Well, it happened y’all. Donald Trump is the Republican Nominee for President. That means that the Republicans in your family, people you try to avoid talking politics with in the best of times, are actively rooting for the destruction of American exceptionalism.
You, the son or daughter, sibling or cousin of one of these Trump supporters might feel the need to speak up. To resist. To save your blood relatives from themselves. That’s a good feeling. You are a good person.
I want to help you. I’m lucky, my family is black, we don’t have this problem. But since I get to think about this in a “safe space,” I want to share some thoughts on how to approach the Trump supporter in your life.
1. Facts Are Of No More Use Here
Trump voters are immune to your “facts.” They have a set of facts that work for them just fine. They’re not inclined to listen to any competing facts because, well, then they might have to admit they were “wrong” and... good luck with that. If you find yourself in an empirical debate with a Trump voter, you’re right, but you’ve already lost.
But, if you think about it, when did “facts” ever help you win an argument with your brother or sister? When did it work on your mom? “I know curfew is at 11:00 but the concert doesn’t start till 9:00 and if it runs long I’d have to leave right as the headliner is taking the... let me back up, concerts often include an ‘opening’ band followed by...”
Your family has never respected your facts over their opinions. That’s one of the reasons you moved away in the first place. And Trump is telling so many lies that knocking them down one-by-one is impossible anyway. It’d be like trying to clean a sweater, one strand at a time.
No, screw facts. You need to appeal to emotion, just like Trump is. He’s trying to appeal to your Dad’s hatred, you have to appeal to his love. The Dark Side is NOT stronger. It’s just quicker, easier, and more seductive.
“We need to stop these MUSLIMS from coming to our country to blow things up!”
“No Dad, we need to HELP these Muslims, who are already in the country, feel like they can have a good life here.”
You’ve got to get really Zen when you treat with a Trump voter. Your serenity will be tested.
2. Acknowledge Their Pain, Reject Their Helplessness
Understand, to the Trump voter in your family, you — the little dauphin who got out and now only comes by for Thanksgiving dinner — are part of the problem. You don’t see. You don’t know what it’s really like where they are.
Their lives are tough. They’re living in a Bruce Springsteen song. And you don’t get it.
You have to try to get it. You have to try to sit in the suck with them, and see it from their perspective.
And then challenge them to be their own hero.
Obama, or Gandhi, or somebody had a great way of putting this, remember? “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It’s an individual call to collective action. It’s great.
Trump, on the other hand, said this last night: “I ALONE CAN FIX IT.”
Something tells me that your family members, struggling though they may be, do not think of themselves as such helpless children that there is literally one man, alone, in the universe, who can fix their problems. Most Americans think they can fix their own problems, if they just had a little bit of help or if some barriers were removed. THAT’S NOT WHAT TRUMP’S SELLING. He’s selling “I alone can fix it.”
Yes, your uncle might be down on his luck. But you’ve got to help him see what HE can do to move forward, instead of just waiting for a New York billionaire to make things great again. Show your uncle that YOU have more faith in him than Donald Trump does. Show him that you’re in it, together.
3. Trump Is Not A Businessman, He’s A Confidence Man
Invariably, some Trump supporter will tout his “business” experience. But Trump is not a successful real estate developer so much as he’s a successful con man. If he wins the White House, he’ll be the most successful con man in history, but still just a con man.
Your family, knows this at least subconsciously. People know when they’re being taken for a ride, even while they’re on it. They know that things that sound too good to be true usually are. Unless you come from a family of utter SAPS, your family is already suspicious of this guy, even as they vocally support him.
Expose the shell game. Ask them who they think Trump is lying to, since his own statements so easily and often internally contradict.
They don’t believe “the media” tells the truth about Trump, okay, ask them what they think Trump actually believes. Ask them how he’s going to do these things? Even Trump has no answer for that.
Hitler has no place here. Trump voters have already made their peace with voting for Hitler-like policies, and you pointing out the similarities will win you no points with your family members. Even the Germans who actually voted for Hitler didn’t think they were really voting for HITLER, the extermination of the Jews, a two-front war, firebombing, and the eventual dis-unification of their country. They thought they were voting to make Germany great, again.
When your parents tell you they’re voting for Trump, don’t react like they told you they’re voting for Hitler, react like they told you they’re buying a time-share. Or investing their life savings in a tech stock they researched on E-Trade.
Your family is getting scammed. Do what you can to help!
4. Familiarize Yourself With The Platform Of Gary Johnson
You’ll note, I haven’t mentioned “Her,” yet. But in your family, “Hillary Clinton” will be two of the first words out of their mouths in any Trump conversation. If you are a Trump voter, after all he’s said and done, you also live in a world where “the Clintons” have been the arch-enemy for 25 years.
And, since I already said that Trump voters are immune to “facts,” you are unlikely to talk your family member down off the “lock her up,” ledge. The people who don’t like Hillary Clinton really don’t like her, well past the point of reason and argument.
But there’s no earthly reason your average Trump supporter couldn’t be a fan of Gary Johnson. He’s a Libertarian, and while Libertarianism is a flawed and dystopian political philosophy, Uncle Ike the Immigrant Crusher doesn’t know that. He just wants the government to get off his lawn.
That’s Gary Johnson, man. Anything you want the government to not do, he also wants the government to not do. Anything you want the government to not pay for, he also wants the government to not pay for.
The only thing Trump voters really like about Trump that Johnson doesn’t support is the outright racism and the wall. And Johnson probably wouldn’t stop Trump or anybody else from privately financing a wall if they really wanted to. If you get your family member to admit that, you’ve already won an important battle.
How much more in taxes is your family member really willing to pay so that we can be more racist? Show them that Trump’s bigotry will cost them in real dollars versus Johnson. I know a lot of racists who would gladly pay cash money to be allowed to be more racist. But hopefully, you are not related to any of those people.
Now, your family member will probably say “but Johnson can’t win. Trump can win.” That’s funny because that’s what everybody said about Trump until... January 20th 2017. But even then, now you’ve got your Trump voter admitting that he or she is not really voting on principle, but based on a political calculus. Just like one of those slick politicians they spend so much time bashing.
That’s where you bring the hammer down: “If Trump loses, 51%-49%, the movement is OVER. The old-school republicans will dismantle this mess, and everybody will try to act like this never happened. But if Johnson hits even 15%... well that’s a dedicated following that whoever is in office cannot ignore.”
A vote for Johnson in defeat, is worth more than a vote for Trump in defeat. True story.
5. Turn It Around On Them
One sympathy I do have for a lot of Trump voters: they’re always on the defensive. They’re supporting an awful human, a racist, a hate monger, an unqualified idiot, and everybody who is not voting for Trump thinks less of them. And they know it.
You, the good guy, should try to see things from their point of view. Then ask if they can see things from your point of view.
See, we think Trump voters will be helped if they lose. For instance, it’s not that we don’t care about illegal immigration, it’s that we think there are much better ways of handling it than building a wall like we’re stuck in the 5th Century. We are not trying to rob Trump supporters, we’re trying to help them.
Do Trump voters think things will really be better for non-Trump voters if Trump wins? Do they think things will be better for women, or blacks and Latinos, or Muslims and Jews if their side wins?
Trump supporters have not articulated a vision for how Trump will help anybody other than other Trump supporters. To me, that’s their greatest weakness. By playing up all the ways the country is divided, Trump people miss all the ways in which we are connected.
Family is one of them. Family is why I can’t just say “I live in New York, Trump can’t get to me here.” Some of my peoples live in Indiana. What of them? Family is why you will at least try to tell a Trump supporter in your family to not vote for Trump.
Remember, your mother loves you. If you say to her “Mom, I don’t see how you can be willing to do this to me,” she might listen. If you can show her how your life will be worse if she helps to elect this man, she might see things from a different perspective. Parents don’t want to hurt their children. Show them how Trump will take away all of the things that you value, and leave the world worse for your parent’s grandchildren.
If you have a Trump voter in your family, love them. Try to see their struggle. Try to make them see yours. If they’re good people, you’ll be able to show them that there are lots of people out here looking to work together to lift all of us up, and Trump just isn’t one of them.