Lessons Learned from Trump Supporters

Before I begin I must clarify that I did not write this post with all of the President’s voters in mind. I have no interest in writing about the bigots, racists, and downright Nazis that pollute America with their hate and violence. They can think whatever they want – they will always be the sad outliers banished from a civilized society.

No, this article is discussing the other Trump voters. Maybe I’m misguided but I don’t believe there are 63 million racists/sexists in this country. At least, not ones who act knowingly. I believe there are lessons to be learned from practically every group and belief system, and these individuals are no different. So – it’s been nearly three years since 2016 began: What have I learned from President Trump’s supporters?

Nothing is Impossible

One thing I can’t stand about a good portion of the Democratic Party is how much they know. They’re just so smart! They’re basically f*cking geniuses acting like the world should be graced by their presence and input…except that they’re wrong. A lot.

These people knew that Donald Trump never could become President. They knew that Hillary Clinton would win. In 2018, they knew that no democrat could dethrone Governor Charlie Baker (as a resident of Massachusetts, I can only say – what?), and they knew that popular America would never go along with someone as outrageous as Bernie Sanders.

Here’s the thing: when you know things, you can’t learn. This portion of the Democratic Party loves to declare battles won or lost before they’re even fought. “This is worth doing – this isn’t worth doing.” Usually it’s the loftier ideas that get left on the cutting room floor. Remember in 2016 when universal healthcare was touted as outlandish by Secretary Clinton? Doesn’t seem so far-fetched now – and not much has changed.

Trump voters don’t know the meaning of a no-win scenario. Despite everyone telling them that Donald Trump stood no chance and that it was only a matter of time before Hillary Clinton took the oath of office, these people worked tirelessly and passionately to put the person they believed in into office.

And guess what – they (technically) won. They did the impossible because they believed they could. I respect the amount of passion and dedication that went into accomplishing this goal, no matter how misguided I believe it was. I think all Americans need to embrace this spirit more – this “never tell me the odds” attitude. I’ve watched many things happen in the last two years, most of which I would have called impossible at the start of 2016. Now I understand: Nothing is impossible with hard work and dedication.

American engineering
America used to be a land of builders, constantly pushing forward. We can be again – but we should probably rid ourselves of (or at least tone down) the nostalgia.

The “Status Quo” Government is Failing Too Many People

At one point in recent years, Daily Show host Trevor Noah had conservative pundit Tomi Lahren on his show. While I personally found many of her arguments weak and inconsistent, she said something that resonated. I’m paraphrasing now but it was something like “I’m from North Dakota, a place no one cared about until there was a pipeline.”

She’s not wrong. I’m from Massachusetts – specifically near Boston. I tend to think that the action of my country occurs  in a collection of cities, but a lot more goes on. America is thousands of towns, some of them very small – and states, some of which have become “flyover” states since some rich assholes designated them as unimportant. We all know about California but what about Kentucky? Alabama? South Dakota?

The status quo government – and I include Trump’s current administration here – has done little to help those not constantly making headlines. Heck, Flint made the news a bunch and it still doesn’t have fully clean drinking water. DRINKING WATER – you know, that thing that supposed “first world” countries should be able to take for granted?

As much as most of America wants to blame President Trump for every problem we have (and to be fair, he’s causing more than a few), we’ve had a crumbling infrastructure, rising cost of medicine, and declining job numbers for decades. America has real problems that are growing more complex as technology rushes ahead while education lags behind.

I can understand those people living in Ohio – waiting for their old way of life to come back (because so many politicians keep telling them it will) and losing faith in President Obama after eight years. I’m not calling Obama a bad president – he just couldn’t stop the advance of time any more than President Trump can. If I were one of these people and I just saw Hillary Clinton as “more of the same,” I may have been tempted to gamble too.

America has been on the wrong path for decades, one that serves only a few at the expense of the many. Whose fault it is is an argument for another day. All I can say is this: If the Democrats want to help the country in the long term, they cannot focus too much on President Trump while ignoring the current realities that we face.

Trump is insignificant – only powerful as long as his supporters stand by him. These are the people we need to reach – these are the ones who we (as “enlightened liberals”) need to help. Remember, they will still be here after 2020…or 2024.

Flyover States
I think it’s a real challenge to advance together…but I also think it’s the only way we can advance.

You can Become the Thing You Hate

The legitimate case against Secretary Clinton was this: She was too much of an insider, way too comfortable doing favors for her rich friends and prioritizing jobs for her close circle over other qualified individuals. If Hillary Clinton was elected, the “swamp” of Washington D.C. would become worse.

Besides, she might empower an overly-emotional wave of “political correctness” where no one is allowed to question anything she does without being labeled something negative.

Sound familiar?

President Trump has unfortunately been nothing but the worst case scenario that Americans feared Hillary Clinton could become. He has placed his daughter and son-in-law (two people without political training) in high pressure diplomatic situations. The major acts of his first term have largely been passing a tax cut for the super wealthy and appointing a supreme court justice who appears inclined to give the President preferential treatment.

Oh, and let’s not forget that anyone who says anything bad about him is either “fake news,” “anti-American,” or some form of “dirty democrat.”

Trump supporters, in their quest to purge the swamp, have awakened a monster. Most of the regulations the President has removed have made it easier for companies to pollute and for those with criminal records (or dangerous levels of mental illness) to purchase firearms.

The thing is, it will likely take years for them to realize this – especially if history is any indicator. One graphic novel I read recently was Cuba: My Revolution. This memoir followed the events of one Cuban revolutionary who was a devote supporter of Fidel Castro and the change he promised.

It took years of authoritarianism – including being tortured by the Cuban government – before she was finally able to admit she had made a mistake. I suspect it will be similar for many of Trump’s diehards. It is easy to dismiss criticism, especially when we don’t want to hear it. I just hope it stops long before the Trump Administration is in a position to torture any U.S. citizen.

Trump Clinton
The President was never an outsider. The guy is a New York billionaire with a TV show.

How Much Education Matters

Let me say this right now: I am not calling Trump supporters stupid. This is not to say that smarter people know best. I have seen many smart people (let’s include Secretary Clinton) do foolish things that buck logical thinking. People are people and everyone is flawed.

What I mean here is specified education, some of which was only taught to me in college. This includes:

  1. How to source information/identity which information is accurate.
  2. How to empathize with people who are not like you.
  3. How to fully read history (understanding that the victor writes history and what that means)
  4. The importance of forming a conclusion AFTER examining the data.

I feel that the current American education system stresses memorizing facts way more than it encourages critical thinking. This is how people can be lead to do racist/sexist things without consciously knowing it. After all, if I’m a poor single white mother working three jobs in North Dakota – only to be told I have “white privilege” – I might raise an eyebrow too.

Education is the only cure for ignorance. It may sound simple but it is amazing how many people – on both sides – don’t understand or care about this. For instance, the amount of liberal zinger programming has sky-rocketed in recent years. The Daily Show has spawned at least half a dozen other programs, all with the same basic setup: Make fun of the dumb things being done in this country.

On the face there’s nothing wrong with it, I enjoy a good laugh as much as the next person. But if I’m an uneducated white person listening to John Oliver crack jokes about how stupid republican voters are – I’m probably not going to keep listening. Likewise if I, as a straight white male, went on stage at a Black Lives Matter Rally and began with “let me tell you what’s wrong with black America…”

You would justifiably want me to shut up before I said another word. Our society is rapidly deteriorating to a quest for points. Let’s make a point here – let’s make a point there. A point for why this is stupid, this is sane – that’s bonkers!

Points aren’t teaching. They rarely enlighten because they’re not structured to. They’re structured to make the speaker feel better and make those with similar beliefs feel better too. As I write this, I’m really hoping this article doesn’t come off too much as me trying to make a point…

We need to care more about teaching and less about being right. President Trump appealed to people who felt diminished in today’s society. People with families, with jobs, with hopes, dreams, and fears. We cannot leave these people behind, or so quickly group them with the lowest of the low when they question what is happening in American society.

It is not racist to say you don’t understand white privilege – it just means you need someone to explain it to you. There’s nothing wrong with that.

judging-and-critical-thinking

That Partisanship Can Turn Tribal

In the old days – you know – 2008, questioning your political party was seen as a strength. Questions lead to discussion, discussions created new ideas. These new ideas provided new data and insights that were previously not considered. Mental evolution in action.

I’ve already written about how partisanship is destroying America, and I believe that now more than ever. Because, like everything, this partisanship is evolving us from a thinking democracy into a warring tribal society.

What’s tribalism you may ask? Merriam-Webster defines it as “strong in-group loyalty” or consciousness. What does this mean? It means people act solely for the benefit of the group. The group must be kept strong. The group cannot be weak.

Under President Trump – questioning him is seen as weakness. After all, if republicans question President Trump than that helps the democrats – who are another group and therefore the enemy. Except we’re all Americans.

I’ve watched this tribalism grow among conservatives. People I knew who couldn’t stand President Trump at the beginning could suddenly find no wrong within him once he had the party nomination.

The Republican Party is not more important than the United States of America, and neither is the Democratic Party. No tribe is. The President has constantly promoted an all-or-nothing mentality that I feel is contagious. To be fair, he didn’t create it, but he can only exist with it in place. To realize that the Republican Party can do a hell of a lot better than him would mean his end, so therefore all criticism must be stamped out.

To my fellow Americans who vote Republican, I say this: Please be ready to vote Democrat to prevent this style of politics from spreading. All I can give in return is a promise to do the same. I will never vote for anyone who labels conservatives as enemies of America – I don’t care what letter comes after their name.

We cannot be tribes. Whether that’s Republican, Democrat, straight, gay, black, white, male, female, or transgender. We must all of us have empathy for our fellow Americans – and fellow human beings – and not be so quick to judge.

Tribalism partisan politics
If you’re so concerned with what the other side is doing, you’re likely not paying enough attention to your own’s actions.

Politics is No Longer about Politics

Maybe it never was but, with the rise of tribalism, it seems less so now. Trump supporters seem at times to be pushing an identity over any one system of beliefs about how government should be run (and they’re not the only ones). Issues that have nothing to do with running a government, like sexual harassment, have become political and we’re – staggeringly – divided on them.

Part of me wonders if this reflects the shifting views on marketing and product development. With technological advances in data collection and item manufacturing, companies are increasingly personalizing their efforts to retain their customer base. Why buy a blanket when you can purchase a Game of Thrones blanket? Wouldn’t your toaster be better with a Star Wars logo on it?

We’re branding everything, even when it doesn’t really mean anything. We’re tailoring our lives to reflect our fandoms, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – expect when politics are involved. A political fanboy is the worst kind of fanboy. Someone who purchases products to showcase their sense of identity without fully questioning exactly what that means.

Buy a Spider-Man plushy, you probably like Spider-Man. Own a Make America Great Again hat and you are saddled with every little thing President Trump has ever said or done. I just feel like a public servant selling branded junk is incredibly off. He’s supposed to be working for you, not getting rich(er) and using your head as a billboard.

By turning politics into more of a brand, you’re getting more fanboys – and that’s just the worst.

02iht-edchappatte02-image-articlelarge
It is fair to say the media has helped “dumb down” politics. But the real question is: How to fix it?

America is faced with real problems but, in an era of heightened partisanship and a narcissistic showman, these issues are rarely discussed. I believe that, to go forward, we must stop seeing other groups as some alien race and instead welcome them, and learn from them.

I have learned a lot watching those who support President Trump and reading their words. While I once again urge people to reject his policies and his ideals – I cannot tell you to do so blindly. It is the burden of the other political parties to give you a better way forward. I hope we can figure out something that allows us all to heal and finally face the future.

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