Engaging With Trump’s Die-Hard Supporters Isn’t ProductiveRoundup
tags: conservatism, far right, Donald Trump, 2020 Election
President-elect Joe Biden made national unity a centerpiece of his campaign, and no patriotic American who wants to repair the damage of the Donald Trump years can argue with such a noble call. The election is over, and we can now undertake the tasks Trump neglected, including fighting the coronavirus pandemic and restoring our alliances. But millions of Americans are not ready to declare that bygones are bygones and engage the loyal Trump supporters they might still find among their neighbors, friends, or families.
They are not wrong to feel this way.
That may sound like a profoundly un-civic, even un-American, stance. After all, Democrats, independents, and what’s left of the last few sensible Republicans should not stop trying to solve problems together. To cease all political communication would not only be foolish, but our system of government does not allow it. Even in the minority, a party can help or hinder the process of governing.
Nonetheless, ordinary people worn out by the dramas and lies of the past four years have a right to refuse to take Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters seriously. To reject further debate with people whose views are completely incoherent is not only understandable, but sensible.
I am not talking about all 74 million people who voted for Trump. Some voters may well have supported Trump in both 2016 and 2020 with a sense of hesitancy, perhaps focused on a single issue, such as abortion, or because they were making a raw and self-interested calculation about taxes. Trump picked these voters up from Republican campaigns that came before him, and he will bequeath them to the Republican candidates who come after him. Some of these voters, as we learned this year, can be persuaded to reject candidates such as Trump.
Instead, I am talking about the people who are giving Trump their full-throated support to the very end, even as he mulls a military coup; the people who buy weird paintings of Trump crossing the Delaware, or who believe that Trump is an agent of Jesus Christ, or who think that Trump is fighting a blood-drinking ring of pedophiles. These supporters have gone far beyond political loyalty and have succumbed to a kind of mass delusion. It is not possible to engage them. Indeed, to argue with them is to legitimize their beliefs, which itself is unhealthy for our democracy.
I don’t want to treat our fellow citizens with open contempt, or to confront and berate them. Rather, I am arguing for silence. The Trump loyalists who still cling to conspiracy theories and who remain part of a cult of personality should be deprived of the attention they seek, shunned for their antidemocratic lunacy, and then outvoted at the ballot box.
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