Regardless, I realize that just because I grew up in Nebraska doesn’t mean I know everything about Trump’s constituency, and neither does my reading of polls and studies about them. It takes effort to try to understand both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of this demographic, and I hope that columns like mine, one that I’ve tried to make as research-based but approachable as possible, help us accomplish this. This effort is especially necessary at places like Harvard, where so much of the student body—and the school’s most visible culture—is made up of well-off, liberal students from highly educated families in the Northeast. Republicans are rare and Trump supporters are next to nonexistent. Harvard needs to be a part of the discussion about a region and a people who, for several decades, were largely dismissed as politically irrelevant, but now demand our awareness and commentary, for their sake, and for our own. Our agency as Harvard students is powerful, and we should use it to benefit their communities and make us more informed and worldly. At a school whose motto is “truth,” we owe it to ourselves to learn as much as possible about the world we live in.
A year later, political bedlam is the norm, and it hasn’t become any easier to deal with family and friends who support President Donald Trump or other contemptible politicians like Roy Moore. Since the inauguration, Trump has provided an overwhelming amount of evidence showing that he’s incompetent and dangerous, and yet many still stick by him. It seems impossible to convince them of Trump’s incompetence.
So much of Trump’s platform rests on the idea that immigration is bad for the country: From the proposal of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, he has shown ideological opposition to immigration to be a hallmark of his presidency (though apparently, different rules apply when his companies are involved).
Since the middle of the 20th century, Midwesterners have prioritized moral character when evaluating politicians and presidential candidates. Most of this is driven by religion—the Bible is still an authority in the homes of millions of Midwesterners, and evangelism, the most right-leaning sect of Christianity, thrives in Midwestern states like Indiana, South Dakota, and Missouri. Driven by faith, these people feel morally obligated to vote for those who promise to uphold traditional family values.
By calling most major news sources, whose credibility had never been seriously called into question, “fake,” Trump encouraged right-leaning and independent voters to look elsewhere for their information. Alternative websites such as Breitbart and InfoWars existed before the 2016 election cycle, but their popularity has since skyrocketed, and other sites like them have grown en masse since the explosion of Trump-like rhetoric in the country. Biased news sources exist on the other side of the political spectrum as well, but they are not nearly as radical, and their content is not as violence-inducing as alt-right sites tend to be.