Inside the minds of the people who actually think Trump handled the pandemic well

Inside the minds of the people who actually think Trump handled the pandemic well
President Donald J. Trump applauds and gestures to supporters waiting along the flight line on his arrival Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, at Columbia Metropolitan Airport in Columbia, S.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Countless critics of President Donald Trump, from liberals and progressives to Never Trump conservatives, have been arguing that Trump deserves to be voted out of office on Tuesday, Nov. 3, because of his wretched response to the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis has killed more than 227,900 people in the United States and over 1.1 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

But journalist Olga Khazan, this week in an article for The Atlantic, offers some reasons why many White males in Trump's hardcore MAGA base actually admire his coronavirus response. And as absurd as their reasoning is, Khazan's piece is still an interesting read.

"Some 82% of Republicans approve of Trump's coronavirus response — a higher percentage than before the president was diagnosed with the virus," Khazan explains. "This is despite the fact that more than 220,000 Americans have died and virtually every public health expert, including those who have worked for Republican administrations, says the president has performed abysmally."

One of the interviewees for Khazan's article is a McKinney, Texas resident and Trump supporter named Kurtis. Many Trump critics, Khazan observes, believe that leaving coronavirus to states and municipalities to cope with has been a disaster. But Kurtis told Khazan, "He left it up to each state to make their own decision on how they wanted to proceed" — and according to Kurtis, that was a victory for states' rights.

Kurtis, discussing Trump's recent hospitalization for coronavirus, told Khazan, "Trump's willing to accept that risk to win for the American people. And Joe Biden is sitting in his basement."

Khazan notes that according to Katherine Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Trump supporters believe that Trump is trusting Americans to make their own decisions during the pandemic. And sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild told Khazan, in essence, that as Trump supporters see it, Trump's coronavirus response underscores his belief in the rugged individualism of White males.

"Many White men feel that their gender and race have been vilified, says the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild," Khazan writes. "Their economic prospects are bad, and American culture tells them that their gender is too. So, they've turned to Trump as a type of folk hero — one who can restore their sense of former glory. Exposing themselves and others to the coronavirus is part of that heroism."

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama argued that many conservative working class white men who were struggling financially sought validation in their "guns" and "religion." The right-wing media was furious, claiming that Obama was insulting or mocking conservatives. But the centrist Obama wasn't trying to be insulting; to non-wingnuts, he sounded empathetic. And some of the interviewees for Khazan's article — like Obama 12 years ago — argued that white males who aren't in great shape financially seek validation through Trump's right-wing politics.

Hochschild told Khazan that in rural Kentucky, for example, financially disadvantaged White men "are starved for a sense of heroism. They don't feel good about themselves. They feel like they haven't done as well as their fathers, that they're on a downward slop." And Trump, according to Hochschild, plays to that.

Khazan explains, "Men who attend Trump's rallies sometimes tell journalists that they're willing to risk their lives to show up for Trump. 'If I die, I die. We got to get this country moving,' these men tell reporters. Or: 'If I catch COVID, that's the consequences of my actions. So, I'm willing to take that risk and have a good time today.'"

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