I spotted my friend Jake from a distance and walked through the sweaty throng to hug him and say hello. I hadn’t seen him since last Mardi Gras. He was wearing overalls over a bare chest. Fair enough.
Jake introduced me to his boyfriend Carl. Carl was American. From Ohio. He was charmingly twinky and American. He seemed to make Jake happy. Throbbing music played. We danced and laughed. The air was filled with queer affirmation, progressive thought and amyl.
Then, as the conversation continued, a bombshell was dropped: Carl was a Republican. A gay Republican. He was a Christian. He was “sort of” pro-life. He’d participated in the Republican primaries. And he had just voted for Donald J. Trump. THEY’RE REAL.
Sentient human beings, free from major brain injuries or the influence of alien mind-control, are willingly enacting their democratic rights to endorse the candidacy of that bigoted, psychopathic, follicle-challenged oligarch. And they seem to be quite happy about it.
They walk among us and attend our big gay dance parties and we all just have to act like we’re OK with that and everything’s normal.
I guess I already knew this to be true. I watch the news. I’ve seen Trump voters being interviewed. A lot of them appear to be perfectly nice people, if a little hazy on the details of foreign policy or immigration or exactly how Mr. Trump is going to “make America great again”.But all that was on TV. TV isn’t real. Carl was real. He was right there, in front of me.
“Really?” I asked, rather weakly.
Carl was smiling. He’d had this chat before and clearly revelled in taking on liberals like me.
“But he failed to condemn the Klu Klux Klan!”
Carl shrugged. “He had a malfunctioning earpiece and couldn’t hear the interviewer.”
THAT’S WHAT THE TRUMP DEFENDERS SAY ON THE NEWS SHOWS ZOMG THEY ARE ACTUALLY REAL.
“You agree with his ban on all Muslim immigration to the US?!”
Another shrug. “He’s just saying things right now…”
That’s the state of play: a candidate for the most powerful office in the world can spout blatantly racist, nonsensical bile, swear and eye-roll and patronise his way through debates, contradict himself time and time again, publicly comment on the size of his own dick and threaten to commit war crimes and his supporters can explain it away.
He doesn’t mean the things he says, of course; he’s just saying things. Obviously once he gets elected, good sense will prevail and those bloody elites will be shown what for and in no way will he preside over the persecution of minorities or bring about a nuclear winter that will decimate mankind. ’MERICA!!!
Carl is probably the most extreme example of the “other” that I’ve come across. Last year I started a politics-focussed interview podcast and over the past 50 episodes I’ve tried to talk to people from all over the political spectrum. Yes, the guest list has included Waleed Aly and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, but it’s also included the likes of Tim Wilson, Peter Reith and the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Lyle Shelton. Yep – Lyle and I hung out in a hotel room. For about 90 minutes. I even bought him a coffee and didn’t put poison in it or anything.
I value meeting and talking with people who see the world differently. I think it’s a vital part of being a politically aware person. Unlike the movies, the ‘villains’ in this world are almost never evil just for the hell of it; there’s a chain of reasoning and a set of values that explain why they believe what they believe. You may find that reasoning despicable – “Racism is over!”, “The market will sort it out!”, “Yes I’m a white middleclass heterosexual cisgendered male but my life is tough!” – but it’s there and if you want to argue against it, you’d best get a basic understanding of it.
But Trump? I think I’m going to find it hard to view him and his supporters as anything other than loons. Dangerous, pugnacious loons. There is no ‘there’ there. The more he fucks up, the more it builds into his maverick narrative and the more people like Carl will praise him as their saviour.
Be warned, friends: they’re out there. They want the guy from The Apprentice and the ‘birther movement’ to be leader of the free world. They’re real.
BY TOM BALLARD