How Trump supporters protect their hero

As I have occasionally mentioned before, in my social circle is a vocal Trump supporter who gets quite heated when his hero is criticized, so much so that we avoid discussing politics when he is there. But occasionally our guard slips and this happened last week at a dinner party when we were discussing how in an interview, billionaire presidential vanity candidate Howard Schultz could not name the price of everyday items that one might buy in a grocery store. This is a popular line of questioning by reporters who suggest that failure to give the correct answer shows that one is out of touch with everyday people

While none of us were fans of Schultz, we felt that this kind of question was silly and pointless because it did not really prove anything. For example, I am not a billionaire and do grocery shopping regularly but if you asked me the price of bread or milk or carrots or other staples, I would likely get it wrong, even though I buy such things all the time. This is because I am fortunate enough that those things I consider essentials I can and will buy them without being concerned about the fluctuations in price from week to week. The only items of which I am aware of the price are those that are discretionary and fluctuate wildly, like fruits in and out of season. So I do not pay any attention to the price of staples and even though I may notice the price marked on the shelves, I promptly forget it as soon as I put the item in the basket.

But from there the conversation turned to things that genuinely do signal that one has not been inside a grocery store. I brought up the fact that at a recent rally where Trump was going on about tougher ID laws for voting, he defended his position by saying that people need to show their ID even when buying groceries, something that is patently false and only someone who has not personally shopped in a grocery store would be oblivious of. The Trump defender immediately sprang to his defense, first saying that Trump did not say it at all and that it was said by former president George H. W. Bush. I pointed out that the Bush incident, during a photo op in a supermarket, was when he marveled at the scanners that were used, not aware that they had been in operation for a long time. I said that I could send him a link to the Trump speech and others in the room backed me up.

But then the Trump supporter shifted his position and said that if you pay by check, then you need to show ID and this is what Trump was saying. When I pointed out that most people pay by credit cards and that you do not need an ID for that, he shifted again and said that Trump may have been referring to the time before credit cards were used and so he was still right. But I lived in those times and for most purchases, we paid by cash because carrying a checkbook around was a nuisance, only done when making a major purchase.

But the point is that this Trump supporter feels the need to defend him on even the most trivial of issues, even to the extent of creating scenarios that have little connection to actual events. While I have seen such ridiculous rationalization in news stories, it is quite fascinating to observe this first hand in real time. I wonder why Trump supporters cannot concede even a single mistake or fault. Is it because that despite their publicly professed adoration, they sense that Trump’s image is very brittle and that admitting even the slightest flaw could be fatal to the virtual reality they have created around him?


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    I wonder how your acquaintance would respond to howlers like Trump’s claim that six or seven new steel plants were being built as a result of his tariffs, or his claim that his tax bill would hurt rich folk like himself.

  2. says

    It sounds like Young Earth Creationists and the bible. They won’t admit that there are any errors in the bible at all. I think that’s because they fear that if they did, their entire faith would crumble.

  3. says

    I’ve been thinking that they were enjoying his “tell it like it is” insults against his opponents so much during the primaries and election that they saw him as a “truth teller” and were able to overlook his obvious buffoonery, incompetence, and corruption. Once he was in office though all that has been getting more and more difficult to ignore and people don’t like to think they make bad decisions or can be taken in by charlatans, so they need to excuse every thing he does because if they don’t, they made a huge mistake.

    This could also help explain the rise of Qanon where “covfefe” and “hamberder” are seen as clues from a brilliant tactician instead of an aging, not very intelligent clown.

  4. file thirteen says

    It’s very typical. Fans give their idols the benefit of the doubt, and want to assume that if their idol misspoke, it was with good intentions at heart. So they’re quick to list all their possible charitable interpretations of the comments, and it’s only when all of them are refuted that they start to consider other possibilities.

    It doesn’t help that the most believable charitable interpretations are widely repeated as if they are facts, so there is a lot of them to discredit, and the more they are mentioned, the harder it is to discredit them. And like the survival of the fittest for memes, the most believable are the ones most widely repeated and disseminated. I doubt the person you refer to considers themselves a knowledgeable expert in politics, and is probably not a skeptic, just a defender of the faith, if you like. So they defer to the professionals, which Trump certainly is.

    Most people aren’t very (I would say sufficiently) skeptical. Me too. It’s hard work. I usually believe most of what I hear and read until I force myself to think about it; that’s unless I approach it with a very skeptical mood.

    As for Trump, I personally find it very easy to adopt the least charitable interpretation of his statements, but that’s because I’ve learned over time how much of what he says is bullshit. Also, I detested the guy long before he became president. I actually gave him the benefit of the doubt initially when he was elected, but boy, that didn’t last long. The guy’s a schmuck. But you can’t expect even moderate republicans to jump to that same conclusion when it’s the democrats they are convinced are crooks.

  5. Curious Digressions says

    His supporters identify with him on a personal level. If he is wrong, so are they. Unfortunately, they chose to identify with a pathological liar who is wrong a lot. My FIL justifies the most ridiculous things in support of Trump. His argument for why the tariff war would be good for the US in the long run was amazing.

    Rather than trying to argue against his logic, I’ll pin down the specifics of his position. Then I’ll ask him what it would take for him to change his mind. It’s surprisingly hard for him to answer that.

  6. Kimpatsu1000 says

    The other point about being able to name the cost of products is not very enlightening. Margaret Thatcher used to do it all the time, but she personally never went into a store because her bodyguards would have a conniption if she tried. Anyway, I can also name the prices of things like a new Aston Martin or a private Lear jet or a house in Chelsea, London. It doesn’t mean I can afford to buy those things, so just being able to quote the price is not particularly enlightening.

  7. Holms says

    When I pointed out that most people pay by credit cards and that you do not need an ID for that, he shifted again and said that Trump may have been referring to the time before credit cards were used and so he was still right.

    Interestingly, even this ‘defense’ of Trump implicitly concedes that he has never set foot in a store since paying by card was introduced in the eighties.

  8. Sam N says

    @5, Yeah. I actually was hoping Donald Trump would do some good. I could almost tolerate the blatant racism, which was going to be a given, if he would truly curtail USA hostility towards other nations for narrow corporate interests. But he’s proven himself a complete grifter and clown--even his withdrawal from Syria failed (we’re still in for the long haul).

    I wish I knew a Donald Trump supporter, but I don’t. I don’t know any. Because I think the clearest way to explain to them, why they are such complete morons is to ask them what are your largest criticisms of the guy? I can immediately rattle off 5 things I think Obama did horribly. And by and large, I found him an OK president. Weak, overly aggressive, idiotic in choice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State (people act like that is a credential for her, but nothing convinced me more of how horrible a person she was). It’s that lack of critical thought in Trump supporters I find most detestable. I detest it when I hear Democratic party cheerleaders, too.

  9. lanir says

    Your die-hard Trump supporter has been paying attention to his Dear Leader. He’s simply copying how Trump himself handles every crisis.

    Trump wins the round robin horribleness contest not despite being a whole slew of awful things, but because he is a whole slew of awful things. Reasonable people don’t just scream awful labels at him, they build a story around their accusation and then make it. But before they can finish and pin him down on one thing, he shifts to another issue. So everything either seems like resurrecting an old accusation or something half-proven. This lets his supporters brush off everything as some sort of political hit.

    I’ve known people who used this argument tactic of constantly shifting goal posts and topics. There only seemed to be 3 ways that were at all effective in dealing with them.

    1. Insist on sticking with a topic. If your opponent is making poor arguments but constantly shifting the topic of the argument, they’re not engaging you so your arguments effectively don’t matter.
    2. Give them enough rope to hang themselves. Let your opponent do all sorts of mental gymnastics and bounce from issue to issue. After a few of these, briefly summarize the points they’ve made so far. They likely sound ridiculous when simply stated in summary one after the other.
    3. Why engage with dishonest people? The method Prof Singham started out with but forgot to apply in this case: just don’t talk to people about things that cause them to be jerks.

    In my experience these are all situational as well

  10. jrkrideau says

    @ 8 Holms
    Interestingly, even this ‘defense’ of Trump implicitly concedes that he has never set foot in a store since paying by card was introduced in the eighties.

    I don’t follow this. Trump would have been in his 30’s or 40’s in the eighties. So the cheque thing is “very” vaguely believable. Can not you see him on his balloon-tyre Schwinn bicycle riding down the the local grocery store, cheque book in hand to by some flour for his poor old mother?

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