trying to make sure foreign countries don’t take us to the cleaners. For “five minute voters,” who don’t give themselves a chance to dig deeper, as they do with the details of their sports teams, the key role of U.S. corporations who exited America for those foreign countries with their cheap labor may be missed.
And recall when Trump told them during the campaign that “the drug companies are getting away with murder” and yet has done nothing as president, well hey, at least he is talking about the rip-offs. (Drug companies are laughing as they collect more subsidies and tax breaks from Uncle Sam. Their “pay-or-die” business just got 13 percent more expensive on the average this year.)
Trump scoffs at the climate crisis. All those intensifying heat waves, hurricanes, rising sea levels, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and wildfires are no evidence of massive man-caused climate disruption, which he calls a “hoax.” Whom do you trust—your eyes and the climate scientists, whose warnings have been accurate for years, or the “beautiful, clean coal” booster—Donald Trump?
Presidential behavior, in a modern social media age, can be very contagious. And not just for preteens sassing their parents in ways imitative of Trump’s outlandish behavior or talk. For example, when talking politics with people, if I mention his chronic, pathological lying in tweets and speeches day after day, saying things that just clearly aren’t so, somebody always says, “Well, all politicians lie”—which may well be true. But just as there is a difference between coffee that is hot, boiling, or scalding, a difference in degree can become a deadly difference in kind. Especially when the lies and their false scenarios are stacked and baked by the power and delusions of the president of the United States.
But the price of a Fake President is a continuing betrayal—betrayal of the people who believed and put him in office. When he says the economy is so rosy, and it clearly isn’t for a majority of people having trouble paying their bills even after going into deep debt, they’ve been betrayed. Trump then acts as if there were nothing he can do to provide health care for 80 million people without insurance or underinsured . . . when in reality he is pushing Congress to repeal or reduce critical health insurance benefits for millions of people. You can look it up and see for yourself. Or when he says industrial jobs are coming back and factories are returning, and they have not, his lies hide his broken campaign assurances and evade accountability. And the cycle of betrayal continues . . .
for which his voters pay a big price when the cheering stops. His repeated lies about too many government regulations help his corrupt and conflict-saturated deregulators to sabotage public health and safety. Sure, there is sometimes too much paperwork, just as there are poorly conceived regulations that are sometimes too weak. But overall, for example, aren’t you glad to learn there is less lead in your children’s blood, no more lethal asbestos filling your lungs, and far fewer fatalities, broken bones, or amputations in motor vehicle crashes? Chalk all that up to federal regulatory law enforcement finally saying NO to corporate profits over people’s lives.
Sometimes it’s useful to know a little history about other people, no better than us, who stood up together for justice and got a better living standard across the board. I’m speaking of the people of Western Europe who pulled themselves together after their countries were destroyed during World War II. With their multiparty systems (more choices and voices), their larger and stronger labor unions than we have in the United States, and their many consumer cooperatives, as voters they demanded and received full health care; four weeks or more annual paid vacation; decent pensions, wages, and public transit; tuition-free higher education; paid child care; paid individual and family sick leave; and paid maternity leave.
Today in the United States, nearly 75 years after World War II, which we helped to win, we have scant few of these necessities for all our people. To these Europeans, the logic was simple. They earned their pay, sent their tax payments to the government, and wanted them returned in the form of these necessities that make a more decent life. You don’t find many conservatives in those nations wanting to turn the clock back. The famed conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher kept that country’s national health insurance.
Then there is our northern neighbor, Canada. In the 1960s, while our country was wasting lives and money in Vietnam, the peaceful Canadians were laying the groundwork for full Medicare for All. Soon all the Canadian provinces had a health insurance structure called “single payer” (meaning the government provided universal, high-quality care). Everybody in, nobody out, with free choice of physician or hospital. No nightmarish networks. Lower drug prices. The Canadians cover everyone for half the price per capita that we pay in our gouging, profiteering system that still manages to leave 29 million people uninsured and double that number in underinsured fright.
If you’ve been to Canada, you’ll note they act and look a lot like Americans. But at a certain time in their history, without being absorbed in the quicksand of costly foreign wars, Canadians said, “enough is enough,” and created a very popular health care insurance system that reduced a lot of anxiety, dread, and fear from their quality of life and work. (Again, you can look it up—visit singlepayeraction.org for 25 ways full Medicare improves Canadian livelihoods compared to their counterparts in the United States.)
To get votes in 2016, Trump on the stump repeatedly promised that he would abolish the “disastrous” Obamacare and replace it with “great” health insurance. For two years, with Republican majorities in the House and Senate, he did neither. In fact, he had no replacement plan for Obamacare. Had he persuaded Congress to repeal Obamacare, he would have left 20 million additional people without health insurance. In a sense, he was lucky. There are lots of Trump voters in that group.
Let’s face it, Western Europeans—from Scandinavia to England, France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and others—had higher expectations for themselves and their political systems than we do. Sure, their politics are fractious; they fight with one another and endure all kinds of shifting coalitions in their parliaments. But eventually they returned to their people a lot for their taxes—decent livelihoods; income security through retirement; paid leisure and sick time; and far less anxiety, fear, and dread than our trapdoor economy allows.
Many Trump voters read about the great labor leader, Eugene Debs, in their high school and college American history books. One day, near the end of his career in the 1920s, a reporter asked an exhausted Debs what was his greatest regret? He looked at the reporter and said, “My greatest regret? . . . My greatest regret is that the American people under their Constitution can have almost anything they want, but it just seems that they don’t want much of anything at all.”
I thought of Debs when I observed the muted reaction from the American people to the $4.7 trillion budget Trump sent to Congress in March 2019. It contained another staggering increase in the already bloated, wasteful, unaudited military budget. But he also wanted, dangerously, to cut Medicaid; food stamps; consumer, environmental health, and safety protections against cancer and other diseases; and Medicare (breaking his campaign promise). And he gave the superrich over a trillion dollars in tax cuts and handed your children the debt. “How Dare He!” did not ring out from all corners of our land.
And whatever happened to Trump’s big plans for repairing and upgrading America’s failing infrastructure or public works? His proposed budget barely even pays lip service to the problem. As a builder of hotels and casinos, he knows his proposal falls short, but he isn’t telling you. Fortunately for the people, the House Democrats declared his budget dead on arrival. The question remains: Whose side is he really on? Clearly not the side that truly loves America and Americans.
He is not on the side of struggling blue-collar workers who are abandoned or mistreated by their bosses. Even when confronted with Trump’s massive fakery, most of his victimized supporters say a version of, “Yes, but”—“but” meaning any excuse to justify their intuitive embrace of him. Trump loyalists may feel bolstered by low unemployment numbers (which actually began their steady descent back in 2010, several years before he came into office), but they overlook stagnant real income, the absence of benefits, and the lack of investment in public works and their communities.
They may be bemused by his antics with Kim Jong Un, the erratic dictator of nuclear-armed North Korea. And they may choose to ignore his transparent commercial ties with Russian crooks and oligarchs. (Don’t believe it? Again, you can look it up!) Why? Perhaps because his reckless behavior doesn’t appear to directly affect their families? They may revel in his intimidating attacks on our free press . . . or applaud when he attacks hardworking immigrants . . . but these are core features of our democracy; they need to be defended and not undermined, especially by the president.
They may see his abhorrent personal behavior with women as distasteful, but then . . . he’s only human, like many men they know. As far as his failed business career, cheating workers, including undocumented ones, customers, creditors, and the IRS—that, to many of his supporters, is Fake News. Besides, to them he is so rich that he can’t be bought (though, still, he refuses to disclose his tax returns, so while we know he has something to hide, we just don’t know what). As for his evangelical voters, they know about his infidelities, his many sins and nonchurchgoing life, and his past support for abortion. They shrug. To them, it’s enough that Trump is vocally championing their values and policies from the biggest bully pulpit in the land.
Finally, they may be what Matt Taibbi, in his new book, Hate, Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another, calls “grudge voters.” One Wisconsin voter told him, “I usually don’t vote, but I’m going Trump because f*** everything.”
Pessimism never won a battle or an election. I am asking you to learn about what Trump has really been up to. I’ve co-authored a book, Fake President, which I hope will (a) better equip those who refuse to reward such a miserable person with cruel policies, (b) perhaps activate some of the 120 million nonvoters—nearly as many as all those who do vote, and (c) encourage betrayed supporters to vote with their heads rather than their fears.
Keep all this in mind, dear Trump supporters. Spend some hours studying the actual words of the presidential candidates and your congressional candidates. Politics is not entertainment. If you like politicians because they say what you think, also question whether they will do what you need.
A president who excites angry voters with racist rants while rewarding his wealthy friends with policies that further enrich them is not a populist, but a phony—the opposite of someone who “tells it like it is.” Did you know that the Trump presidency has brought us the first-ever reduction of life expectancy in the United States, the stagnation of wages, and an avalanche of cancerous particulates in the water and air of our country? Including his coal-country base!
It’s time to persuade a segment of reasoning Trump voters that he is fundamentally a Fake President who can’t be trusted and is destroying the best in America while bringing out the worst. That’s a theory of the case that will sway the jury of voters, if they are registered and informed. For the Fox Corporation isn’t America. We—the progressive majority—are.
With high hopes for our future,
A pioneer in consumer advocacy, Ralph Nader was named by Atlantic magazine as one of the 100 most influential figures in American history. Together with Mark Green, the former New York City public advocate, he is co-author of Fake President (Skyhorse Publishing), which aims to raise the bar of what all voters deserve.