Trump’s Base: Debunking the Media Mythology

EASTSIDER-Personally, I find President Trump uninteresting. I am very interested, on the other hand, in the group of people referred to in the news media as “The Base,” as if they were a new segment of the population which has magically appeared. 

Full disclosure, I did not vote for Hillary Clinton, but I did vote for a woman -- Jill Stein. Anyhow, maybe it’s time that we moved away from the media’s incessant characterization of “Trump’s Base,” as they call it, as a bunch of white, uneducated, religious fringies, skinheads and Neo-nazis. 

The Dean Analysis 

Recently I was intrigued by a couple of posts by one John Dean on VerdictJustia, a fascinating website offering legal analysis and commentary. For those who do not know, or remember, John Dean was Counsel to President Richard Nixon back in the.  

Obviously, Mr. Dean has an interesting vantage point in looking at our contemporary happenings, and he did a detailed examination of the people lumped together into Trump’s Base.  

Further, he did a data-based analysis called, Trump’s Base: Broadly Speaking, Who Are They?  

Taken together, the posts largely debunk the media mythology. For example, the base is characterized as low-educated poorer white men, when the reality is that they have a higher than average income. Further, while his base has been described at around 40% in terms of approval ratings, the real base is likely more like 25%.  

As he points out in the second post: 

While only 27 percent of the 2016 voters considered their financial situation worse on Election Day 2016 than 2012, Trump overwhelming carried those voters’ 78 percent to Clintons 19 percent.” 

This is not consistent with popular television’s vision of Trumps Base. 

Unhappiness Factor 

A polling volunteer from the election recently wrote an article posted inCityLab(he’s co-founder) on the issue of How Unhappiness Helped Elect Trump.   

It’s a pretty data-driven article, and worth a read. The major conclusion: 

“What the research shows instead is that it’s how people think about the bigger picture of their lives, and not just their daily experiences, that drove the big vote swings of 2016. Indeed, the counties that saw the largest jump in votes for the Republican presidential candidate between 2012 and 2016 were made up of residents who also reported the lowest levels of both satisfaction with their current lives and optimism about the future.” 

And speaking in terms of data-driven analysis and optimism, the actual unemployment rate is a bunch higher than advertised. According to Forbes, the real number is 12.6%. 

And a blog called FreedomOutpostmakes the case that the number could go as high as 30%: 

“What many people do not understand is that unemployment rates do not officially include people who are no longer looking for work because they have given up. The rates also do not include those career welfare seekers who should work but refuse to. Are these people not unemployed?” 

I think that the dual propositions that something like 30% of the population is simply written off, coupled with people being disenchanted with the trajectory of their lives, goes a long way in explaining why people voted for Trump. 

About the Dems 

Michael J. Sainato expressed my feelings about the post-Hillary Dems in a post on Counterpunch: 

“The Democratic Party establishment has responded to Hillary Clinton’s election loss the same way they would have responded had Hillary Clinton won, by changing absolutely nothing. Clinton’s overt embrace of wealthy donors and establishment figures from both political parties repelled thousands of voters toward third parties, voting for Trump, or apathy.” 

That was written in January 2017, shortly after Trump won the Presidency. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to me that much has changed.  

Let me use Tim Canova as the poster child for what’s wrong with the Dems, even as I write this article. If you are at all a political junkie, you will remember the name Debbie Wasserman Schultz. As I wrote in CityWatch after reading Donna Brazile’s book, Hacked!

“Essentially, under the reign of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, or Payday Loans Debbie, as some of us call her, the Clinton campaign engaged in the equivalent of a hostile corporate takeover of the Democratic National Committee, and nobody but a handful of insiders even knew about it!” 

After fronting for every corporate scheme from Payday Loans to Fracking, in addition to tanking the DNC, Debbie wound up having an outsider college professor named Tim Canova run against her two years ago. He lost, but it turns out that there were some serious questions about the ballot count by the Broward County Election Supervisor. Short version, when Canova sued, the Election Supervisor, Brenda Snipes, destroyed the paper ballots which would have demonstrated whether or not his challenge had substance. 

Well, Tim got angry enough to relaunch a campaign, and he is again challenging Debbie Wasserman Schultz this year. Last week, as reported in Politico, a judge ruled that The Broward election chief indeed illegally destroyed paper ballots which could have demonstrated election irregularities. Wow! 

Now, I have been supporting Tim with small donations ever since he ran against Debbie. That was after she famously hung up on an LA radio show when the host gave her tough questions about Antonio Villaraigosa. She freaked out, couldn’t answer any of the questions, and then hung up. What a gal. 

One big reason Tim lost is that Florida is a party state where independent, decline-to-state voters can’t vote in the Democratic primary. The Dems are controlled by Debbie and her backers, which we now know includes the Election officials. Not to mention that she’s a puppet for the huge corporate donors that seem to own the Democratic Party. 

So, Tim got smart. Frozen out of his own party, he re-registered as an Independent, and as of early May, he qualified to run as an Independent on the ballot in November. Cool strategy, especially since Independents (Non-Party-Affiliation) voters are now a large chunk of the voters in his District, and the brand is especially favored by younger, activist, Bernie-type voters. Go get her, Tim. 

The Takeaway 

There are really two points to my takeaway.  First, it seems clear to me that a lot of the so-called Trump Base are in fact less affluent, working class democrats who were deliberately abandoned by their party way back when President Bill “the best Republican the Democrats ever elected” Clinton, abandoned them, along with the idea of defined benefit pensions, secure jobs with one employer, and a lot of the social safety net. 

Not the media stereotype. I think they attend Trump rallies like the citizens of Rome attended the Coliseum games. They’re screwed, they know it, and so it’s “rage against the machine,” results be dammed. 

Second, if the Democratic Party wants to be relevant, instead of just another billionaire-controlled brand, they better start paying attention to the Bernie folks, allow and encourage grass roots candidates to thrive, attract working class and gig economy people, and get a platform. 

Limousine liberals like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are a sure way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. C’mon Dems, lets stand for something like the Party used to.


(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.