Maybe it’s umbrage fatigue. Maybe it’s resignation. All I know is it’s becoming harder and harder to get worked up about every self-serving, racist thing that escapes the orange-tinged lips of Donald Trump.
Most of his supporters certainly don’t seem to care. Just last week, I watched a group of them defend the presumptive Republican nominee, sneering at protesters who were chanting “Trump is a racist!” outside a rally at the Sacramento International Jet Center.
“Well, he’s also going to be our next president!” one supporter spat.
And that’s entirely possible – as scary as that is to admit. When voters in California and five other states head to the polls on Tuesday, Trump is sure to get millions of votes in this left-leaning state.
Somewhat less certain is what will happen with Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Polls had them running neck in neck in California, but the Associated Press reported Monday night that Clinton had enough delegates to win the nomination.
Soon, Sanders supporters will find themselves without a tribe in a year of tribal politics. They’ll have to decide whom to vote for in November. The logical choice would be Clinton. But some are threatening to vote for Trump.
This is a reason to get worked up.
A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that a full 20 percent of Sanders supporters say they will vote for the Republican nominee in November. Another poll from Quinnipiac found similar results.
This is Trump, the man who, at a rally in Redding on Friday, pointed into the crowd and exclaimed: “Look at my African-American over here! Look at him! Aren’t you the greatest?”
And the man who, because he wants to build a wall along the Mexican border, is questioning the professionalism of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel because he’s “a Mexican.” Never mind that Curiel was born in Indiana, one of the whitest, most conservative states in the union.
For Clinton, this is bad news. Many of Sanders’ supporters are independents and she needs their votes, not only for credibility, but to become president.
It also has to be disheartening news. The #BernieOrBust movement, with Bernie Bros threatening to stay home in November, is one thing. But to go out and actually vote for Trump?
How can anyone say they stand for social justice, racial justice, economic justice and environmental justice and then even threaten to vote for a man who probably preyed on the poor with Trump University and believes the drought doesn’t exist in California?
There is no one answer to that, of course. But after spending a few hours sweating in a hangar at Trump’s first – and hopefully only – rally here, I began to get an inkling.
The first thing to understand is that, like his resorts, Trump’s campaign rallies are carefully crafted affairs. The music. The lighting. The American flag.
The height of the stage and his podium. The positioning of the media platform – close enough for Trump to look reporters in the eye, point a tiny finger and call us “scum” and “very bad people.”
The fact that his Sacramento rally took place in an empty hangar open to the setting sun. That he chose to land his plane right in front of his supporters, coasting up to the theme song of “Air Force One,” that mediocre 1990s movie starring Harrison Ford as a terrorist-fighting U.S. president.
Every detail is designed to elicit patriotism and hero worship, as well as channeled anger.
In some ways, Sanders rallies are no different – minus the ostentatious jet and hateful rhetoric, of course. Both politicians offer their supporters an unabashed, underdog tribalism that’s beyond anything Clinton has offered – no matter how many people fainted waiting to see her in a stifling Sacramento City College gym on Sunday. She is the establishment.
People leave Trump and Sanders rallies fired up, ready to fight the status quo and take down the political establishment by any means necessary. Here, unfortunately, is where the overlap happens. In the desperation for change at any cost.
Sanders has thrown Clinton under the bus for this in rallies up and down the state of California.
Trump has played on this and will continue to do so. Like he told the crowd in Sacramento last week, echoing some of the shortsighted things Sanders has said: “The Clintons were crooked from the beginning. Look at Whitewater. These are crooked people!”
I hope Sanders supporters will see through Trump’s bluster before November and come to realize he is a racist charlatan who probably wouldn’t pass a mental health screening if one were required for president.
Instead of throwing the Democratic Party into chaos at the convention, Sanders supporters will, I hope, get behind a “People’s Summit,” set for Chicago this month, to chart the road ahead for the causes Sanders has championed.
I’ve given up trying to reason with most Trump supporters. That rally in Sacramento last week was enough.
But Sanders supporters should know better. They should know that voting for Clinton over Trump is the right – if maybe not ideal – thing to do for the country.
That’s a reason to get worked up.