“I have no trust.”
Just before the New Hampshire primary, and Donald Trump’s trilogic tromping of the feeble GOP field, Politico ran a profile of a Republican voter that—calm my heart, soothe my nerves—wasn’t a grotesque caricature of inept rage made exclusively for his colleagues to point and laugh at.
Well, maybe it contains a little ribbing. But that’s invited by its simple-minded subject: Ted Johnson.
Mr. Johnson is a New Hampshirite who, in keeping with his modest state’s moderate mentality, briefly considered voting for Nikki Haley—the most immoderate of candidates on war profiteering, illegal immigration, internet surveillance, and corporatism. But she wrapped herself in the “moderate” banner by virtue of not regularly tweeting mean things and adopting racial victimhood. Ergo she’s the more “responsible choice” compared to trash-talking, macho-strutting, mass-deportation-threatening, end-the-wars-wanting, ninety-some-felonies-charged Trump.
In spite of the media spin, Johnson was initially wooed by Haley’s desire “to pull us all back together.” (And what? Sing “Kumbaya” over the smoldering flesh of an Iraqi child incinerated by a Boeing-patented Minuteman?) Then, in the course of four months, he did an about-face, telling reporter Michael Kruse he’s down with the Don, sincerely wishing the Unstoppable Orange Force Lenin-esquely “breaks the system.”
Why the electoral U-turn? Johnson explains with a crude bon mot: “I got pissed.”
No three words better summarize the ne plus ultra voter motive force. Not “we the people,” not “black lives matter,” not “you will not replace us!” (Neo-Nazis have trouble with math, unless measuring fractions of ethnic blood.) Only white hot, nail-spitting, fist-clenching, shirt-tearing, hair-ripping anger really moves the wheels of democracy.
What impelled Johnson’s switch is simple: ads. Lots and lots of MAGA–roiding ads beaming on Granite State airwaves. Thanks to so much darkened b-roll and ominous narration, combined with Fox News’ frequent features on President Biden’s crack-puffing wastrel spawn, he became convinced Haley lacked the will to “hold anybody accountable for what they’ve done.” Hence Trump is the only viable wrecking ball to express his whipped-up fury at our “system of government.”
I know the dozen or so questions that pop into your mind hearing this graceless, incoherent, and conspiracy-addled argyle-bargle. How can Trump hold anyone accountable when he didn’t lift a finger to lock Hillary up? Didn’t Trump break the law given his impending court cases? What did Hunter Biden do besides live like the loutish playboy every American male secretly dreams of being?
The most prickling question: why are the voters of the “conservative” party so hellbent on doing the most unconservative thing possible, electing someone to scorch the Constitution they ostensibly want to laminate from leftist assaults?
Kruse, to his rare credit, does a decent job of drawing Johnson’s confusingly caroming notions to light. When the January 6th MAGA-hat hootenanny comes up, Johnson unhesitatingly calls it “Patriot’s Day,” a stupid reaction that’s redder and meatier than a bleeding slab of heifer on the Fourth of July. But as Matthew Schmitz has written, many Jan. 6ers and their sympathizers are incorrigibly convinced they were the ones preserving our republican order—it’s the libs who initiated the coup with sleeper agent Joe Biden.
The whole profile reads as an unsolvable problem: How can Washington elites even gain a foothold into reaching someone as ground-in as Johnson? Don’t all the solemn oblations Beltway types pay to democracy mean nothing in the face of someone who openly wishes to tear down Babylon on the Potomac?
During the recent Davos smug-sniffing confab, George Soros’s frail heir Alex admitted between a bunch of flustered “umm”s and “you know”s that he can’t square democracy with Trump supporters. Martin Gurri tried tackling the Trump “epiphenomena,” arguing “the public…deeply mistrusts the established order,” an oft-made and banal observation but true nonetheless.
Despite printing reams of dispatches from hole-in-the-wall diners and retirement enclaves across red America, the established political class can’t rationalize why Donald Trump has an unshakeable grip on a large swath of the demos—many of whom aren’t straitened stiffs.
“Dialogue between two parties depends on each side assuming that the other is at some level rational,” reasoned Helen Andrews. Our District sophisticates are overly versed in undergrad social sciences and have reread the Wikipedia summary of What’s the Matter with Kansas? too many times to think that Ted Johnsons can’t be corrected—or “deprogrammed” as Hillary Clinton creepily put it. They earnestly sing—because they’re all at heart theater nerds—like novitiates, 🎶“How do you solve a problem like Ted Johnson”🎶 without considering the possibility that all not all voters can have their wires untwisted.
To liberally paraphrase Dostoevsky, some men will vote “R”—resentment, not Republican—even if they’re relatively comfortable, just to prove a mad point that exists only in their heads. To paraphrase another moral philosopher, the id wants what it wants.