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Another message to "liberals" about "Trump voters"

I have a confession to make. Years ago, I wasn't like I am now. Today, I am pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ[A-Z]*, pro-immigration, pro-feminist, pro-healthcare, pro-etc. You might even call me "liberal". But, in the remote past, I was… not.

Growing up, I lived in a small conservative town in a very rural and very conservative county in Missouri. I was also conservative. I listened to Rush Limbaugh. I thought abortion was wrong. I thought feminism was evil. I thought "free" healthcare was bad. I thought affirmative action was wrong. I thought global warming was a hoax. I thought regulations were bad. I thought gay people were mentally ill. The first election I was able to vote in was in 1992: Clinton VS Bush: I voted for Bush.

I changed, and I really regret my former views. But.. I wasn't being dumb, or evil. I was certainly ignorant, as in I lacked knowledge, but I was not dumb or evil.

I was opposed to government regulations because I thought they were unnecessary and free markets would sort things out.

I was opposed to abortion because I sincerely believed it was murder of a human baby. I did not hate women or want to control them, I thought abortion was babies being murdered!

I was opposed to "feminism" because I thought it was unnecessary, and did more harm than good. I didn't think women "belonged in the home" or were just babymakers, I thought the sexist barriers were already really gone and feminism was just holding women back.

I thought "affirmative action" was unnecessary for the same reason, and unfair because it used race as a hiring factor, and therefore just made certain white people resent black people more.

Even the most yucky of my beliefs were not what one might think. I didn't "hate" or "fear" gay people: I thought they were either mentally ill or possibly "sinners".

And so on and so forth. All of my previous political positions I now regret were held not out of malice or even stupidity, but out of being raised that way and ignorance. You could call my ignorance male privilege if you want, but all the women in my family, town, and county felt (and voted) the same way. We were all various shades of dirt poor, but refused welfare, etc.

I changed my views very slowly, mostly through self-education, but sometimes the self-education was helped by stumbling upon random things people had written (online and in dead tree books in libraries), and personal interactions with people who I previously held to be "wrong". I met gay people. I met liberal people. I met people in situations I hadn't considered before. I met nice people with views I had thought of as, well, evil.

I learned more about the world and eventually changed my mind on one topic after another.

But it took a lot of time, and a lot of reading and thinking. Changing your mind is hard, and those stupid human emotions and brain quirks work against you.

What helped not one iota was angry people shouting and attributing false motives onto me:

Yelling that I hated women when I merely opposed baby-murder didn't help.

Yelling that I was "voting against my own interests" when I merely voted for what I considered the lesser of two evils didn't help.

Yelling that I was racist when I merely opposed affirmative action didn't help.

Yelling that I was racist when I merely voted Republican didn't help.

Yelling that I was racist when I merely opposed welfare didn't help.

Come to think of it, yelling that I was racist at any time when I wasn't actually racist didn't help.

In fact, yelling at me and attributing made-up motivations to me triggered the extremely human reaction of "fuck you" and, if anything, slowed down my evolution.

So where is all this going? Well, Trump was elected. And liberals do not like that. But they delight in analyzing "trump voters". Obviously, trump voters are stupid and racist, and even more racist.

They are just the scum of the earth, and are bigoted, racist, woman-hating, alt-right trolls! …

But… Really? Of the many people I know who I'm sure voted for Trump, I can think of only a very small handful who fall into those categories. Everyone else I know who voted that way simply cannot be assigned a "racist" label. You may possibly-rightfully attribute some of their beliefs to some unconscious racial bias, but that's obviously different than being the kind of outright racist they are being accused of.

Most of the Trump voters I know voted for him because they are Republicans. It's really that simple. Some of them are single-issue voters, some are full party-line voters. Most of the Trump voters I know voted for him because they are pro-life and Clinton was explicitly pro-choice. This includes all of the female Trump voters I know.

They voted for Trump because he was the Republican candidate and/or was not Clinton. They voted for Romney, they voted for McCain, they voted for Bush… And they voted for Trump. Most even said they didn't like Trump, and hated various things he said or did, but they still voted for him because, to them, Clinton would be a worse president, because she didn't support any of their goals.

There was no new big batch of racist voters who came out to vote for Trump. The vast majority of Trump voters were the same people who voted for Bush, McCain, and Romney:

  • In 2004, 62,040,610 people voted for George W Bush.
  • In 2008, 59,948,323 people voted for John McCain.
  • In 2012, 60,933,504 people voted for Mitt Romney.
  • In 2016, 62,979,636 people voted for Donald Trump.

Trump got practically the same number of votes as Bush II did 12 years ago. If you want to claim that anyone who votes Republican is automatically a racist, fine, I guess, but I saw it differently when I was a Republican (and when I voted third party), and still see it differently today after voting for Democrats for a dozen years or so.

If you want to change anyone's mind (and you do if you ever want a good president again), you have to convince them they are wrong. As great as it might feel to insult and yell at people who disagree with you, that won't change their minds. It's human nature to dislike people yelling at you, especially if they are insulting your intelligence and calling you a racist when you in no way feel like one. Those yelling may not like that it is the case, but it is: you will change very few minds with yelling and insults.

No, you do not have to "understand their point of view" or "sympathize" or "empathize". But merely not insulting them and not attributing motives to them they do not have would be a start. Yeah, I'm sure there are plenty of actually racist, bigoted, and sexist people out there who voted for Trump (I know a few!), and you're not under any obligation to treat those views as valid (but I'd like to change their minds as well), but don't try to paint those motives onto half the population.

I know many people from my area who are like me. People who, through ignorance and rural upbringing, had incorrect ideas about what life is like for other people. People who grew up rural and really didn't know any better, who, eventually, ended up knowing better. It takes time, introspection, good examples, and friendly voices. Again, you may not like that part, but it's still true: you will change very few minds with yelling and insults.

2017-06-30 #politics