Opinion: It has to be racism, right? Liberal readers are still struggling to figure out Trump’s base

In 2016, supporters cheer Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Prescott Valley, Ariz.
In 2016, supporters cheer Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Prescott Valley, Ariz.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

What makes Trump supporters tick?

It’s the question that has launched a thousand think pieces since the president’s surprise 2016 victory. And yet the question still feels more unanswerable than ever, especially in light of Bob Woodward’s recent revelation that Trump knew back in February that COVID-19 was far more deadly than he publicly let on.

The L.A. Times’ David Lauter was the latest to take up the challenge of answering this question this week, in a provocative piece headlined “Why nothing matters to Trump supporters.” Several readers agreed with Lauter’s premise that nothing the president does seems to affect the support of his base, but they remained mystified as to why that was.

Dozens of readers, however, were more than willing to speculate.

Barbara Synder of Huntington Beach says history provides a clear parallel:


I recently came across George Bernard Shaw’s explanation of German character leading to World War I: “Germans were a people with contempt for common sense.”

Obviously, this trait cuts across many nationalities. Mystery solved.

Playa Vista psychotherapist J. Max August says not so fast. The answer is more complicated — and science offers a clue:

It is the phenomenon known as “confirmation bias.”

Confirmation bias is a well researched psychological phenomena. It distorts evidence-based decision making and, as a result, Trump supporters remain steady. The facts don’t matter as long as their opinions are confirmed and reinforced.

Trump keeps his supporters’ confirmation bias well fed with his steady flow of tweets and public statements.

Richard Kopelle of Los Angeles thinks there is no need to be so technical:

My belief is very simple. It is all about hate.

Hate for Black Americans, immigrants, strong women and “libs.” Once this hate is sealed into your brain, you can rationalize anything. History is filled with examples of this. If this dark side of human nature cannot be understood and dealt with, it will always recur.


R.C. Price of San Clemente echoed the importance of race, and offered this parable by way of explanation:

A white man and an African American man are competing in a footrace around a one-mile track. But the African American’s man’s feet are chained for the first quarter-mile. At that point, with a substantial lead, the white man decides this isn’t fair, and the chains are removed.

To the right, equality has been achieved, and the two runners can now proceed at an equal pace. To the left, it’s painfully obvious that one man is far behind.

Sadly, it’s hard to see this disparity being resolved any time soon. And under the current administration, it’s nearly impossible.

Racism and fear of the other offer the only logical explanation, says Daniel Miller of Santa Monica:

To his base, Trump represents a way of life which they see as being threatened by the changing demographics and attitude of the country — as well as by immigration. There are echoes of the Confederate “lost cause” syndrome in their attempt to maintain a culture characterized by white predominance.

Trump is viewed as the final bulwark preventing a demographic and cultural wave from sweeping the country. As such, it makes no difference what kind of man he is, or the specific policies he enacts, or the level of incompetence he displays, as long as he provides the best chance of holding back the wave.

Liberals are in their own bubble, counters Alan Booth of Los Angeles. Lost in their psychoanalyzing is any mention of Trump’s policy achievements:

Always missing from the conversation are Trump’s important accomplishments in trade deals, the economy, the Middle East, illegal immigration, tax reform, ISIS, standing up to Iran, withdrawing troops, Afghanistan peace talks, and on and on.

Contrast that with the Obama administration: drone bombing all over the place, ceding our jobs to China and 500,000 killed in Syria with his line in the sand debacle.