My brother, in PA, voted for Trump
November 1, 2020 6:31 PM   Subscribe

My brother, who lives and votes in Pennsylvania, told me today that he voted for Trump. I don't understand why.

I'd like to understand why?

He voted for Clinton in 2016, but this year for who-knows-what-the-hell reasons, he's decided to back Trump. When I asked him he just said, "I'm a fan of two term presidents."

Are there any articles that talk about this type of demographic shift? I don't understand it, and I'd really like to know more about why he's thinking this way.

I realize that this question is a bit unfocused. But hell -- where is this coming from?
posted by leslietron to Law & Government (24 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Sorry, but this isn't answerable in this form. If you would like to make a more focused question about Trump voter demographics, please contact us. Thanks. -- taz

I’m not sure what this has to do with a demographic shift; presumably your brother was a middle-class white guy in 2016 and now he’s still a middle-class white guy, only four years older.

Obviously I don’t have much information here, but going by what I’ve heard from a few of my colleagues, I’m going to go ahead and guess it has less to do with being “a fan of two term presidents,” whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean, and more to do with what’s happened to his 401k between 2016 and now.
posted by holborne at 6:37 PM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

Nobody would bother making propaganda if it didn't work on large numbers of people.

Your brother is now an indoctrinated member of the death cult.

I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by flabdablet at 6:49 PM on November 1, 2020 [34 favorites]

Best answer: My wife's mother and stepfather are Trump voters, and my wife asks this same question all the time (mostly to me, not to them - she's tried that, it didn't go well). I'll tell you the same thing I tell her. You will never find an answer to this question that will satisfy you, or that will make you understand in a rational way why your brother is voting the way he is. And you will only give yourself stress, anger, and depression by trying.

I'm not saying you should write your brother off, just saying his 'process' in making this decision is not something you'll be able to unpack in a way that satisfies you.
posted by pdb at 6:52 PM on November 1, 2020 [16 favorites]

you're not going to get an answer on this site that is going to reflect your brother's thought process or priorities. I mean you can't expect other people to know your brother's thinking in any event, but especially as pertains to Feelings About Trump on this particular site.

it sounds to me like he was telling you he didn't want to get into his reasons. But historically incumbent presidents usually do win, so it could be as simple as that.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:05 PM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

Not knowing anything about your brother, I'd interpret his response to simply mean he generally approves of what the Trump administration has done so far.

Somebody who voted for Clinton and now Trump fits the profile of a person who perceives they've materially benefitted from this administration—lower taxes, higher wages, stock market gains, or whatever—and this outweighs any other considerations. Therefore they'd like to see it continue for another four years.

There are other possible motives that are more nebulous and perhaps not easily explainable by your brother. If you have the kind of relationship that allows for pointed questions, you can ask him, but it doesn't sound like you'll get a satisfactory answer.
posted by theory at 7:05 PM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

You know your brother, we don't. So you know we can't answer this question. Honestly, I'm not even sure it belongs on the green. But since we're doing this, I'll answer. People who post on MetaFilter are much, much, much more invested in politics than most Americans. Plenty of Americans don't care very much about government policy. People vote for a President because the candidate come from the same state as them, or because the candidate conveys some sense that they're a serious person, or, why not, because they think Presidents generally should get eight years to carry out their agenda, whatever it is. What I'm trying to say is, he's your brother and you should take seriously the idea that, whether or not it makes sense to you, he is telling you the truth.
posted by escabeche at 7:17 PM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

By the way, the kinds of underhanded psychological manipulation that the advertising industry has been refining for longer than I've been alive, and which are now completely standard across all marketing including political messaging, work extra well on people who think of themselves as easily able to ignore them because they're too smart to be affected or so accustomed as to be immune.

I'm plenty smart but even so, I have over the years observed myself on numerous occasions behaving as if I believed that certain things were true which on reflection turn out to have been nothing more substantial than marketing suggestions. Pretty sure the same would apply to almost all of us.

The only effective method I have ever found useful for resisting manipulation by marketers is in two parts: limiting exposure to the greatest extent possible (in my case this involves living far away from a major metropolis, having no broadcast TV in the house and raising the use of ad blockers to something close to a religious principle) and conscious, critical identification of the specific persuasion techniques being employed by whatever leaks through the filter. I don't think the second part is at all feasible without the first because the sheer volume is overwhelming.

I see the death cult as the inevitable endpoint of seventy years of workplace exposure to these methods by the very people who perpetrate them, to the point where the very worldview of the wealthy is now almost completely built from components of their own marketing horseshit. Like all cult members they now have only a nodding acquaintance with reality. Trump is a particularly clear example.
posted by flabdablet at 7:19 PM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

Maybe ask him to elaborate?
posted by NotLost at 7:32 PM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

No one here can give you a decisive answer, but he's probably a Low Information Voter. Unless his life personally has sucked for the past 4 years, he'll vote for whichever party was in the presidency most recently, because that's the only datum point he considers.
posted by Candleman at 7:37 PM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

he's a selfish, self-righteous, racist, authoritorian fascist. the nice nazi next door. not a mystery. my sister, too.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:45 PM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

He voted for Clinton in 2016

Did he though?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:47 PM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters. - Naomi Shulman
posted by j_curiouser at 7:48 PM on November 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

Since this thread is going to be pure speculation anyway, I'll say what immediately popped into my head:

Has he had any other worrying behavior changes? Often these are signs of a potential neurological condition.
posted by mmoncur at 7:48 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Everyone I know in the Trump cult has an external and internal reason for why they support him. The external is basically drawn out of a hat, the internal they'll never say.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:59 PM on November 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

It's impossible to say without more information about your brother. People make voting decisions for weird and idiosyncratic reasons.

I'd also like to second fingersandtoes in noting that this particular website is really not a great place to get insight on why Trump voters do what they do.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:06 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

My intelligent generally sensitive Irish American middle aged handyman in Pennsylvania who is enlightened in many ways and unfailingly kind to my POC family claims he voted for Trump this time because he only has four years left and will be gone soon enough if things go left, because Biden is an “insincere” politician who is in it for the money while “rich” Trump is doing it for the love of country, and because Trump supposedly supports policy that will force people to go back to work rather than live off the public dole, I.e. stimulus money that people will again receive under Democratic leadership. I should Also note here that despite being a blue-collar laborer, he has inherited at least ten relatively valuable local properties and is landlord to many tenants.

Also according to him there’s not much of a difference between Biden and Trump because all of the power rest in the hands of The House and the Senate so he doesn’t feel too bad voting for trump. Yikes.
posted by shaademaan at 8:11 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Look, I have to ask this, because my brother is a shit, and one of the things people who are shits do is just say the thing that will get you riled up. He may well have voted for Trump, but if he is a grade A shit he may well have voted for Biden and just be telling you he voted for Trump to make you flustered and upset. He's now front and centre of your emotional life and you are trying to think about his motives so you're now trying to think how he's thinking, too.

So, I don't know your brother, but if he's ever shown evidence of being a contrary shit, now's the time to reflect on how truthful he's likely to be towards you about this.
posted by Jilder at 8:32 PM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: No one here will be able to answer that question better than your brother.

But I'd recommend In Search of Healing, in which a Trump-despising writer tries to understand ... them. It's long, but worthwhile, especially the last paragraph, which I won't spoil, and which won't mean much in isolation. Really, read the whole thing.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:48 PM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Did he actually vote? I have a close family member who has never voted, but has more political opinions, loud opinions, than on any political thread on this site. I have dear friends who have never voted but they are quieter about it.

I don't try to understand. That way madness lies.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 8:55 PM on November 1, 2020

Best answer: You asked for articles about Clinton-Trump voters -- the author of this article in The Atlantic was only able to find a single person to interview, but they do a somewhat deep dive on this one person's beliefs. I'm not sure how relevant or illuminating you'll find it; I feel like I ended up with more questions than answers.

Going from the super-micro end of the scale to the super-macro end, there have been some attempts to use statistics to classify voters into finer-grained groups than Democrats and Republicans, like this 2017 effort from the Pew Research Center. You could see if you recognize your brother in any of the sub-groups that approve of Trump. That said, individuals within these groups are still going to differ from one another, and there will also be people these typologies don't do a good job of identifying, for whatever reason.

I'm not a political scientist, so people with more experience should feel free to correct me, but the other thing I've seen is that self-described "moderates" and people who don't pay a lot of attention to politics are a lot less likely to have a consistent ideology that informs their political beliefs. It's not that they split issues down the center, it's that they are kind of all over the place from issue to issue. If this is the case for your brother, then it seems like his decision to switch parties in this election is probably more about his own political idiosyncracies than it is about a shift in attitudes in a demographic group that he's part of.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:59 PM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

People change and your brother has recently solidified his beliefs in Fascism and/or Racism. Sorry. The comparisons to Nice Nazis is especially apt IMO. Whether he is low information, just lacks empathy, or is some single issue voter (though I can't imagine what that would be re: Clinton vs. Biden; anti-science maybe) is impossible for us to tell.

Also note here that despite being a blue-collar laborer, he has inherited at least ten relatively valuable local properties and is landlord to many tenants.

This man is not a blue collar labourer, he is a blue collar hobbyist.
posted by Mitheral at 9:24 PM on November 1, 2020

What’s his voting record in 2012, 2004, 1996, etc? There actually are people who always vote for the incumbent because two terms feels right to them. One person said she thinks she does it because she was obsessed with a chart of presidential terms next to her desk in an elementary classroom.
posted by michaelh at 9:34 PM on November 1, 2020

Best answer: But I'd recommend In Search of Healing

Non pay-walled version of the WaPo column here.
posted by Rash at 9:49 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Let me preface my answer with some background information:
I am not, have never been and will never be a supporter of President Trump.
I am not, have never been and will never be a supporter of Vice President Joe Biden.
Under extreme circumstances there is a possibility I could vote for Donald Trump.
There are no circumstances I could possibly imagine where I would vote for Joe Biden.
My job has let me live and work with people from almost every country in the world, with widely varying political, religious and economic backgrounds. I have worked side by side with people who literally grew up living on the street people making a few dollars a day to multi millionaires. I talk to them all.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 9:53 PM on November 1, 2020

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