Underneath the Trump supporters’ veil

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Underneath the Trump supporters’ veil

Supporters of Donald Trump wave their campaign signs during Trump's June 15, 2016, rally in Atlanta, Ga. (Annalise Kaylor/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/TNS)

Supporters of Donald Trump wave their campaign signs during Trump's June 15, 2016, rally in Atlanta, Ga. (Annalise Kaylor/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/TNS)


Supporters of Donald Trump wave their campaign signs during Trump's June 15, 2016, rally in Atlanta, Ga. (Annalise Kaylor/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/TNS)



Supporters of Donald Trump wave their campaign signs during Trump's June 15, 2016, rally in Atlanta, Ga. (Annalise Kaylor/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/TNS)

By Julia Aldrich / For The Pitt News

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Fear is a dangerous notion, but hope could arguably be worse.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump is notorious for utilizing bigotry and fear as a means of self-promotion. The billionaire businessman has been rising to the top and gaining supporters all while boasting his famous slogan “Make America Great Again,” a phrase that implies America needs to be redirected quickly.

Last June, in reference to undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Trump said those people were drug dealers, criminals and rapists. Only “some,” he said, “are good people.”

Since then, though arguably with less pungnancy, he has centered his campaign on inspiring fear, and his supporters echo his threats. When he accepted the GOP nomination, his speech painted a dark, twisted picture of America after eight years of Democratic leadership in the Oval Office.

He described our present point in history as a “moment of crisis” and went on to talk about rising crime and poverty rates, airports and bridges in “third world” condition and a country on the brink of attack from a litany of outside enemies.

But are Trump’s hatefully charged views shared by every voter who checks the Republican nominee’s name on the ballot? Perhaps not. Although his supporters seem like a group fueled simply by hatred, they’re all motivated by something even the most left-wing citizen can relate to: suffering.

In a Pew Research Poll, 62 percent of Americans who make less than $30,000 a year said they would vote for Trump as opposed to the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. His campaign has been notorious for bringing out low to lower-middle income first-time voters and blue collar workers or workers from rural areas hit hard by job loss.

Throughout his speech at the convention, Trump promised to “lead [the] country back to safety, prosperity and peace.” Trump supporters look to the man, so much unlike the moral standard bearer of Republican nominees past, as a beacon of hope, somone who can pull them from their financial struggles. As the self-made epitome of prosperity and wealth and the “law and order” candidate, Trump has painted himself as the perfect candidate to promise an economic revitalization and drive out potential foreign attackers.

According to a study by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution, 77 percent of Trump supporters — compared to 50 percent of Americans in general — are bothered when an immigrant speaks little to no English. Additionally, about 68 percent of Trump supporters believe that immigrants increase crime in neighborhoods.

Trump notoriously uses this fear-inducing rhetoric — with full knowledge that fear drives his supporters closer — to fuel his campaign. Because of its contagious nature, his popularity continues to rise. Though using bigotry as a mode of self-promotion is unjustifiable under all circumstances, it’s important to realize how easy it is for people to support a candidate like Trump. People fearing for their safety and struggling financially finally have their answer.

“Trump” is more than just a name — he’s a brand. His character alludes to a notion of wealth and success. His name floats through the hearts of his supporters who are struggling and they look to him for hope. These Americans, who don’t necessarily fill the bigot image Trump’s supporters are painted as, would rather bet on something unfamiliar than four or eight more years of same-old-Washington.  

“America needs a change. Once he wins, I strongly believe he will make a great president,” a Trump supporter told The Pitt News when the candidate held a rally in Pittsburgh. “He’s a businessman, not a politician,” she said.

“He speaks differently,” mentioned another supporter during Trump’s second visit.

Looking back on eight years of the Obama administration, the economy overall improved, but not everyone prospered. Businesses closed doors, people lost jobs in the recession and left the labor force and many Americans struggled to find ways to provide for their families. President Barack Obama’s bailout following the financial crisis made many lower-middle and middle class Americans feel abandoned by the federal government.

A Pennsylvania family — who asked not to be named in The New York Times — lost their small medical supplies business. Once prosperous, they were forced to shut their doors because they could not afford to keep open due to insurance policies under Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

That’s where Trump is stepping in.

Trump, or so he says, asserts himself a time of national crisis, painting himself as poised to be the people’s champion.

Americans who didn’t prosper during Obama’s time in office are jumping into Trump’s ranks quite blindly. Sure, he doesn’t have a well-conceived plan, but he’s bold and he’s promising prosperity. He’s promising a turnaround. He came to Pittsburgh and promised an incredibly improbable return to the steel industry because he knew there were blue collar workers in the audience waiting for him to stand up for them. He’s more than just a candidate: he’s their savior.

To some, he’s their only hope. Can we blame them?

Write to Julia Aldrich at jla85@pitt.edu

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this column referred to the past 16 years as “years of Democratic leadership in the Oval Office.” A Democrat has only been in office for the past eight years. The column has been updated. 

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