In "There's No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter," Slate's Jamelle Bouie calls foul on anti-Trump apologists for much of Trump's base, whose material "pain" and abuse at the hands of an indifferent establishment, we are told, provided the foundation from which the monstrous reality of Trumpism could succeed. Bouie cites, for example, the op-ed admonitions of progressive activist Michael Lerner, who wishes to shame all those who shame the supporters of Trump: "The left needs to stop ignoring people’s inner pain and fear. The racism, sexism and xenophobia used by Mr. Trump to advance his candidacy does not reveal an inherent malice in the majority of Americans."
That may be, observes Bouie. But they voted for malice, and that's for sure; that's the practical reality of their vote.
Millions of Americans are justifiably afraid of what they’ll face under a Trump administration. If any group demands our support and sympathy, it’s these people, not the Americans who backed Trump and his threat of state-sanctioned violence against Hispanic immigrants and Muslim Americans. All the solicitude, outrage, and moral telepathy being deployed in defense of Trump supporters -- who voted for a racist who promised racist outcomes -- is perverse, bordering on abhorrent....
[To] demand empathy for the people who made [racist demagoguery] a reality ... is to declare Trump’s victims less worthy of attention than his enablers. To insist Trump’s backers are good people is to treat their inner lives with more weight than the actual lives on the line under a Trump administration.
To Bouie's condemnation of Trump's voters, I would add another.
I recall, prior to the Republican-inflicted Great Recession, many white working- and middle-class voters discounting the real pain and suffering of America's poor. I recall the smugness inherent in their dismissals of American poverty, for the "so-called" impoverished, they sarcastically insisted, had their cable TV and malt liquor, their food stamps and rent subsidies, all their assorted coddlings by the federal government. To extend sympathy to "these people," said so many future Trump voters (and we know who they meant), would be a moral mistake. The poor weren't really poor; in fact they were living on easy street. The implication: Screw 'em.
Then came the Great Recession and its aftermath. And notwithstanding that so many white working- and middle-class Americans retained their cable TV as they went on food stamps, they screamed that sympathy for their plight was due them; it was justified. Their economic pain was real. Their suffering demanded America's attention.
Which I wouldn't dispute. But if they had had sympathy for others before, I would have more sympathy for them now.