One of the Voters for Trump I Know

I know some people who voted for Trump. One of them doesn’t mind telling people he voted for Trump, but the one I want to talk about does not want to be known as a Trump voter. Therefore, I am going to discuss her anonymously.

She grew up in poverty, is an immigrant, non-religious, her native language is not English, she did some feminist activism in her youth, she is in favor of a single-payer healthcare system, has a Ph.D, and is vegetarian.

Some of you may be thinking that she voted for Trump because she has internalized misogyny. My short answer is: no, that’s not why, in fact she has done more to promote women’s rights than a lot of the women who voted for Clinton. Some of you may assume that she voted for Trump because she is racist. To that I say: like most white Americans, she has some racial prejudices. However, the only political sign she put on her home during this entire election campaign was for a black female politician who was running against a white male politician. If you think her vote for Trump was motivated primarily by race, please explain why she would put up a sign in favor of a black female politician rather than support the white male politician who was running in the same race.

If you’re thinking “If she is not religious, not sexist/misogynist, and has a sufficiently low level of racism to support a black female politician over a white male politician, then why the hell did she vote for Trump?” then my response is “That is a really good question.” And in general, when people say “How could anyone vote for Trump?” my response is “That is a good question. Talk with and listen to people who voted for Trump.”

If you want to know why she voted for Trump, it is this: ever since Al Gore won the popular vote but not the presidential election, she has on principle never voted for the candidate she expects to win California. That means she has not voted for a Democrat for president since 2000. Why Trump and not a third party candidate? I don’t entirely understand why, but her vote was primarily a protest against how the electoral college system prevents her vote from counting. And yes, she is mad that the candidate who won the electoral college is not the same candidate who won the popular vote.

Here is another question: why would anyone who has always opposed the Iraq War vote for Hillary Clinton, who voted for the Iraq War and never expressed any regret before December 2006, rather than Donald Trump, who never expressed clear public support for the Iraq War and was publicly opposed to it as early as July 2003? I think the most common answer to that question is “I would rather vote for pro-Iraq-war politician, especially one who later expressed regret about her vote in favor of the Iraq War, than an anti-Iraq-war politician who makes racist and misogynist remarks, has suggested restricting travel on the basis of religion, is in favor of deporting undocumented immigrants, and will appoint Republicans to the Supreme Court.” If you are someone who has always opposed the Iraq War yet voted for Hillary Clinton, feel free to share your answer in the comments.

I have been really disappointed by the level of vitriol aimed at Trump voters in this election campaign. Note I said at voters, not at Trump himself. I am so okay with saying Trump is deplorable that I’ll go ahead and say it right now: Trump is deplorable. I do not support him, and I did not vote for him.

However, I believe that Trump won in spite of all of his terrible qualities because for too long politicians have refused to listen to the demands of working class voters. If the Democratic party listened to working class voters – like it did fifty years ago – I do not believe that Trump could have won this election (I know, not all Trump voters are white, but the majority of them are).

To be sure, there is a vocal minority of Trump supporters who are openly misogynist and racist. However, I do not believe that there were enough of them to allow him to win the electoral college. For example, the hypothesis that Trump voters were primarily motivated by racism does not explain how Trump got slightly more support from Latino and African-American voters than Mitt Romney in 2012. It seems to me that the majority of people who voted for Trump were people who wanted to reject the political establishment, not people who enthusiastically embrace misogyny and racism.

While I refused to vote for Trump myself, I think the American people were right to reject the establishment. After all, the establishment brought us programs like HAMP (more specifically, the Obama administration, since it was a program run by the executive branch, not the legislative branch). Why would voters who lost their home thanks to a program run by a Democrat president be willing to vote for another Democrat for president?

Critique Trump’s political agenda all you want – there is certainly a lot about it I don’t like – but if you want to reduce the popularity of people like him, I suggest talking to the people who voted for him and learning about their concerns rather than dismissing them. One of the most effective ways to get someone else to change their mind is to first let them express their views and then listen to them before discussing one’s own views.

And when you talk about people who voted for Trump, remember, you are talking about people.

I recommend reading this and this. I also think that Elizabeth Warren has a pragmatic response to Trump’s victory.

5 thoughts on “One of the Voters for Trump I Know

  1. Ehhh, I just don’t buy it. This lady’s “on principle” excuse, I mean. I don’t really care if someone voted for him “despite” his racism/misogyny. The fact of it is, if you’re going to vote for someone “despite” knowing that they’re racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic, anti-muslim etc… you have to come to the conclusion that it’s somehow WORTH IT to support someone like that, to risk that your support will make a difference even if you live in a blue state, knowing that if he wins, people will actually suffer and die due to hate crimes, their support system and access to medical care being ripped away from them, and so on. A vote for someone like that, even a “protest vote,” regardless of “principles,” is still a vote FOR a person supported by actual Nazis and Klansmen, whose entire campaign was funded by Breitbart. It betrays a person who, at BEST, is not treating the situation with the gravity that it deserves. The EFFECT of the vote (and the risk of such) is what really matters, because nobody can tell from your ballot that you’re voting “on principle.” Even in a blue state, voting for a person like that will still have very real consequences of allowing the Klan to think you’re on their side, and embolden them. You will still send a message to survivors that our experiences DON’T MATTER, that it’s okay to elect to our highest office an unrepentant serial sexual abuser.

    Having fought for women’s rights in the past does not erase these consequences, and does not excuse the harm done by voting that way.

    It consider it totally immoral to make that kind of calculation, and I cannot forgive it or tolerate it in my friends (because that means that they are willing to dismiss MY pain, so how can I trust someone like that?). If I knew this person, then I would, in fact, minimize contact with her at the very least. If she persisted and pushed me into talking about politics, it would lead to an argument, and yeah, I might even use the word deplorable. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, not in all cases, even though yes, it was a bad decision for Clinton to say that.

    It is a privilege to be ABLE to actually sit there and listen to a Trump supporter, and it’s one that I don’t have. For those who have it, that’s great, go talk to them, listen to them, and try to reason with them if you can. That’s work that needs to be done by SOMEONE. But for me, as a survivor, my mental health will simply not allow it. I need to keep myself safe.

    For all of these reasons, I don’t begrudge anyone for having antipathy towards Trump voters as well as Trump himself, and I kinda think doing so veers dangerously close to respectability politics.

    • In retrospect, I realized that it would have been better for me to put in a note about people for whom not discussing this is self-care (and I myself would rather not talk to the most openly racist/misogynistic Trump voters myself).

      However, I must point out that for many people, avoiding Trump voters is *also* a privilege. Even though I live in a city where only 10% of voters voted for Trump, I can’t entirely avoid them (especially since most of them have kept their vote private, and therefore I don’t know that they voted for Trump). If one lives in a “red” state, avoiding Trump voters is even harder. I don’t think someone whose social circle, say, consists of 80% of Trump voters should to called upon to socially withdraw from them, even if it is feasible for them to do so (which it possibly is not).

      I’ve also read that some people voted for Trump because they were afraid that Hillary would start a war with Russia over Syria and that a war with Russia could become nuclear. Was this a well-founded fear? Perhaps not, but given that someone believed this, I do not think someone should be ostracized just because they preferred voting for a serial sexual assaulter over someone they *believed* could start a nuclear war.

      I don’t begrudge anyone who has antipathy towards Trump voters since feelings are valid, period. I am talking about how people *express* those feelings. I think many of the ways which people are responding to this are going to make it harder to take people like Trump out of power. If that is respectability politics, then fine, I am willing to use respectability politics when I think it will further my political goals.

      • “However, I must point out that for many people, avoiding Trump voters is *also* a privilege.”

        Well, of course. I certainly can’t avoid them all myself, but it’s a different thing to avoid them completely than to minimize contact or do what you can to reduce the chances of that contact being very harmful. I haven’t called on anyone to completely socially withdraw from everyone who supported Trump. It’s a personal choice, people shouldn’t be pushed one way or another. What’s better for one person doesn’t work for another.

        But to engage with someone in the way you suggest, that is different from BOTH cutting and reducing contact.

        “I do not think someone should be ostracized just because they preferred voting for a serial sexual assaulter over someone they *believed* could start a nuclear war.”

        The thing is, cutting off or reducing your social contact with someone because they supported Trump is NOT the same as “ostracizing” them. People are not entitled to any given person’s friendship. They need to show that they are worthy of that sort of trust. An individual person’s decision to start avoiding someone, whether explained or otherwise (ghosting), is just that. It’s not the same as actively ostracizing or trying to isolate them. That many people in a person’s social circle may no longer trust a person who voted for Trump (and admitted it), well, that’s just something those people will have to live with. I agree that it would be better if some people are still able to engage with them to talk them out of it, but if that’s not possible, well. There’s not much you can do about it in that case.

        There are things Trump voters can do to improve the chances of people trusting them again in the future. They’re not helpless, here. They can show concern, regret, and work to improve the situation. But it’s kind of on them to make an effort to reach out in a safe/supportive way, not on the people who feel unsafe being around them anymore. Anyone who can manage to engage with Trump voters long enough to convince them that yes, they actually do need to make an effort to restore trust is doing a good thing, but whether it’s safe or worthwhile for any individual person to engage in that way is up to them.

        (And yeah, I do think it’s patently ridiculous to believe that Clinton was the one who might start a nuclear war, given that Trump is the one who actually said that he would do so. But it’s not that surprising given the campaign of lies and the extremely sexist double-standard the media was holding her to the whole time.)

      • Hmmmm. I do agree with your point that it is good for people who feel that contact with Trump voters would be personally harmful to them to disengage to the point that is feasible to them. I realize I should have made that point in the original post to clarify the point I was trying to make.

        The point I am trying to make is that a lot of the contempt and vitriol I am seeing aimed at Trump voters as a group (not just the neo-Nazis/MRAs/etc.) is going to making it harder to dislodge the support for Trump. Considering how close Clinton was to winning, I think that just few mistakes, such as the ‘deplorable’ comment, might have tipped the balance. And I am afraid that is going to make it harder for people who are going to try to talk the on-the-fence Trump voters.

        I also think that, if you are going to campaign against a movement, one needs accurate information about them, and in this case, that means understanding the Trump voters who are less firm in their support (and thus are easier to persuade). For the purpose of intelligence-gathering, it’s not on Trump voters to explain themselves – it’s for people who want to change attitudes to understand them in order to make better strategies to change attitudes. Is that something everybody should do? No – as you rightfully point out, that is too harmful for some people.

        In any case, thanks for your comments. Your point about people needing to put self-care first is 100% valid.

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