Donald Trump is an unrepentant liar with disturbing attitudes regarding gender, class and race… this doesn’t mean everyone who voted for him is as well. Certainly, plenty of racists and bigots voted for Trump but this isn’t about them.
This is about Trump voters who might be convinced to support inclusive, progressive policies in the future.
…but who won’t if people keep calling them racists, sexists, fascists or Nazis.
Would you listen to or be swayed by a person or group calling you any of those things?
However, labeling Trump voters racists or bigots is like eating too much sugar – it may feel good in the moment, but it will cause untold damage in the long-run.
A better approach is to lead with our values! Point out Trump’s lies and hypocrisy, but stay positive and offer an alternative vision without judgment or contempt for those who disagree. Ask open-ended questions to get people thinking about their own values.
~ If your child was caught repeatedly lying, would you punish or reward him? Shouldn’t we hold our President to the same standard?
~ Isn’t clean drinking water at least as important as cheap energy? Is protecting oil & coal industry profits worth the air pollution and the risk pipelines pose to our national waterways?
~ Are we really okay with the same Wall St. firms who crashed our economy in 2008 coming in to our cities, buying up foreclosed houses and then running up rents on the very people they displaced?
…and so on.
Don’t argue if people get defensive – cognitive dissonance is a tough nut to crack. Simply repeat the question and walk away. It’s like scattering seeds; most won’t germinate, but as the consequences of Trump’s policies unfold over the subsequent months and years, more and more might.
…especially since it’s not true.
All this labeling does is create a false equivalency between progressives and the Democratic establishment; the same establishment these people abhor and repudiated in 2016.
Here are just two examples of people who voted Trump, yet deserve none of the negative labels being ascribed to them:
1. Voters who have seen their jobs vanish thanks to either globalization or through
Donald Trump spoke directly to the issue of lost jobs and this resonated with huge swaths of Americans who have felt the negative effects of globalization while reaping few of its benefits. Hillary meanwhile represented the establishment within both parties who have supported trade policies like NAFTA and open trade with China.
…Policies which have led to vanishing jobs with no comparable ones to take their place.
Trump voters watched Obama bail out Wall Street after it sunk our economy. No one went to jail and nothing was done to help average Americans, but they’re supposed to trust Democrats?
These people accurately see a world where both political parties cater to the rich and abandon everyone else. They are clear-eyed when they observe that no matter which political party is in charge, the political donor class gets away with pretty much anything it wants.
From Florida to Alaska, big political donors damage or degrade the environment (and people’s livelihood with it) only to ever be fined a pittance…if they are punished at all. Yet should the same people whose lives have been disrupted get caught hunting or fishing without a license, or dulling their pain with drugs, the full force of the law will always come down on them.
Trump voters don’t see government for what it might be – better or worse – they see it for what it actually is and know that it’s not working for them.
Feeling ignored and forgotten, suddenly here was someone speaking directly to their concerns...so they chose the devil who promised change over the devil promising more of the same. When their lives are mostly a parade of hardship and misery, can you really blame them?
2. Voters scared of Islamic terrorists/terrorism who don’t feel like Hillary or Democrats
take this issue seriously enough.
However, to ignore cultural differences and assume everyone who enters our country shares our values is potentially dangerous. Saying there should be no difference in our standards for accepting immigrants from Middle Eastern countries in which we currently conduct military operations than from say, Japan or Canada, is not inherently racist. It is possible to disagree with Trump's proposed solutions but still acknowledge that the fears of Trump Voters are not completely baseless.
This is a complicated issue with no easy solutions, but Obama didn’t help with his strange mix of diplomacy and drone killings with little context or explanation for either. It created a vacuum which his critics have used to dominate public discourse these past eight years.
So in stepped Trump, and he did a masterful job of triggering people whose fear of terrorism outweighs their willingness to be accommodating to Muslims or people from certain parts of the world. These voters aren’t necessarily racists or even intolerant – they simply have concerns which Hillary did nothing to assuage even as Trump hammered the point home.
Even those with more nuanced views were unlikely to support Hillary since her hawkishness would just continue a cycle that perpetuates blowback and makes us less safe in the end. For people who care deeply about this issue, Trump destroyed Hillary.
Absolutely fight back, but please do it in a positive way! Anything else just perpetuates the same destructive cycle which led us to Donald Trump in the first place.
Above all, we must make it clear that there is a real difference between progressive policies and the establishment politics of the Democratic Party. Call Trump on his lies and make people question whether what he says or does aligns with American values…or their own. Finally, take on the special interests that dominate the thinking within both major political parties to offer solutions which address the very real problems facing not only Trump voters, but all Americans.
Do this, and in 2018 and 2020, not only will voters make a better choice, we’ll all have better alternatives from which to choose.