Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board. He came to Long Island in 2010.
There is nothing surprising about GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s ability to attract significant voter support. There is nothing shocking in his ability to keep that support even in the wake of event after event that the experts tell us should cause voters to back away from him like a scoutmaster encountering a rabid weasel. Trump’s latest thunderbolt, the proclamation to a jubilant South Carolina crowd that for now we can’t let Muslims into the country, is no exception.
Anyone confused by continued voter support for Trump doesn’t understand the United States, or why the founders felt we needed a Bill of Rights in the first place. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams didn’t think the majority of our citizens would always be wonderful people who want to accept those different from themselves and support everyone’s right to free expression and religion, due process and guns. They knew we needed a Bill of Rights because the majority might want to deny others their freedoms of religion and expression, and due process and guns, and we needed laws to thwart such majorities and support liberty. Your average wonderful American can sometimes be a bit wacky and horrible.
When thinking of Trump’s support, consider this: More GOPers say President Barack Obama is a Muslim than say they would vote for Trump in a Republican primary.More coverageOpinion and analysis about the 2016 presidential campaign
According to a September CNN poll, 43 percent of Republican respondents believe Obama is Muslim. In comparison, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Trump is pulling 30 percent of GOP support nationally and about 26 percent in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
Now Obama — who shaves, drinks beer, dances, sneaks cigarettes (or at least used to), allows his daughters and wife to dress in a worldly fashion and worships Jesus Christ — isn’t Muslim. In fact, many of the people who say he is Muslim were also furious with him at one time for his Christianity because his preacher, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, didn’t love America enough. Fairness demands that if you’re going to hate Obama over religion, you pick a religion to hate him over.
The CNN poll found almost as many Republicans, 26 percent, say there is solid evidence or they suspect Obama was born in another country as say they would vote for Trump in a Republican primary. But Obama was not born in another country, as much as Trump tried to fan that flame.
So the endless routine of “experts” scratching their heads in wonder that so many Republicans think Trump would make a good president should stop, but it’s not about to end. That he would be a good president is not even the craziest untrue thing this particular group of GOPers believes.
Nor is believing nutty things exclusive to the GOP. There are a lot of Democrats who think the Bill of Rights doesn’t protect speech that hurts their feelings. There are Democrats who believe it should be legal to kill human fetuses, then use them for medical research, but it should be a felony to use rabbits for medical research that kills them. Nutty ain’t partisan.
Many people in America, on both sides of the political spectrum are, to use a technical term, are whack jobs. They hang out only with folks who are crazy in the same way they are, and they think people who aren’t crazy like them are just liars or dumbos.
There’s no point waiting for people to wake up from this idea that the Trumptacular one would be a great president. You don’t wake up from crazy.
Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.