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It's Time to Listen To and Evangelize Trump Voters

Remember this? (Caution: Not safe for work.)


I've been thinking about this a lot because, after Super Tuesday, it seems likely that Donald Trump will be the de facto Republican nominee for president. And even a lot of Republicans agree that this is bad. It's even worse if Trump ends up president. So how do we stop him? How do we stop a candidate when every attack on him seems only to make him stronger?

Maybe we think evangelically.

I'm not saying this in the religious sense. I am saying this in the sense that we non-Trump-loving Americans do something that's not tried all that often anymore: We should make a concerted, respectful effort not just to turn our own voters to the polls, but to convince our fellow citizens that a vote for Trump is wrong — not just from our worldview, but from theirs.

I am, admittedly, spitballing here. That's what a blog is for.

The dominant response to Trump has been contempt. This might as well be his response:


Why? Because Donald, I think, has perfected an insight that goes back at least to Richard Nixon: When we express contempt for him, we're expressing contempt for his voters — or so they feel. And that just re-doubles their passion to support him. Conservatives have been using the attitudes of pointy-headed liberals against liberals for a long time, and what's more, they haven't always been wrong. It's never been productive for liberals; this election season it could be positively disastrous.

 So evangelizing Trump voters is going to require a method rarely used in our politics. We should listen to Trump voters. Ask them what they value. And then make the case to those voters based on their values — even if they're not yours. Because the seeming truth is this: It's unlikely that Donald Trump will be a good president for anybody but Donald Trump. There is literally nothing in his history to suggest otherwise.

I'm not talking about a Luntzian listening campaign, where we elicit information purely for the sake of crafting a slick marketing message. I'm not talking about a door-to-door campaign targeted at likely voters, where 10 minutes is spent standing in a doorway making a case.

I'm talking real listening. And real conversation. With people we know.

Trump voters are our fellow citizens. With rare exception, we cannot — should not — write them off. They want respect? Give it to them. They're angry? Hear them out. You don't have to like what you hear. But it might be good, wise practice to take it seriously.

For example: I'm pro-choice. Your friend may be pro-life. If that's their value —and a remarkable portion of Donald's supporters come from evangelical Christianity — don't try to fool them. Acknowledge the difference. Then ask: What laws do you think Donald Trump will pass to benefit your point of view? What judges will he appoint to carry out that vision? Be respectful.

And so on and so forth. This may be a conversation involving multiple conversations, so that research can be done. Don't try to convince your Trump voter to, say, feel the Bern. (I don't want these folks to vote Democratic so much as I want them not to vote for Trump.) Let them figure out who they want as their alternative candidate. But do take time — again, cautiously, respectfully — to convince them, on their terms, that Trump is not the leader they're looking for.

I think that case can be made, because I think, in all but a few cases, it's simply true. And we have a few months to make our case.


Fletcher Dodge said…
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves…"

Did you read Taibbi's recent piece in RS?

"The electoral roadshow, that giant ball of corrupt self-importance, gets bigger and more grandiloquent every four years. This time around, there was so much press at the Manchester Radisson, you could have wiped out the entire cable-news industry by detonating a single Ryder truck full of fertilizer.

Like the actual circus, this is a roving business. Cash flows to campaigns from people and donors; campaigns buy ads; ads pay for journalists; journalists assess candidates. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the ever-growing press corps tends in most years to like – or at least deem "most serious" – the candidates who buy the most ads. Nine out of 10 times in America, the candidate who raises the most money wins. And those candidates then owe the most favors.

Meaning that for the pleasure of being able to watch insincere campaign coverage and see manipulative political ads on TV for free, we end up having to pay inflated Medicare drug prices, fund bank bailouts with our taxes, let billionaires pay 17 percent tax rates, and suffer a thousand other indignities. Trump is right: Because Jeb Bush can't afford to make his own commercials, he would go into the White House in the pocket of a drug manufacturer. It really is that stupid.

The triumvirate of big media, big donors and big political parties has until now successfully excluded every challenge to its authority. But like every aristocracy, it eventually got lazy and profligate, too sure it was loved by the people. It's now shocked that voters in depressed ex-factory towns won't keep pulling the lever for "conservative principles," or that union members bitten a dozen times over by a trade deal won't just keep voting Democratic on cue."
Malbuff said…
Thank you for pointing this out. Every time a group of idiots runs wild in the streets over Trump, ten thousand more people decide to support him.

A great deal of the Trump support comes from the true conviction that the establishment candidates are unacceptable and that a fresh alternative is necessary-- and that perhaps any alternative is preferable.

Whom, then, would you suggest as a reasonable alternative to Trump? Not Mrs Clinton, certainly; she is a career criminal, and as bad as Trump may be, she is far, far worse. Do you support Bernie Sanders, who at least is honest and forthcoming about his policy proposals and beliefs?

I guarantee if you "evangelize" your local Trump voters, you will have to answer this question, and your success or failure will depend on the quality of your answer.

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