I wrote yesterday about the key problem with some – certainly not all – Trump supporters. In my view, it is that they believe that Trump may be a reflexive liar but that about the important things, he’s completely honest. They hold this perception because they were told repeatedly that Trump would be an anti-PC crusader in the culture war, and Trump seems to have taken that stand.
I have long thought that the only person who can permanently change someone’s mind is that someone. If this is true, what is required to get people to shift away from their support of Trump on the culture war issue is to make them recognize that he’s betrayed them.
On the surface, that’s going to be a hard sell. They’re already invested in Trump and they have watched him stand seemingly oblivious to demands for not only political correctness but also basic decency. His obstinacy and vacuousness are therefore interpreted as strength, which is an attractive trait in a leader.
I believe there are chances, though, and I hold that belief because of history. There have been periods in Trump’s Presidency where confidence in him has waned. These have happened due to his base recognizing for fleeting moments that they’ve been conned. We need to use those moments as levers to pry them from their rote responses and encourage them to think.
Nothing changes until they start thinking for themselves.
Unfortunately this means that some of them, including the most vocal of the self-defined patriots, are unreachable. They’ve never thought for themselves, and they’re not going to start now. These people need to be avoided, because they will suck away your time and energy. At first glance, they should be the easiest to reach because they’ve always spoken glowingly about the Constitution and liberty and freedom. In reality, they are merely people who are the most eager to demonstrate they can regurgitate talking points of their chosen leaders. They are not only lost at the outset, but also they will keep you from addressing those who can be deprogrammed.
If someone is willing to discuss the foundations of the country with you, your task is already almost complete. If they’re doing anything but regurgitating the latest talking points from Hugh Hewitt and Mark Levin, they’re probably open to a serious discussion.
For the others, it’s going to be a tough process of feeling them out on where they have felt betrayed in the past. The exception will be for those who trusted Trump with their retirement savings and are watching things spiraling down right now. With them, you can probably just hear them gripe and go along with it.
Other topics that are ripe for addressing are Trump’s refusal to support Puerto Rican disaster recovery efforts (for the non-racists, Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and it’s a matter of national honor to help those you’ve sworn to protect); the backstabbing of the Kurds (again, it’s a matter of honor to support our military allies on the battlefield), the bump stock ban (2nd Amendment rights shouldn’t be infringed); various border issues (separation of families, the large number of asylum seekers who’ve been sent back to die, and the father and daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande all bother various pro-life and pro-family people for different reasons.)
In all of these instances, the core mechanism has to be the same. A principle that the person truly cares about has to be identified, by generally agreeing with the person and by asking them, with interest, about their thoughts. Don’t argue, don’t rebut. Just listen.
When that deep concern is voiced, ask why it matters to them… not in a snarky or dismissive way, but as a serious question. Let them feel like they’re wise, dispersing knowledge. The goal here is to make them consider why a core value is important, because that will start them thinking about the meanings of things.
Then introduce the Trump betrayal in as non-confrontational a way as you can manage. A simple inquiry might be best in some cases: “But if the family is so important, why were we separating families at the border even if they were just seeking asylum?” In others, a commiseration: “I’m glad President Trump reversed his decision to take the guns first and then let people go to court to get them back. It’s a shame he didn’t change his mind about bump stocks.”
It’s all about incrementalism. Present them, in a friendly guise, with proof of a betrayal and then let them consider it. It may take a few attempts to light the flame, and it may never catch. Even if it does, it will need to be regularly fanned. But they’re effectively in the middle of a cult, constantly getting bombarded with demands to conform. I think the only way to approach them is in the same way a deprogrammer would address a cultist.
Once they are willing to accept that he has betrayed them on one issue they hold dear, it’s time to strike for the goal. Then, and only then, is it worth discussing what you feel is the core of Americanism – not the trappings of baseball and apple pie, but the demands for all people to be able to seek a life of freedom for themselves and their families. Basic human rights, in the truest sense of the term. If they springboard to recognize that Trump may have betrayed them on that as well, they are likely to remain off his reservation.
The core of deprogramming is to make a cult member confront and consider irrefutable proof of the leader’s dishonesty to their followers. Trump has produced more than his share of such proof.