One of the more distressing aspects of the disastrous Presidential campaign of 2015-2016 was the breakdown of communication – not only between the media and citizens but even more so between family members and friends split between the candidates. Both sides are to blame, and both sides have a vital stake in restoring some common basis for dialogue.
Progressives (and many Conservatives) can rightly bemoan the lack of consideration of facts and reality among Trump supporters. The numerous lies, false claims, reversals of statements, etc. seemed irrelevant to them. Even an admission of his sexual predation only briefly concerned some Trump supporters before it was summarily dismissed anyway (most white women voted for Trump). Even Trump encouraging the Russians to conduct cyber-espionage against our Country to his benefit – and then they did – is dismissed as irrelevant to the one over-riding issue of supporting Trump no matter what. That phenomenon is real and it is a real danger to our Country. However, it is important to realize that the 48.5% of Americans who voted Trump into office didn’t suddenly lose their minds or sense of reality, or their loyalty to America.
Trump supporters are driven by certainty of their beliefs, no matter what the facts are. Those beliefs are in large part driven by emotions – fear and anger primarily. When a person feels those strong emotions then they will over-ride rational argument. It is a bit like arguing with a person about their religious beliefs – faith “trumps” reality. Some of the fear is a reaction to what they perceive are threats exploited by the media (for profits) and by Trump (for votes). Some of the anger is a reaction to a valid sense of judgment and intolerance from the left, embodied by Hillary. For too long the insistence on tolerance by the Left has created intolerance of some basic values that many Americans hold. Even more important is that the Left has displayed intolerance even to attempts by some of those same Americans to simply talk about their concerns. If the Left has been telling these Americans in words and actions “we don’t care what your concerns are or what you have to say, you must conform to our values…” then why should those same Americans care about anything other than making their point by ignoring reality and elect Trump?
Without an attempt to listen and not judge Trump supporters there will be no movement back to respecting facts and reality as a basis of forming consensus and policy.