One of the biggest misconceptions about Trump supporters is that they see President Trump the same way his critics see him, and yet they like him anyway. The implication of that belief is that all Trump supporters are racists because they damn-well-know they support a leader who is one. Hardly a day goes by without some stranger on Twitter telling me in ominous tones that I will someday pay dearly for being a racist “apologist.” They assume I see President Trump the same way they see him.
In my book Win Bigly, I describe how the public is watching two movies on one screen. In Movie 1, Trump is a monster with many flaws, racism being at the top of the list. In Movie 2, President Trump ran on a platform of being a Republican who disdains political correctness, and the predictable outcome of that is non-stop accusations of racism. As a public service, I compiled some of the plot differences in the two movies, roughly in the order they happened, so you can compare the two scripts. I won’t try to convince you to switch movies. I’m only making the point that Trump supporters literally don’t see what anti-Trumpers regard as obvious.
Housing Discrimination Scene
Movie 1: In 1973, five years after the Fair Housing Act, Trump’s business settled a claim that it had discriminated against African-American applicants, thus proving he is a racist.
Movie 2: Employees of Trump’s company, whose incomes depended on their job performance, discriminated against African-American applicants in the belief that other potential tenants would be racists and less likely to want to live in a diverse building. Housing discrimination of that type is illegal. The Trump organization settled the suit out of court and took steps to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. There are no facts in evidence of Trump’s inner thoughts from 45 years ago.
Central Park Five Scene
Movie 1: In 1989, Trump paid for a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for the death penalty for five African American men falsely accused of rape, thus proving he is a racist. He has never apologized, thus confirming he is a racist.
Movie 2: in 1989, Trump paid for a full-page ad in the New York times saying it was time to get tough on crime, including perhaps using the death penalty. The ad made one indirect reference to the Central Park incident as an example, at a time the police and prosecutors believed the accused were guilty. The ethnicities of the accused was neither mentioned nor implied in Trump’s ad. The topic was crime. When the accused were later cleared, Trump did not apologize, which is normal for him. He doesn’t apologize for anything.
Movie 1: Prior to running for President, private citizen Trump promoted the conspiracy theory that President Obama might have been born in Africa, thus proving Trump is a racist.
Movie 2: Questioning a rival’s eligibility for office, for any reason, is normal politics. We observe Trump using every available form of persuasion against any critic who gets in his way. For example, during the 2016 Republican primaries he also questioned whether Ted Cruz was a Canadian citizen (he isn’t), and wondered aloud if Cruz’ father might have been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy (he wasn’t). In order to believe Trump was acting racist in questioning President Obama’s birth certificate, one must also believe he would not use the same tactic against a white candidate if the opportunity presented itself. In Movie 2, that seems deeply unlikely.
“They’re rapists” Scene
Movie 1: During the speech in which Trump announced his candidacy, he referred to illegal immigrants from Mexico as “rapists,” thus proving he is a racist.
Movie 2: President Trump noted that one of the big problems with illegal immigration from Mexico is that there are criminals in the group, and this country doesn’t need any more crime. This message was consistent with his tough-on-crime stance. The call-out of rape in particular might have been inspired by stories such as this one from Huffington Post, one of the President’s most vocal critics.
Failure to disavow KKK Scene
Movie 1: In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, candidate Trump hesitated to disavow David Duke and the KKK, thus proving he is a racist.
Movie 2: President Trump disavowed David Duke, the KKK, and White Supremacists multiple times, both before and after the Jake Tapper interview. Trump said he couldn’t hear Jake’s question because of a faulty earpiece. Trump seemed confused and/or hesitant about the question.
During the Tapper interview scene, Trump asked for a list of who he was being asked to disavow, clearly signaling that he sensed a trap coming. Would Trump next be asked to disavow non-racist groups that supported his tough-on-immigration stance? The media had already branded those supporters as racist too. In trying to avoid that obvious trap, Trump fumbled the question and made things worse. But racism was never the problem.
Hiring Steve Bannon Scene
Movie 1: Steve Bannon is a known white supremacist, so having him on the campaign staff and later briefly as an advisor in the White House proves Trump is a racist.
Movie 2: Steve Bannon is tough on illegal immigration, and tough on immigration from Muslim-majority countries with poor government records. His critics have framed him as being a racist because of it. People who know him personally say he isn’t.
The Racists Support Trump Scene
Movie 1: Racist groups support Trump because they hear his secret racist dog whistle, thus proving he is a racist.
Movie 2: Racists approve of Trump’s tough immigration policies in part, one assumes, because they think it will allow fewer non-whites into the country. Non-racist Trump supporters support Trump’s immigration policies because they place a high priority on law and order. Different groups can like the same thing for different reasons. For example, target shooters like guns, and murderers like guns, but that doesn’t make target shooters murderers.
Trump’s Awkward Language About “the blacks” scene
Movie 1: Trump once referred to African-Americans as “the blacks,” thus proving he is racist.
Movie 2: Trump says almost everything differently than the average person, and he doesn’t obsess over political correctness.
Judge Curiel Scene
Movie 1: President Trump said a “Mexican” judge couldn’t be fair, thus proving he is racist.
Movie 2: President Trump spoke about the judge using the common vernacular, in the the same way Americans typically talk about their own ethnic backgrounds. Ask a neighbor whose grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy to describe his family and he’s likely to say, “We’re Italian.”
Trump mentioned Judge Curiel’s Mexican heritage to point out that it could be a source of bias in the Trump University case because the media had successfully framed Trump as being racist against U.S. residents with Mexican roots. In the context of a legal case, it can be good strategy to question a judge’s impartiality. The intended effect of it is to influence the judge to bend over backwards to avoid the appearance of bias. In this situation, Judge Curiel had to rule on when to schedule the trial, and he chose the option that had the best appearance of fairness, scheduling it after the election, as Trump preferred. Trump’s legal strategy probably worked.
Movie 1: Trump called White Supremacists “fine people,” thus proving he is a racist.
Movie 2: Trump has publicly disavowed white supremacists numerous times, both before and after running for president. In the context of Charlottesville, the “fine people” he was referring to were non-racists who prefer keeping confederate statues for historical/cultural reasons. The anti-Trump wing of the media distorted President Trump’s statements to fit their racist narrative, saying incorrectly that he referred to the racists with tiki torches as the “fine people.” He didn’t.
For a longer explanation, see my blog post on the topic.
Calling NFL Kneelers “Sons-of-bitches” Scene
Movie 1: President Trump referred to the African-American football players kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality as “sons of bitches,” thus proving he is a racist.
Movie 2: President Trump would criticize any American who disrespected the country. The main topic of the NFL protests has been police brutality, but the method of protest strikes many observers as disrespect for the flag.
Movie 1: During a closed meeting, Trump referred to people from several non-white-majority countries as “shit,” thus proving he is a racist.
Movie 2: In the context of immigration, Trump referred to some countries as “shithole countries” as a shorthand way of saying they have poor educational systems and low-performing economies. During the meeting, Trump asked for an explanation on the pros and cons of favoring those countries for immigration versus a merit-based system.
Movie 1: President Trump referred to illegal immigrants as “animals,” thus proving he is a racist.
Movie 2: President Trump referred to MS-13 gang members as animals and the media took it out of context to mean immigrants in general.
The Roseanne’s Tweet Scene
Movie 1: Roseanne tweeted that Valerie Jarrett, who is part African-American, was like a cross between the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes. Years earlier, Roseanne once tweeted that Susan Rice, who is African-American, was a man with big swinging ape balls. President Trump did not disavow Roseanne’s comparisons of black people to apes, thus proving he is racist.
Movie 2: Roseanne said she didn’t know Valerie Jarrett was part African-American, and neither did most Trump supporters who couldn’t deduce her ethnic background by looking at her. That suggests Roseanne uses insulting monkey references no matter the assumed ethnicity of the target. President Trump did not disavow Roseanne’s tweet because the accusation that it was intentional racism was fake news. Trump supporters see Roseanne’s Planet of the Apes reference as a humorous comparison to the character played by Helena Bonham Carter, a white actress. And Trump supporters understand that white people routinely compare other white people to monkeys. For example, parents call their own grandkids monkeys. And they sometimes refer to large white men as big apes. In Movie 2, Roseanne made a terrible mistake, but it wasn’t an intentional racist reference.
Muslim Ban Scene
Movie 1: President Trump succeeded in banning several Muslim-majority countries from immigration to the United States, thus proving he is a racist.
Movie 2: President Trump banned immigration from countries with dysfunctional governments because it is hard to do background checks without reliable government records. The focus on Muslim countries is because Islamic terrorists can more easily blend in with Muslim refugees than they could with non-Muslim refugees, and we know they have tried to do exactly that.
As I often say, we humans are not good at knowing which movie is the “real” one because the facts in evidence often fit more than one explanation of the past. So instead of looking to the past, I recommend seeing which movie best predicts future scenes.
For example, if you had been making predictions based on these different movies, Movie 1, predicted that President Trump would not be popular with Israel, and he wouldn’t take the bold step of moving the American embassy to Jerusalem. But both of those outcomes are compatible with Movie 2.
Movie 1 would have predicted there is no way President Trump would grant a posthumous pardon of African-American boxer Jack Johnson because it wouldn’t fit the racist dog whistle script. But Movie 2 is compatible with the pardon. Same with the pardon of Alice Johnson.
Movie 1 would have predicted that President Trump would underplay the fact that black unemployment reached its best level in the history of America. That’s the sort of accomplishment that would make his racist supporters stop hearing the secret racist dog whistle. It doesn’t fit. But President Trump’s frequent highlighting of gains for African-American citizens fits Movie 2 perfectly.
I realize no one reading this post will change movies because of it. My only point today is that mainstream Trump supporters are not knowingly supporting someone they believe to be a racist. It only looks that way to the folks trapped in Movie 1.
Learn how to find out whether you are in the right movie by reading my book, Win Bigly.