A year ago, in the days just after the American election, I wrote about my Hispanic cousin, Ann, who voted Trump. I wrote about the fact that, even though we live over 5,000 miles away from each other, we have similar lives, similar homes, similar kids of similar ages doing similar stuff, and we are both bound by family ties (she is married to my husband’s cousin). And I wrote about how there is one elephant-in-the-room-sized thing that we’ve never shared: our views on politics.
It’s safe to say that POTUS’s first year has been a rollercoaster one. The strident wave of opposition that we witnessed in the first few days hasn’t died down – it’s just gathered strength and turned into a tsunami of criticism, impeachment threats and White House coups. Everyone has taken their turn at challenging him and to no avail – world leaders, women, men, minority groups, immigrants, Black-Americans, African-Americans, Mexicans, Muslims and LGTBQ+ communities, The New York Times, CNN, Meryl Streep, Laura Kuenssberg, gun-control lobbies, football players, the BBC. But, like a Goliath of the modern age, Trump just ploughs on in his 10-tonne golf cart regardless, trashing public policy in his wake and tweeting nonsense. Nothing, it seems, is ever going to halt his path.
So, with the sheer volume of all this opposition, surely his supporters are now having second thoughts?
“No. I am more sure than ever that I did the right thing,” Ann told me last week. “Hillary is a nightmare that won't go away and the way the left has treated anybody that voted for Trump is very eye-opening. They call everybody racist.
“The media and Washington's elite have been trying to tear down Trump since day one. No other president in history has been attacked as often as Trump.”
Her words indicate just how clever a game Trump has been playing, and how perhaps the rest of us are simply playing into his hands – namely, by yelling at Goliath at the top of our voices, 'You’re wrong!'
I’ve waited a year to ask Ann for her thoughts and my first impression is that, while she’s certainly not wavering, she’s angry. Whereas last November it took some convincing to get her to talk to me, this year it’s the opposite. She knows what she wants to say. Her words indicate just how clever a game Trump has been playing, and how perhaps the rest of us are simply playing into his hands – namely, by yelling at Goliath at the top of our voices, “You’re wrong!”, we’re also yelling at his supporters and, by doing this, we are simply validating him even further, cementing his position rock-solid.
“Sure, he says stupid things and I wish he wouldn't, but that is nothing compared with what the other side has done,” says Ann. “He is keeping his campaign promises as best as he can. He is fighting against career politicians on the left and the right who want things to stay the way they are so they can keep their cushy lifestyles. He needs to set limits on how long these politicians can stay in office. It is ridiculous that most have been there so long and have not accomplished a darn thing.”
Ann is not alone in these opinions – and it’s clear that much of his voting base is still convinced that they’ve voted for the right person, despite some signs he may be losing his grip on younger Republican voters. Silent protests such as the Take A Knee against police brutality simply played into the president’s hands and created a counter-movement, I Stand, with people upset that the American flag and anthem wasn’t being honoured and that the essence of US patriotism was being attacked. (Ann was one of them.) Trump’s strategy of zeroing in on his core nationalistic middle-American voters and sending out an anti-establishment, anti-facts, anti-media, fake-news message is serving him well. His politician-of-the-people sobriquet is where he draws his power.
There’s also renewed talk that some core Trump supporters might also be tiring of his seemingly chaotic administration, but look closer and polls show there’s a lot he’ll have to do to topple from his perch. The message seems to be don’t get your hopes up. As long as he is an enemy of the establishment, as long as we continue to fan his flames with the oxygen of our outrage, as long as he keeps some of his campaign promises, I suspect that people like Ann aren’t going to change their minds any time soon.
As for whether we should be looking for a David to bring Goliath down? Well, I’m no political strategist, but stepping out of my own echo chamber and listening to my cousin’s anger, I would question whether there will ever actually be a David. Maybe only the one person who can bring him down is Goliath himself. Maybe, until that moment, we will all have to play a waiting game. And maybe, in the meantime, we all need to listen and not yell.