In the immediate aftermath of last Wednesday’s events in Washington DC, YouGov asked American voters whether they supported or opposed Donald Trump’s supporters breaking into the US Capitol to protest at lawmakers certifying Joe Biden’s election victory.
Based on the information they had heard at the time, a startling 45 per cent of Republican voters approved of their actions. With the further information that emerged in subsequent days, I suspect the figure would now be much lower, but this figure is still astonishing. And I am surprised that the initial reaction of more voters wasn’t, as mine was , to condemn the attacks and disown the President.
I spent my career in Washington working with Republican conservative grassroots organisations, so I can give some insight into the thinking of those 45 per cent of voters – some 33 million people of the 74 million who voted for the re-election of Trump.
With the outsourcing of US manufacturing to China, growing secularisation, and the breakdown of the traditional family, the working class of America has been in decline for many decades. The most visible signs are in the unemployment and deaths by drug overdose figures.
As the traditional Democratic Party voting base, working class Americans naturally took the hope-and-change pill from Barack Obama, believing he would transform the United States of America. A good example of such a voter was Ashili Babbit, the Trump supporter who tragically lost her life in the Capitol building during the siege, who had previously voted for Obama.
Working class Americans became frustrated with the Democrats when they became more concerned with identity politics than the decline in manufacturing, the lack of wage growth, increasing monthly healthcare costs due to the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare) and – most cutting of all – the disdain they felt from a Party entirely focused on consolidating their support around the metropolitan areas on either coasts.
Obama famously dismissed other voters when he said that “they cling to guns or religion”. And Hillary Clinton famously called them a “basket of deplorables”.
When the ‘deplorables” didn’t vote for her, Clinton bragged that the areas which did vote for her had the highest GDP, which reminds me of when, in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum, a City executive told me that the places which voted Remain had the best schools.
What was Joe Biden’s answer to their unemployment woes? Learn to code. Biden told coal miners, “Anybody who can go down 3,000 feet in a mine can sure as hell learn to program as well.”
The unsophisticated, Wal-mart shopper who lived in flyover country just didn’t fit with the progressive leadership of the Democrats anymore – and became “the forgotten.”
This condescension, coupled with years of economic despair, resulted in the election of Donald Trump in 2016, a New York City billionaire who was beholden to none. Not a traditional Republican, not politically correct: just proud to be an American and their Disrupter in Chief.
Watching their fighter in the ring get pummeled from every angle over the past four years by a biased mainstream media, and by what many saw as the “deep state” trying to undermine the President and the democratic process by claiming “Russia collusion” only fueled their fears. It also made Trump more appealing to the Republican establishment.
Some of these voters went back to the Democrats in 2020, but others are now frustrated by the double-standard treatment of the Left versus the Right. Nancy Pelosi said that the 2016 election was “hijacked.” Clinton couldn’t take personal responsibility for losing the election, and went around the world claiming Russia collusion, with no evidence whatsoever to back it up, even after a two year investigation.
From the perspective of many of these voters, how is it fair that Clinton and Pelosi didn’t accept the result in 2016, and the mainstream media carried their aspersions about how Trump had stolen it?
After the 2020 elections, they then saw their man, Trump, hauled over the coals for pursuing legal avenues to ensure every legal vote was counted. After all, because of the postal votes taking days to be counted after election day, it did appear on the night that he might pull off a second victory.
They also see double-standards in the media response to adversarial political rhetoric.
Maxine Waters, a Democrat representative in Congress, told a crowd of supporters that if “you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out, and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
And sure enough, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the President’s then press secretary, was kicked out of a restaurant for who she was and who she worked for. Eric Holder, Attorney General under Obama’s, told liberal activists in 2018 that “when they go low, we kick them.”
Many of Trump’s supporters asks where was the outrage at the Left for stirring the pot then? Why weren’t they held accountable?
Which brings us on to the protests last summer after the appalling death of George Floyd, which escalated into riots and looting in many parts of the country. Americans were told, on the major network news channels, that they were mostly “peaceful protests”, when you could see whole blocks engulfed in flames behind the reporters.
Molotov cocktails were thrown at police cars. Small businesses – many run by minorities – completely destroyed, and their owners physically attacked in broad daylight for trying to protect their livelihood.
Seattle had whole blocks of its city taken over by these protestors called the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), which saw assaults and murder. Portland, Oregon’s federal courthouses and police stations are still under constant, nightly attack – now for six months straight. Chants of “defund the police” and “pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon” directed at the police introduced middle America to the new American Left. People died.
Many Trump supporters incredulously ask where the condemnation in the media was for this political violence? Imagine if Republicans were doing this? Why weren’t Democratic leaders denouncing the rioters like the far-Left group, Antifa?
Kamala Harris even called people to donate to a bail fund for the Minneapolis rioters, and thirteen Biden staffers contributed to the fund. The only condemnations came months later, but without the rigor and the forcefulness they have accused Trump’s denunciations as lacking.
These perceived double-standards in no way justify the violent assault on the US Capitol on 6th January. They are in no way comparable. However, they do numb many Republican supporters to the outrage felt by the majority of Americans in the wake of last week’s assault on the Capitol.
President-Elect Biden is quite rightly making his inauguration about America United, but he won’t do so by exacerbating double standards. He needs to treat wrongdoing on both sides equally and give both sides a fair hearing. For America United to truly work, he needs to go out of his way to represent the 74 million just as much as he represents the 81 million who elected him last November.