Stephen K. Bannon, former senior strategist for President Trump, in Alabama on Monday to tout Roy Moore’s Senate candidacy hollered at the crowd: “Mitch McConnell and this permanent political class is the most corrupt and incompetent group of individuals in this country. They think you’re a pack of morons. They think you’re nothing but rubes.” Actually, it has been Breitbart News and the rest of the alt-right that’s convinced that Americans are so dense, ignorant and racist they’d buy birtherism, support a wall to keep out sacks of drugs and think immigrants need to be deported en masse. In fact, poll after poll confirms the large majority of Americans doesn’t buy any of that stuff.

The alt-right has from the get-go infantilized its base, treating them as victims who can be convinced that mysterious forces are responsible for their plight and that Trump “alone” can solve their problems. They’ve sold non-facts and stirred visceral anger rather than make reasoned arguments for their views. Trump and ilk have always played to the worst instincts, the lowest common denominator among Americans. Maybe they’ve misjudged the country. Con men — the sort that peddle “Trump U” to desperate people — never imagine they will be found out.

Trump’s latest gambit, namely waging war on the NFL for allowing its players to exercise their free-speech rights, turns out not to have been a real winner with the public. If the scam is to distract from his failures with culture wars and sow division, he has not succeeded.

A majority of Americans disagree with President Donald Trump’s assertion that football players should be fired for kneeling during the national anthem, even though most say they would personally stand during the song, according to an exclusive Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.
The Sept. 25-26 poll found that 57 percent of adults do not think the National Football League should fire players who kneel. This included 61 percent of NFL fans who watch at least a few games per season.

As you drill down, Americans express rather sensible and nuanced views. An overwhelming majority stand in silence and/or put their hand over their hearts for the national anthem. However:

While 58 percent of adults said that “professional athletes should be required to stand during the national anthem at sporting events,” there is rising support for those athletes who do not.
In the latest poll, 40 percent of Americans said that they support the stance that some pro football players have made to not stand during the anthem. That is up from 28 percent who answered the same way in a similar Reuters/Ipsos poll last year.
In addition, 53 percent of Americans do not think it is appropriate for the president to comment on “how the NFL and its players conduct themselves during the national anthem.”

Unlike what Trump says, what they do does not mean they want others who behave differently to be fired. They are tolerant of others’ expressed beliefs, even when they do not claim them as their own nor adopt the same method of communication.

Moreover, 67 percent understand that the athletes starting kneeling to protest police violence against African Americans. (Apparently Trump thinks they can be convinced into thinking this is an act of disrespect for the flag.) In other words, the athletes did convey their message. Only Trump seems to have reacted with a temper tantrum.

Hillary Clinton may have played into Bannon’s phony narrative during the campaign with her “deplorables” remark. The smarter move may be to give Americans more credit for being thinking, empathetic and tolerant individuals. The majority of them embody those qualities, after all, which is why the alt-right and the neo-Nazis represent a tiny sliver of the country. (It’s Trump’s effort to normalize them that is so disturbing.)

Hey, what if politicians started acknowledging that voters can spot racists and phonies, deserve cogent argument about the issues, and still retain public virtues like empathy, restraint and self-discipline? Let Trump treat them like a mob foaming at the mouth; the rest of the body polity might try appealing to the better angels of our nature. That would surely be a novel approach these days — and one that might actually work as Trump and Breitbart’s act wears thin.