Here it is almost three weeks to the day after the 2020 election and as The Loved One and I took our traditional Sunday drive through South Central Indiana we both were struck by how many people in these rural environs still are proudly displaying their Trump flags and yard signs. It brings to mind a meme I saw a couple of days ago that went something like this:
Okay, I voted for Biden, but I’m not going to keep a Biden sign up in my front yard for the next four years like a freakin’ idiot.
And, the truth is, many, many, many of those Trump signs we still see in the hinterlands have been there since 2016. A lot of them are faded and tattered from having weathered four goddamned frigid, windy winters and four sun-baked summers. Isn’t the whole idea of putting up yard signs and other candidate paraphernalia an attempt to persuade neighbors and passersby to vote for the person you think is best for the job? That argument needs only to be made every four years, not every day of every year from now until the end of time.
I guarantee you the vast majority of the Trump signs on display today will still be there the day Joe Biden gets sworn in as the 46th President of the United States as well as the day, November 5th, 2024, of the next presidential election, whether there’s a Trump running or not.
So, what’s the deal, what’s the argument these people are trying to make? My answer: They’re not making an argument at all; they’re making a statement. They’re telling the world who they are. These people now have a rock-solid, distinct identity. Before, they were just anonymous schlubs, mowing their lawns and reclining in front of the the TV to watch American Idol like every other schlub on the block or down the country road. They are somebody now because they’ve seen and attached themselves to an idol of their own, someone who talks like them and thinks like them and maybe even messes up like they would if only they had a billion dollars and didn’t have to give a shit about anybody else in the whole wide world. For all Donald Trump’s sins and peccadilloes, any and all of which should have precluded him years ago from any consideration as the leader of the last remaining superpower on Earth, for his ridiculous dyed combover, for his ballooning backside, for his contempt for the authority of experts, for his utter un-interest in books or reports or studies, for his proud ignorance of the needs and wants of anyone who’s not directly related to him, everything about him is exactly how tens of millions of people in America would see themselves if they suddenly woke up one morning with an unimaginably huge fortune and the keys to the White House in their pockets.
He is me. That’s what they’ve been saying when displaying Trump’s flags and signs every day for the last four or five years.
And there, finally, is the answer to the question, How can people still back Trump after all the shit he’s pulled? After he’s screwed up this nation’s relationships with its allies, after he’s dismantled the government’s environmental protection apparatus, after he’s rammed through tax cuts for hundred-millionaires, leaving the middle class to pick up a greater share of the burden of supporting America, after he’s defanged all the federal consumer and workplace protections he could find, after he insulted and demeaned handicapped people, fat people, brown people, foreign people, Muslim people, urbanites, immigrants, asylum seekers, women, veterans, prisoners of war, and everybody who, again, was not Donald J. Trump or anybody related to him?
The answer is they still back him because he is their avatar, their icon, their god, for chrissakes. Throughout human history, people have created gods in their own image, created them to validate who they were, to tell everyone else who and what they were. They still do it today. And their new god is Donald J. Trump. He is me.
That’s why you can’t argue a Trumpist away from the outgoing president. You’re asking them to deny who they are. You’re asking them to admit the identity they’ve assumed is warped. Nobody wants to lose their identity.
To tens of millions of Americans, He will always be me.