Why 60 million American voters will still cast their ballots for Trump

A look inside America’s cultural shift that’s fueling Trump’s presidency and re-election campaign

Today's expression: Take credit for
Explore more: Lesson #298
September 28, 2020:

It might seem puzzling to people outside of the US – who have astonishingly low approval ratings for Trump – that so many Americans will still vote for Trump in November. But if you consider the drastic American cultural shift over the last decade, it isn’t quite as surprising. Plus, learn the English expression “take credit for.”

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Why will sixty million people vote for Donald Trump?

Lesson summary

Hi there everyone, welcome to Plain English lesson number 298. I’m Jeff; JR is the producer; and this full lesson can be found at PlainEnglish.com/298. The full lesson includes a transcript, video lesson, exercises, and much more.

Coming up today: The reasons for voting for Donald Trump. They might be a mystery to an international audience, where approval of the American president is quite low. But in today’s lesson, I will endeavor to share with you the reasons that many people have for casting their vote for Trump.

This is not an evenhanded weighing of the evidence on Trump’s presidency. I think reasons not to choose him are well-documented. But it is instead a window into the reasons that at least 45 percent of Americans will have for their selection this fall. Of course, we won’t cover every conceivable reason, but it should be enough to give you a good idea.

The English expression today is “take credit for” and we have a quote of the week. Let’s get started.

Cultural shifts are behind much of Trump’s support

Listen to this: in a recent survey of over 13,000 adults, the respected Pew Research Center found that just 16 percent of respondents had confidence in President Donald Trump. In some geographical areas, the number was as low as nine percent. Presidents with approval ratings this low cannot possibly be re-elected.

Case closed? Not exactly: The survey was not of Americans, but of adults in 13 other countries. The place where only nine percent approved of Trump was Belgium.

In America, the story is much different. On November 3, something like sixty million people will have cast their presidential vote for Donald Trump—about 45 percent of the American electorate if today’s polls are any indication. It might be enough for him to win.

This lesson is about the reasons Americans have for supporting this man, who is so deeply unpopular around the world. If you are like the Pew survey respondents, you are left stupefied by why Americans would re-elect this man. You might not agree with their decision, but it is good to know why so many people will vote for Trump this fall.

The first thing you need to know is that America has experienced a very deep cultural separation in the last decade. Many people in less-populated areas, in areas with less rapid economic growth, increasingly feel left-behind. The advance of technology, the increase in the so-called “knowledge economy,” globalization, changes in demographics, a reduced prominence of religion in public life, and a rapidly-changing culture have left many people feeling that their values and traditions are being eroded—and that few national leaders or institutions are on their side.

Certain institutions define the culture. Government and politicians, yes, but many other institutions can help a country move, culturally. Here are some examples: movies, television, and music; these days, technology companies like Facebook and Twitter; professional sports; corporations and big business; news organizations; universities; the list goes on.

Many people think these institutions are pushing cultural change too fast and in the wrong direction. Trump has a talent for signaling to people that he’s a powerful person on their side, resisting this cultural change.

The cultural divide is by far the number-one reason why people will vote for Trump. Many smaller issues, like immigration, free-trade deals, gun rights, talking tough on China, and religious liberty, are all smaller manifestations of this cultural divide.

The cultural divide is the primary reason, but not the only reason people have for voting Trump. I’ll give you three other reasons: the economy, the Supreme Court, and plain old tradition.

Prior to COVID, the Trump years had been good for the American economy and Trump himself is not shy about taking credit for it. Early in his presidency, he signed a tax reform bill that lowered the corporation tax and lowered individual income taxes. He has significantly reduced the number and burden of government regulations on businesses. The reduction in regulations has been less touted than the tax cuts, but probably will have a deeper, longer-lasting impact (pro or con, depending on your point of view). Regardless, many people think Trump’s economic policies, at least pre-COVID, were working. Many more traditional Republicans are appalled by Trump’s personality and a lot of his positions—but they support him on the economy and are willing to tolerate everything else.

Another reason people support Trump is the Supreme Court. In America, the President appoints justices to life terms on the Supreme Court. The President also appoints judges to serve on influential lower courts. For that reason, a vote for President is often considered a vote for two branches of government: by voting for one party for president, you are indirectly also voting for the future direction of the court system.

Trump has appointed judges and justices with a conservative legal philosophy. With the recent death of another justice, he’ll have an historic opportunity to appoint a third justice on our nine-justice court in just a single presidential term. Many people who would not otherwise support Trump nevertheless support him because of his judicial nominations. This is partly why the thrice-married Manhattan socialite has such fervent support among conservative, evangelical Christian voters.

A final reason for supporting Trump is party tradition and loyalty. Sometimes this is blind loyalty: people consider themselves to be part of one political team, and that’s that. It works on both sides of the political aisle. But it isn’t always blind loyalty; sometimes it is calculated loyalty. I mentioned before that the fault lines in American politics have changed. A lot of people have switched sides and the dividing line in politics has moved. The arguments have changed. The reasons for being on one side or another have changed. A lot of people feel, politically, without a home in 2020. Unhappy with Trump, they remain unconvinced by Biden and scared of the political left. Still, many are civic-minded and don’t want to stay home on election night. Without any better options, they’ll hold their nose and vote for Trump.

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The first debate between Biden and Trump is scheduled for tomorrow, September 29. There are three of them on the schedule; we’ll see if they all happen.

Here’s just a quick reminder that we have a free Facebook group for Plain English listeners. We’ve had a lot of people join and say hello. That’s a great way to connect with other listeners around the world—or even in your own country. Join the group, introduce yourself, and let us know what you think about the lessons. You can join by visiting PlainEnglish.com/Facebook.

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Expression: Take credit for