What could possibly be in the minds of Trump voters? Not only those who cast a ballot for him in 2016, but also those who have stayed by him since then, given that everything Democrats and many-if-not-most establishment Republicans knew would happen under such an obviously unqualified, tempestuous and malformed character has come to pass.
Broken promises, unrelenting self-aggrandizement, frayed international relations, bellicose nationalism, schoolyard taunting, tax cuts for the ruling class, disdain for the environment, chaos, vindictiveness and bullying as policy—all of this has indeed happened, and even been doubled down on through the president’s first 10 months in office.
Wondering how Trump voters continue to countenance all this has been the billion dollar question as our world careens and liberals try their best not to wake up every morning with yet another Trump hangover and visions of a future as an ex-pat piercing through the fog in their heads.
Jones makes an impassioned case that Trump voters can’t be summarily dismissed as mere racist, anti-immigrant yahoos. He also thinks it’s arrogant of liberals to generalize and thus dehumanize them in this way.
It is also the question that CNN commentator Van Jones, liberal and empathic to such a degree that he even demonstrates a certain bonhomie toward Trump voters, has been struggling with the past two years.
The fruits of that struggle are a recent book (”Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together”), and his forming of a web-based organization known as “The Love Army” (lovearmy.org).
Both the book and the organization have as their joint mission a return to civility, respect and the true listening that Jones sees as necessary to patch the deeply frayed social nets that are barely holding our country and culture together across an unforgiving political divide.
“I think we have invested too much confidence in the politics of outrage, accusation and confrontation.”
Jones riffed on that theme and much more in an hour-long presentation to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco a few weeks ago. He made a—typically, if you’ve seen or heard him on CNN—articulate and emotional case not, I should emphasize, for excusing Trump and his hard-core alt-right supporters who truly have no justification for their malignant views and behavior. Jones has mostly given up on that group, and for good reason. (Has there ever been a more odious political duo in American history than Trump and Steve Bannon?) (Well, maybe Trump and Michael Flynn…)
But absolutely critical in his view is that we listen seriously and respectfully to the millions of decent Americans, many of whom we undoubtedly know as friends, acquaintances and even family members, who unaccountably voted for Trump and remain as steadfast supporters. That support remains (at some 80 percent of Republican voters) even as many acknowledge they sometimes hold their noses and don’t, by a country mile, support everything he says and does.
Trump’s support from the white, high school-educated working class has been the subject of exhaustive review. This is where he found the 77,000-vote margin in three states—Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—that had gone for Obama, and which propelled Trump to the presidency despite getting thrashed by nearly 3 million votes in the unequally weighted Electoral College.
Jones makes an impassioned case that these voters can’t be summarily dismissed as mere racist, anti-immigrant yahoos. He also thinks it’s arrogant of liberals to generalize and thus dehumanize them in this way. It will also, he warns, almost surely result in another Trump victory three years hence if liberals don’t give a much closer listen to these voters’ concerns.
The payoff, he suggests, could be substantial, because just one of the paradoxes at work here is that disaffected, left-behind working class people replaced by robots or by jobs shifted to the third world are a far more natural constituency for Democratic ideals than they are for Republicans. But it is to the Democrats’ discredit that they have not argued a convincing case to these voters on that point.
In light of that Democratic Party failure, Trump’s working class support remains a powerful force. How could this be? What is inside their heads and guts fueling an obviously emotional decision for which they are flayed mercilessly across multiple media, both mass and social?
What is their beef, the energy that appears to fuel their resentments that are so carefully seized upon by Trump as supposed proof of his identification with suffering and forgotten Americans?
Jones suggests a sort of imaginative exercise, putting yourself in the heads of those who mostly acknowledge that sure, Trump can be mean and they really wish he’d get over his wake-the-dead Twitter attacks, but they would vote for him again anyway.
“Why and how could you?” we want to ask.
Let me see if I can help.
Many years ago, I was coaching the college freshman basketball team at my alma mater. Small school, small team, only nine players, so I couldn’t even hold a decent scrimmage without subjecting myself to being the 10th man, jostled and bumped much more than I bargained for in accepting the position.
Three of those nine players were African-American, and two of them were starters. The one who wasn’t—let’s call him James—was a guard, playing behind a fellow African-American and an accomplished white guard who was easily one of the two best players on the team.
He had played the race card, and, to anyone who examined the circumstance in even the dimmest light, he had done more than merely attempt to sully my own character.
Both starting guards showed up to practice every day, listened closely, worked hard on their game, and got better each week of the season. None of those things was true for James, who was clearly troubled, undisciplined, sorely lacking in fundamentals, missed practice repeatedly, and remained on the team for two reasons only: I really didn’t want to lose any more players, and I felt sorry, bleeding heart that I already was at that stage of my life, for him. I hoped that staying on the team would be beneficial for him in the long run.
That hope came to naught because James quit a few games into the season. I found out from another player; James didn’t bother to come tell me himself. I was disheartened, partly because I had bent over backwards trying to accommodate him, and now I wondered whether my relative laxity was ultimately in his best interests, not to mention the team’s.
A few weeks later, the head varsity coach sat me down in our office and let me know James had filed a formal grievance, alleging racial discrimination because he wasn’t starting. This was so outrageous I literally laughed before I felt very, very sorry for James, for his misbegotten self-assessment, and for his willingness to pin his own shortcomings on the handiest available scapegoat.
He had played the race card, and, to anyone who examined the circumstance in even the dimmest light, he had done more than merely attempt to sully my own character. He also made it harder for his African-American brothers and sisters to file and win legitimate grievances, because him going the grievance route had been so patently absurd as to potentially taint the process for anyone who had observed it.
James’s grievance came to nothing, because there was nothing behind it. While the incident informed me that truly anything could happen in this world and no good deed goes unpunished, I chalked it up to his difficult upbringing, and I hoped he would go on to overcome his challenges in life.
It also did nothing to change my steadily more impassioned liberal persuasions. I’d studied too much social science by then and had read too much African-American literature not to see what minorities had always been up against.
But: It could have changed me. Someone else of a different persuasion going in could easily have noted, “Yup, there goes the race card,” used it to exemplify the over-reach of discrimination grievances and lawsuits, because people will occasionally use such things to ill advantage, everyone being human and all. And then this person might be on guard and looking for that very thing in other such circumstances. Even, perhaps, legitimate ones.
This is the insidious power of a true incident that begets a false generalization—and everyone becomes the worse for it.
I’m guessing Trump voters might have encountered a situation or two like this over the years of their lives. Doesn’t necessarily take much more than that to jaundice one’s views.
A few years later, long story short, a department head at an early job of mine was far more bleeding heart than just about anyone I’d ever met, God love him. He insisted on hiring a black candidate for a job who was far less qualified than several more mature and credentialed candidates ahead of him—but who happened to be white.
I was on the interview committee, and though I didn’t fight his choice, I did have my concerns.
Pitiably enough, the person was a disaster and soon drummed himself right out of his job. (Pothead, sullen…)
Clearly, a kind of affirmative action had not worked to good effect in this instance—neither for the employee, those whom he was hired to serve, nor, again, to any black brothers and sisters who might follow in his tracks. They might well have had to labor under the shadow of his questionable elevation and subsequent failure in a process based not on merit but on the hoped-for achievement of some ultimate social good.
Do such occasionally dismal results mean giving extra consideration to a diverse workforce is a bad idea?
Not at all. Plenty of ostensibly “most-qualified” applicants of every race fail miserably as well, in every job.
Affirmative action has been a good thing for the culture, no doubt—our country is the richer and more just, in many ways, for the minorities who have been given extra opportunities where none existed before.
Only problem is it can be a bad thing for individuals—say, white students or job applicants with superior qualifications in a competitive situation—to lose out solely because of their color. For those particular flesh-and-blood individuals, affirmative action can appear to offer them up as sacrificial lambs to a process that, however noble the social cause it serves, was not about creating a just outcome for them.
I suspect that kind of thing is heavy on certain Trump voters’ minds, something similar to it perhaps having happened to them or to someone they know.
For my own part, I see and appreciate the value of race-based judgments in certain circumstances, and I maintain a philosophical, “That’s the way it goes sometimes, life is unfair” stance at the thought of it perhaps having happened to me.
But do I understand why it might appear to be outrageous or, at the very least, unfair to those who insist that equal opportunity must mean exactly that, to everyone all the time, no matter their color? Absolutely.
Does that make them a bad person or a racist? I’m with Van Jones here in suggesting that we not disrespect legitimate, if different, philosophical positions that emphasize a different aspect of the imperfect solution in an imperfect world that affirmative action represents. And not making those who hold it to be pariahs unworthy of our engagement.
And just to emphasize: Trump voters’ motivations go far beyond their take on African-Americans unfairly playing the race card or any individual citing a failed affirmative action.
We’ve heard almost ad nauseum about the disappearing Rust Belt jobs and the decline of the white working class. Trump’s craven and malicious appeal to racism in fostering images of immigrant waves stealing American jobs is unforgivable, but the reality is this: neither Democrats nor establishment Republicans have solved the working class’s problems. All that many dispossessed workers know is that their own circumstance is wretched: wages compressing or jobs gone altogether, many of them reduced to service jobs at a fraction of their former salaries. Or no job at all, ever, as they spiral down with their opioids.
So, they take a flyer on this mogul who promises to burn the whole house down. What have they got to lose?
Plenty more, as I think they will see when the rich get nothing but richer under Trump’s rule, public schools are ravaged, and the environment goes to hell, among other travesties still to come.
Finally, a nod to the “social values” voters. However contradictory their support for the amoral and irreligious Trump may appear to be, they nevertheless have plentiful rationale for concern about where the culture has been led by forces of secularism, permissiveness, and the increasingly brazen sexuality pictured by the Hollywood entertainment complex.
Got five minutes to behold an example? Then see this piece of “mass entertainment” offered up by the NFL on Thanksgiving Day in the form of a singer named Jason Derulo, holding forth at halftime of the Detroit-Minnesota game.
If you didn’t have those five minutes, let me just say that the trio of songs he squeezed into his halftime slot — “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Love Like That” and “Want to Want Me” seemed an odd and uneasy fit for a holiday in which family, gratitude and gracefulness are the prevailing themes. Untold millions of viewers have children they wouldn’t, if the parents are anything this side of brain-dead, let anywhere near lyrics such as the following:
Been around the world, don’t speak the language
But your booty don’t need explaining
All I really need to understand is when, you talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me, talk dirty to me, talk dirty to me
Get jazzy on me
I’m making love to his girl, but he’s still my nigga
No we can’t control ourselves when we on that liquor
Can’t let the homie in this house
‘Cause I’m in love with his girl
Nah we ain’t supposed to fuck like that
We ain’t supposed to touch like that
Damn it’s too much, too much, might crack
Pressure burst pipes, baby I’ma burst back
So: just why is this music deemed suitable for daytime national television on a holiday? I would venture to say the answer lies in the most basic advertising maxim in the world: sex sells. Getting eyeballs to the screen is the goal, and it is well-orchestrated by music industry taste-makers who know a thing or two about human nature: how sex can be an unwieldy beast of endless fascination, allure and danger.
That “danger” is particularly severe when the id is allowed to run rampant in youth without countervailing voices of restraint and respect.
Many Trump voters are among those terrified by these trends, their children saturated with images of wanton sex and violence that are everywhere in modern media. Neither liberals, with their default setting on “freedom,” nor establishment conservatives with their finger-wagging emphasis on “morals,” have been able to stem these forces that have undeniably led to a coarsening and hyper-sexualization of American culture in recent decades.
So is it all that much of a wonder that Trump’s “values-based” voters have called a pox on both parties’ houses and thrown in their lot with a “Disrupter-in-Chief” who promises to burn all those houses down?
“Blow it all up!” these unlikely anarchists proclaim. Might we understand some part of the emotion that fuels such incendiary desires?
And assuming at least some measure of understanding, what do we propose to do about it moving forward?
A different quality of five minutes…
Deep appreciation to the photographers! Unless otherwise stated, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing.
Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at the top of this page. See more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/
Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: email@example.com
Van Jones photo near top of page by Gage Skidmore, Phoenix, Arizona, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/
Trump voters photo by kellybdc, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/130808023@N03/
Integrated schoolroom, 1950s, from historical archives
“Trump voters can’t be summarily dismissed as mere racist, anti-immigrant yahoos. ” Okay, no they cannot. But, they CAN be summarily dismissed as having a bad take on the man, summarily dismissed as poor judge of his character as shown through Access Hollywood, dodgy real estate deals, cheating vendors, accusations of abuse, inability to articulate, etc. Summarily dismissed as unable to tell that someone is telling them lies and making promises that CANNOT be kept. Well. I’m not expressing this well. So, what if those same people believed that a car salesman is selling them a car that goes 3 thousand miles on a tank of gas, they can get a brand new roof on their home for $400, they find out that a visitor to their home makes a lewd remark/gesture to their wife/daughter but then dismiss the act?
Ahhh no.! Those people would make a judgement and act on the judgement! But, this type of person should be in the White House?
In other words, take those same Trump traits and apply them to their own lives as traits of other individuals with which they interact, how/ what would they think of those individuals? So, Trump voters are not all racist or anti-immigrant whatever, therefore, they cannot be “summarily dismissed:” I’ve heard Van Jones (and others) say those words. BS! Those voters can be summarily dismissed! Furthermore, even though that sentiment has been expressed, I REALLY do not think VJ (or others) feel that way. He’s making nice, not wanting Trump voters to think that he and others (like me) believe that only ignorant, unthinking, non-critical, illogically sound, bigots, uneducated, easily swayed people put Trump in the White House. Oh, right Jared Kushner is in charge of Middle East peace. Ahh jeez . . .
Too exasperated that Van Jones et. al. won’t say what many many of us know. Just say it! That is that the US really made a bad, bad decision!
Hi Marion, I do so wish you would stop holding yourself back in such lukewarm fashion on this matter! :-)
I think Jones is indeed trying to “make nice,” but only because, in his estimation, he hasn’t seen much progress or any minds changed or any of the mutual opposition’s words heard by everyone being on the warpath. Intellectual as he is, he’s also a big softie with a heart of mush. So making nice and digging a little deeper into the Trumpie mindset is for him a strategy, I think, trying to grope toward some speck of common ground, some way of engagement beyond shouting.
Will it work? I think that deep down Jones himself has big doubts. He’s ranted way more than a time or two about Trumpism himself. I just think he sees it as the only possible way forward at the moment. And again, it’s useful to remember he’s not talking about making nice with neo-Nazis. The puzzling constituency and conundrum for him are those who flipped from Obama and put Trump over the top. How is that possible? And how can we dismiss them as racists when they voted for a black man four and eight years earlier? And by engaging them, as Jones himself did during the campaign, what clues might we glean about understanding their decision, dumbfounded as it leaves us?
Is all that too idealistic by half? Very likely! But he’s way out there on a limb trying to make a difference by pursuing a different path, and in lieu of much else on the horizon right now save for all of us ranting daily into an echo chamber (most of mine occurs in the morning; how about you?), I at the very least respect his effort and the obvious deep thinking he has done to come to this point.
Wow, Drew, thoughtful stuff here. A few thoughts:
1) “Only problem is it can be a bad thing for individuals—say, white students or job applicants with superior qualifications in a competitive situation—to lose out solely because of their color. For those particular flesh-and-blood individuals, affirmative action can appear to offer them up as sacrificial lambs to a process that, however noble the social cause it serves, was not about creating a just outcome for them.”
I’d say I kind of agree, with the “kind of” being the following: for pretty much the entirety of US history, certainly including the present, you can replace the “white students” above with “black students” (or “latin students” or any other minority appellation), and be describing the life experience of literally millions of people. i.e. while it does suck to lose out on a job, or school admission, or whatever, because of your race (whatever “race” means), I’d wager that close to 99% of those instances have happened _to_ people of color, not on behalf of them.
Obviously we all know this, but I still think it’s worth keeping in mind, and repeating. The difference is that all this ethnic bias – the kind that has both officially and unofficially favored white people for decades, centuries, millennia, whatever, – has also been mostly invisible to white people, because it’s seemed so normal for so long.
So while I have mild sympathy for those white people who have been passed over for jobs, admissions, etc., because of racial preferences, that sympathy remains mild, because the experience of being passed over in this way is still – inarguably, I think – overwhelmingly faced far more by minorities. The difference is that it often stings more acutely when it hits white people, since we’ve largely been taught that we deserve so much more from life. As a white man (straight, able-bodied, etc.) I can’t say if the first slap hurts more than the hundredth, but I can certainly imagine it seeming more shocking.
(Again, this isn’t pitched against your analysis above; it’s more of an addendum to it.)
2) Re: the idea that Trump was elected primarily because of _economic_ concerns (held by disenfranchised white people), I think that’s starting to come under some fire, here most recently: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/11/the-nationalists-delusion/546356/.
That article mostly recapitulates (thoughtfully and carefully) the arguments of Ta-Nehisi Coates here, which I’d still likely pose as the best editorial piece I’ve read this year … https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/the-first-white-president-ta-nehisi-coates/537909/.
(Again, I’m not arguing against anything you say above; I just like the discussion you’re inaugurating!)
3) Although I’d agree that it’s maybe not appropriate for children, I actually find the lyric “But your booty don’t need explaining” pretty clever!
There’s certainly an argument to be made about the way it fits the scenario in which music about dancing, even sex (or even poetry about those things), needs to use words to gesture towards an experience that’s essentially non-linguistic. Or about how sexual attraction crosses cultural boundaries, etc etc.
Ok, thanks for letting me indulge myself here…
I get and appreciate your “kind of” caveat about history before affirmative action, Ben, and couldn’t agree more. There are always winners and losers in any selection system, and the game has been rigged on behalf of whites winning since just about forever. I just think it’s still important not to forget there are particular, living & breathing individuals who lose out in race-based formulas, and however good that is for the collective, it may leave them feeling cheated as individuals and inform their voting sensibilities accordingly.
And while I believe in the societal good and continuing need for affirmative action, there are black intellectuals, among others, who make a case that it ultimately hurts minorities and is unfair on its face. I don’t see it the same way, but their arguments are worth grappling with, I think.
I also think that lyric you cite ain’t half bad! It’s just the rest of it that would have had me scurrying to chase my kid out of the room if she weren’t all growed up already! It’s also the placement of the show at halftime of a Turkey Day game that seemed impossibly lame. Interestingly, there was a hilarious Twitter thread about the performance, in which people far younger & hipper than I derided the whole affair; you can Google it easily enough and get your day’s worth of guffaws.
Thanks for your thoughtful take on this; always good to hear from you. I think I saw that Coates piece in the Atlantic but will, of course, need to refresh myself!
A tour de force, Andrew! Your ability to respectfully empathize with those who still support a madman and a con man is truly Christ-like, and your skill in writing about it is outstanding. I especially loved the line – “This is the insidious power of a true incident that begets a false generalization”. One thing you didn’t touch upon that is an important part of the current tragedy of American politics is that it no longer requires first person experience with a “true incident” to trigger false generalizations. Thanks to the relentless propaganda machine of Fox News and talk radio, millions are fed a steady diet of outrage over real or exaggerated “incidents”, and the power of social media multiplies the effect of stories like an undocumented immigrant committing a brutal crime. This is the case of my deluded sister, a white woman who is not part of the desperate Rust Belt working class but rather a highly educated idiot who lives in a gated community but has been convinced that Our Dear Leader (I refuse to use his name as I choose the preferred appellation of Kim Jong Un) has come to save America from the invading hordes of immigrants and restore the republic envisioned by our Founding Fathers. For the laid off coal miner in Ohio and West Virginia, I get it. I believe the left/Democratic Party has concentrated too much on “identity politics” and too little on the very real economic issues affecting millions of displaced Americans. I’d be curious to see how many articles in the New York Times or stories on NPR are about the plight of transgender Americans vs. the plight of people in “flyover country” who are unemployed and frightened for their futures. Where have you gone, Bobby Kennedy? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you!
Thank you, David. I think we all have our Christ-like moments—it’s just all the OTHER moments that continue to be so vexing! :-)
Great point on propaganda mitigating the need for any personal experience or observation at all. I keep meaning to go back and read Orwell again, who seems more relevant than ever.
Sorry about your sister! And sorry there doesn’t seem to be any Bobby Kennedy looming anywhere close on the horizon. Onwards!
I dunno, Andrew, I have friends who voted for Trump, who have been struggling economically for the whole recession, and beyond – and I think they have the sense that, as your friend David said, “The difference is that it often stings more acutely when it hits white people, since we’ve largely been taught that we deserve so much more from life.” My friendly white friends could have seen others struggling for longer, deeper, for centuries – if they had cared to look. But they didn’t care. They care now because it is happening to them – to *white* people. Stop the presses! The assumption that it should be easier is baked in, since jump.
And I am supposed to try harder to understand them? I DO understand them – I just don’t agree with them. At ALL. They want a scapegoat, and the Predator-in-Chief has given them that (funnily enough it is the same old scapegoat….but now people have *permission* for their racist, anti-immigrant instincts.) I agreed to try and understand, I spoke with my friends before, during and after the election. They don’t want to hear one word that requires them to actually listen, consider facts, question themselves. I spend, we spend, time doing that. But it isn’t just up to us.
I understand why people prefer to be lazy in their thinking, and selfish in their actions. What’s not to understand? It has been a lifelong struggle for me to understand selfish, racist people; I think it has been my unwillingness to accept this aspect of human nature that has been the struggle. I do not reduce my trumpist friends to a stereotype – I try to bridge the gap a lot and sometimes it can happen. But I *still* don’t think that’s where the work is.
I think the work is, we in the US need to really come to terms with how this country was founded, on the backs and necks and souls of captured abducted Africans, on the land and hearts of Indigenous people, by the fruits of immigrants from the start until today. Until this happens, we white people will remain blind to the actual reality of the current situation – and will seek, as a group, an easier answer than the one needed: to grapple with the history of crime, murder, rape, exploitation that our lives rest on. Things will remain unstable until then, and false or superficial solutions (scapegoating in its current form of incarceration, arrest and murder by the state, and yes also affirmative action) wil never be able to get to the heart of the matter.
You are brave to open this up, and I appreciate what you are getting at here. I can do it – twist myself three different ways and, if I squint! – figure out why people voted for 45. But I can’t even muster the will to justify it, let alone sympathize. Power and privilege need to be redistributed, and no one will feel happy about it who is on the “letting go” side. Still, it has to happen.
Whew, fun to rant! I am not going to edit this so that it goes down better – I’ll just be messy and enjoy the room you have offered.
There’s lots to chew on here, Jeanette, thanks very much for putting some serious thought into it.
I want to say that I was mostly trying to channel Van Jones here, give him his due as the diligent, idealistic and “faithful” person and thinker he is. It’s a difficult task he’s set for himself, no doubt, but he gets credit, I think, for the effort. Though I do share much of his orientation toward emphasizing the basic goodness and commonality of human beings, I don’t think I’m as optimistic about engaging Trump voters as he is. Just today, I got an email from an intelligent, college-educated person excoriating me for “preaching hate” in this post. Kind of breathtaking, really. Interpreting what I wrote in that way makes me despair that there is any purpose at all in dialoguing. (Though I wrote back anyway, mostly along the theme of “Wha???”)
Just one problem is that Trump is so fundamentally different than anything we’ve ever seen before that all the old protocols regulating political discourse have gone out the window, with the country in an uproar and chaos reigning supreme. In other words, Trump has been smashingly successful in upending the old order, just as he and Bannon promised to do. No doubt on that score.
I think you’re spot-on about America’s “original sin” being at the root of so much continuing conflict and suffering. It is so at odds with the myth we like to tell ourselves about our shining city on a hill, the first, last and best hope for human freedom, etc. that it results in a kind of schizophrenia. Conservatives get defensive and insist on thinking America is uniquely benevolent and can do no wrong, while liberals get hypercritical and think America is uniquely deluded and can barely get anything right. So we flip back and forth with whichever of those double personalities is in ascendance at any given time.
Conservatives resist facing head-on the continuing virulent legacy of our racist past, and liberals forget that we invented neither racism nor slavery, both of those and many other abhorrent phenomena having a long, historical and universal pedigree. In the end, we’re more like most other countries than not, comprised of flawed and still tribal humans struggling to build a better society and encountering all manner of difficulty in the attempt. So it goes…
And now that I have generalized about conservatives and liberals above let me also say I am wary of making any blanket statements or drawing too many conclusions about any group, be it Trump voters, Bernistas or whatever. My concern remains more with individuals, whose complexities and contradictions (see above!) tend to get swallowed up in blanket group appraisals.
I’ve been on the receiving end myself of such strange and inflexible assumptions about what “liberals” are like that I barely recognize myself in them, and I suspect conservatives experience the same thing. While I think Trump is undeniably racist and sexist, it doesn’t follow that everyone who voted for him is the same. (Though the truly sick among them proudly admit to it.) People make all manner of deals with the devil in that voting booth, so ascribing particular qualities to them because of their vote fails to honor the amalgam of factors that may have led to their decision.
Does it still strike me as incomprehensible that someone voted for Trump and then continues to support him in the wake of all that has occurred since? Yes. But that is still different than trying to understand their motivations for doing so. And I depart from you in assessing those motivations, because I think they’re more complex and multi-faceted than you allow.
Not to say you’re not right about a lot of Trump voters being lazy and wanting a scapegoat for their woes, but if I’m honest, I know a lot of liberal voters who are intellectually lazy and hold ill-informed opinions they take into the voting booth with them. Democracy is hard!— and orientations are often set in stone. But without some degree of openness, we’ll get nowhere in either bridging the divide nor in devising, for our own anti-Trump purposes, effective strategies so we don’t see him elected yet again.
Whew! Thanks again, Jeanette!
You are good, and patient, Andrew, and I appreciate your response. We do differ in some ways – I think anyone who voted for an openly racist, sexist p*g is also inclined in that direction. But I also do not reduce everyone to *that* part of themselves, certainly – although sometimes I *do,* to be honest. And I appreciate being called out for doing/feeling that. I agree a kind of laziness resides in that reduction, as well.
This part of your comments challenged me as well: “Conservatives resist facing head-on the continuing virulent legacy of our racist past, and liberals forget that we invented neither racism nor slavery, both of those and many other abhorrent phenomena having a long, historical and universal pedigree. In the end, we’re more like most other countries than not, comprised of flawed and still tribal humans struggling to build a better society and encountering all manner of difficulty in the attempt. So it goes…” I really do fall into that mode of thinking we invented all that evil here.
The very first display panel in the ‘history of slavery” part of the new Smithsonian Museum of AA History and Culture (a substantial and excellent place, if you have not been there yet) – the first display case on the bottom floor (the start of a time line) talked about which European countries were involved in the slave trade and which involved the New World in its horrid and criminal bloodtrade. I stood there and allowed myself to feel the surprise I felt. I “knew” that but hadn’t ever really *felt* that particular part of history. It caught me up short and I had to recognize how US-centric my own history is, regarding slavery.
Thank you for keeping me on the learning path, Andrew, and for joining me/us on it.