How "Death of a Salesman" and Chris Matthews Explain Donald Trump's Enduring Support

By Jerry Kammer, October 5, 2016

In one of many wrenching scenes of "Death of a Salesman", the wife of Willy Loman pours out her own anguish as she demands respect for Willy's basic human dignity:

I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.

Playwright Arthur Miller's words came to mind as I read Chris Matthews's explanation of support for Donald Trump's enduring popularity, despite his many gaffes, indiscretions, and assorted flights into weirdness.

Said Matthews on MSNBC's "Morning Joe":

A lot of this support for Trump, with all his flaws which he displays regularly, is about the country — patriotic feelings people have, they feel like the country has been let down. Our elite leaders on issues like immigration, they don't regulate any immigration it seems. They don't regulate trade to our advantage, to the working man or working woman's advantage. They take us into stupid wars. Their kids don't fight but our kids do.

It's patriotic. They believe in their country. ... [There is a] deep sense that the country is being taken away and betrayed. I think that is so deep with people that they're looking at a guy who's flawed as hell like Trump and at least it's a way of saying I am really angry about the way the elite has treated my country. And it's so deep that it overwhelms all the bad stuff from Trump. It's that strong. It's a strong- force wind.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza cited Matthews in a fine piece of reporting. Cillizza elaborated on Trump's appeal to millions of Americans who feel abandoned by many of their countrymen, especially by the politicians who shape policy and the elites whose lobbying and editorializing shape politicians.