Column
August 18, 2016

“Second Amendment people”

By implicitly encouraging “the Second Amendment people” to assassinate presidential rival Hillary Clinton—lest she appoint Supreme Court justices who would take away their right to bear arms—Donald Trump has produced one more opportunity for Democrats to condemn him on purely moral grounds. This has been one of the Democrats’ primary messages during the election season—that, regardless of one’s politics, one must recognize that Donald Trump is an indecent, undignified, dangerous, irresponsible, morally hideous human being.
Personally, I’m not sure how much longer Democrats need to continue to beat this particular drum, although, to be fair, Trump continues to create situations in which the have-you-no-decency angle becomes inevitable. At this point, it seems safe to say that virtually no one who values “decency” is on the Trump bandwagon anyway—that most of his supporters love him precisely because he is indecent, undignified, dangerous, and irresponsible: the type of guy who is not afraid to adopt openly morally hideous positions and make death threats against his enemies. Trump’s base looks to him for a mirror image of its own callous selfishness: they don’t want someone who feigns care or respect for others—they want a scumbag who will “get the job done” with no reservations, the job in this case being to restore wealth and power to white Americans.
Liberals have to tell his supporters what his supporters fear: that the disgusting man nevertheless is not one of them and does not care for them even a little bit.
Liberals have to tell his supporters what his supporters fear: that the disgusting man nevertheless is not one of them and does not care for them even a little bit.
Most of the outrage regarding Trump’s recent remarks has focused on the possibility that his words could inspire real violence and on the increased fears for Clinton’s safety that now exist because he is such a terrible person. These are legitimate points, but in fact Trump’s quip should offend gun owners at least as much as it offends Clinton supporters. Who, exactly, are these “Second Amendment people”?
Well, for Trump, they’re the same people whom most anti-gun liberals imagine when they think of the backwoods illiterates and frustrated suburban loners whose pathetically barren lives contain no reason for them to feel strong or secure except in the company of the ridiculous arsenal of weaponry that they’ll probably never use except to shoot themselves by accident someday, unless someone like Donald Trump gives them the confidence first to put a few bullets inside a supposedly villainous woman who, in reality, was never actually going to try to take away their guns anyway: people clinging with blinding ferocity to a transparently irrelevant 18th-century dictate arising from a particular (and now obsolete) set of historical and technological circumstances, as if it were not only a permanent commandment from God but a deliverance from the worthlessness of their own lives.
In short: idiots. This idea of their idiocy is contained not only within Trump’s suggestion that gun owners might be willing to murder the president (!) but also within the very phrase with which he addresses this demographic: “the Second Amendment people”—not, say, “people who value the Second Amendment,” which would include most of the Republican Party and many Democrats. “The Second Amendment people” are, for Trump, a fringe group defined totally by a singular weird obsession, like gluten-free people. Like “the blacks” and “the Mexicans,” “the Second Amendment people” are not a group to which Trump belongs.
As I said before, Trump supporters already know that he’s awful, but what they want to believe is that this awful man is on their side, and he will use his awfulness—all the ruthlessness and crooked tricks for which the self-righteous liberals condemn him—on their behalf. My guess is that this is the hardest part for Trump to sell and that, deep down, even many of his most fervent backers suspect that this silver-spoon billionaire from New York City, this attention-loving former Democrat, does not really love them back.
In November, Hillary Clinton will probably win in a landslide, but if, just in case, liberals are still hoping to dissuade a few potential Trump voters, they can’t keep telling Trump fans what they already know, which is that the man is disgusting. Liberals have to tell his supporters what his supporters fear: that the disgusting man nevertheless is not one of them and does not care for them even a little bit.

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