My new readers here at the Herald tell me they're not surprised I think Trump stinks. What New Zealanders wrote is that they don't understand is why about 40 per cent of Americans support him.
So permit me to introduce my nephew Kevin, a detective in a big city American police department. A hero cop commended for stopping a murder in progress. And an ardent Trump supporter.
Out of 19 in our Christmas family - kin who would gather if Covid allowed a big holiday dinner here this year - 15 are for Biden and 4 are for Trump, including Kevin. We're a mixture of New York ethnics, with a lot of Irish, but with a few genuine old stock cowboy Texans too.
Our holiday dinner Trump support is actually down 20 per cent from five for Trump in 2016. My stepmother Joyce has had enough of his crazy tweets and incompetent, mask-free Covid response. "Trump getting sick with Covid himself was the very last straw for me," she said. So she's now voting for Joe Biden. That's a trend among seniors well documented in our polls.
Not Kevin. He's only 38 and he's still riding the Trump train.
Even though during the height of the Covid outbreak in his city, Kevin was tasked with visiting the Covid dead in a hazmat suit. His job, as a detective, was to make sure they had actually died of Covid and not a stab wound from a spouse. Then he had to help remove the bodies. It was a lot of bodies. He does not believe Covid is a hoax. But he still plans to vote for Trump.
"Why am I voting for Trump?" he explains. "The most obvious answer is because he's a Republican. I, in all likelihood, would vote for whomever the Republican Party nominated as president. I cannot envision myself ever voting for a Democrat just as I'm sure there are many Labour and National Party voters in New Zealand who cannot envision themselves crossing the aisle to vote for an opposing party."
Trump's best achievement? "Domestically until the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic the American economy was a historic success: four million new jobs created, of which 400,000 were in manufacturing alone, resulting in 3.9 million Americans being able to get off of government food stamps."
But, I protest, under Trump 225,000 of us have been allowed to die needlessly from Covid. You saw them. Up close! There are just 25 dead in New Zealand. You've probably seen 25 Covid dead yourself.
Nope. Kevin is sure Biden would have done even worse. He points to early Covid stumbles by Democratic mayors and governors. Corruption? He believes Trump's impeachment for extorting Biden dirt from Ukraine was no big deal. He thinks the Mueller report's conclusion that Trump obstructed justice is wrong. He says the Russian involvement was never proved. Trump's fondness for dictators like Putin and Kim doesn't bother him. He thinks Obama was too fond of the Iranian mullahs.
He thinks Trump's refusal to say he will honour the outcome of the election isn't meant seriously. Trump's famous call to an armed right-wing American militia to "stand back and stand by"? Kevin doesn't like armed militias, or the idea cops might have to battle with them. But he thinks Trump really meant to say "stand down" not "stand by". He agrees the wacky Q-Anon online conspiracy gossip is bunk, but he worries about the left-wing Antifa, which liberals like me think is more ideology than organisation.
Now, as you might guess, I believe Kevin is dismissing Trump's worst antics. And he's ignoring Trump's disturbing behaviour similarities to the leaders of modern neo-fascist "illiberal democracies" like Hungary or even Russia.
But I can't dismiss my nephew as a low information victim of Rupert Murdoch's pervasive Fox News right-wing alternate universe here. Yes, he watches Fox. But he's pretty much the opposite of low information (which might be expected in a detective). He knows his history and basic political facts quite well.
So what's going on? I think it's simple.
Why can't my smart and decent nephew see that Trump is an authoritarian? Because in any population, a lot of us don't really mind authoritarian types like Trump. Those folks may not be authoritarians themselves, they might not like the authoritarian label, they might prefer "populist". But they don't object per se to a leader most of us find scary strong.
I suspect populist tough guys like Trump and genuine tyrants all tend to get 30 to 40 per cent approval in most cultures. It's a fairly constant constant. Hitler's best showing in a free election was about 37 per cent, both in his race for German president against von Hindenburg in the spring of 1932 and in the Nazi party showing for Reichstag seats later that fall. Mussolini's fascists had way less than that in the early 1920s -- less than 1 per cent - before he joined with the Italian conservatives and strong armed King Victor Emmanuel into appointing him PM. Erdogan, Putin and Maduro are assumed to have similar minority bases of support, now magnified into false majorities through all the various techniques of voter suppression, mandate magnification and press control.
So a typical country under authoritarian attack might well see that a third of the country backs the goon, a third despises him and a third would prefer to talk about food or sports.
Sad but true: across time and cultures, about a third of us seem to like authoritarians. Including, we now know, Americans we love.
• Dick Brass was vice-president of Microsoft and Oracle for almost two decades. Before that, his firm Dictronics developed the first modern dictionary-based spellcheck. He was also an editor at The Daily News in New York, where his frequent and terrible spelling errors led him to help create spellcheck software