I have made no secret of my disdain for Donald Trump and not for political reasons. I never found the TV series the Apprentice entertaining and in my judgment, I never saw Trump as more than a repeatedly failed businessman with the ethics and morals just above those of a conman. I have to admit, my assessment was unfair, just as people who I have never met literally hate me I have never met Mr. Trump so I am being unfair. It’s part of being a celebrity, no matter how meager that celebrity status might be. Everyone has someone in the media that they absolutely can’t stand and don’t have a rational explanation as to why. Such is the nature of being in the public eye.
Recently I have been barraged by fellow Democrats who are frightened and depressed that—even though Joe Biden is the presumptive winner of the election—so many people voted to re-elect Donald Trump. It has been a contentious and outright surly four years and it is truly a time to heal, but healing begins by understanding the other people’s point of view. So my response to those hand-wringers who struggle with how to get along with Trump supporters has been this:
Not All Trump Supporters Are The Same
Many Trump supporters voted for him because they feel besieged by political correctness. I have been asked by many friends, colleagues, and relatives if we haven’t taken political correctness too far; some people have, and it’s irritating. I was in a meeting where I was asked what my pronouns were. I don’t have a problem if a person who was biologically born a man wishes to be called she/her but I draw the line at calling an individual “they/them”. Unless there are two or more of you, you get to choose between “he, she” or “it”. I am not going to contribute to the butchery of the English language by adding number disagreement to the list of egregious crimes committed against the language. So how did I answer? my pronoun is Mr. La Duke”. Yes, we have taken political correctness too far. I personally unabashedly fly my freak flag almost continuously, but I don’t expect that the entire world will make accommodations for my choices. I can identify with a Pekingese-Pug mix but that doesn’t mean that the world has to recognize me as such. Political correctness seeks to shield people from the logical consequences of their life choices. What I tell people is that they don’t have to be politically correct, they just can’t be assholes. It is one thing to inadvertently say something that offends someone. In those cases, apologize, but recognize that offense is taken, and taking offense is a choice. You cross the line when you deliberately seek to insult, offend, or otherwise behave in a hurtful way. You can be disgusted by gays, you can be disgusted by Christians, but if you want to live in a society of laws you can’t act on your bigotries; that applies to EVERYONE. Oh, and while we are on the subject, you don’t get to take offense on behalf of someone else. Trump skirts the line between saying what’s on his mind and being openly provocative, he is a lot of things, but you can’t accuse him of being politically correct.
Celebrity Will Always Make You Popular
Andy Warhol said, “in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” I always thought that the quote was inane. What is that even supposed to mean? But now we are seeing it every day. Who cares about the daily routine of the housewives of Hooterville? Or what a loser from season four of American Idol thinks about…anything? WE DO. We are a culture of vapid voyeurs peering slack-jawed into lives not much more interesting (if at all) than our own. With that in mind, it was only inevitable that someone like Donald Trump would become president (I know Ronald Reagan was an actor, but he was also the Governor of California.) Trump despite his many, many, many character flaws and failings is still a celebrity. He’s an ex-game show host. People would treat Pat Sajak the same way. What’s more, is there is no accounting for taste. Whether it’s the music you like, the books you enjoy, or the past times that are important to you, you will always defend your preferences with the vehemence of a post-partum afflicted badger defending her cubs.
You Don’t Change Horses In Midstream
For a lot of Trump supporters, I think there’s a little of the wartime president, “don’t change horses in midstream” thinking going on because of COVID. People are fearful of changing Presidents and having to start all over. It is a reasonable fear. Imagine if one President—completely up to speed and making good progress in wrestling COVID under control—was suddenly ousted and a new President came in had to start at the bottom of the learning curve. How many people might suffer needlessly or even die in the time lost in the transition? For many Trump supporters making a change just wasn’t worth the risk, especially those who believed that his opponent would not do a better job handling the crisis.
Provocative Rhetoric Breeds Resistance
Progressive Democrats are worse than Tea Party Republicans when it comes to using language that freaks people out. They say things like “defund the police” when what they mean is “demilitarize the police”. Nobody in their right mind believes that we should dissolve the police departments, but we need to have police departments that are demilitarized and held accountable for systemic racism, cover-ups, and just plain ignoring bad actors. If in the course of my job I kill someone I can assure you I am likely going to go to jail. Furthermore, neither my employer nor my colleagues, nor my community would be making excuses for me—I would likely suffer severe consequences. I think the message here is we need EVERY law enforcement professional to embrace the words “to protect and serve”. When people argue that if you didn’t do anything wrong you shouldn’t be afraid of the police, my response is EXACTLY. People are getting killed over traffic stops. Too many in law enforcement see themselves as an occupying force, the thin blue line between order and chaos, and that needs to change. We need to ask ourselves why a police department needs anti-tank rockets in their arsenal.
Similarly, progressives use the word socialism instead of social justice and that scares the bejeezus out of a lot of people. Anyone above the age of 40 has been taught for as long as they can remember that socialism is the same as communism. Our greatest enemy since WWII was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). SOCIALISM was in the NAME. Instead, we need to rebrand this belief as social justice, that is, the right of every person to equal treatment under the law. We need to remind people that social unity builds roads, provides police and fire protection and educates our children. Social justice also means that anyone who is willing to work hard will be given an equal chance at achieving the American dream; it’s not dead but it has been hijacked by the very few as the masses have been asked to sacrifice.
Sometimes We Have To Have Permission to Be A Jerk.
Most of us, on our worst day, can be pretty horrible excuses for human beings. Trump allows people to feel good about being crappy human beings; they can justify their reprehensible beliefs and behaviors because the president has given them permission to do so. We don’t feel so guilty for laughing at a dirty joke, cutting in line in front of an octogenarian who is just taking too damn long to pick out a stalk of celery. IT’S JUST CELERY YOU FOOL! I realize that the grim reaper is sitting in a 2016 minivan parked across the street from your house, but seriously you spend more time picking out celery than I did picking out my first wife. We get frustrated, we get angry, we do stupid things, we get mean, but when the President does that and more, it makes us feel a little less creepy for what we thought or did.
The Demographics Are Changing
The 80s rap band Public Enemy released an album titled Fear Of a Black Planet and as much as White America is loathed to admit it, the population of White people has been steadily shrinking. It makes perfect sense that what we’re seeing in many cases is that people can hate Trump but they see the Democrats as turning White America over to the Brown and Black people. I am not in any way excusing this behavior or condoning it, but I do understand where it is coming from.
Many people see the disappearance of good, high-paying manufacturing jobs, having to rely on double incomes just to eke out a living, and a general eroding of their standard of living with the demand for equal rights for people who were previously marginalized. People can shout from the mountains about how dangerous illegal immigration (from Mexico) is while saying nothing about illegal immigration from Canada, despite most of the conspirators of the 911 attacks having arrived here either legally or illegally through Canada, none, it’s worth noting came through Mexico.
These people are genuinely frightened of what will become of them when they are no longer the majority. Sooner or later it will occur to them that they never were the majority (at least in a way that runs this country). This country is not ruled by white people; this country is ruled by the ultra-rich people and the sooner people wake up the better. But as long as we are all just one multi-State lottery ticket away from becoming a millionaire we will fightimg to keep the status quo.
Change Is Scary
And finally, human beings have a natural predisposition to fear change. Barring some miracle, Biden will be only the fourth person to unseat a sitting president. Just let that sink in. For over 200 years, only four people have won an election against an incumbent president. Voters generally go with who they know, even if they genuinely dislike the person. A new President means new cabinets, new policies, and new laws—and all of that is uncertainty. Uncertainty is intrinsically frightening, so let’s not blame people who voted for the Devil they know, instead of a new guy. I bristle at TV commercials that talk about “these uncertain times”; when exactly are times certain?
Look Forward In Hope
I don’t think anyone wants to continue with divisiveness and hostility toward our neighbors. I truly believe that we can be grown up about this and look forward in hope. And there are plenty of good reasons for hope. I guess what I would say is look at the glass as half full not half empty. We had more people vote in this election than ever in history by a long, wide margin. A lot of people showed the courage to break with partisan politics and voted their true hearts and their true beliefs.
Trump supporters aren’t all evil bigots many of them are just scared and they need a leader who tells them that it’s smart and right and just to be afraid. Biden Democrats aren’t all radicals who want to tear down all of our most cherished institutions. People who voted differently than you are not your enemy, but you will never know that unless you extend the olive branch and have an open and honest conversation with them and listen to their concerns with an open mind. We can move forward, but only if we move forward together.