In what seemed like an effort to present some Trump supporters as normal, concerned Americans interested in the welfare of their country, CNN hosted a Q and A with six women who voted for the president in the last election. CNN’s Alisyn Camerota spoke to them in order to find out how they will be voting in the midterms and asked them how they rated his performance thus far.
The discussion was perhaps more horrifying than I could have imagined — but not for the normal reasons associated with your average Trump supporters.
The women were not overtly ignorant, mean or particularly passionate about their support for the president. They were of varying ages and backgrounds, and seemed for the most part like nice, normal people. Some of the women planned on voting for the Democrats in the midterms, and one of the younger panelists, Ally Bass, seemed to genuinely understand why Trump was so dangerous to women in America.
“It starts with talking about women’s facelifts,” Bass told Camerota when asked why Trump was so unpopular with women. “It’s disrespectful. I think the majority of women, they don’t see him as a respectful, pro women, kind of man, especially people my age. In my age demographic it’s a huge deal that he’s not supportive of easily accessible women’s health care, in terms of planned parenthood. They feel like they are losing the right to birth control, pap smears, abortions.”
Camerota asked Bass whether it would be fair to say she regretted voting for Trump in the first place. Bass agreed, saying she only voted for Trump because she thought he would make America safer.
“Part of the reason that I voted for him was that I thought he was going to be the one of the two candidates to make our national security a high priority and make us safer on our own grounds and our own territory,” she said. “But when you are making fun of foreign leaders and becoming buddy buddy with Vladimir Putin, it shakes me up a little bit.”
It took me a moment to digest these comments and process just how terrifying they are when understood in context. Here was a young, informed woman, who believes strongly in protecting women’s rights, respecting women, and having a strong leader who fights for democratic values around the world. And yet she voted for a man who was recorded bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy”, took three different stances on abortion during the 2016 election (and ultimately came out for banning it), and had known links to Russia given they were busy hacking into Democrat affiliated organizations, and had praised Vladimir Putin effusively.
“I’ve always had a good instinct about Putin,” Trump told Iowa radio host Simon Conway in December of 2015. “I just feel that that’s a guy—and I can analyze people and you’re not always right, and it could be that I won’t like him. But I’ve always had a good feeling about him from the standpoint.”
“Putin said good things about me,” Trump said at a rally three months later. “He said, ‘he’s a leader and there’s no question about it, he’s a genius.’ So they all said, the media, they said — you saw it on the debate — they said, ‘you admire President Putin.’ I said, I don’t admire him. I said he was a strong leader, which he is. I mean, he might be bad, he might be good. But he’s a strong leader.”
These statements, and hundreds of others, were well documented by the media. And yet Bass, and ostensibly others like her, didn’t seem to think it mattered and voted for him anyway. Given Trump’s opponent was an eminently qualified candidate, particularly when it came to national security as she served as Secretary of State under Obama, it is inconceivable that anyone would gamble with the country’s security with a failed casino operator and notorious scam artist with no experience in government whatsoever.
Bass at least displayed a modicum of self awareness, while the other women gave answers to Camerota’s questions that were so incongruent and clueless you wondered how on earth they felt comfortable going on live television expressing them.
“I feel at age 44 when I am living paycheck to paycheck, and concerned about my future, but more importantly my daughter’s, I feel like there is a lot riding on the elections coming up,” said Nell Justiliano, who also regrets voting for Trump.
“I voted for Obama in ’08, and I ended up voting for Trump. It was very difficult for me, but I knew at that moment that I wanted change. And for me, he represented that change.”
“What is your plan for how you plant to vote now for the midterms?” asked Camerota.
“At this point, I plan to vote Republican,” answered Justiliano. “I am very confident in the economic status of where we are at now, what Trump has done, and hopefully for what he can continue to do in the future, if he has the support behind him. He is a very flawed human being, but aren’t we all.”
To try to make sense of this requires would require a doctorate in psychology. Justiliano is struggling from paycheck to paycheck, regrets voting for Trump, but thinks he has been good for the economy and will vote for Republicans in the midterms.
Another panelist, Ruth Birchett, said she will be voting for Republicans in the midterms because “it is Democrat decision making that has widened the divide between the haves and the have nots.”
Given Trump and the GOP have slashed taxes for the wealthy elite creating unprecedented economic inequality in America, it is hard to square Birchett’s comments with reality. In fact, wealth inequality under Trump is now so extreme that the United Nations described the president’s economic agenda for America as a “bid to become the most unequal society in the world”.
It isn’t difficult to figure out where Birchett is getting her information from, but it is hard to figure out where she gets her extreme confidence from. The assuredness with which the women on the panel spoke with about Trump and the issues facing the country was perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the discussion. Here were six adult voters who appeared to be politically aware, but could not put forward a coherent argument as to why they voted for Trump or what they believed in.
This, sadly, is a snap shot of the electorate Democrats have to navigate this year and in 2020 — the much desired “swing voter” who can flip an election at the final hour. How do you reach someone who is struggling financially but believes Trump is good for the economy? How do you speak to a voter who believes Trump is bad for women, but voted for him after hearing him talk about sexually assaulting women and calling them “pigs”, “dogs” and “slobs”?
While each of these women should take responsibility for the horrors president Trump has wrought on the country over the past 19 months, I still do not hold any personal animosity towards them, or think they are bad people. They are the product of a deeply dysfunctional society that has been torn apart by right wing talk radio, Fox News and corporate money in the political system. They have voted for a party that continues to rob working people to pay off their wealthy donors, defund public education, and destroy affordable health care because they buy into the scare tactics used by the pundits on the shows they watch. They have voted for a man who has gone to war on reality, and are so confused by the inconsistencies they have been subjected to that they cannot make coherent decisions any more.
Sadly, this is the society Donald Trump wants, and it is one he will ultimately benefit from. Because if this panel is anything to go by, the Democrats have a very serious war on their hands in the coming months and years.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.