When I write a thread for Twitter, I can’t predict if it will go viral, or what the responses will be. I don’t know how it will be misunderstood, or where my words aren’t clear, until I see the responses to it. I always wish I could revise it for clarity, but you can’t edit tweets. With the thread about Trump supporters, all responses so far (they are still coming in) have fallen into 3 categories:
-85% of the people who responded love the thread. They said things like: It was a balm! It was a relief! It gave me hope! I didn’t realize I needed permission to stop putting up with the abuse. I wrote the thread for these people.
-10% of the responses are from die-hard Trump supporters. They typically haven’t read the thread and just take a moment out of their day to call me a cunt, yell at me for being intolerant, call me a fascist, and say they feel sorry for my kids. I block them and delete their comments.
-5% of the people who respond are not Trump supporters but feel very protective of them. They insist we can’t just “give up” on Trump supporters.
They say stuff like: we know you’ve been patient and understanding for 5 years now, but if we’re just more patient and more understanding, they’re bound to come around.
They explain that Trump supporters first and foremost need our compassion because of: a) “economic anxiety”, or b) they don’t even realize they’re openly racist, or c) they’ve been fooled and hoodwinked by Fox News (implying they don’t know how the internet works so they can’t find better information?).
I mean. Stop. Do you hear yourself? So they’re just allowed to continually shit on everyone around them? Why the endless excuses to protect them?
And the excuses aren’t even real. Research has been done on this. It’s not an economics question. Their main reason for voting Trump is racial anxieties — they are voting against equality.
I know many Trump supporters in real life, and none of the above excuses would apply to them. They are educated. They are well-off. Their lives are stable. They have access to the internet and know perfectly well how to find better information. They can see as well as I can that long lists of public-facing life-long republicans have rejected Trump.
They are choosing chaos, pain, and death for everyone else, while demanding normalcy for themselves.
Why be so protective of them? They are abusing my fellow citizens. They are abusing me. People are dying. Families are separated — at the border, and with travel bans. Huge amounts of jobs have been lost. The courts have been stuffed with unqualified right wing judges. The already weak safety nets in our country have been weakened further. Their actions hurt themselves too and they don’t care. Their primary goal seems to be to cause any non-Trump supporter pain.
Why is your first priority protecting the abusers? Why do these abusers never face consequences for their actions? Is there such a thing as a consequence that you would be comfortable enforcing? Or do you believe they should get to retain their normalcy despite the abuse they dole out?
You seem convinced they are the victims, and they are convinced they are too. But for four years they’ve had the Senate, the Presidency, the Courts, and they had the House for two of those years too. They won! They cheated, sought Russia’s help, suppressed votes, gerrymandered, and won. So how are they the victims? How will they be less a victim and more a winner if Trump is elected again?
If he wins, they won’t be magnanimous, they won’t want to help their fellow citizens, they will still claim victimhood and demand that we compromise and accommodate them.
Let’s talk about cult-thinking. There is no conversation you could have with a Trump supporter that would bring them around. That’s not an exaggeration. Consider: What new information could be brought to light which would persuade a Trump supporter now?
The answer is: Literally nothing. If there were hard evidence of Trump as a serial killer who made skin suits out of his victims, his supporters would find a way to excuse it (Fake news! Or: Well, what do we know about the people he killed? They likely weren’t the most morally upstanding folks…).
Some people have read the thread and worried: If Trump supporters are being cut-off, then who will engage them in the important conversations about racism and police abuse and reparations? It’s a good question. And something my fellow white people need to keep in mind, since we know it’s our job to dismantle white supremacy.
Personally I’ve been having these hard conversations for years and find that they do work. I get emails all the time from people who said something we discussed here on Design Mom shifted their thinking on gun control, or institutional racism, or the role of police in society.
BUT. The conversations don’t work with Trump supporters. They have built a non-reality for themselves where Q is real, and vaccines are evil, and Trump is an upstanding guy who values religion. There is no hard-but-important discussion to be had with someone who believes Tom Hanks is eating babies to bring on immortality. They didn’t use logic to get themselves where they are, and we can’t use logic to get them out of it.
To be clear, even if we agree that 25% of the country are Trump supporters who will never be “brought to the light” through civil conversation, there are still plenty of people who can be engaged in tough conversations/debates about things like defunding the police, prison abolishment, gun reform, universal basic income, etc..
It’s not like 25% of the country is Trump supporters and 75% of the country is highly progressive. The 75% holds a very wide variety of beliefs. That’s a worthy place to spend time. And I do spend time there.
But the 25%, the die-hard Trump supporters, won’t be able to hear our words, no matter how carefully we craft our discussion.
I think our best bet is trying to jolt them out of the cult-thinking.
Let’s talk about setting boundaries. I used the word shunning in the thread, and I probably prefer it, but if it’s stressing you out, feel free to use “setting boundaries” instead.
What are you picturing when I say shunning or setting boundaries? You may have been shocked at mentions of Ikea and Target. (How dare I! Too extreme!) To that I say: Oh come on. I have zero say in who gets to shop at any store. If I throw out an example that I have no power to implement (and how would you implement that anyway?), then it’s not serious. What I was trying to describe is disrupting an easy, comfortable aspect of a Trump supporter’s life to jolt them out of their cult-thinking.
When you read “shunning”, you may be picturing ending the relationship and never speaking again. I didn’t get into details in the thread, so you can imagine whatever you like. But here’s what I was picturing:
We know that logical discussions don’t jolt people from cult-thinking. We know that threats don’t either. If someone told a Trump supporter: I’ll hurt your sister if you vote for Trump, they would not believe it and they would still vote for Trump. They know non-Trump supporters are decent (and we know this because they constantly demand and receive our decency, while offering abuse in return).
So what could we do to jolt them from the cult-thinking? I think our best bet is to disrupt their normalcy. Let’s imagine a 70 year old white man who gets a shave and a trim from the barber on the corner every Thursday at 11:00 AM, and who has done so for a decade at least, and is all in for Trump. He wakes up one Thursday and there’s a sign on the door that says: This shop is permanently closed, the barber passed away from Covid-19.
The man would mourn for his barber. And the man would mourn for his routine — the next nearest barbershop is miles away and closed on Thursdays(!). Now he has to take action and change his routine. He has to face the fact that Covid-19 is not a hoax and that he was wrong — the virus affected his very own life. He has to consider what else he might have gotten wrong. This is the basic narrative of many Trump supporters who have come around — a disruption to their normalcy provoked a change.
So should we cause a Covid-19 death in every Trump supporters’ life? Obviously not (though with the current trajectory, those deaths may sadly happen anyway). But are there smaller boundaries we can set that disrupt their normalcy? What if decent people set consequences or boundaries for the die-hard Trump supporters in their lives for the next two months?
Hey Dad, we’re not attending the family Sunday brunch from now through the election — and maybe longer if Trump is re-elected.
Hey Instagram Follower, I’m not going to give you access to my content while you’re a Trump Supporter.
If a Trump supporter I know personally was hungry, would I feed them? Yes. Would I say hello if we passed in the grocery store? Yes. But I would not respect them. If we had a trusted relationship before, I would not feel it’s trustworthy now.
In my experience, respect is involuntary. You either feel it or you don’t. If you don’t respect someone, but say you do, you’re just pretending. Interactions begin with an assumed respect. But if someone tells me they’re a Trump supporter, the respect disappears. I can’t just choose it back, even if I want to.
Above I said: I think our best bet is trying to jolt them out of the cult-thinking. But honestly, I don’t even think it’s very good bet. It just seems to be the only option on the table. On the other hand, setting boundaries does a lot of good for those being abused by Trump supporters, so it would still be worthwhile even if it didn’t jolt a single Trump supporter from their cult-thinking. What a relief for the decent people! What a relief to stop the abuse from now until the election — or beyond!
Let’s talk about time. Perhaps you feel that if given enough time, Trump supporters will come around. Well, you’re correct! They will. When Martin Luther King Jr. was alive and protesting, most white people hated him; white conservatives especially so. But time passed, and now they love him and deny ever disliking him. They’ve convinced themselves they’ve always been lifelong fans.
The same thing will happen with Trump. At some point the Trump reign of terror ends, and then time will go by, and we’ll watch as every Trump supporter distances themselves from the Trump-era. As years pass they will deny ever supporting him. Their future grandkids will eventually find Trump flags in the attic, and they’ll pretend they’re just “souvenirs of that time period”.
We don’t even have to convince them. As time passes and the culture progresses, they’ll get on board. In 15 or 20 years, most Trump supporters will have shifted their opinions. By then, gay marriage will be such a long established fact that they won’t ever remember fighting it.
Things like Q and the “Deep State”, will fade much faster. It’s just like the caravans. Trump supporters were obsessed with the caravans until the midterms, and then… poof! the caravans disappeared overnight. Never to be mentioned again. Q will also disappear the moment they no longer need that particular bogeyman.
But the election is in two months. Your “kill em with patience and love” strategy doesn’t apply.
Maybe it’s time to study what happened to the families who split apart in the Civil War. Did love and patience bring them back together? Did the confederate family members ever see the error of their ways? Did relationships mend eventually?
At the beginning of this post, I talked about how responses to the thread were split into 3 different categories.
To the 85% of respondents who loved the thread: I’m so glad the post was a balm and a relief for you. Writing it was for me as well. I hope you feel confident that you do not have to put up with abuse from Trump supporters. Set your boundaries. Try and remember, this hell won’t last forever. Double check your registration and make a voting plan.
To the 10% of respondents who are Trump supporters: There is nothing less interesting to me than your thoughts or opinions. If you leave a comment it will be deleted and you’ll be blocked. The boundary I’m setting: you don’t get access to my creations until the election. (If Trump wins, be aware that boundary will likely extend.)
To the 5% of respondents who think the thread was too harsh or went too far: If you’re not feeling abused by Trump supporters, the thread wasn’t written for you. You should probably skip it and move on. To be honest, I find your reaction troubling and your motivations suspect. I’m not sure I can trust you as a friend or ally. If fascists were after me, I suppose I would conclude that you wouldn’t be willing to hide me.
Logical conversations don’t work. Threats don’t work. Time works — but only if you have decades. Jolting someone out of cult thinking, because they’ve had a disruption to their life that has affected their normalcy, is probably our best shot. And even if it doesn’t work, the boundaries provide huge relief to people being abused by Trump supporters.
Thoughts? Do you think this followup makes the thread more clear? Less clear? Do any specific actions come to mind when you consider disrupting normalcy?