Trump Supporters Are Wrong, Not Evil

I regularly see testimonials going around where a person brags about having finally gotten the courage to disown previously close friends because they were Trump supporters. They share supposedly inspirational stories about how they finally graduated past seeing Trump supporters as simply people with bad ideas, to seeing them as bad people in and of themselves because they support Trump. I can’t get on board with this.

To be sure, Trump is a completely self-interested narcissist. He’s a racist, a sexist, and he is the most unfit person to be in the oval office since the 19th century. Trump is downright dangerous to the health of the country. But a person need not be all or even most of these things to support Trump.

There are a whole host of cognitive errors a person could have succumbed to in order to mistakenly come to the conclusion that Trump will make things better. Combine such cognitive errors with being exposed to misinformation through no fault of their own, and you have a potent recipe. Some are just trying to fit in with their local culture without being ostracized, and others could actually be considered to be victims of cult brainwashing.

I’d like to emphasize that cult victims are in fact victims. When the Yearning for Zion ranch was raided in 2008, were the children, teens, and young adults who were raised and indoctrinated into it not themselves victims despite fully believing they were doing the right thing? Are the impressionable teens who get preyed upon and radicalized by Islamists not still themselves victims? If one is really interested in social justice, we should do our damndest to rescue the people that can be rescued, even if the victims in question are from the Trump cult.

It is true that a large portion of people who are worthy of rejection from your peer-group are Trump supporters; KKK members, white nationalists, American Nazi Party members, theocrats that want to make being gay punishable by law (even the death penalty). But not all Trump supporters rise anywhere near that level. If we include people who quietly voted for him out of party loyalty, dislike for Hillary, or another weak-but-not-evil reason, at least half of the Trump supporters out there are actually nice, generous, kind people with silly beliefs and ideas. Most of us have family members that fit this bill.

Yes, I am more than familiar with the paradox about how being too tolerant towards intolerance can lead the tolerant to be crushed and thus a net intolerance to prevail. But most Trump supporters don’t rise to this level of a threat—even though a good many of them do. Additionally, in many cases, intolerance still prevails because the degree to which the tolerant become intolerant in response to the opposition group morphs the originally tolerant group to where they exhibit an equally mouth-frothingly irrational hatred. A generalized hatred where they prefer to err on the side of hating too many rather than not enough.

In their defense, many Trump voters, particularly the younger ones, simply don’t know better and are trying to fit in. It is people like that who could potentially be convinced of better ideas. But that certainly isn’t going to happen if you eject all of them from your social media and your life overall because they support Trump. If when discussing with them their behavior becomes hateful and bigoted, by all means, purge them. But people should be purged for bad behavior, not simply wrong beliefs.

There’s also the fact that many Trump haters are just as ignorant and tribal as Trump supporters. An analogy I use is that, there are people who accept human-driven climate change and those who don’t. Most people in both camps are largely ignorant of the science, and thus those on the correct side of the issue, the side accepting it, are often correct by random chance; they grew up in a liberal part of the country, they had liberal parents, etc. Another analogy is religion. All the Christians here in America are mostly only Christian by virtue of having grown up in a predominantly Christian country. What luck they were born into the one true religion (I’m being facetious). Similarly, with Trump supporters/haters, much of what determined who they support is random chance. There are many of us seething Trump opponents who have in fact done our research and know exactly why we don’t like him, but for just as many it is the same old tribalism with just a more loud-mouthed out-group leader to hate.

My point is some Trump people are bad reprehensible people, but many aren’t. And by blanket excluding, excommunicating, unfriending them; by telling every one of them that you more than disagree with them, that you think they have lost a certain amount of human validity based on a potentially malleable belief system, you are hurting the humanist cause. You are alienating people that, given time, could have become enlighted. And worse, much of the time, you are engaging in the same tribal visceral hatred that you abhor them for.

Categories Trump Supporters

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