I had a back-and-forth on Twitter yesterday, in which a former Second City alum, seeing that I was against Trump but not against the history of the Republicans, pressed me to accept that Trump was merely the natural result of the racism of the GOP.
I didn’t accept that, because it’s not true. Has the GOP had racist candidates and run racist campaigns? Absolutely. So have the Democrats, and independent movements. The deeper one goes into history, the worse it gets for the Democrats, which is undoubtedly why this gentleman stopped at 1980 in his analysis. Even in the modern age, though, local elections have sometimes engaged in racism where they thought it could aid them. That’s happened not only for white candidates, but black and Hispanic candidates as well.
The problem with Trump is not that he is some natural culmination of an underlying racism of the GOP. The problem is that he is the result of an unwillingness to think. People have ceded that basic political necessity to “thought leaders”, and have gotten into the habit not only of doing what they’re told, but thinking what they’re told.
That tendency is valuable political currency for leaders, and they are loathe to confront it. Better, in the minds of many, to ride out the stormy currents and then take control again at the end. After all, when the problem is over, if the people are still going to follow anything their leaders tell them, the prior leadership can be reversed quickly. Donald Trump will still be a secret genius and strongly conservative, but every policy he promoted will be quietly or even brashly reversed.
This is a design for failure. Among the followers, there are many who will break off if the statements and actions grow too distant from their own beliefs. Embracing racism is not something that most people do willingly. Pressuring them on it is likely to push them away from the party. Even if Trump gets to the levels of Bush or Reagan support within the Republican party, if that party is only scraping together 20% of the population, they will lose, and lose badly.
This is an opportunity for success for both the Democrats and Independent voters… meanwhile, the Democrats are working on failures of their own.
The Twitter exchange I had was representative of those I’ve seen play out on Twitter and Facebook elsewhere. Finding someone who has renounced Trump, far-left Democrat activists attempt to get them to decry all they have ever supported.
Undoubtedly, this effort finds some resonance among those who were only casually politically active and who feel deeply betrayed by the Republican abandonment of their historical principles. It will have success in rare occasions, on a surface level. Far more often, however, it will simply drive people back toward Trump.
For most people feeling betrayed by the President and the acquiescence of the GOP to his anti-conservative ways, they wish to continue to hold to their principles. Those are more important than the camaraderie of party affiliation and the ready associations of group. Attacking them for maintaining those principles is a certain way to alienate them and push them away.
Trump and the Democrat hard left are both going to hand people dozens of reasons not to vote for them. The job of the activists should be mitigate those losses, not magnify them.
As a person who does not want either the Trumpists nor most Democrats to win national office, the strong efforts on both sides of the fence to keep turnout low are not bothersome to me; I simply note them. Having acknowledged their existence, I also recognize they present an opportunity for a centrist, third-party or independent candidate who runs a smart campaign.
They also provide a lesson for others. The proper reaction to anyone who is peeling away from Trump is “Good for you, I know that’s got to be hard.” coupled with some of the more egregiously anti-conservative things he’s done that may have convinced others to leave. “It must have been tempting to bleed off when you found out about the debt” or “I know there was some serious soul-searching when it was revealed he’d cheated on Melania just after she gave birth” or “when it became apparent he wasn’t just setting up Kim, but actually praising him, I think a lot of people started to waver.” Sympathy and empathy, along with reminding them of why their decision is a good one.
“You were an idiot for ever supporting him in the first place” may feel good and give a momentary jolt of superiority, but it’s likely to drive the person right back to the anti-conservative Republicans.
We stand on principle because we’re striving to be better people. If other people want to embrace the politics of failure, I suggest we leave that to them.