In a recent conversation with a progressive acquaintance, he said it is imperative to confront any of “those people” who voted for Donald Trump with the facts. Aggressively.
After questioning whether confrontation and aggression are always necessary, the dialogue became predictably heated. The idea that one should lump 74 million people into the same category, other than strictly for their vote, is an intellectually lazy generalization. The conviction that one should always confront “them” aggressively is morally questionable, at best.
First, let’s look at the actual facts about Republican voters. A recent extensive survey conducted by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, which formerly worked for Trump’s campaign, identified at least five major groups within today’s Republican Party:
“Trump Boosters,” 28%.
“Diehard Trumpers,” 27%.
“Post-Trump GOP,” 20%.
“Never Trump,” 15%.
“Infowars GOP,” 10%.
It may come as a surprise that the “Never Trump” category is not the smallest group. The “Trump Boosters” group is the largest percentage; but within that slice, only a “slight majority (55%) said they would vote for Trump in a GOP primary ballot.”
Note the small but significant number of Republican voters (10%) who fall into the “Infowars GOP’’ group by their strong favorable view of QAnon, belief in QAnon’s conspiracy theories and unwavering, uniform support of Donald Trump. All in all, a simple majority of Republicans said they would vote for Trump again in this survey.
The more nuanced truth is that of the 74 million plus who voted for Trump in the last election, there are 74 million plus human beings, each with their own set of reasons for voting one way or the other. The same can be said for each of the 81 million plus individuals who voted for Joe Biden.
On a more personal level, there are friends who went for the Republican candidate who did so out of a genuine concern for the “leftward lurch” of the Democratic Party. There are others who have been scolded, screamed at and shamed merely for their political preference. It is understandable that such attacks did not have the intended result, causing a hardening of their political position. Having an opponent who could be seen as “fighting for” them was a huge plus.
This brings us back to the acquaintance mentioned above. There was initially a third participant in our conversation. Yes, the third person voted for Trump. Sadly for all involved, the fellow who preferred Trump learned nothing from this encounter. The main takeaway was simply that the one who was being aggressively confrontational was simply being a jerk.
Of course, a long roster of conservative pundits have made a career out of making generalizations about liberals; mischaracterizing all Democrats as Marxists, socialists or some other scary sounding term; and based on these dishonest simplifications and conflations, vilifying any who are seen as progressives.
So here’s a good start. Any time we catch ourselves making broad pronouncements about all “those people” or sharing authoritative-sounding judgments about all of “them…” Take. A. Breath.
It’s not to say we can all just get along. Personally, I have a hard time with those who are still purporting the “Big Lie” and using certain talking points about the atrocity at the Capitol on Jan. 6. (“Where was your outrage when…?” “What did you think would happen?” “Many people are saying it was an Antifa/BLM plot…”). The good news is that, according to the study referenced above, this does not reflect the views of a vast majority of our neighbors.
It’s been a tiresome year between friends and family bemoaning “cancel culture” or expressing dismay about the fate of Dr. Seuss or Mr. Potato Head or… it’s hard to keep up. To be sure, tuning into Sean Hannity’s radio program for any 10- to 12-minute segment will provide a helpful reference on all the bumper-sticker-length talking points many of these friends and family members will be regurgitating that week.
In response to these folks, here’s a helpful hint: Resist the impulse to roll your eyes. Recognize clickbait — propaganda-style entertainment meant to keep the temperature at a simmering rage — for what it is. Instead, simply interject, “How ‘bout them Dodgers?!?!” This will surely redirect the conversation in a more neighborly way.
Now if we could only get our current representative in Congress, Mike Garcia, to reverse course on his own proclivity for referring to half of his constituents as if they are the enemy, that would be a big step in a healthier direction.