November 3, 2016

Trump Supporters Will Still Be Here on November 9

Donald Trump in Reno, NevadaOn November 9th, the United States will still be here regardless of the outcome of our presidential election. You know what else will still be here? A whole lot of Americans who are intensely disappointed and angry over the outcome of that election. If the current polls are to be believed, some of the most disappointed and angry will likely be the many supporters of Donald Trump. In fact, many of them are are probably already starting to feel this way given the recent talk of Clinton likely having a "mandate." While I do not share their fondness of Trump, I will share at least some of their disappointment on November 9th.

I have gone out of my way to avoid mocking Trump supporters (and Clinton supporters) during this election season, and this is something I plan to continue. I certainly know what it is like to feel disappointed and even angry after an election. But this isn't why I've avoided joining in the mockery, name-calling, and mindless tribalism that plagues our approach to politics and social media these days. No, I've steered clear of it because I fail to see how it helps. I've also avoided it because I worry that it probably just makes our shared plight even worse.

I recognize that the people who have supported Trump have done so for different reasons. A small number of them are undoubtedly deplorable. Of course, I can say the same thing of Clinton supporters, Sanders supporters, Johnson supporters, Stein supporters, and so on. Some people are indeed deplorable; the vast majority are not. Instead of writing off massive swaths of the American people as "deplorables" and concluding that they are "irredeemable," I've repeatedly made the unpopular suggestion that we seek to listen to our neighbors and make an effort to understand the nature of their grievances instead of demonizing them.

Obviously, doing this requires some effort and entails that I must forgo the positive feelings associated with excessive self-righteousness. It might feel good to dump all over Trump supporters and join those who are committed to demonizing them. Perhaps doing so would temporarily make me feel better about myself. I could overlook my many faults and imagine myself to be far more virtuous than is the case. Best of all, I could utilize social media to broadcast my moral virtuosity by demonizing people I don't know. By convincing myself that they were horrible people, I might even be able to absolve myself of the guilt I would normally feel for treating others poorly. The thing is, none of this would be consistent with freethought or with the sort of person I aspire to be, and I suspect that it has far worse consequences than many realize. And so, I'll pass.

I'll continue to suggest that those on the left who have taken so much delight in demonizing Trump supporters are making a mistake, fueling tribalism instead of seeking to reduce it. I'll continue to point out that committed Democrats should be especially concerned over the prospect that their party might be turning into something that is no longer focused on defending the underdog but more concerned with maintaining the corporate status quo and enforcing a disturbingly authoritarian approach to political correctness. Assuming that Hillary Clinton does win this election, I will continue to hope that the left will recognize that we have some real work to do as we move forward and that going out of our way to alienate people with whom we disagree may be unwise.