The Enthusiasm Factor — How “Sleepy Joe” Could Wake Up Fanatical Trump Supporters
For those who are hoping for a Biden win in November, one of the most troubling and immovable obstacles standing in the way is the high enthusiasm of Trump supporters for him vs. the lackluster support for Biden.
How do we make sense of that and for those who are hoping for a Biden victory and Trump defeat, how do we reverse this phenomenon?
To understand and accomplish this reversal of misfortune, it may be helpful to understand what fuels the Trump base’s unwavering, “my President right or wrong,” attachment to him.
Two factors among many contribute, free floating anxiety and free-floating anger. Both represent highly unstable and labile states of mind that will cause people possessing them to seek to attach to something or someone to lessen the intolerable, internal agitation they trigger.
Free-floating anxiety is anxiety that cannot be pinned to any specific issue. Surely there can be a wide range of contributing factors from job and relationship instability to health concerns to unseen enemies like Covid-19. Left unpinned, free-floating anxiety feels as if one could become panicked at any moment. Over time there can be a cumulative effect that can lead to living in a constant state of dread. Such a state is not endurable for long.
Therefore, such a state will look for something or someone to attach to and not let go of. Consider the analogy of a drowning person who desperately grabs onto a lifeguard. Central to the training of all lifeguards are maneuvers and tactics to neutralize the terrified behavior of a swimmer in distress. Without knowing how to do that, the lifeguard risks being pulled under by a drowning, panicked swimmer.
Prior to Trump’s arrival on the scene, many in his base had free-floating anxiety with great feelings of insecurity with regard to their financial, physical and psychological safety all of which they felt were not being responded to by Washington.
Furthermore, as if free-floating anxiety was not sufficient to deeply attach to a perceived savior in Trump, he effectively turned that free-floating anxiety into free-floating anger. This greatly fueled the desire to attach to a not just a savior, but a champion, a la the Howard Beale character in the iconic movie, Network, who fomented an emotional cacophony into a clarion cry of people proclaiming and screaming out their windows, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”
Therein lies the challenge facing Biden and Democrats.
Once a drowning person or voter with free-floating anxiety churned into free-floating anger attaches to something or someone, he or she will resist with all their strength detaching from it. That is because doing so would risk being thrown back into free-floating anxiety verging on panic. Once a psyche finds relief from that, it will do everything it can to not return to that dreaded state of mind.
The collective relief from free-floating anxiety and venting of anger induces almost a state of euphoria. That is what greatly fuels the enthusiasm of Trump’s base for him.
Trump continues to deepen that attachment by, like Howard Beale, continuing to fan the flames of his base, rescuing them from the very painful task of taking personal responsibility for their problems and not knowing how to do that and instead whipping them into a frenzy of blaming others and making their problems someone else’s fault and therefore someone else’s responsibility to fix.
What also adds to his powerful effect on his base is the fact that Trump is “declarative” rather than “explanatory.” Being declarative feels stronger than being explanatory. Declarative takes an unwavering stand, whereas explanatory which may be motivated by wanting to make a case for something feels almost like pleading or whining.
It was the Declaration of Independence not the Explanation of Independence.
Biden may be declarative in his pronouncements, but in his effort to be respectful and civil when compared to Trump’s bellicose nature, he comes off as less so.
Some people have the persona to be both explanatory and declarative without sounding weak. The best current example during the Coronavirus pandemic is Governor Andrew Cuomo. He is like Joe Biden plus Anthony Fauci in Tony Soprano’s clothing.
What will it take to cause Trump’s base to detach from him? Pointing out his lies will not help, possibly because like him, many in his base lie about their responsibility for correcting their problems when it is so much easier to continually “get stuff off your chest” and blame others.
What will it take for his base to wake up from their trance and not follow this Pied Piper to another victory at the polls in November?
In addition to that, what will it take for Democrats to become enthusiastic about Biden?
Possibly the Coronavirus pandemic might assist in breaking people’s attachment to Trump.
Covid-19 does not play by partisan rules.
What would happen if ardent, “die hard” Trump supporters were to have a loved one die hard from Covid-19? What if that person could have been saved if America had heeded the warnings of an impending pandemic instead of believing Trumps reassurances that it was something minor?
What if such supporters have woken up and reconsidered their blind and deaf attachment to Trump in the face of a death that could have been avoided?
What if these people were to speak out a la Howard Beale, “I was mad as hell, I wasn’t going to take it anymore, so I went with Trump, but then my dad/mom/husband/wife died… alone from Covid-19 and if we had acted sooner, possibly didn’t have to. So, I’ve finally awoken from my trance and I’m never falling under Trump’s spell again.”
Or regarding the failing economy. What if former protectively masked former Trump supporters were to speak out from their cars in San Antonio as they wait for a box of food from the Food Bank there. What if they were to say, “I supported Trump because I thought he would make it better for me and people like me. Well check out the line of cars in front of me and behind me. Sometimes, the toughest thing to realize is that as right as you thought you were about something or someone is as wrong as you turned out to be. That’s what’s going on in my mind and the minds of those cars in front of and behind me about Trump. What about you? What is something that you were so certain about, which turned out to be the exact opposite of what you thought?”
If that were to happen and people believe that Biden would have taken action sooner — if only because he is a team player as opposed to Trump, who is not — as opposed to being in denial, perhaps more people would wake up to believing that we’d be in better hands with a President Biden.
Maybe we’d discover that hope which could spring eternal or at least for the near term future, doesn’t need to ride a wave of enthusiasm.