A Republican explains the psychology of conservatives that keeps so many supporting Trump

A Republican explains the psychology of conservatives that keeps so many supporting Trump
Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Although 59-year-old Peter Wehner has a long resumé in right-wing politics — he served in the presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and is vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank — he has been a blistering critic of President Donald Trump. Wehner has written a series of anti-Trump articles for The Atlantic, and in his most recent, he explains why many Republican voters and activists are willing to tolerate Trump’s “four-year record of shame, indecency, incompetence and malfeasance” and can “justify pretty much everything” he does, however appalling.


“To understand the corruption, chaos and general insanity that is continuing to engulf the Trump campaign and much of the Republican Party right now,” Wehner writes, “it helps to understand the predicate embraced by many Trump supporters: if Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the presidency, America dies.”

Trump’s campaign has been claiming that the Biden is a tool of “the far left” and “the radical left,” which is ludicrous to anyone who has even a rudimentary knowledge of his history. The former vice president had a very centrist voting record during his many years in the U.S. Senate, often crossing party lines and voting with Republicans. Wehner describes the Trump campaign’s caricature of Biden as “absurd,” but he stresses that those who live in the Trumpian bubble have bought into it — and for that reason, they are willing to accept the unacceptable where Trump is concerned.

“At this point, it appears, Donald Trump really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his voters,” Wehner argues. “This phenomenon has no shortage of explanations, but perhaps the most convincing is the terror the president’s backers feel. Time and again, I’ve had conversations with Trump supporters who believe the president is all that stands between them and cultural revolution.”

Wehner continues, “Republicans chose that theme despite the fact that during his almost 50 years in politics, Biden hasn’t left any discernible ideological imprint on either the nation or his own party. Indeed, Biden is notable for his success over the course of his political career in forging alliances with many Republicans…. There will be no remaking of the calendar if Joe Biden becomes president.”

But Republican voters and activists, Wehner explains, are overcome with “fear” and “tribalistic instincts” — and that makes it very easy for Trump’s campaign to manipulate them.

“In the minds of Trump’s supporters lingers the belief that a Biden presidency would usher in a reign of terror,” Wehner observes. “Many of them simply have to believe that. Justifying their fealty to a man who is so obviously a moral wreck requires them to turn Joe Biden and the Democratic Party into an existential threat. The narrative is set; the actual identity of the nominee is almost incidental.”

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