As you will know from reading this site, I have no love for Donald Trump. I fear he’s going to destroy America, and that this comes from his narcissism—his caring more about being loved and admired than about the welfare of America (or anyone but himself). But what I see now among the Left is playing right into his hands. While the “Nazi” trope should be used sparingly, it’s often applied willy-nilly by bloggers or people on Facebook to smear not only Trump, but his supporters.
Well, Trump is not a Nazi, nor are all his supporters racists, xenophobes, or misogynists. The worst comment that Hillary Clinton made during the election, I think, was this:
You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.
Watch this and tell me you don’t this is insufferably smug:
Now Clinton apologized for this comment the next day, but the damage was done.
You don’t win elections by characterizing half of your opponent’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” nor by the kind of name-calling you see the third sentence of her quote. Now I didn’t know for sure in the days before the election, but I felt that this kind of demonization, and the moral superiority and certitude of the Left, was driving people into the arms of Trump. (Conservatives, of course, have their own moral certitude, often based on religion, but my audience here is my own readers, who are largely on the non-authoritarian Left.) And I feel uncomfortable, too. For instance, though I put up post after post detailing Trump’s follies, I also cringe when movie stars stand up at award ceremonies and give political speeches, because it’s a form of virtue signaling and arrogance that I see as unreflective and divisive. That would be like me, getting some kind of prize for doing science, giving a gratuitous political speech and calling for resistance to Trumpism (which of course I approve of). But others may disagree.
Nevertheless, Sabrine Tavernese, a national correspondent for the New York Times, agrees with me in a new op-ed called “Are liberals helping Trump?” Her answer, by and large, is “yes.” Her argument, which finds support in interviews with several people, including Jon Haidt, is twofold. First, liberals’ name-calling of Trump supporters—even ones who voted for him reluctantly—has driven them more firmly into the Trump camp, for they see no compromise with the Left and are deeply hurt when they’re slandered. Second violent protesst by the Left reduces their support.
Here are a few quotes from the piece:
Jeffrey Medford, a small-business owner in South Carolina, voted reluctantly for Donald Trump. As a conservative, he felt the need to choose the Republican. But some things are making him feel uncomfortable — parts of Mr. Trump’s travel ban, for example, and the recurring theme of his apparent affinity for Russia.
Mr. Medford [a small business owner in South Carolina) should be a natural ally for liberals trying to convince the country that Mr. Trump was a bad choice. But it is not working out that way. Every time Mr. Medford dips into the political debate — either with strangers on Facebook or friends in New York and Los Angeles — he comes away feeling battered by contempt and an attitude of moral superiority.
“We’re backed into a corner,” said Mr. Medford, 46, whose business teaches people to be filmmakers. “There are at least some things about Trump I find to be defensible. But they are saying: ‘Agree with us 100 percent or you are morally bankrupt. You’re an idiot if you support any part of Trump.’ ”
He added: “I didn’t choose a side. They put me on one.”
Protests and righteous indignation on social media and in Hollywood may seem to liberals to be about policy and persuasion. But moderate conservatives say they are having the opposite effect, chipping away at their middle ground and pushing them closer to Mr. Trump.
“The name calling from the left is crazy,” said Bryce Youngquist, 34, who works in sales for a tech start-up in Mountain View, Calif., a liberal enclave where admitting you voted for Mr. Trump is a little like saying in the 1950s that you were gay. “They are complaining that Trump calls people names, but they turned into some mean people.”
He came out a few days before the election. On election night, a friend posted on Facebook, “You are a disgusting human being.”
“They were making me want to support him more with how irrational they were being,” Mr. Youngquist said.
There is absolutely no need to call someone like Youngquist a “disgusting human being”. You may feel more virtuous, but you’ve just hurt your cause. And there’s this:
Conservatives have gotten vicious, too, sometimes with Mr. Trump’s encouragement. But if political action is meant to persuade people that Mr. Trump is bad for the country, then people on the fence would seem a logical place to start. Yet many seemingly persuadable conservatives say that liberals are burning bridges rather than building them.
“We are in a trust spiral,” said Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University. “My fear is that we have reached escape velocity where the actions of each side can produce such strong reactions on the other that things will continue to escalate.”
I don’t have a problem with protesting as long as it’s peaceful, but this is destroying the country,” said Ann O’Connell, 72, a retired administrative assistant in Syracuse who voted for Mr. Trump. “I feel like we are in some kind of civil war right now. I know people don’t like to use those terms. But I think it’s scary.”
Mrs. O’Connell is a registered Democrat. She voted for Bill Clinton twice. But she has drifted away from the party over what she said was a move from its middle-class economic roots toward identity politics. She remembers Mr. Clinton giving a speech about the dangers of illegal immigration. Mr. Trump was lambasted for offering some of the same ideas, she said.
“The Democratic Party has changed so much that I don’t even recognize it anymore,” she said. “These people are destroying our democracy. They are scarier to me than these Islamic terrorists. I feel absolutely disgusted with them and their antics. It strengthens people’s resolve in wanting to support President Trump. It really does.”
and, finally, this:
Late last year, [Medford] hit it off with a woman in New York he met online. They spent hours on the phone. They made plans for him to visit. But when he mentioned he had voted for Mr. Trump, she said she was embarrassed and didn’t know if she wanted him to come. (He eventually did, but she lied to her friends about his visiting.)
“It invalidated anything that’s good about me, just because of how I voted. Poof, it’s gone.”
Well, I can sort of understand not wanting a romantic relationship with a Trump voter, just as I don’t think I could be involved with someone who is deeply religious. But the name-calling I see everywhere, and the virtue signaling exemplified by sites like The Huffington Post, turn me off. And I’m a Democrat who voted for Clinton!
It’s time that angry liberals stop calling every Republican a misogynist, a Nazi, or a white supremacist. On left-wing websites everywhere, these terms are being dispensed like gumballs from a machine. If we really want to take back the country, we have to deal with issues. Name-calling may make us feel good, but it’s not going to change the country. Buckling down and working for your ideas may not succeed, either, for the three branches of government are all moving rightward. But political action has a better chance of succeeding than does slander.