All around the internet I see calls for Donald Trump supporters to “admit they made a mistake.” People point to impending cuts to programs like medicaid that massively benefit some of Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters. They point to the obvious benefits reaped by billionaires at the expense of Trump’s most ardent supporters as proof positive that he was nothing more than a sneaky conman all along. These very same people making these charges are going to be very surprised when support for Donald Trump continues and he somehow survives the political consequences of the chaos he has sown.


Donald Trump took office with a rowdy opposition, as highlighted by the Women’s March, and a country full of people struggling to adapt to the new Sean Spicer saturated world of constant government controversy. Yet on the other side of the aisle there are almost just as many Americans who are more hopeful, optimistic, and see brighter days ahead thanks to Donald Trump and his vision for America. A vision many of these people largely share which does another incredibly important thing in today’s hyper partisan political environment, it puts them on the winning team finally.


Slowly many of the policies Donald Trump campaigned on to great success started to take shape. Almost immediately Trump stopped the TPP and set a completely new tone on the world stage. At home the understaffed federal government completely reworked its priorities, with many agencies headed by people anathema to the previous mission of aforementioned agencies. This has fundamentally changed the landscape of American politics and foreign relations.


For millions of Americans in dying communities that depended on resource extraction, be it logging or mining, or the deindustrialized midwest, Donald Trump painted a compelling vision of America in decline. In the eyes of the disenchanted pulling back from the world isn’t viewed as further decline, it’s a long awaited and much needed refocus on the American people. Same with gutting the EPA and expanding fossil fuel extraction, for small town oilfield workers and coal miners looking for work that’s getting government away from their jobs and putting food on their table. At least in theory and if not at least it gave them hope for a little while. People in logging towns across the Western United States are holding on to hope that NAFTA negotiations will reinvigorate industries automation has destroyed, but globalization and cheap Canadian lumber became the scapegoat. The same is true in thousands of towns experiencing various disruptions to a variety of different industries.


The problem with framing Donald Trump voters as people duped by a conman is that it undersells the very legitimate grievances many of his voters have.


The thing is, globalization has real winners and losers, there are real trade offs being made, and the Democrats didn’t take that seriously enough. If medicaid expansion is the cost for the oil, logging, or mining jobs to come back, that’s a cost many of these people think is well worth it. If they can trade a “government handout” like medicaid for a small tax cut and insurance they couldn’t use anyway, that’s a trade well worth making for most people in their position. On top of that it might not actually take revitalization for it to be worth it, trading that program for the false hope that those jobs come back might prove to be enough.
It might seem counterproductive or against their self interest, but it’s not for other voters to decide what is the self interest of people in these communities.


Trump voters made their choice based on deeply held commitments and what they feel is in the best interest of themselves and their families, just like voters in big cities or along the coasts. They voted for jobs and to some extent Trump’s policies may very well reinvigorate these industries in some small way. More importantly though they voted for a vision of hope and change that was easy to comprehend. There was clear cause for the decline of rural America embedded in Donald Trump’s message and there was clear effect offered by Donald Trump’s policies, at least rhetorically. These people entered the voting booth with a bomb thrower on the ballot who promised to blow up a system they had long assumed forgot them.


Any gesture, however insincere or ineffective, is important to a community in decline. Trump built a political career from the ground up on the back of those gestures. In the eyes of his most ardent supporters he won’t be judged by how many jobs are returned to their community, but by how many bombs in his bomb bag he decides to actually throw.


Donald Trump won’t be judged on how he rebuilds the current system, but by how he destroys it. His voters got what they wanted and they understand there are trade offs for any political decision. Unfortunately we live in a political environment where many feel the status quo is simply not working and thanks to hyper partisan feelings each time Donald Trump “wins”, even if it’s just symbolic, they win as well. The coal miners don’t need to be mining again, so long as Donald Trump fights the good fight and gets rid of the EPA regulation. The same can be said for every issue.


The problem is that there are real grievances being tapped into. Real criticisms of the global system that could inspire real positive changes are being warped and misguided.


Republicans have sold a comprehensive worldview and the Democrats have not matched it. This article doesn’t even speak to the politics of racial resentment the Republicans have tapped into and that plays heavily into the economic issues discussed here. Unfortunately internet comments telling Trump voters that their worldview is wrong doesn’t seem to change many minds. So long as people genuinely feel the vision Donald Trump and the Republicans have sold Americans is the right one, they’ll keep voting for it. We live in a world where there are legitimate sources of decline in a lot of these communities and until these people are given a political option that adequately addresses those problems they’ll trade the downsides of Donald Trump’s policy vision for the upside of being on the winning team. Every, single, time.


Call it stupid, call them duped, boil it down to racism and xenophobia alone, say what you will, but until Donald Trump’s detractors speak to that pain in a productive manner, it will only get worse.


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