She might admit this sounds juvenile, but she felt Democrats deserved it. In her view, the American left had long denied being moralistic while acting relentlessly moralizing. Early in 2016, yard signs sprung up in her majority-Democratic neighborhood: “Hate Has No Home Here” and “In This House, We Believe No Human Is Illegal, Love Is Love, and Science Is Real.” They implied that, if you didn’t put up such a sign, you were a monster and your home was filled with hatred, or if you questioned whether paper straws made a serious difference to the environment you “didn’t believe in science.”
Democrats seemed to display an “extreme moral vehemence” matched with a vehement denial that they were intolerant. “I thought there were a lot of people going around saying things they didn’t really believe. They didn’t seem to feel any contradiction between their own conspicuous consumption and their leftism.” Her perception was that they frequently demanded apologies from conservatives, but “the apologies never did those people any good.” President Bill Clinton was a prime example of this double standard; he represented a party that insisted it — and only it — supported women’s empowerment while he preyed on a female intern.
Not long into the Trump presidency, though, my relative began to talk about what would happen if he were “driven out of office.” Other Trump-supporting friends used this phrasing, too, and I began to wonder if it was a sublimated yearning. It would accomplish two things: first, make Mr. Trump a martyr to leftist intolerance, and second, get him out of office.
Their perception of Mr. Trump — crude, immodest and uncontrolled — had always been far closer to the Democrats’ portrayal than Democrats seemed to understand; during his campaign, they found it funny when people bent over backward to prove he was vulgar. Trump fans knew that — it was the point. His crudeness drove Democrats crazy and, in these voters’ view, revealed their true colors, driving them into a moralistic frenzy over “norms” and “decency.”
Mr. Trump’s shtick became less satisfying when he was president. My relative found his demonizing of Baltimore appalling and confessed she’d had to stop looking at his tweets. “Reagan was very genteel,” another pro-Trump friend complained to me — very much unlike Mr. Trump.
But how do you admit you used your ballot — that sacred thing in a democracy — as a weapon to prod your adversaries?
Many Americans who oppose Trump have spent the past four years asking, “How could so many of my countrymen love this man so much?” The answer may be simpler than we expect: a lot of them don’t.