Cautiously approach the Trump supporter you want to connect with while saying, “It’s not your fault.” As you close the physical and emotional distance separating you from this broken, suffering, statistically most likely older white male, continue repeating this phrase: ”It’s not your fault. Hey, look at me — it’s not your fault.”
Remember that he’s been brainwashed by Trump’s appeals to his race-based anxieties and promises to restore his eroding status, so he might fight back. That’s good! It means you are breaking down his walls. He’s touched by your desire to really see him and understand his point of view, but he’s so afraid! Can you help him be vulnerable? Yes you can!
He is also likely packing. So as you continue to say, firmly but calmly, ”It’s not your fault,” begin jogging in a zigzag pattern to avoid any gunfire. By the time you’re within hugging distance, he’ll be ready to receive your compassionate embrace and renounce the hatred clouding his judgement.
Learn to empathize. Keep in mind that 48% of American voters chose Trump, and they aren’t all white supremacists. Take my cousin, Ted, for instance. Ted’s a small town bank president in Oklahoma who wanted higher interchange fees on debit card transactions, and he considered Trump the best candidate to make that happen.
“Buddy, look at that,” he told me recently, pointing to his 2014 Buick Encore crossover SUV. “Trump understands that you don’t get that without hard work. We need to start running this country like a business.”
In Ted’s office, he proudly displays a tangle of lanyards from banking conferences he’s attended like a freshman spring breaker still wearing wristbands up to his elbow in July. He’ll email me a Wall Street Journal op-ed in favor of deregulating Wall Street with the short missive, “This guy gets it,” as if the author considers, just as Ted does, Goldman Sachs and Beaver City Community Bank equals.
I make balloon animals for a living, but it’s only when I think of Ted’s subscription to CEO Magazine or the many times he’s bragged about closing the new Piggly Wiggly deal over a round of golf that an almost unbearable sensation of despair and pity wells up inside me. Sure, it’s easy to feel for immigrant parents being ripped away from their children or vulnerable LGBTQ communities stripped of their rights, but when you begin to blame Trump supporters for such cruelty, think of Ted.
Ted, supping at an Applebee’s, once again boring his children with the story of the time in college he got to meet Sam Walton, lingering almost ponographically on the handshake — “… firm and strong but not sweaty, coarse, too, like a man not afraid of a hard day’s work.”
Ted, who always uses himself as an example of success when attempting to inspire his four employees with his Friday morning “Ted Talks,” unwittingly putting them at a greater risk of succumbing to the opioid epidemic sweeping the state.
Are our hearts not big enough also for the Teds of America?
Get outside your bubble. Have you ever talked to a Trump supporter? You should!
I like to start the conversation by saying I’m here to build a cathedral of mutual respect and understanding. Depending on the context, such as a Trump rally or the field of a random farmer I spotted from the road, I might be called a “snowflake,” a “libtard” or a “trespasser,” but every time I’ve come away with a new appreciation for the other side’s point of view.
It’s also important not to be annoying. When I’m buttonholing a Trump supporter, I’m careful to dial back my core beliefs and avoid certain words and phrases common to left-leaning speech that might make them defensive. These include:
- White fragility
- “You should really see Moonlight”
- Minority representation
- People of color
- Black Lives Matter
- Black people
- Rights (unless preceded by “gun”)
- New York Times
- Implicit bias
- Toxic masculinity
- Multi-family housing
- Climate change
A good rule of thumb is if you can’t picture it being sung in a country song — avoid it.
Write a country song! If you can show Trump supporters you speak their language, they’ll be more willing to listen to your message. I’m currently working on one called “Rednecks? No, Human Beings.”
I want Trump’s supporters to know, I get it. I care. I’m here for them.