In the fall of 2016 I took a three-week cross country road trip where I had the opportunity to meet and speak with folks all across the country. Because of the nature of my job at the time, the subject of politics, and specifically the 2016 presidential race, came up a lot.
I was amazed at the disjoint between the almost uniformly negative view of then candidate Trump in the media and the diametrically opposite view among a surprisingly large segment of the general public. It was as if major newspapers and cable TV news were completely out of touch with mainstream America.
Say it ain’t so.
About three weeks before the election I started to think, based on my own survey of middle America, that a Trump victory was not as improbable as it was being portrayed throughout most of the media. Hardly anyone I spoke with was crazy about a Trump Presidency — but they absolutely loathed the idea of Hillary Clinton in the White House.
When the results were in and Trump was indeed our 45th president I was surprised but far from shocked. You could kind of see it coming if you were looking in the right places.
I’m starting to get that same tingle again.
Last year the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in Martin vs. City of Boise that struck down an ordinance against living on the streets in Boise, Idaho. In doing so the 9th Circuit became the only court in America to conclude that preventing homeless persons from living on streets and other public spaces violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.”
If you want to know why I think that Trump may well win again in 2020 you have to look no further than this. It’s not the only reason, but it explains a lot.
I do not think that the vast majority of citizens in our country imagine that the taxes they pay for parks, city streets and other public spaces should go toward maintaining those spaces for the homeless instead of commerce and recreation.
No one should feel bad about that either. Right now the jobless rate is hovering in the low single digits. Virtually anyone can get a job. That means that if you are sleeping in a park you probably should get your butt off the park bench and into housing paid for with a job that you hold.
The only segments of the homeless population that I have sympathy for are those with mental health issues, children and homeless veterans. We need to help all three of these.
We should up our game significantly when it comes to caring for those with mental health problems. It’s not only good economics, since proactive mental health care is cheaper than dealing with those afflicted with mental health issues once they become a public nuisance, but it’s a moral imperative. At least as far as I’m concerned.
We already have shelters and other programs and institutions in place designed to take care of homeless families. Most of these work, albeit imperfectly. But we are on the right path.
The surfeit of homeless veterans constitutes a national tragedy. The biggest reason that I am not for having the federal government in charge of any single-provider health care system is because of the example set by the Veterans Administration. The government can’t even competently take care of those who’ve served our country. When I think of government run health care I think of the VA, but without “60 Minutes” running the occasional exposé.
As for the rest of the homeless, only a fool would fail to recognize that a significant portion of this population have made many, many questionable adult choices that put them where they are.
It’s not my job or yours to subsidize chronically poor life choices. And I damned well don’t want the tax dollars that I pay to be able to take my family to a nice park to instead support drug users and homeless individuals who have taken over public spaces in many large cities.
Now back to Trump. Most Trump supporters have few illusions about him as an individual. Most Trump voters know that he’s a serial liar, a cheat and a thoroughly disreputable human being. They don’t support him because they love him, they support him because they perceive that he’s against stuff like cities overrun by panhandlers.
The reason that a lot of folks voted for Trump in 2016, and I believe will probably do so again, is that though they acknowledge he’s further along the sleaze continuum than run-of-the-mill politicians, he’ll appoint federal judges who will, among other things, rule that keeping public spaces free of derelicts does not violate the Eighth Amendment.
I’m not, I assure you, necessarily defending this point of view. But I do understand it. I even agree with it up to a point.
Unless the Democrats can rid themselves of candidates who insist that the self-made dregs of society are where they are for any reason other than their own doing (and even think that positive mental energy can steer hurricanes) I’m betting that Trump may surprise everyone again in 2020.
Associated Press and Idaho Press Club award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, consultant and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time happily raising children, llama farming, riding mountain bikes and motorcycles.