Are Trump Voters Rational?

Robert Kurzban and Jason Weeden say “yes” in regard to Trump voters. On issues like abortion, immigration, trade, and white male privilege, certain voters are acting in their perceived best interests, they write. Kurban and Weeden are authors of The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won’t Admit It.

But several commentators disagreed. Historian Joseph Ellis wrote in a column for CNN that Trump supporters “occupy a mental universe that lies beyond rational analysis.” They could not make the connection between their own fragile economic status and Trump’s proposals to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, implement tax cuts for the wealthy and initiate a trade war with China.

Ellis describes the election as a racial backlash similar to previous periods of American history, such as the enactment of Jim Crow in the South after the 1876 election fiasco.

Trump promised totally impractical solutions. Said another commentator: by 2018, perhaps his supporters will realize “there is no Wall, there are no newly minted Steel Mills, the mineworkers are still getting black lung disease and the fruits of their labor is going overseas to fire up Chinese Steel Mills. College tuition will not have changed except to rise and become unaffordable as it is now. Political lies are as old as long as their has been governance.”

Many Trump voters simply had brand loyalty to the Republican Party, or because they didn’t want to vote for a woman, or for that woman, Hillary.

Ironically, Hillary Clinton offered one of the best understandings of Trump’s voters in her infamous “deplorables” speech, which was reduced to a 30-second sound bite. In the part that was not quoted widely, she described the Trump supporters Democrats need to appeal to as the people

“who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

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