“You gotta respect everybody’s beliefs… No you don’t… You have to acknowledge everyone’s beliefs and then you have to reserve the right to go ‘that is fucking stupid, are you kidding me?'” – Patton Oswalt
I’ve recently seen a couple of articles from my friends that attempt to explain the phenomenon of Donald Trump voters. Both were either posted to facebook or shared with me by friends that I respect. The first is “Why Trump Voters are Not ‘Complete Idiots’.” The second is How Half The Nation Lost its Fucking Mind.
I didn’t care for those two articles as they both take for granted that America is divided between rural Americans and the city dwelling elites. Now there’s not doubt that there are elites in the cities both of these articles point to: New York, Boston, LA, San Francisco, DC. And there’s no doubt that rural working class places like Youngstown, Ohio and Flint, Michigan are hurting and have been left behind.
But they fail to recognize two things. First, there’s a lot of middle in America. Yeah, New York is full of elites and year rural America is full of problems but what about everywhere else? What about Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, New Orleans, Phoenix, Las Vegas, St. Paul, Buffalo, Charleston? It’s not binary.
Secondly, several of my friends posted this Vox article in response to those first two articles. Taking Trump Voters’ Concerns Seriously Means Listening to What They’re Actually Saying debunks the theory that it’s working class whites who want economic change that are voting for Trump. I know a surgeon who is voting for Trump. My friend’s Ivy League educated parents are voting for Trump.
But hold on. Why has the conversation even gotten this far?
I imagine that there’s some genuine curiosity about people whose beliefs are very different from yours. But, frankly, there is one truth that I have maintained since the announcement of the Republican nominee for president of the United States.
There is absolutely no excuse for voting for Donald Trump.
For the record, I think it goes without saying that one should have respect for one’s fellow citizens. That statement is so simple and self-evident that it almost need not be made but it doesn’t hurt repeating when an election comes around. When matters of politics arise, we must respect each other. We must listen. We must find common ground for it is certainly there. It is beneath our dignity to hear an opinion with which we don’t agree and say to the holder of said opinion, “you’re stupid!” We must be better than that for the sake of simple common decency. We must!
There is an exception, however, and that’s when the opinion is actually really really stupid.
Let me explain.
Terrence Howard believes that one times one equals two. Read his reasoning here, if you’d like. Now, I don’t know Terrence. I don’t know what he’s been through in his life. He is a successful actor and it’s not that far a stretch to say he has already found more success as an actor than I will find at anything, so, there must be a modicum of intelligence there. But I have no reservations in saying that thinking that 1 x 1 = 2 is really really stupid. It is quite frankly, so evidently wrong that to refute it would be both a waste of time and a fool’s errand. When you’re stuck in a 1 x 1 = 2 hole, logic and reason is not the ladder that will lead you out.
Do you see how that works? I believe there is a limit to respecting people’s beliefs. This is how I feel about Trump voters.
Imagine this for a moment. Imagine that Donald Trump’s number one campaign promise was that he was literally going to shoot your mother in the face. Seriously. Take a moment and imagine that. Imagine that he went on several television programs and repeatedly mentioned that, after being sworn in as president of the United States, he would go over to your mother’s house and shoot her in the face. He even brought up shooting your mother in the face during the debates. After hearing this promise, would you honestly say, “hmmm, okay, but how do you feel about NAFTA? I’m really concerned about trade…” No (at least I sure as hell hope no) you wouldn’t continue supporting that man.
The promise however, is not to shoot your mother in the face, the promise is to build a wall on our border with Mexico and to ban Muslims until we “figure this whole thing out.” Now look, we all know that building a wall is very effective if it’s pre-Renaissance Europe and you’ve been at war with your neighboring city state for the last hundred years. And we also know that a ban on Muslims entering the United States is a great idea except that it is xenophobic, cruel, and antithetical to everything we stand for as a nation.
And these are just two of his most prominent policies.
We’re dealing with a reality show host who has put his name in gold on the sides of casinos, has declared bankruptcy multiple times, has bragged about sexually assaulting women, has the temperament and vocabulary of an eleven year old, who wants to change libel laws so no one can criticize him, wants to throw his opponent in jail, has lied so blatantly about his birtherism that it makes me ill, and who has laid out no plan for the nation other than saying that we’re going to be winning. And Isis and Iran and China and tremendous and disaster and look, everyone loves me, okay?
We all know this already. I’m not blowing minds. I know that.
I just want to know why I have to try to respect people who want this man to be president when he has so clearly pushed himself beyond the limit of my respect? Why are we even talking about this?
“Yeah, but Hillary…”
Oh for Christ’s sake. Okay. A bit about Hillary…
For my right leaning friends:
1) If you think we need an outsider, I completely disagree with you. President of the United States is not an entry level position.
2) The Bush White House lost 22 million emails. How outraged were you then?
3) Re: Banghazi, here’s A List of Deadly Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Diplomatic Targets Under President George W. Bush, 2001-2009 and also, wasn’t that Obama’s thing?
I know you still hate her. That’s okay (I mean, it’s not but whatever, I like you more than I like her).
To my left leaning friends who hate Hillary, read this: Trump, Clinton and the American Left. It’s a great article by a friend of a friend.
I have to be honest, for my friends who still support Bernie, the ones who go off on rants because they feel they’re being condescended to by Hillary supporters, it’s been on the tip of my tongue to call you childish. I’m not going to, however, and not because I don’t want to condescend to you. I’ll condescend to people when I think they deserve condescension. I won’t do it because I believe that the label of childish isn’t accurate. I believe that third party voters are pure of heart and trying to use their vote in the best way possible. In other words, they’re trying to participate in Democracy. I will, however, lift an opinion directly from the article above and say that I think you are seeing the world the way you would like it to be and not the way it actually is.
I know you still hate Hillary but Jill Stein? Really?
And to my Trump voting friends and family (there are a few of you) I don’t think you’re stupid. I do, however, think that if you vote for Donald Trump you are doing a profoundly stupid thing. You may not be racist yourself but you’re okay with a racist president. You may not hate women yourself but you’re okay with a president who hates women. When presented with some of Trump’s most horrific statements, do you find yourself saying, “Well, I don’t think he means that.” If so, why?
On second thought, I won’t say that a vote for Trump is stupid. It’s not. It’s wrong. But we’ve weathered worse. See you on November 28th.*
* That’s when he said election day was. Now, come on. That’s really stupid.