The Internet is absolutely drowning in articles about Donald Trump, several of them courtesy of other Cracked writers and me. Every hack on the Internet has had a chance to rebut The Donald's flippant racism, ill-researched talking points, and outright lies. But, relatively little digital ink has been spilled in the cause of understanding Trump's supporters. Most articles about Trump voters tend to focus on how they're all Nazis ...
The Nazis were way better at color coordination.
... or how they keep beating people up. And while there are plenty easy laughs to get out of how dumb the stereotypical Trumper is, making fun of that guy and his stupid red hat generally means ignoring the hundreds of thousands of real people who have rallied to his banner. I wanted to know more about the mass of voters who are doing their damnedest to make President freaking Trump a reality, so I went undercover to a massive Trump rally in Dallas and then infiltrated a meeting at his campaign's Austin headquarters.
Here's what I learned.
#6. Trump's Supporters Are Surprisingly Diverse
For many, Donald Trump first went from "sort of beloved crazy-rich TV person" to "mostly hated crazy-rich TV person" when he chose to announce his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans a bunch of criminal rapists.
It's cool, he said some of them are probably good people.
If you're imagining the average Trump rally as a sea of white, angry faces, there is no shortage of articles to help reinforce that belief.
If you hate reading, virtually everything the man actually says is a fine replacement.
But, that certainly wasn't borne out by my experience at the rally. The crowd was reasonably representative of the city of Fort Worth.
We weren't all in cars screaming at each other, but reasonably representative.
I showed up dressed in a blazer, a black shirt, and like ... normal office-person pants and quickly pushed my way as close to the front of the room as I could get. By pure chance, the people who crowded immediately around me included three immigrants: one from Columbia, one from Mexico, and one from the U.K. I asked "Albert," from Columbia when he had decided to support Donald Trump.
"Day one. That first speech. He hit on every single issue this country has ... I'm Hispanic, but the Hispanics who come here illegally ... are MS-13 gang members and drug traffickers and criminals. I used to live in Miami, and they're everywhere!"
You can disagree with Albert all you want (probably by pointing out that illegal immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes than regular citizens), but he's not speaking for some tiny sliver of a sliver of Republican Hispanic voters. Donald Trump has consistently proved more popular among them than either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. In Nevada, he got 44 percent of the GOP's Hispanic vote. A poll of Hispanic GOP voters conducted in January gave him 38 percent of the vote, compared to 15 percent for Cruz and 8 percent for Rubio.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images
You know you're cooked when even your own kid is bored shitless with hearing you talk.
The Hispanic Republicans I spoke with loved Trump because of his stance on immigration. You can argue that their attitude is kind of vindictive and fucked up, but it also appears to be pretty popular with conservative Hispanic voters. Donald Trump isn't about to sail into the White House on a wave of gleeful Latinos: Eight in 10 Hispanic voters nationwide disapprove of him. But, he has still proved better at courting their votes than any other Republican in the running.
He's also vastly more popular than any of his opponents among millennials, possibly due to the fact that John Kasich is a sentient pair of dad jeans, and Ted Cruz breaks out in hives when he's in the presence of teenagers. I was kind of shocked at how young the crowd at Trump's rally was.
"He's definitely a garbage person, but he's just so ...
meme-able. BUILD-THAT-WALL, BUILD-THAT-WALL!"
I came with a friend who I feared might blow our cover due to her brightly dyed hair. But, none of the Trumpers surrounding us acted the least bit suspicious. There were tons of young people with weird hair in the audience. They greatly outnumbered the people who looked like Marlboro Men.
#5. Pointing Out Trump's Negatives To His Supporters Only Makes Him Stronger
The rally I attended came the day after the Republican debate in Houston, when Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz teamed up against the Great Orange One. Here's how most of the media covered it:
PBS Kids called it "Trump And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Debate."
Pundits speculated that maybe we had finally seen the end of Donald Trump's dominance and gleefully proclaimed that the shadier aspects of his business past, which Marco Rubio brought up repeatedly, were finally going to bring his campaign down.
And then, of course, Super Tuesday came, and Trump's solid lead turned into a possibly insurmountable lead. A lot of people were surprised, but not me. The Trump supporters I spoke with made it clear that Rubio and Cruz's efforts to combine into an anti-Trump Voltron hadn't done a damn thing to dissuade them. One middle-aged house wife (a former Jeb! supporter) called them " ... a pair of kids. A pair of kids in the playground. They made themselves look silly. If they'd had some strategy, they could have made some points, but the way they approached it ... " She shook her head. An elderly rancher I had spoken to earlier at the rally felt the same way. "Both of them going after him like that is just going to send voters in the opposite direction. It's not going to change anyone's mind."
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Turns out we're fine with candidates insulting their way to the
presidency, but they have to be good at it.
The most baffling thing about Donald Trump's candidacy is how good it has been at turning what seems like a long list of weaknesses into strengths. Journalists (and Trump's opponents) love pointing out how inconsistent he has been on specific issues, such as gun control. I brought this up to my Trump-supporting friends and phrased it as a worry I had about supporting him. In their eyes, his inconsistency is a strength: "I think he's changed his mind on that because of all that's happened ... but I think of how much I've changed my mind since I've grown up. If I was still accountable for what I did 30 years ago ..." said Kathy, a mother of two in her early 40s.
"If you can reevaluate your opinions and change them ... I think that's a huge character advantage," said "Paul," a British immigrant to the U.S.
I also brought up Trump's many bankruptcies and business failures, something the pundits are starting to hit on again in a big way:
Trump Steaks, Trump Magazine, Trump Mortgages, Trump America, Trump Vodka ...
"Janice," a registered nurse, gave a typical response: "But, he made it, and lost it, and made it back again ... if you can come back up, after losing everything?" She was impressed at Mr. Trump's ability to rebuild and rebrand himself.
Donald Trump / Twitter
And his ability to outright lie about those bankruptcies is most impressive of all.
Many of the Trump supporters I spoke with shared her opinion. And none of them were very convinced by the establishment Republicans speaking out against him. Mitt Romney hadn't yet given his anti-endorsement of Donald Trump at that point, but there were rumors that he would try to slide in and steal the nomination during the convention.
Paul, the British Trumper, thought that was laughable: "He couldn't even beat Obama, and he thinks he can beat this guy!" The woman next to him agreed, "He's corrupt on both sides, and it's sad."
Donald Trump doesn't have to be perfect for his supporters to stick by him. I'm sure the media and his opponents will keep slamming him on these same issues right up until election day, but it won't help. A poll released this very week showed him breaking 50 percent support among Republican voters for the first time. And this is after Romney came out against Trump.
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"Who wouldn't listen to Mitt Romney?" -- the same guys in 2012 and 2016.
Interestingly enough, this reckless disregard for establishment for politics as usual wasn't just an attitude that pushed Trump voters to the right ...
#4. A Lot Of Them Like Bernie Sanders
Sean Rayford/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Last week, The Guardian put out a request for voters who planned on voting for Trump if Bernie Sanders didn't win the nomination. To their great surprise, more than 700 people responded. And while the data indicated that only about 7 percent of Sanders supporters would actually vote for Donald Trump, the fact that they have any overlap at all is kind of shocking.
John Sommers II/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"I am the 93 percent."
But, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are actually making quite a few of the same points: about the Iraq War being a fuck-up (Frank, the middle-aged Mexican-American immigrant in our group, called it a "disaster," and only one person disagreed with him), about the dangers of free trade, and about the importance of getting money out of politics. "He can't be bought. And that's what mainstream politics is all about," said Paul. Janice, the nurse, added, "I like Bernie -- he's the only other guy out there talking about the banks."
She was the first human being I had actually met who professed a willingness to vote for either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. I fought back the urge to touch her face to make sure she was real. She mistook my look of wonder for disbelief and explained, "I'm a lifelong Republican, but ... I don't really mind if the people want Donald Trump, [or] if the people want Bernie Sanders ... just let the people choose. And get all the money out of it."
Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
The multibillionaire with a fleet of private jets is going to take the money out of politics.
Paul didn't exactly express his support for Bernie Sanders, but he did feel both campaigns had "fired up the nation" and added, "That's what it needs."
Around that point is when the actual speaking part of the rally started. We sat through an hour or so of Chris Christie and then Donald Trump. If you've listened to one of Trump's speeches on TV, you get the idea. But, listening to the audience's reaction taught me something surprising ...