Liberals Need to Listen
Why Ignoring Trump Supporters is a Mistake
Photo: Kena Betancur (AFP/Getty)
On this site, we try to be objective and fair. Here is the objective and fair take on Donald Trump: he is unqualified for the job even by traditional standards, his policy positions are heavily criticized by Washington experts, and his racial rhetoric is as divisive as we have seen in years. For some, the preceding sentence represents everything wrong with Trump; they see him as a bigoted xenophobe who preys on the lowest of human emotions. Others look at this exact same sentence and sing sweet praises of hallelujah--this type of candidate is exactly what America needs. I reject Paul Krugman’s condemnation of “bothsidesism” because even if you do believe that Trump is the worst candidate ever, his supporters have the right to be heard. This article is rebutting the argument that liberals shouldn’t acknowledge Trump as a real side of the debate. It is not only the respectful thing to do (something liberals often ignore) but it is also the more tactful move. If you are a Trump supporter, this article will have no effect on you.
Photo: Getty Images
Refusing to even acknowledge Trump’s side exacerbates the exact condition that allowed for his rise: the silencing of a population segment . The solution for this problem cannot be ignoring the cries of this group.
A large portion of Trump support comes from white men who overtly or subconsciously reject social change because it disadvantages them. Ever since the Civil War, white men in
America have slowly lost social and economic dominance.
They lost it to freed blacks, they lost it to women entering the workforce, they lost it to immigrants starting businesses. The last 150 years have been a rebalancing of the scales to make them fairer for the first time in human history. There have been attempts the whole time to slow down the equalization--whether it be segregation, redlining, sexual discrimination, or countless other pushbacks. But throughout it all, equality slowly expanded, and the disproportionate power of white men dwindled.
Almost all of Trump’s rhetoric and policy pushes back on this progress. The Muslim ban establishes a dominance of Christianity over the eventual largest religion in the world (Islam). The wall limits non whites entering the country, going against trade deals helping save the jobs of white blue collar workers. The rejection of Black Lives Matter ignores the African American struggle; negating affirmative action limits the mobility of non whites. Should we be surprised? The man’s slogan is “Make America Great Again,” implying that the past is better than the present. All points in the past were better for white men.
Many argue (including George Wallace’s daughter) that the closest comparisons to Trump are candidates like George Wallace who favored segregation or members of the “Know Nothing Party” who rose in the 1850’s to reject immigration. Wallace and the Know Nothings were far outside the “establishment” of the time and said things that no other politician dared to say. It is easy to dismiss Trump’s supporters as racist, mute them, and move on. But that is the entirely wrong approach.
No matter how bigoted or loathsome an opinion is, if it is supported by a substantive number of Americans, we have a duty to acknowledge and discuss that position. Ignoring a group's opinions and immediately dismissing them is incredibly disrespectful.
Let’s take two hypothetical scenarios:
1) After months of civil debate and discussion, Hillary Clinton defeats Donald Trump
2) After months of vicious antagonization, Hillary Clinton defeats Donald Trump
Now consider the following: which of the two would result in the most destructive response? In option one, Trump’s movement might not die immediately but it would most likely dwindle away. In option two, Trump supporters would radicalize further, and, enraged at the Hillary victory, they would stay politically involved and disruptive.
Not respecting one side of the debate only works to alienate, culminating in the escalation of support for that side.
Be smart, be respectful, listen, and have a discussion.
I was there. I was at the Wells Fargo Arena when Senator Sanders said, “I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic party for President of the United States.” I was honored with the privilege of seeing Clinton accept and become the first female nominee of a major party. As this unfolded in front of my eyes, I teared up--just a little bit. What had just occurred would be something that my children and grandchildren would read about in textbooks, and I would be able to share my firsthand account of four fantastic nights in Philadelphia.
I am a very proud, progressive Democrat. I love this country, and most of the time, I love my party. I am excited about our nominee and for the future that we will make together.
I am not ashamed or even bashful to say this on SideBySide, because there is no real moral opposition to Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party this year. As the President of North Carolina’s NAACP, Reverend Dr. William Barber, explained: “some issues are not left versus right, they are right versus wrong. We need to embrace our deepest moral values and push for a revival at the heart of our democracy.”
Donald Trump stands for the opposite of a morally upright candidate in a democracy. He advocates for hate and xenophobia; he is a fascist. As the Houston Chronicle's editorial board, which, since 1964, has endorsed only 2 Democrats and 12 Republicans for the White House, explains: “Any one of Trump's less-than-sterling qualities - his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance - is enough to be disqualifying. His convention-speech comment, ‘I alone can fix it,’ should make every American shudder. He is, we believe, a danger to the Republic.”
There is no other side for me to counter-balance this claim with. In fact, I (and many others) believe that it is part of the media’s “almost pathological determination to portray politicians and their programs as being equally good or equally bad, no matter how ludicrous that pretense becomes,” that has propelled Trump so far. Paul Krugman calls this phenomena “bothsidesism.”
I believe that every healthy democracy should have vigorous debates and dissents, as long as all partners respect one another. Donald Trump only respects one person: himself. I agree with columnist Thomas Friedman’s analysis that “our country needs a healthy center-right party that can compete with a healthy center-left party. [But] right now, the G.O.P. is not a healthy center-right party. It is a mishmash of religious conservatives; angry white males who fear they are becoming a minority in their own country and hate trade; gun-control opponents; pro-lifers; anti-regulation and free-market small-business owners; and pro- and anti-free trade entrepreneurs.”
Racism, bigotry, xenophobia, classism, and hate have no place in a healthy democracy. They have no place in the United States of America. When observing this election, I ask that you not look at it through the lens of SideBySide, but through the lens of love versus hate, decency versus obscenity, rationality versus insanity.
This is not a matter of Democrats against Republicans or Liberals pitted against Conservatives, it is a matter of correct and incorrect. Too often we ignore nuance and complexities, but in this election, there is no nuance or complexity to examine.
Donald Trump has no alternatives or rational ideas, and his positions (or maybe suggestions) change every two minutes.
Let us heed the charge of Reverend Dr. Barber: “when the heart [of our democracy] is in danger, somebody has to call an emergency code. And somebody with a good heart will bring a defibrillator to work on the bad heart. Because it is possible to shock about heart and revived the polls. In the season, when someone to harden and stop the heart of our democracy, we are being called like our poor mothers and fathers to be the moral defibrillator of our time.”