Fool me once

After five years trying to give Trump voters the benefit of the doubt, I think I’m finally done with that nonsense

At the time I’m writing this, the votes are still being counted, but several Democrats I trust are saying that Joe Biden is on track to win the election for President. I’m staying cautiously optimistic, but the truth is that I’m so angry with and disgusted by America that I couldn’t sleep last night, and I’ve been having trouble concentrating on anything today. This shouldn’t have been a close race, at all.

Obviously, getting a sane President in office is necessary for us even to survive, and it shouldn’t be underestimated. But it’s somewhat like hearing you probably won’t die in the next few months, but you’ve still got an inoperable, terminal disease.

Over the past five years, I’ve tried — with wildly varying degrees of success — to stay at least somewhat moderate, and give Trump voters the benefit of the doubt. Vocal Trump supporters could of course piss right off, and good riddance. But I strongly believed that most of the people who voted for him in 2016 weren’t vocal supporters, but had just made a bad choice for any one of a thousand possible reasons.

It would be wasted effort to “win them over” politically — Stacey Abrams has the best analogy with “you shouldn’t try to turn Catholics into Baptists; you should try to get more Baptists to go to church” — and we should instead be doing more to keep them from being able to hurt marginalized people, and the concept of American democracy itself, instead of trying to appease them. But going full scorched earth and cutting them out of your life entirely has always felt overly simplistic and bitter.

“People are complicated!” “We need to focus on unity if we want to fix what’s broken in this country!” “We’re not red or blue, we’re purple!”

It’s long past time to tell it like it is: Trump voters had their chance to make up for the mistake they made in 2016. They had the opportunity to show us that they deserved all the benefit of the doubt that we’ve been giving them. That all those years of the media bending over backwards to make excuses for them — economic anxiety! election interference! the growing rural vs urban divide! — were valid and deserved. And they blew it. They decided instead to say “yeah, nah, we’re good. We tried to show you who we were back in 2016, and it’s not our fault you couldn’t believe it. And how dare you judge us for actively working to continue this disastrous, criminal, shitshow?”

Even now, people are going back into overdrive trying to make more excuses for them. “They’re not all racist, they’ve been brainwashed by a massive disinformation campaign!” It’s long past time to ignore that nonsense. Yeah, Fox News lies constantly and brazenly. No shit. They’re free to change the channel and free to educate themselves. Blaming it all on “the media,” or even the Republican Party for that matter, isn’t sympathetic. It’s condescending and infantilizing. It’s just another flavor of the same lie that Republicans are telling them: that 60 million adults shouldn’t be forced to take any responsibility for their own actions.

And that is precisely the thing that has been so infuriating to me for the past four years: that no one who matters at all to me is willing to take responsibility for what they’ve done. I’m blessedly free of hardline Trump supporters in my life. I finally learned to block people wasting my time with abject nonsense, and it wasn’t long into this disastrous nightmare that I happily invited anyone who still supported Trump to block me in return. Several people silently slunk away, so all I was left with was a few people obligated to stay in touch because of family connections, or the people who didn’t even respect me enough to honor my invitation to piss off. And the most I’d ever hear from them is how tiresome it is to be hearing about politics all the time.

I haven’t been quiet about how strongly I feel about the issues, and I’ve been especially vocal about the issues that affect me directly and personally. Nobody ever made an attempt to explain their side; the closest I ever got was hearing that I was being unfair for making assumptions about what their side was, exactly. Oh no, I don’t support Trump — or so goes the common refrain — but I still vote Republican for some bullshit, easily disprovable reason like the preposterous lie that Republicans are good for the economy.1I’m paraphrasing here. Even if that were sincere, instead of being nonsensical, hypocritical, bullshit, they were given a perfect opportunity to prove it by voting against Trump and still voting for all the shitty Republicans down-ticket who aren’t quite as openly terrible people. But they didn’t.

They made their choice. Refuse to let them distance themselves from Trump. They are indelibly stained by Trump, and never let them forget it. I have yet to hear one of them offer an excuse for the disgusting, disqualifying display pictured above, which happened during the damn campaign.

So they’ve left me with absolutely nothing. And still expect me to “reach across the aisle” and work towards unity and reconciliation? Nah, I’m good. I’ll let the Democrats worry about Healing Our Divided Nation. I’m going to be doing whatever I can to help stop a bunch of selfish bigots from hurting more people in their ceaseless attempts to ensure that everyone in the US and the rest of the world is as paranoid, fearful, and miserable as they are.

Michelle Obama, who is awesome, said “when they go low, we go high,” which is exactly the kind of thing that a responsible adult should say at a national party convention. And we do have a responsibility to be honest and accurate, to test our assumptions, to verify anything that we share online, and to think hard about what we’re putting out into the world.

But we don’t have the responsibility to show an NPR-like even-handedness, trying desperately to appease people who won’t even show us the basic respect of explaining why they choose to enable corrupt bigots to hurt us. I’m tired of people reminding us that we can disagree about politics and still be friends, when our disagreements exited the realm of “politics” years ago and crossed into ethics and morality. I’m tired of being expected to give racism, homophobia, and any other dumb-ass bigotry a pass because “it’s not worth making a scene” or “they don’t really mean it” or “it’s just the way they were raised.” And I’m especially tired of hearing that we’re the ones who have to make the effort.

Trump voters had their chance to make things right, and they blew it. Spectacularly. It’s neither petty nor vindictive for us to do everything we can to make sure that they end up as powerless as they’re afraid of being. We’ve seen the selfish choices they make after gross government corruption has resulted in the deaths of well over two hundred thousand Americans. At this point, putting a stop to it is just plain survival.

3 thoughts on “Fool me once”

  1. So I agree with everything you’re saying about Republicans and Trump voters, but can’t get a read on what you’re saying about Dems. For a second I thought you were taking the stance that they were too centrist (let them “heal the divided nation”), but that bit about Michelle Obama being “awesome” threw me off. I could be bringing my baggage to the table here, since she’s been busy whitewashing one ex-president who brought hell to my friends and family and remained supportive of someone who did a lot of the same (and don’t even get me started on Obama’s support of El Sisi and the regime in Bahrain in the “Arab Spring”). But as someone who is very much not American but whose life is tossed around by 72 million morons who have no issue with everything the Trump administration has done I hope that conscientious people—and I’ve been reading this blog sporadically for about a decade, I think, and consider you as such—push forward instead of returning to the collective post-Iraq War apathy it felt like the US had fallen into during the Obama administration.

    I mean, we need, we need, American citizens to hold the government to account. Our lives depend on it. And that includes Michelle Obama. What does whitewashing Bush achieve?

    Or maybe that’s what you’re saying and I’ve misread and I’m underslept and tired (the elections here led to a flipping battle).

    I do agree on the rest, though. Forget decency. The day they started yanking kids away from their parents was the day the Trump administration should have died. The day it became apparent Trump was a few hundred million in the hole was the day he should have lost all 50 states. The dismantling of the USPS. The refusal to hold press briefings. His campaign suggesting the Rocky photoshop wasn’t real. Trump bombing Yemen more than any President before. It goes on.

    The scary thing isn’t Trump. It’s the suave, charming little creep he’s inspired, that weird-ass Plot Against America Charles Lindbergh-like savant of a demagogue who’ll shoot for the White House next. We gotta push forward. Or, well, back against them.

    1. There’s absolutely no need to apologize for it. Even if you didn’t have a different perspective on it than someone living in the US, you raise exactly the kinds of points that make it so frustrating for those of us that do.

      It’s not clear in the post, but capitalizing it as “Healing Our Divided Nation” was to suggest that it could be the slogan of a political campaign, instead of something that people actually believe. By which I mean: there’s a big difference between what people say in public vs what they think or say in private. Journalists are obligated to be impartial and politicians expected to be civil, but we individuals don’t have to. But at the same time, we shouldn’t automatically assume that a public show of unity or civility is an implicit endorsement.

      Coincidentally, Michelle Obama was just talking about this recently on her Instagram. She said that she and Barack made a point of making a smooth and peaceful transition for the Trumps, even though they found Trump contemptible, and even though he’d attacked them personally and viciously, because that peaceful transition is essential to democracy in the US. And I think she’s right, just like Biden is right when he talks about unity and “your opponent is not your enemy” even though you KNOW he thinks Trump is a piece of shit. Keeping the country together is too important. We’ve seen what happens when you’ve got one party that acts like they can just do whatever the fuck they want without being concerned about anybody else, and it’s just not sustainable.

      A lot of people who’d call themselves “moderate” Republicans have spent the past 5 years insisting — and as far as I know, actually believing — that it doesn’t matter that Trump such such contemptible, disgraceful, shameless shit in public, because the only thing that matter is policy and the economy. They probably STILL believe it, which is the only reason I can think of for anyone who isn’t a multi-millionaire or a blatant bigot to have voted for him in 2020. But they’ve got it exactly reversed. The bulk of what a legitimate President does has to be deliberate and subject to approval, and barring acts of war and the like, can be undone. But degrading the public’s trust in and respect for the Presidency and the government in general could take forever to undo.

      Which I think explains Obama’s friendship with Bush, and how it’s different and I believe more acceptable than, say, Ellen DeGeneres’s. I’ll say right off the bat that I’m too ignorant to have an informed opinion about foreign policy, but I know just enough to believe that Bush was the second-worst President of my lifetime. (That’s no doubt an America-centric opinion, since I’m sure there are many who’d say the Bush administration was more globally destructive, while Trump’s spent 4 years mostly just fucking up the US). Still, whether it has any shred of validity or just a public-image machine in overdrive, there is the perception that he was one of the last Republicans to believe in civility and the dignity of office. In other words, that all of his war crimes could be blamed on Cheney et al, and he made difficult decisions believing they were the right thing to do.

      To be clear: I don’t believe that at all, I won’t shed a tear when he’s gone, and I won’t excuse anyone trying to make it sound like his administration wasn’t a reprehensible clusterfuck. BUT I can at least recognize the need for the philosophy “respect the office, even if you don’t respect the man.” The danger is “white-washing,” as you say, but frankly I think the even bigger danger is in normalizing the “lock her up!” bullshit that filled Trump’s campaign, and his most recent bullshit screaming fraud when he lost. Obviously, there’s a wide spectrum between “come into office and immediately hold your predecessor on trial for war crimes,” and “pose for friendly photo ops and pass each other cough drops,” and I too think it’s gross that Michelle Obama veers close to the far end of that. But I respect the mentality of “being a responsible President is an unfathomably complex job that requires you to make horrible decisions affecting millions of people, and not every decision will be a good one, and the peaceful stability of the government is more important than any one person.”

      But my high esteem for Michelle Obama has more to do with her being an excellent spokesman, role model, more accomplished than any other First Lady I can remember, and insisting on civility and decency while the political scene around her descended into the disgusting state it is now. And for the record, I strongly disagree with a ton of Barack Obama’s decisions, most notably his early opposition to gay rights and much of his foreign policy, but he’s still the best President we’ve had in my lifetime. And it’s just that insistence on intelligence, calm, decency, and respect that I feel has a stronger effect overall than most individual decisions, because it ripples out into how we all treat each other. The kind of paranoia, mistrust, fear, and lack of respect that Trump engenders is just not sustainable for the country, even if his policies weren’t bullshit.

      I don’t like that the Obama’s take can be so easily interpreted as capitulation or normalizing contemptible behavior, but I think it’s the mature stance to take. And I don’t really need to form an opinion about them personally, since they’re so much richer and more insulated than average Americans that thinking of them as regular people is absurd.

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