This is what we hear when we listen.
We hear a Michigan landscaper call Donald Trump “crazy as in crass,” and consider it a compliment. “I’m not sure he has the temperament to be president, but I like how he’s messing with your minds in Washington. Crazy like a crash-test dummy.”
They were dying to be heard—that man and many others who explained to me in the summer of 2015 why they might vote for a billionaire bully who had nothing in common with them, who was more bigoted and less informed than they would prefer their president to be, but who channeled their economic and social anxieties, their distrust of elites, and their disconnection with the political system. From Detroit, where my family lives, to northern Michigan, where my family vacations, I heard Republicans, independents, and even Democrats begin sentences this way: "Donald Trump is crazy, but..."
"Crazy, but he's a winner, and I'm tired of America losing."
"Crazy, but he can't be worse than what we got."
"Crazy, but he's punishing the establishment."
"Crazy, but he's driving the media nuts."
"Crazy, but he says what I can't say."
When we listen, when we keep our minds and hearts open, we hear the pain in a neighbor’s voice when he describes the devil’s choice he faces on Election Day. “I just can’t trust her,” a retired factory worker told me this summer. “I just don’t like her.”