If you find yourself surprised that Donald Trump increased his support this election and you’d like to understand why this man appeals to so many voters, take a look at the case of Hopper’s Bar this week.
Hopper’s – just off Ponsonby Rd in Auckland – is threatened with boycotts on social media because the bar’s owners held a US election night party, where some of the punters wore MAGA hats.
Some of the bar’s critics went inside, approached the crowd wearing the MAGA hats – including a black man – and ended up in a verbal confrontation.They then posted accounts of this altercation on social media.
One of the most strident critics – hospitality workers’ advocate Chloe Ann-King – is urging a bar boycott on the grounds that the MAGA hats are “a symbol of white supremacy”.The irony that one of the party-goers wearing the hat was a black man is lost on no one.
It is obviously horribly unkind to urge a boycott of a bar right now, given what the hospitality industry has sacrificed for this country’s Covid response.Bar owners are among those who have suffered the most, financially, closing their doors far longer than many other industries in order to prevent the spread of the virus.To boycott them after the financial hit they’ve taken – and will continue to take – is selfish and unthinking.
But this kind of boycott is not unusual any more.SkyCity in Auckland cancelled a booking for highly-regarded Australian philosopher Peter Singer to speak at one of the company venues this year fearing “reputational damage” after opposition from the disability community.Massey University cancelled an event featuring former Reserve Bank governor Don Brash in 2018.
Former Bachelor Art Green and his wife Matilda, PR guru Deborah Pead and Waikato University vice-chancellor Neil Quigley have all found themselves on the receiving end of online abuse.
This nonsense is a constant threat to any business or individual found breaking the “rules”.In Western democracies, we now live under the constant threat of being “cancelled” by people who type before thinking through the consequences, and subsequently mutually reinforce each other that, yes, trying to destroy someone’s livelihood over a few red hats is, in fact, totally justified.
This explains at least some of Trump’s appeal to American voters.He is the most aggressive opponent of the cancel culture.When the idea of mandatory “implicit bias training” was mooted this year, he responded by declaring he was banning it.His actions and words constantly break the cancel culture “rules” and yet he appears to – for the most part – get away with it.It confounded even his campaign aides that the “grab them by the pussy” saga during the 2016 election campaign didn’t sink him immediately.
Even in this election, despite being labelled a racist and a misogynist, he has – unbelievably – defied predictions.He increased his votes by 4 million compared to 2016.According to exit polls he won 3 out of 10 minority ethnic votes in Florida, up from 2 out of 10 in 2016; 55 per cent of white women voted for him, up from 52 per cent four years ago.
Professor of Economics at George Mason University Alex Tabarrok probably summed it up best when he tweeted “My takeaway is that a large number of people HATE the cultural left (not the econ left) and are willing to put up with almost anything, including incompetence, chaos, corruption and bad policy, to signal their views loud and clear.”
Trumpism has not been repudiated – 69 million Americans went back for more.
Of course, there is never one single reason that a politician wins re-election.Some of Trump’s support will come from die-hard Republicans who will never vote any other way, some from the evangelicals he courted, some from the Iron Range communities who thank his stance on China for breathing life back into their towns, some from Latino communities freaked out by the message that Joe Biden is a socialist.
In time, research will detail how much of what motivated which voters.But proponents of cancel culture may want to consider the role their movement played in motivating voters to support Trump as the symbol of opposition to the threat they pose.
Because as long as they try to aggressively control the way other people think and speak and act, and actively promote the fear of being cancelled, people afraid of that will want a champion who sticks it to their cancel culture.
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