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Why Trump fans stick to him: Chris Cuomo’s theory

President Donald Trump
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
President Donald Trump hugging the American flag at the Conservative Political Action Conference annual meeting on Saturday.

Washington Post “Fact-Checker” Glenn Kessler reports that Donald Trump, during his astonishing, breathtaking two-hour-plus on-script, off-script brag-a-thon and insult-a-palooza at CPAC on Sunday, made more than 100 false or misleading claims.

Of course, I should be shocked, as should everyone who would like to believe in the possibility of a tad more honesty in our politics. But how shocked can we still be at this point? Kessler also wrote in yesterday’s Post that, as the Fact-Checker crew tallies it, the number of falsehoods Trump utters has risen steadily from 5.9 a day during his first year in office, to 16.5 a day during 2018 to 22 a day so far in 2019. And yet …

As regular Black Ink visitors know, I’m fairly obsessed with Trump’s approval ratings. I’ve cut down on how often I update that tale because it is so boring. And it is so boring because it basically doesn’t change. Relying, as I have done of late, on the average of many approval polls maintained by the esteemed political number crunchers at fivethirtyeight.com. Here’s the latest:

Under water by 11 points

As of Monday afternoon, Trump was “under water” (more disapprovers than approvers) by 11 points (53.4 disapproval/42.1 approval). He had a little dip right after he “caved” on the government shutdown, but he recovered soon after and returned to the very narrow range he has inhabited for two years.


(On March 16, 2017, his second month in office, after a very short approval “honeymoon,” Trump’s disapproval number first broke above 50 percent, and it’s never been higher than 57 nor lower than 51 since. My “updates” are always the same. His numbers are very bad, but unchanged. Here’s the full two-year graph by 538.)

What accounts for it? Either those 40-some percent of approvers don’t care how much Trump lies, or they spend so much of their waking hours watching Fox News, reading Trump-friendly websites, or communing with fellow Trumpers on social media that they are basically able to not hear or to disbelieve all of the evidence of the lying. I don’t claim to know how much of which.

But CNN’s Chris Cuomo does claim to know. So I thought I’d pass along his explanation. In the “closing argument” segment from his “Chris Cuomo Live” show that aired after the day of Michael Cohen’s testimony (during which Cohen, himself a confessed liar, testified about many, many, many Trump lies, some of them easily proven by unassailable documentation).

‘They expect no better’

Cuomo asserted that “Trump supporters shrug at lies because they expect no better from a politician. … Why aren’t they outraged? Don’t they care?” he asked.

Cuomo says they care, but: “The people who support this president voted for him because they expect nothing better from a politician. That’s the problem. … Outrage requires surprise. Failed expectations. Trump folks and many others … have zero respect for the political culture and the people in it. So when the opposition and even the media come to them and say, he lied, don’t support this, they shake their heads. They say, ‘You are no better. Who are you to criticize him?’

“So when any come and say that Trump is bad, [Trump’s supporters] say ‘compared to who?’

“Don’t merely hate the player, hate the game …

“This president is more metaphor than man, in some ways, all the flaws in one package …

“People thinking this kind of politics stinks doesn’t mean they want it that way. Your challenge is to show you are better. Do it. … Fight for the right things and let people know it. And do it the right way. Don’t duck the questions. Tell the truth. Or at least tell people why you can’t tell them what they want to know. Don’t spin everything that’s uncomfortable. … People see it for what it is. …


“So even if you prove all these things about his taxes and his personal life, that he knew that his pals were trying to take advantage of Russian interference. Even if you prove all that and more, you won’t turn the people who support him and you won’t surprise his party members. You saw it in the hearing.

“You will not beat this president by pulling down his reputation. … He is not in office because people put him on a pedestal. He is there because they think his flaws make him a perfect fit. Don’t hate the players; hate the game.

“Recognize that this president is a metaphor for what our system has become. … They will be there for you if you are there for them. They are desperate for it.”

I couldn’t find a transcript of this, so I transcribed the excerpts above myself and may have made errors. The full Cuomo sermon is 5:44 long. Watch it for yourself here.

I’ve not been a big fan of Cuomo’s before. I liked his passion in this one, and I’d like to believe some of what he said. Not sure.

It always worked for Jimmy Stewart.

Comments (35)

  1. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 03/05/2019 - 09:23 am.

    Here’s a big clue for ya!

    To the 1/2 of the country that supports Trump, flipping the 9th Circuit court is an achievement on par with Reagan’s defeat of the Soviet Union.

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 03/05/2019 - 10:23 am.

      The funny thing is half the population still thinks Reagan defeated the Soviet Union.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/05/2019 - 11:23 am.

      90 percent of Trump supporters couldn’t tell you what the 9th circuit even is.

    • Submitted by Tom Crain on 03/07/2019 - 09:29 am.

      Packing the courts has nothing do with Trump. It’s about McConnell’s willingness to change the creaky rules of the Senate, to hold the football (ala Lucy) while the Dems (Charlie Brown) line up for the kick. Again.

      Yet the Trumpites all point to this like it would never happen this way under any other Republican president. Only Trump. Like a cult. I don’t get it. He could resign tomorrow and a Pence admin/Republican Senate would install the same judges at the same pace.

      In any case, while holding a judiciary advantage is important I think it is a bit overblown. The current split for all the circuit court judges is 51/49 R/D.

  2. Submitted by Henry Johnson on 03/05/2019 - 10:51 am.

    I think Curtis is right in that probably a decent percentage of Trump support comes from just being able to “deliver’ supreme court justices, not to mention the huge number of lower court judges that McConnell has shepherded in until the Trump administration, and the tax cut for the rich that they got under Trump that makes republican donors happy.

    So those are the republicans who may see Trump as a clown, a huckster, an immoral person etc, but think he can be ‘used’ to get an agenda accomplished.

    I disagree with their agenda, but at least I understand WHY they support Trump. They have logical reasoning for their support, as in “the end justifies the means”.

    However, the hard-code “believers” who show up at his rallies, and who would probably scream their heads off in approval if he shouted enthuisiasticaly “I just chopped the head off of a cat while waiting to come out here!” – I have NO clue about those people.

    For that hard-core group, as Trump himself as commented, he literally can do no wrong.

    I think that group truly is a ‘cult’, and I don’t get those people at all.

    Everything about Trump’s ‘style’, the unending bragging, the ignorance in his statements, the obvious lies, all of that is a big repellent to me.

    But I guess for those in the cult, those same qualities hold some appeal, and that I don’t think I will ever understand.

    • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 03/05/2019 - 01:33 pm.

      I’ve never been to a Trump rally; not my thing.

      But I know folks that have, and for a lot of them, attending is as much about owning the libs as support for Trump. They enjoy the schadenfreude, and for what it’s worth, I think there’s value in letting off steam in a collegial way.

      Plus, I’m told that it’s quite invigorating to be surrounded by folks who are committed to fighting against America V2.0

      • Submitted by Marc Post on 03/05/2019 - 02:11 pm.

        “fighting against America” <- you got that part right.

        "V2.0" <- Nonsense. That's just a delusion to justify the above.

  3. Submitted by Marc Post on 03/05/2019 - 11:06 am.

    I see no real difference between the POTUS and the 42% who support him. They support him because he is like them in almost every way.

  4. Submitted by Paul Yochim on 03/05/2019 - 11:21 am.

    Here’s another reason. He is not Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 03/05/2019 - 11:44 am.

      Yes, you’re right Paul, if you ask a lot of republicans why they voted for Trump, they will say “I sure wasn’t going to vote for Clinton!”, or “Anyone but Hillary!”

      My wife and I voted for Clinton as the lesser of two evils, but it was not with any pleasure.

      And don’t believe anyone who tells you she lost because she was a ‘moderate’, she lost because of the ‘alleged’ corruption of a long running pay-to-play scandal while she was secretary of state, the allegedly corrupt Clinton foundation, the all-to-often dishonesty, the FBI email server charges, the Comey interference 10 days before the election and help from Putin.

      She lost because of all that baggage, and the fact that republicans have hated her deep and long since the mid-90’s.

      Not a good idea to pick a candidate that is just a huge lightening rod for opposition within the other party.

      • Submitted by Mike Schumann on 03/05/2019 - 12:43 pm.

        It wasn’t just Republicans that hated Hillary. So did a lot of Democrats and Independents. She showed her true colors on election eve, when she didn’t even have the decency to show up at her own victory rally to thank the people who worked for her.

        The more she talks about all the reasons she lost the election, other than the fact that people didn’t like HER, the more ingrained this attitude becomes.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/05/2019 - 01:36 pm.

          Right.
          All the Dems need to defeat Trump in 2020 is a candidate who is better than Hillary — there are plenty of possibilities.

          • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 03/05/2019 - 02:51 pm.

            I agree that most are “better than Hillary”, but I think that bar is still way, way too low. This crop isn’t as mendacious, power hungry or duplicitous, but they’re carrying cargo that is just as heavy.

            Somehow, for instance, I don’t think the middle of a boom is the right time to pull out a plan guaranteed by most economists everyone but Paul Krugman to sink our economy in short order, but that’s just me.

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/06/2019 - 11:27 am.

              If you think we’re in the middle of a boom, take a look at the current trade and budget deficit numbers.
              It’s a boom like 2008.

        • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 03/05/2019 - 06:31 pm.

          “it wasn’t just republicans who hated Hillary, lots of democrats and independents did too!”

          Oh, for sure! My wife and I hated her even as we pulled the lever to vote for her as independents.

          We just knew that Trump was even worse by several orders of magnitude, and to be honest, he’s proven to be even worse than we had predicted.

          For right or wrong, we saw Hillary as just your typical crooked politician, while we saw Trump as an equally corrupt person, but who was also probably suffering big-time from Narcissistic personality disorder as well as several other nasty traits, revealed during his campaign.

          Perhaps we should have, but we didn’t really expect the aggressive and rapid attempts to trash the constitution and create a de facto dictatorship, or the immediate republican aquiesence to that, at least this quickly, so it’s been a case where you have a bad feeling about something, and you realized later that your bad feeling was way understated relative to upcoming events! :- )

        • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 03/06/2019 - 09:06 am.

          BTW, just read an article on polling data for Trump in 2020, in the same article it pointed out that one of the likely reasons that Hillary lost in 2016 was that according to their polling data, she was THE SECOND MOST DISLIKED MAJOR PARTY CANDIDATE OF ALL TIME.

  5. Submitted by Wy Spano on 03/05/2019 - 11:53 am.

    Another element in Trump support to consider, this, the first comment in more than 1100 comments to Frank Bruni’s Sunday piece on Trump’s Phony America: “You still don’t get it. We don’t stay in his hotels, we don’t patronize casinos, we don’t eat Kobe steaks. We don’t wear Givenchy, or favor gold-plated fittings. No one in this household have ever earned more than $55,000 a year, and we have never itemized deductions. We just couldn’t stand liberals. That was then. Now we truly detest them. If we can vote against them twice, we will. That’s the REAL America.” We used to see this kind of antipathy towards liberals/socialists/etc. from really rich people who were trying to protect their incomes. But from people viciously harmed by the policies they are supporting? Feels to me like that’s a product of living in the Digital Age, where there’re simply no effective filters and anything I’m told is just as true and believable as anything else.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/05/2019 - 01:21 pm.

      Remember: We must be careful not to alienate these people. We must be careful to respect their opinions, or else they will really turn away from the Democratic Party.

      This person’s comment validates what I’ve thought for a long time: it wasn’t the economy that drove Trump voters, or even some profound concern for the federal judiciary. It was hatred, nothing more, and certainly nothing less. Trump became president due to bitterness and resentment.That’s a great recommendation for the leader of a pluralistic democracy, isn’t it?

  6. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/05/2019 - 12:39 pm.

    I’m not sure there’s a single or simple answer to the rhetorical question of why Trump’s fans stick with him.

    Part of it is surely the cognitive dissonance that Wy Spano points out – I think of it as the “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” syndrome – wherein people vote against their own interests for irrational and / or emotional reasons. Part is that Trump’s persona – the insecurity, reflected in racist, sexist comments, and / or in the near-constant braggadocio, or his general ignorance of the world outside his own privileged circle – is reflective of a segment of the population that’s similarly, if not equally, insecure, racist, sexist, and not very knowledgeable, or even curious, about the world outside their own experience and circle of acquaintances.

    Claims by a few I’ve read that Trump is a “patriot” ring particularly hollow, given his tax avoidance. I’m not a Joe Biden enthusiast, but in the last campaign, one of the things Biden was totally correct about was his statement to the effect that “paying taxes is patriotic.” If you’re not in the military, perhaps the most direct means of supporting the United States – of being patriotic – is through paying your taxes, which fund both military and civilian programs that benefit all of us to some degree. Taxes don’t care about bone spurs, or other excuses, and hugging the American flag makes you a patriot in pretty much the same way slapping a #me too sticker on your car’s bumper makes you a feminist.

    I think it’s interesting that the same people who would assume something sinister if it were practiced by Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, give a pass to Trump’s fondness for Mr. Putin and Russia, and his repeatedly-expressed disdain for our long-term allies, most (though not all) of which share our values to some significant degree. Trump’s fondness for authoritarian leaders in other cultures likely resonates with a certain personality type in this country who find democracy uncomfortable. They’d prefer to have decisions about national policy made for them rather than engage in lengthy and often tedious debate over priorities or consequences.

    And so on. Frankly, Trump’s ongoing popularity with his “base” remains a mystery to me, and an easy explanation for it is that 40% or so of the American population is made up of badly-educated, racist, misogynists who are apparently incapable of rational thought. Not only does that slander too many people, it’s too broad a brush for other reasons. Lots of people – for a variety of reasons – were hostile enough to Hillary Clinton, for good reason or not, that they were willing to take a flyer on the relative unknown quantity that Trump embodied. He’s no longer unknown. Why so many people still support him is something I don’t have a short, pithy answer for, and that historians and sociologists will be writing about long after I’m dead.

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/05/2019 - 12:48 pm.

    ….Democrats are harassing the President to distract from their radical agenda of making America a socialist country, killing babies after they’re born, and pushing a ‘green new deal’ that would destroy jobs and bankrupt America….

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders, previewing the campaign of 2020.

    That’s where the “approve” in the polls are coming from.

  8. Submitted by ian wade on 03/05/2019 - 01:03 pm.

    Even the flag in the photo seems to be recoiling at being groped by him.

  9. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 03/05/2019 - 01:25 pm.

    I suspect that a long time acquaintance nailed it when she told me several weeks before the election why she had become fiercely loyal to Donald Trump and was voting for the first time in 30 years. In her view, Mr.Trump “doesn’t use big words and says what he believes in his heart and doesn’t care what other people believe.” She added that Mr. Trump “speaks to the people” unlike in her view, all other office holders who she believes “just say whatever it takes to get elected”.

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 03/05/2019 - 06:05 pm.

      I tend to agree with your acquaintance.

    • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 03/05/2019 - 06:17 pm.

      “Doesn’t use big words” – yes, we wouldn’t want our elected officials to be well educated, we like em dumb. As for politicians “just saying what it takes to get elected”, I think Trump has done probably MORE than any other politician I can remember..

      Did even HE actually believe that Mexico was going to pay for a border wall? I doubt it! I think he’s even been quoted as saying as much.

      So he was just “saying something” that he knew would get applause from the crowd “to get elected”.

      Same with his promise to hire the very, very best people, and then hiring very bad people who commit crimes and get indicted, or how he’s going to provide better health care than Obamacare – at a much lower cost! (and then not even trying to do it).

      All lies, “to get elected”. No, Trump isn’t an honest politician, I think that’s just BS that he has managed to make this woman BELIEVE.

      But it’ not the truth, not by a long, long shot.

      On reflection I’m thinking this — he does have a talent for gauging a room and saying what is needed to get them excited about him ( to get elected!).

      In other words, he is a very talented demagogue.

      And also, he was smart enough to have Steve Bannon to work with Cambriidge analytica to profile 150 million facebook users, and then create powerful campaign phrases that thru polling Cambridge analytica discovered got HIGH, high positive responses from the public – “Drain the swamp!” being one prime example.

      And then he used the hell out of that phrase… And of course, it’s another lie, Washington is far more corrupt and “swampy” now than it was in January 2017 thanks to him and his corrupt administration.

      So you’re right, Jim, he IS able to make these people believe that he’s honest and sincere (when he’s not), that he’s looking out for them (instead of the 1 percenters he REALLY represents IMO), that he is just a real likeable guy (when in reality he turns on anyone the second they don’t seem ‘useful’ anymore)- and so he gets a pass on EVERYTHING.

      Only clue as to why he’s able to do that is perhaps that he’s just a great, great conman?

      Or that 25% of the electorate (I think I’ve heard that number as his real ‘core’ support) is just really that stupid?

      Or maybe some combination of both perhaps?

  10. Submitted by Sylvia de Freitas on 03/05/2019 - 03:16 pm.

    Trump’s 2 hour rambling speech sounds eerily familiar; I’m only surprised he didn’t claim to make the trains run on time….

  11. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 03/05/2019 - 06:43 pm.

    Those of us who believe that America is far better than Donald Trump have to pity those voters who chose Trump in 2016, and are sticking with him, because he doesn’t use big words and says whatever inanity comes out of his mouth. Or what Fox TV tells him to say.

    What is dangerous for our country, though, is having that deliberately ignorant minority of our voting population skew both the country’s direction and its base-line level of sociopolitical discourse. Sewer-level, actually (see the awful garbage and filth of the Conservative PAC performances last weekend). Not simply untruths, but untruths put in the vilest language the drunk at the end of the bar can spit out.

    The majority in America is better than Trump, and better than the minority who support him blindly.

  12. Submitted by David Lundeen on 03/06/2019 - 10:09 am.

    He only has 30% of the population and won the election by 80,000 votes or less. This narrative needs to be destroyed that his base is so powerful. He won on extraordinary luck, and if a Democrat can’t peel away those small votes they don’t deserve to win. This illusory chokehold everyone thinks he has over the electorate needs to be vanquished.

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