Some three years ago, before the madness truly began, Dave Eggers traveled to a Trump rally in Sacramento. It was August, months before the election upset, when the polls considered the race all but won. Eggers was expecting a mass of intolerant fervor. But the scene he encountered confounded him.
“What I found was a very diverse, reasonable, and kind of likable audience that looked like a Fourth of July parade,” the 49-year old writer recalls. Upon seeing and speaking with members of the crowd, he suspected that a Trump victory was entirely plausible.
Eggers has continued to attend and report on these rallies since Donald Trump became president, encountering a similar sight of surprising diversity and ostensible rationality at each gathering. Every time, the arc goes like this: first, Eggers enters “sputtering with rage” about Trump’s latest misdeeds. Then he talks to supporters and feels gradually heartened by their “invariably nuanced” responses to his prodding. “Everyone I’ve interviewed rolls their eyes at certain aspects of [Trump’s] behavior and policies,” he says. “They have reservations. They’re complicated thinkers just like everybody is.” In Alabama, for instance, church leaders spoke candidly with Eggers about separating their voter interests with their view of Trump as a human.
But then, upon returning home, comes the bewilderment: “I cycle back to — well how it could it be that reasonable people would accept this level of depravity and cruelty and just barely masked racist baiting and disrespect of the Constitution?”
He’s trying to make sense of this contradiction — or at least release his frustration with it — in his new novel, The Captain and the Glory: An Entertainment, which comes out November 19. Calling from Spain where he’s spending the fall, Eggers is chatty but placidly so, often speaking with long pauses, especially in moments when he’s searching for the sufficient verbiage to properly encapsulate his disdain for Trump and the consequences he has wrought. Aside from the rallies, Eggers has reported on families hiding from ICE in the basements of churches, including a Honduran abuse…