Trump has said that even if he were to “shoot someone in plain sight,” people would still support him. He is polling at 60% approval of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. His response has been disastrous and an utter failure. Trump is the ultimate salesman. He knows how to tap into the darker, more primal impulse of the American psyche. He knows what makes them tick and uses their own fears and concerns to craft his language. He provides a simple, direct, and tangible explanation of the political situation that his supporters can understand. To make matters worse the Democrats are controlled by corporate America and a bourgeoisie that is enamored with identity politics and neoliberalism. These things have harmed the working classes by favoring deindustrialization. For example, by nominating the worst possible candidate imaginable—Hillary Clinton, the Democrats virtually assured their own defeat. Clinton has always been seen as a polarizing figure for working class people. She and her husband were supporters of NAFTA and the eradication of the coal industry, which have done enormous economic harm to the working classes. During the election Trump’s criticisms about the deindustrialization of America were accurate. But this didn’t mean he was going to end all globalization. However, he has taken some steps toward reducing the harmful impacts of NAFTA by restructuring it.
There are segments of Trump’s base that are racist. Not all, of course. But there is an undercurrent of racism to the opposition to social welfare programs. There is a fear that “lazy blacks and Mexicans will get free stuff.” These were brought to the fore when Obama was President. Obama was not perceived as a “real American.” He was a foreigner, an other—like a communist, born in another country and not a citizen, or a Muslim. Trump built his early political career on supporting the Birther Movement, claiming Obama was born in Kenya and thus not able to be President.
The GOP base is now a coalition of right wingers, fundamentalist Christians, and folks who are anti-science, anti-intellectual, and opposed to anything collective. These elements have always existed in the U.S. since its founding.
Trump is a symptom of a larger problem, and not the primary cause. He is the product of both political parties owned by corporate America and the desperation of the working poor, who at times are their own worst enemies. He is a sign of their vices and their virtues, and he has exploited their suffering to enrich himself and his family even further.
Morris Berman has said that America is a culture built by rugged individualists who were always “on the make.” But since everyone is this way then how can you build a cohesive social structure? You cannot. There is no social glue which holds the society together. It can remain while that country is making money. But when it stops then everything begins to fall apart.