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.38 Special

The polls are coming in thick and heavy. 49% of polled Americans favor impeachment plus removal from office. (Depending on poll, see fivethirtyeight for consensus polling).

The number that should surprise no one is the percent of Trump’s faithful who are sticking with him no matter what. That magic number is 38%.

Bob Altemeyer at the University of Manitoba wrote a book called The Authoritarians about 12 years ago about this number. His book was a review of studies on authoritarian followers. Altemeyer probably saw Trump from a mile away and now that he’s here, he has profiled his followers.

As other authoritarian followers, they tend to rely on the views of others and consensus reality to form their opinions. They haven’t spent a lot of time listening to alternate points of view. They’re poor analysts. They tend to be religious, both in terms of church and thought. They can be indoctrinated. They tend to trust liars too easily if the liar supports their views.

It would be a mistake to characterize them as stupid. It’s more a matter of how they have been shaped to see the world.

There’s more insight from Altemeyer on Trump’s supporters but the bottom line is that his support will be stuck at 38% for a long time. These people are stubborn and Trump plays them constantly.

We know from other studies that authoritarian followers and conservative brains are wired differently. They have more sensitive hippocampuses and amygdala. They’re more likely to vote for strong guys who promise to protect them. This support may crumble if their mortality is threatened but they’ll probably end up looking for someone even more tyrannical.

That might be why Republican politicians are so afraid of primaries. And they should be afraid. They have gerrymandered so many districts that only a Republican can win. If only a Republican can win a district, wouldn’t that likely result in more extreme forms of Republicanism? After all, to tack to the center would look like socialism in a deep red district. So, a Republican rep in a safe district or senator in a red state will need to toe a pretty hard line to prevent someone even crazier from dislodging them.

(There’s a certain degree of cowardice here as well but I digress)

I heard this morning that Nixon’s support stayed pretty steady too until the last couple months when it plunged into the 20s. I don’t expect that to happen this time around. Back in 1974, we didn’t have Fox News. Fox will reflect opinions and views right back to the authoritarian follower. Fox doesn’t feel obligated to be truthful. It’s not really “news” in the traditional sense. It’s more of feeding tube. As long as the authoritarian follower watches Fox and associates with other Fox watchers, that 38% will barely budge.

It will take some major news event to jostle them.

So, how do you proceed to impeach and remove from office the most destructive president in history when his base stubbornly refuses to yield to facts and evidence that they are unlikely to see or believe?

It’s uncharted territory, I think, unless there are recent historical examples. I can’t think of any but I am not a historian.

I’m going to put my faith in our good old American ingenuity. We know what the parameters are. We know what the objective is. Maybe all that is required is a gigantic push of energy into the system. A blitzkrieg is what we need.

Or we could continue to watch Donald unravel. Even the Fox News viewers might watch that.