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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Shaming Trump Supporters Is Dumb and Won’t Work

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Hillary Clinton famously likened Trump supporters to “a basket of deplorables”, a gaffe that contributed to her stunning defeat in 2016. But she actually said only *half* of Trump supporters were in a basket of deplorables. Today’s liberal Democrats and activists, in my experience, are not satisfied with this. As far as they’re concerned *all* Trump supporters belong in said basket. They’re all deplorable, every last one of them. Lo, they have sinned and are forever cast out of civilized humanity. That seems to be the general attitude.

This is not, to say the least, a way to win any converts. People know when you look down on them and they react accordingly. They may harbor their doubts about Trump but shaming them for their erstwhile Trump support just gets their back up.

In the Post today, Gary Abernathy, one of those erstwhile Trump supporters, points out just how dumb and counterproductive this self-righteous liberal attitude is:

“When supporters of former president Donald Trump hear media pundits analyze them with the usual collection of belittling observations, they must be tempted to respond, “Hey, we’re right here! We can hear you!”

Yes, they are indeed here, and living among us. And they have every right to be insulted by being accused of believing a “big lie,” and by the implication that they are violent, or traitors, or mindless sheep — racist sheep, of course….

I live in Trump Country. I was a Trump supporter, until he lost me with his actions after the 2020 election. But most Trump voters have stuck with him. With Trump’s encouragement, they sincerely believe the election was stolen. They’re not racists. They’re not traitors. Some of them think anyone who accepts Biden’s win is a traitor. Some of them think I’m traitorous — or at the very least I’ve succumbed to the evil influences of the mainstream media — for accepting Trump’s defeat…..

It’s my unscientific conclusion that about half of Trump’s supporters will go to their graves believing the election was stolen. The other half can be persuaded otherwise, but only by time and reflection, like accepting a death. Shaming will never work….

[S]top calling people liars. The media should return to the non-accusatory style that worked for decades. Instead of writing that election fraud is a lie, or Republicans are “falsely claiming” fraud, go back to the style that worked for decades: “Republicans again claimed the 2020 election was rigged, but no evidence has emerged to support that allegation and courts have dismissed all suits challenging the results.”

Next, abandon the narrative that Trump supporters are insurrectionists, and stop elevating groups such as QAnon and the Proud Boys beyond the fringe elements they are. As shameful as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was, only about 800 people were involved — hardly representative of millions of Trump supporters. Despite their suspicions, the vast majority of Trump voters are not interested in invading federal buildings or overthrowing the government. They’re interested in going to work and church and soccer games, taking care of their families and voting in the next election.

There’s no big mystery to effectively communicating with Trump supporters — or for Trump supporters to communicate with everyone else. Treat each other with politeness and courtesy. Respect other opinions even if you disagree. Acknowledge each other’s patriotism and love of country. Don’t assume you understand each other because you’ve read some think-tank analysis. Reach out, be curious and start a dialogue.

Trump supporters aren’t going away, and those who continue to paint them as the lowest forms of life reveal themselves to be more interested in perpetrating stereotypes and nurturing divisions than in achieving what’s needed for our nation to survive — reaching across our political chasm, respecting our differences and finding common ground where we can.”

I agree with all this. It may make you feel good to regard all Trump supporters–perhaps unto the seventh generation–with withering contempt. But it is monumentally ineffective if you care about building a better politics for a better future.

And you should.

4 comments on “Teixeira: Shaming Trump Supporters Is Dumb and Won’t Work

  1. Candace on

    This complaint about lack of kindness and understanding towards trump supporters by people being labeled “liberal democrats and activists” and “media pundits” by the not working class and college educated, Gary Abernathy and Teixeira – was posted here on the first day of the investigation into Jan 6 attack on the Capitol where support for trump tried to violently overthrow the 2020 election results, likely during the testimony from the police officers. Its fucking outrageous.

    Reply
  2. Watcher on

    ‘[S]top calling people liars. The media should return to the non-accusatory style that worked for decades. Instead of writing that election fraud is a lie, or Republicans are “falsely claiming” fraud, go back to the style that worked for decades: “Republicans again claimed the 2020 election was rigged, but no evidence has emerged to support that allegation and courts have dismissed all suits challenging the results.”’

    The media is finally stopping its false equivalence framing that was served the GOP so well, so of course Gary Abernathy doesn’t like it. Are we supposed to bend over backwards to appease conservative pundits as well? Yes, be fair to the average voter but I am not going to pretend that a lot of awful things didn’t happen these past five years in order to avoid hurting the feelings of the right wing press and activists.

    Reply
  3. Anthony F Greco on

    This is a disappointing diatribe coming from a guy who usually relies on hard data. Liberals say that “all [Trump supporters] are deplorable, every last one of them.”? What prominent liberals say that? If you can’t name names, you’re just ranting. And do you really agree with everything Abernathy wrote here? There were only 800 Capitol Hill rioters, representing only themselves? The polls show they have the sympathy of a very large segment of the Republican electorate (though no, not “all” of it). And we shouldn’t say claims of election fraud are false. even though you know they’re false?

    Reply
    • Martin Lawford on

      What prominent liberals say that? You can easily find them with a search engine.

      Vice-President Biden: “They (Trump supporters) really support the notion that, you know, all Mexicans are rapists and all Muslims are bad,” Mr. Biden said, adding they support “dividing this nation based on ethnicity, race.”

      Here is a quote from one of Biden’s campaign advisers: “”There have been a number of racist American presidents, but Trump stands out — especially in modern history — because he made running on racism and division his calling card and won,” senior adviser Symone Sanders said. “He deliberately foments both, intentionally causing indescribable pain because he thinks it advantages him politically.”

      These remarks are from the 2020 campaign. Remarks like them will not help, will actually hinder the Democrats in the 2022 campaign, as Teixeira correctly claims.

      Reply

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