Guest post: Looking at Trump supporters from a different lens

Rob Korobkin is a local activist who ran for Portland City Council in 2015. A member of the Maine Green Independent Party, he supports Bernie Sanders for president.

Korobkin with Bernie Sanders in Vermont in 2013.

Korobkin with Bernie Sanders in Vermont in 2013.

Yesterday, with Donald Trump in town, Korobkin made an honest attempt to understand the reasoning for people’s support for the controversial Republican candidate.

After attending the anti-Trump protest in Congress Square Park, which is right next to the Westin hotel where the Trump speech was held, Korobkin mingled with Trump supporters waiting in line outside the hotel.



Here’s what he had to say about the experience:

“Spent the morning at the Trump rally, protesting and then attempting to listen to Trump supporters as respectfully as possible.

Here’s some of what I learned:

– Trump supporters, at least in Maine, genuinely do not believe that the guy is racist or xenophobic. Just no. They don’t see it. Don’t believe it. Think it’s slander. Any comments he may have made in the heat of the moment have been taken out of context.

– Some of them do wish that American political discourse still had a tenor of civility and professionalism, but they don’t think Trump is to blame. The media started it. Rubio started it. Trump has just risen to the level that everybody else was already on.

– They hate “the administration.” They hate Hillary. Think she’s a liar. They’re paying way too much in taxes. They have no faith in the government’s ability to spend revenues in ways that are efficient, intelligent or even remotely helpful. They strongly want to smash the welfare state.

– They think American “socialists” are lazy people who want the government to give them things for free. Nothing in this world comes for free. They feel that “free” actually means that they would be on the hook to pay for these things, like a parent paying their kid’s tuition. They reject paternalism and noblesse oblige. Poor people aren’t their kids, and they aren’t responsible for them. They believe, with profound faith, that it is possible to support yourself and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. No matter what happens, it always will be. They feel that they have worked hard to attain their current status in the world, a status that they are proud of having attained, however low. People are responsible for their own well being. Not the government. Not middle-class taxpayers. They feel they are responsible for themselves. Everybody else should be too.

– They don’t trust universities. They think the student loan corporations have conspired with the Democrats to push tuition rates through the roof. Things like STEM programs and business training have value, but the “studies” programs are a waste of resources. They are not interested in living in a world where everybody has a college degree because if everybody had a BA, a college degree would become meaningless. As such, they are not interested in pie in the sky notions like “free college.”

Presidential candidate Donald Trump interacts with the crowd at a rally in Portland on Thursday. Photo- Troy R. Bennett, BDN.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump interacts with the crowd at a rally in Portland on Thursday. Photo- Troy R. Bennett, BDN.

In this context, Trump is stepping forward as a courageous iconoclast. He will not be intimidated by entrenched bureaucracy. His greed is good. It makes him trustworthy. They can identify with it.

They want a greedy person in charge of the government because greed is the only emotional orientation capable of preventing a politician from spending tax dollars providing for those who should be taking care of themselves.

They think softness is stupid. They think greatness is hard. They struggle every day with fear. Fear of immigrants. Fear of corrupt politicians who take their money, spend it irresponsibly and always want more.

They think greatness is an individual accomplishment, something that each person must accomplish on their own, carving space for their families out of a dark, cold world.

It’s a pioneer mindset. They still feel like colonists. They want to be great again.”

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.