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Trump Voters: Should We Write Them Off or Try to Bring Them Back from the Dark Side: Part I

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A friend tells me that I’m wasting my time with my efforts to engage the conservatives of my very red congressional District (VA-06), using challenging weekly op/ed pieces in the region’s newspapers.

He tells me that my efforts — to bring their beliefs into alignment with reality, and their political allegiance into alignment with the values they claim to hold — are useless. These Republican voters are trapped in the right-wing propaganda bubble. They will never listen to a liberal intellectual like me. In any event, their thought processes are impervious to evidence and logic.  And he challenges me to adduce any evidence that my efforts are moving them at all.

We should just write those people off, my friend advises, and instead focus on defeating them. My attention should be directed not on moving these Republicans, but instead toward boosting the ability of Democrats to organize effectively at all levels to win elections.

Is he right?

I certainly agree that working to make the Democratic Party more effective at winning elections is important. (Whatever criticism one may have of the Democratic Party, it is the only conceivable force to block this era’s rogue Republican Party from continuing to demolish all that’s best in American civilization.)

But on whether to write these people off, I emphatically disagree: I say that trying to cure what ails them is the central political challenge of our time.

Let me explain why.

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If the election of a monster of a man like Trump to the presidency has shown us anything, it should have shown us that the consciousness of these people — the beliefs they hold pertaining to the realm of American politics. the passions that drive them — has now become the main reservoir of the force of brokenness that has taken over the political right over the past generation.

Would we not all agree that Trump’s ascendancy to the Oval Office represents a major advance in the power of the force of brokenness in America?

It is important that we recognize that the impetus for this advance of brokenness — the rise of Trump to the presidency — came from below, from the American public.

America now has a most dangerous presidency descending upon it because of the dangerous state of consciousness of the Republican electorate.

The Republican electorate inflicted Trump upon us in two stages.

In the opening stage, the decisive role was played by the 40% of the Republican primary electorate that was enthusiastic about making Trump the Republican nominee, contrary to the preferences of the powers at the top — the Republican Party establishment and of the Big Money power (as represented, for example, by the Koch brothers).

Bottom up: it seems that the only ones who wanted Trump to become president, aside from Trump, were the grassroots.

Then, in the next stage (the general election), it was the willingness of the whole Republican electorate to rally around Trump — along with additional support from other components of the American public — that gave him the victory in the Electoral college.

So this unprecedentedly dangerous Trump presidency is the product of — and a reflection of — a profound level of brokenness in the consciousness of a great many Americans.

(Anyone interested in the case for why support for Trump demonstrates this profound brokenness in the ways of thinking and feeling of his supporters can find the argument — sketched in a few broad strokes — below as a NOTE.)

All of which means that we have just witnessed a dramatic demonstration of a significant fact:  the state of consciousness of the “conservatives” of America poses a great threat to our nation’s well-being.

Given that this reservoir of broken consciousness — false beliefs mixed with dark passions — has shown itself (in the election of Trump) to be capable of inflicting major damage on the nation, does it not follow that among the battles to determine the destiny of America, that waged for the “hearts and minds” of the conservatives will be as important as any?

And should we not be wary, therefore, of any political strategy that would take that powerful reservoir of brokenness as a given, and leave a toxic state of consciousness of the people on the Republican side alone?

(The second and final installment, which will be posted here tomorrow, will begin with showing how –over the course of the rise of the destructive force that has taken over the American right– the sickness of consciousness in the “conservative” electorate has grown more and more central to the main political battle in America today.)

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NOTE: How We Know Something Has Gone Seriously Amiss in the Consciousness of Trump Voters

We should note how clearly the support for Trump demonstrates the profound and dangerous brokenness in the consciousness of the “conservatives” of America who have elected him president. This case I’ll make here briefly with two main points. 

Trump showed himself to be precisely the kind of person any sensible person/nation would most want to keep far away from power. He showed himself clearly to be

  • a bully, getting jollies from using his power to humiliate people;
  • a shameless liar, making things up to a degree unprecedented in more than two centuries of presidential candidates;
  • not only disrespectful for the norms American culture has used to civilize political behavior, but positively eager to trample on them;
  • profoundly ignorant, and to lack the capacity and/or desire to gain essential knowledge, and grossly arrogant in his unwarranted confidence in his understanding;
  • willing to exploit people by conning and/or stiffing them, for his own enrichment and advancement;
  • to be a narcissist for whom everything is about him.

Who in their right mind – if they saw all this — would want to invest such a person with the powers of the presidency?

“If they saw all this.” Which leads to the second point in making this case:

Trump demonstrated all this so blatantly, that the validity of that portrait should have been crystal clear to anyone paying even rudimentary attention to the campaign. Unless, that is, something had gone awry in their connection to reality and to their own moral/spiritual core.

And who in their right mind would believe, as Trump voters presumably do, that Trump was a person who would make things better— that he would better their condition, and better the state of the nation?

Anyone watching the campaign should have been able to see that all of Trump’s basic impulses are destructive. They should have been able to see that he was already systematically making America worse (e.g. with his impact of increasing inter-group tensions and hostilities, with his degradation of the norms constructed over generations to safeguard our democracy, with his degradation of our national discourse, etc.).

Something was clearly amiss in the minds of any who could watch what he was doing and conclude that Trump would use whatever power he was given to make things better.

  • John Farrell

    Andy, please stop. That callous on your forehead is going to get so large you won’t be able to lift your head.

    I’ve got several Trump voters in my law firm. They’re attorneys! They’re trained to evaluate situations on the basis of evidence and facts.

    And it’s completely hopeless.

    They just parrot the latest insanity from Brietbart or whatever parallel universe they inhabit and ignore reality. Or sanity.

    Totally Unpersuadable.

    • Agreed, this is a complete waste of time. Instead, focus on rallying Democrats, building our party, and defeating the bad guys.

    • Here’s a philosophical question for you: can you be a “good person,” as Andy claims the Trump supporters in his district are, and support what I think we all consider to be a dark force and/or evil incarnate? I’d strongly argue that you can’t be. Andy argues that you can be. Thoughts?

    • Andy Schmookler

      I will wait until tomorrow, when the second installment has been posted, to engage this assertion that one should stop this “complete waste of time” of trying with these people, because it is “completely hopeless.”

  • old_redneck

    Give it up, Andy. You cannot change them and it’s a waste of time to try.

    I live in Northumberland County . . . rural, 60-40 Republican and always will be.

    58% – 38% for Trump and proud of it.

    If there were a way to return to racial segregation in the schools, the county would do it in a heartbeat.