Understanding, Talking With The Other Side In The Time Of Trump


Guest post from Tim Urban

In an Op-ed in the New York Times titled “Trump Voters Are Not the Enemy,” Nicholas Kristof cites three reasons why “it’s shortsighted to direct liberal fury at the entire mass of Trump voters, a complicated (and, yes, diverse) group of 63 million people.”  First, he asks, “many are Black, Latino or Muslim. Are they all bigots?” Second, he suggests that “demonizing Trump voters feeds the dysfunction of our political system.” And finally, that “the third reason is tactical: it’s hard to win over voters whom you’re insulting.”

For many of us who continue to be appalled by the conduct of Donald Trump, it’s hard to deflect our grievances from his supporters, some of whom are people we know. We rationalize that these friends and associates will see the light at some point in time and, like us, turn against Trump and Tea Party radicals. We hope that a Republican Congress will also come to it senses and obstruct Trump from many of his attacks on our institutions and social policies. But our own ignorance and arrogance may be getting in the way.

One of the most revealing aspects of this election cycle is the slow realization that many of Trump’s messages hit home with many voters who, otherwise, would have voted for a less polarizing Democratic candidate. As I engage my Republican friends in discussion I’ve heard a few things:

  1. Illegal Immigrants are still illegal residents in our communities and cannot have the legitimacy of citizenship we grant to ourselves. Because millions are our neighbors, co-workers, fellow students and employees in services we depend on, we need them. But the argument that they should be granted the privileges of citizenship without starting over as legal immigrants is not only wrong, but flaunts the rule of law. The dog whistle of fear drummed up by Trump is awful, and many Republicans know better. Businessmen, farmers and ranchers rely on immigrants for their economic survival and value them as hard-working, loyal employees. I am hopeful that the reverberations from Trump’s blind deportations will backfire among many Republicans.
  2. Our message of diversity does not sit well within segregated social enclaves where most white Americans have no personal relations with immigrants or people of color. Before we cast bigotry or racism on others, we should ask ourselves how many friends of color do we have? As a society too many of us have become segregated from minorities where we live, shop, work and play. Until we do a better job of reaching out to others, we have little ground to stand on by casting bigotry against all Trump supporters, many of whom voted for Obama in 2012. Bridging across racial, ethic and economic gaps must start in our schools where the growing divide in education and residential segregation will only lead to greater racism, not diversity.
  3. Trade policies have been promulgated by corporate interests that are driven by profit, not full employment. The loss of manufacturing jobs has been decimated by automation and globalization and has converted a large share of blue collar workers from loyal Democrats to skeptics whose anger and misery have been co-opted by Trump.  When his message is jobs and your wages and standard of living drop, you are going to abandon your union and the party that has let you down. Democrats have long promised to re-build the middle class and lift many Americans out of poverty, but have too little to show for it.
  4. Americans have always been patriotic. Whether we treasure freedom with an open society or freedom with self-reliance, most of us share a belief that our system of government and capitalism, though flawed, is still the gold standard in a world of corruption and chaos. The message that we are no longer a “Great” Nation, but have been compromised by globalization and internationalism resonates with many Americans. Even some of us who believe our freedom requires us to test ourselves against the principles of our Constitution, take pride that we are still America, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. We need to demonstrate that our love of country is paramount in our politics.
  5. Government oversight is intrusive. Many of us believe government is the counterweight to a corrupt corporatist society, but just as many believe government does too much, intruding in our business, religious and personal freedoms. Some business and environmental regulations have become ludicrous, enforced with no common sense. Bureaucratic bungling and one-size-fits-all rules breed grievances against regulations. Worse, government has become co-opted by special interests, down to the representatives we elect. Well over 80% of Americans believe that money has corrupted our Democracy and we need to find like-minded Republicans who will join with us to free Congress and the Presidency from the highest bidder and make regulations work for the common good.
  6. The Supreme Court has defined the legal basis for protecting gun rights. Guns have been an integral part of American life from frontier settlers to modern sportsman. When the NRA says it’s not guns that kill people, only people with guns they are only half right. Too many Americans die from gun accidents or gun suicide and open carry laws threaten our security. The fight against an armed society should have many Republican allies, but how we frame the message will be important.

So when your Republican friends tell you that they like what Trumps stands for — the rule of law, fair trade, patriotism, less government and the 2nd Amendment – listen. Until we understand the forces that have allowed Republicans to control two-thirds of our state legislatures, the presidency and Congress, we will not bring back the progressive policies that are being so quickly disassembled.

Instead, challenge them on how a Trump administration will actually create more jobs in a full employment economy, how small businesses will survive without immigrant workers, how crime can be fought without lifting Americans out of poverty and reforming our courts and laws, how gun violence can be reduced without taking guns away from criminals and those who are mentally unstable, and corrupt business practices and impending climate disasters cannot be mitigated without just regulations. Remind them about the collapse of the housing market from mortgage scams and that many lenders were too big to jail.

Finally, when Republicans over-reach, proposing draconian policies that flaunt our cherished traditions and social fabric, we must fight like hell. The America we love and the traditions we cherish are worth fighting for.


by Tim Urban
Posted 3/1/17

2 Comments on "Understanding, Talking With The Other Side In The Time Of Trump"

  • Why is it that Democrats are always one who have the burden of reaching out and listening to the other side?
    When I see and believe that Republicans are reaching out and looking for compromise then maybe I’ll start listening. I just hear a lot of America First hubris, deaf gloating, and uncompromising loathing for Liberals and a free press. They never turned a cheek to Obama (from day 1). They even blocked a Supreme court nomination;NOT even a hearing, is that democracy in action? And I should unilaterally start listening to them when they are deaf to their own responsibilities?
    We got knocked down in the last few election cycles why should Dems have to fall on their sword too? I am tired of Republicans taking advantage of Democrats’ self-destructive empathy; they know Dems always do this so they don’t have to do anything to compromise. They play a zero sum game and we help them. They are Lucy with the football and are just waiting for us Charlie Browns to come charging at the ball. This Charlie Brown is tired of ending up on his ass. When Republicans start prioritizing the ideals of our country over their agenda I’ll listen.
    Demographically they don’t hold a winning hand over the course of time so they have gamed the system and now are going deeper (a bill that make professors disclose their political party? Really? This is Fascism) The notion that the 2nd amendment supersedes the 1st amendment! By what? the schoolyard logic that two’s more than one?
    I am waiting for ANY Republican to stand up and say that “the Democrats have a point, maybe we should work with them”. You get what you give and they’re not giving anything even if it destroys the Nation why should I lend them a hand. They own it.

  • Tim, you started out fine with a desire to understand those who voted for Trump, and like-minded politicians. On immigration, what is needed is a new, and sound law defining application, and procedure in becoming a citizen, first and foremost, that takes into account today’s needs. Understand that we have a law already on the books for many years, and not enforced, and conveniently overlooked by those profiting from illegals, that is that it’s NOT legal to employ undocumented people, period! Ignorance of the law has never been an excuse that holds water. Segregation is inherent to mankind’s ignorance of understanding what we are not familiar with. Knowledge, and education is key to understanding, and that won’t change unless we stop decimating our educational systems. Democrats have to be able, and willing to call out unions for losing their way, abandoning their core values, instead becoming bureaucratic, and politically motivated, money grabbing businesses, that their creation was to guard against! Being patriotic should include reading, and actually understanding the Constitution & Bill of Rights, as nobody seems to know the words, EQUALITY for ALL, are contained within it! We need simplification of laws, instead of writing legislation that is all encompassing with every possible if, and but clauses, we can put in it, which then leads to mountains of interpretations, which render it impossible to administer properly! Simply state what it is to do, and leave out the if, ands & buts, with no other interpretations accepted, period! Gun laws need only common sense applied, but that doesn’t exist on either side of the issue, as you stated that accidents claim deaths, well if you applied common sense, to most everything, then there would in deed be fewer deaths by all sorts of accidents, as for suicides, people intent on killing themselves will always find away. On the matter of guns, you have exposed your own prejudices! Finally fighting like hell, is not an understanding, nor a compromise that brings GOOD common sense GOVERNANCE!!! Being organised with a simple agenda, and being armed with common sense, with the ability to compromise, can and will achieve movement in the direction of progress.

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