By:  Peter Hessler
The New Yorker Magazine
July 24, 2017

Just finished reading an article in the latest issue of the New Yorker Magazine entitled “Follow The Leader” about voters in Colorado.  More specifically, Trump voters in Colorado, a state that has a Democratic Governor, four Republicans and three Democrats in the House of Representatives and one Democrat and one Republican currently serving in the Senate.  So it’s not your typical solidly conservative “Red State” but might be better characterized as a Purple State or an Equal Opportunity When-It-Comes-To-Elections State.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  But the reality is a bit more complex than a simple survey reveals.  There are two Colorado’s – one characterized by more liberal Denver and Boulder (the eastern “Front Range”) and the area to the west of the Rocky Mountains called the “Western Slope.”  One is predominantly urban; one is predominantly rural.  Hillary Clinton won the state by a narrow margin but Trump won nearly twice as many counties.   Trump lost Denver and Boulder by 273,000 votes but won the rest of the state by 140,000 votes.  What we have in Colorado is quite similar to the Bi-Coastal/Middle of the Country divide that we find across the United States as a whole where the East and West Coasts leaning liberal, the middle of the country leaning conservative.

The article talks about Trump supporters and their emotional attachment to the President.  It’s not about what he’s accomplished or what he intends to accomplish but their devotion (and it is devotion) to Trump is much more aligned with his embrace of the thematic elements he has espoused during his Presidential campaign and still does: bashing the media, hostility to Muslims, antipathy towards Blacks, his unique “style,” his bullying of enemies both perceived imaginary - in essence they are with him because of his personality not what they think he can do for them.  Yes, they support his efforts to create new jobs, cut government regulations and deport illegal aliens but the fundamental reason why they still support him after either reversing himself on so many issues and accomplishing nothing during his first six months is because they have adopted him as the outlier uncle who embarrasses the sane family members at the clan’s Thanksgiving dinner but still love him.  Why have they embraced Trump’s erratic nature and his embracement of policy initiatives that will hurt them?  Some insight:  when Hillary Clinton declared Trump unqualified and termed his supporters “deplorable,” it sealed the deal for conservative Front Range Coloradans and since then they have stayed with him and will continue to do so no matter what.  

What’s troubling about the New Yorker piece is that the picture one gets is a clear picture of a cult following rather than a group of supporters.  It's why his poll numbers among Republicans have hovered around the mid 70’s to near 80 percent.  They applaud his media bashing because they have believed all along that the media has a liberal bias.  They love his tweets – telling it like it is, telling the truth in 140 characters according to them. 

As one Western Slope Coloradan put it at a Trump campaign rally in Grand Junction:  “There’s voter fraud also with the media, because they so poison the minds of the people by writing false stories.” He pointed in our direction [the fenced in press pool].   “They’re lying, they’re cheating, they’re stealing.  They’re doing everything, these people right back there,” meaning the press huddled inside a chain link fence at the Trump rally. 

This is why Trump has so bashed the media.  Sure, he’s not happy with the media’s constant assault on him, but because it’s also because he has identified this very powerful strain among conservatives: contempt for and hatred of the media.  The Western Slope folks like their ilk all around the country have come to believe that the press is against them.  That the media lies.  That they are biased.  This is the common thread that you hear over and over again when Trump supporters are interviewed by the media.   This is right in line with the anti-media, anti- liberal themes of Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones.  

“The media” is the prefect foil, the perfect bête-noir to heap all of their gripes, problems, worries, and failings upon.   "It," the media, is not a person, not a party, not any ethnic or racial group but an amorphous blob that can’t fight back or respond since by doing so it would prove their bias.  It’s like blaming climate change on the sun.  Such a claim has the ring of legitimacy, after all, it’s the sun who keeps Planet Earth from an icy death in the vastness of space.   And who can prove that the sun isn’t it some way responsible for increasing temperatures here on earth?  Same goes for the media. 

Blaming the media is an even more effective as a reason (or excuse) than are illegal immigrants or Muslims since the media isn’t a one-issue evil bad boy but a broad, multi-issue repository of malfeasance that has negatively affected them all.   (How is left unexplained.) And until recently (with Trump’s election) the media has been defenseless against such claims of bias and malfeasance.  Even today after six solid months of bashing from Trump (“the media is the enemy of the people”) the media is still not doing a great job in defending itself from these baseless attacks.  Liberals generally believe that the media reports the news more neutrally with a few outlets – Fox, MSNBC – with an identifiable bias to the right or to the left.  But this is not the case with the Western Slope folks who believe that all media are biased against them.  There is, of course, no way to prove to these folks that they are wrong because there is simply no connection between what the media reports and the cause of their disquietude.    But this is what believe.  But in fact, it's convenient, it's lazy, and it's disingenuous.  It is not a reality in the real world but these folks firmly believe that it is.  And it's why they are so dedicated to Trump no matter what since he too embraces and celebrates this falsehood.

But as the New Yorker article points out, the publisher of Grand Junction’s local newspaper, the Sentinal, Jay Seaton, the Republican party, in his words, is responsible in part for the shifting trend towards a more belligerent conservatism.  “I come from a long line of Republicans,” he says.  My great-uncle served in Eisenhower’s Cabinet as Interior Secretary.”  But he admitted that he finds it increasingly difficult to reconcile himself to today’s conservative movement.  “The Party is too accommodating of elements that I would consider fringe, bordering on hate groups.” 

Seaton’s assessment is right on target.  From Trump himself, to the House of Representatives’ Freedom Caucus, to House Speaker Paul Ryan, and the likes of Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh, it’s the Republican Party who has much more to do with why Western Slope folks are so “accommodating” of Trump’s “excesses” rather than any media bias. 

The New Yorker piece is a good read, if depressing, read.   Nothing much in the way of changing the minds or the hearts of Western Slopers emerges as they blindly and lovingly follow their cult leader.  It’s here:  How Trump Is Transforming Rural America

Have A Great Day!!


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