The Working Waterfront

One veteran’s bewilderment

A struggle to understand support for someone for someone who insults

Phil Crossman
Posted 2020-10-04
Last Modified 2020-10-04

As a veteran, I have never gotten over the fact that, in spite of his having made such crass and appalling statements as calling John McCain a loser for having been captured and in spite of having implied many times before and during the 2016 campaign that those of us who served were a little less worthy than folks like him, a cheat who demonstrably and repeatedly swindled his own country and many of its citizens of what was rightfully ours or theirs, he won election with over 60 percent of the military or military veteran vote.

Now, as his palpable contempt for the tens of thousands of those in the military under his command becomes increasingly apparent and impossible for him to convincingly deny, his support among those necessarily obedient individuals is only barely ebbing away. I’m completely baffled.

On the other hand, I’ve been baffled for years—wait, wait, let me explain—ever since the day after Sen. Mitch McConnell said that, as Republicans, we had nothing to do that was more important than denying Obama a second term.

When he said that I knew perfectly well that by the following morning we would learn he’d lost his position as majority leader, perhaps even his seat. When it was revealed to be completely otherwise, that his subservient party members were precisely that, subservient, above all else, I experienced my first bout of real bewilderment.

I wanted to scream, “Wait a minute, how about our interminable war, what about our failure to provide adequate and affordable health care, what about the opioid crisis, the mounting evidence of similarly mounting efforts to deny certain citizens the right to vote, what will we do about the staggering economy, crumbling infrastructure and the ever increasing and dangerous wealth disparity? Does he really mean all we have to concern ourselves with is making sure Obama isn’t re-elected?”

Obama was a black man (or nearly so). Was that just coincidental to wanting to deny him a second term above all else? As I said, I was baffled—I’d never experienced such incredulity. But then the campaign and one horrifying affront after another got underway and my bewilderment became inescapably companionable.

The temptation to jump to conclusions I felt were obvious, like the one about McConnell’s demise, diminished until I find myself where I am today—in a constant state of sobering, dispiriting and, too often, consuming astonishment.

Why, when he mimicked a handicapped reporter, was there any but the shallowest support left? How could it be that the next day there was no measurable difference in enthusiasm among his supporters? I don’t understand and I didn’t then why his campaign failed to derail.

As the campaign continued, he repeatedly suggested and increasingly encouraged, that opposition demonstrators be dragged out of his rallies and that they be roughed up in the process. Certainly, those of us who value above nearly all else, the freedom to express ourselves without fear would be sent round the bend by this behavior and direct their support to a reasonable and electable candidate. Apparently not.

A few months later, on a day I found myself relieved that my mother and father were no longer among the living, it was revealed that his appreciation for what women had to offer was not qualitative but quantitative—by the handful as it happens. And then, as if sustaining my confusion was more important than anything else, and in spite of such an affront, more white women voted for him than voted against him.

What am I and others missing? Clearly something.

Phil Crossman lives on Vinalhaven.