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Empathy for the Devil

Last night on the Colbert Report, Neil DeGrass Tyson said that bashing Trump doesn't make much sense. He is an envoy of his voting base. They are the ones who handed him their power and blessed him as their champion.

So if you dislike Trump, your real beef is with his voters. For me the first step is trying to understand their perspective.

I've read a bunch of things, but they are either a bit too vague "they are unhappy with the way things are going" or too specific "they are all racists".

Let's get specific and try to ground this.

Civics class taught us that all political struggles are over differing priorities of the three basic values: Equality, Order and Freedom.

Before we tackle Trump's voting block, we need to understand why they feel like they've been "left behind" in American politics.

Let's look back at the last decade-ish with a lens specifically on Equality:

  • 2006

    Same-sex *marriage* is legal in exactly one state (Massachusetts). Is explicitly banned in the constituions of 19 states.

    Goofy, friendly, folksy white dude is president.

  • 2008

    First Black President elected. That is a major win for "Equality". Some people are confused, "Are you voting for him just because he is Black? What does that accomplish?".

    Same-sex marriage still legal in 1 state. Specifically banned in *29*.

    Obama makes public statement *against* same-sex marriage.

  • 2012.

    Obama publicly changes his position to be *pro* same-sex marriage. Is re-elected. Still black.

    For the first time state same-sex marriage ban ammendments *fail*.

    Seven states now performing same-sex marriage. 30 ban it.

  • 2013.

    Supreme Court invalidates "Defense of Marriage Act" (Prop 9) in California.

    By the end of 2013 17 states are performing same-sex marriage. 28 ban it.

  • 2014

    Judge orders Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states (despite it being constitutionally banned in Kentucky).

    Multiple state bans are declared unconstitutional.

    By the end of 2014, 35 states are performing same-sex marriages. 15 ban it.

  • 2015

    Supreme Court extends same-sex marriage nation wide.

    The rights of Transgendered people enters the cultural spotlight.

    Hilary Clinton begins to rise as the presumptive "First Female President" candidate.

  • 2016

    States trying to pass Transgendered bathroom laws receive harsh rebukes.

    "The First Female President"'s campaign is in full swing.

So, from 2008 to 2015, we went from -28 states allowing same sex marriage to +50.

A 78 "state" swing in seven years (+156% swing). The majority of gains being from voter backed initiatives being overturned by judges.

"Yes, we all remember the amazing success of LGBT rights, what does that have to do with anything?"

Not everyone values Equality highly. If you are a white, straight male.

The chasms that surround you preventing people from travelling to where you are don't seem like a big deal. They have never bothered or inconvenienced you.

So you are either confused why so much time is being spent on building bridges over them, or worse, you begin to resent the bridges, as cheering floods of people travel over them coming to enjoy a place that was previously yours alone.

Sometimes when I am at a restaurant, it'll happen where we sit in a section where it seems like we have no waiter. We sit down and wait, and wait and wait. We see people sit down near us, get their orders taken, and they received their food before anyone even talks to us.

Every single time this has happened to me, it has filled me with a growing and profound sense of injustice and rage. "Excuse me, who is our waiter? Why are those people getting food before me? Why is nobody asking me what I want?"

By 2016, there were a lot of customers who felt very underserved, and were absolutely *sick* of the "Equality Restaurant"

Weirder still, all they hear from the country is about how great the Equality Restaurant is. 5 star yelp reviews wherever they look.

They feel like crazy people, that nobody else can see how insane it is that everybody likes this establishment that never seems to serve anything to straight white people. That doesn't seem *Equal* to them at all.

So when someone comes to their door and offers them a coupon to go try out that same Restaurant and their new "First Female President" special, they are *profoundly* uninterested.

Then another guy comes to the door, and after a short chat it is clear that *this* guy gets it. He is the first one to talk badly about the Equality Restaurant, about how terrible it's service has been to white people these past either years.

Relief floods them. They are not alone. They are not crazy.

That guy doesn't even need to offer them a coupon, or any concrete menu or promises of better service. They have just been so confused by the other restaurant they are excited to try it.

Now, I am not trying to blame Trump on "Gay Rights Activists". They did wonderful and great work, and I am profoundly worried about us losing all those gains.

That said, looking at the above timeline, it isn't hard to see that things changed really fast in America. Change is scary. Way more so when you don't understand it.

Newtonian laws apply to political movement. Equality, Order and Freedom are conflicting values. Each gain of Equality had an equal and opposite reaction. You can't make a change to Equality without having someone view it as a loss of Order and/or Freedom.

They aren't crazy or wrong for thinking that. It is straightforward civics. Our problem was assuming that the entire electorate was fine going along for the ride with it all. Cranking the radio and rocking out, fully assuming the people in the backseat were fine with the destination and if they did, dismissing their complaints.

And now suddenly we are the ones in the backseat. On our way to a restaurant that will either be serving only Shit Burgers, and/or only caters to the very ultrarich.


The theme that I keep seeing come up over and over is that the media and culture don't respect trump supporters / blue collar workers / rural voters / rural conservatives / religious people, etc. So many people feel disrespected and demeaned.

Two examples of many:

I don't think I have ever spoken with a Trump supporter who doesn't bring this up.

When a Trump or a Scott Walker says, "The media think you are stupid! The academics say you don't know anything! The elites look down on you!" it totally resonates with them.

In a twisted way, the more people attacked Trump and his supporters, the more ammunition and power it gave him. "See, look at that...its just what we were talking about."

I saw a video where Obama stood up for a Trump protester at one of his speaking engagements. He did it with such profound respect, and I thought, if this could be how we all treated each-other, it could really cut the legs out from under the demagogues.

Making people look stupid is great for laughs, but would there have been more to gain from presenting those people with a genuine chance to be smart and be sympathetic. Some of the best episodes of "This American Life" do a great job showing the human side of every situation.
by: MIke (contact) - 10 Nov '16 - 21:16
> The academics say you don't know anything

Here is an interesting look at the exit polling reasons Trump supporters gave:

There is a lot of weirdness there.

Most Trump supporters liked Obama.

But most also wanted change.

A majority of them thought the rich should pay their fair share in taxes, yet the *only* coherent economic policy by trump was the exact opposite?

And for "change" they voted straight party ticket more than ever before to *keep* the GOP in power in Congress, despite 6 years of them being in power.

Considering one of the deciding factors in whether you supported trump was education, I kind of think I agree wholeheartedly with them not making a rational decision here.
by: Kyle (contact) - 16 Nov '16 - 15:02
I just read a CNN article from today that interviewed a Trump adviser. Here is a quote:

"Common sense," the former Trump adviser said. "The Republican primary voter will want it. And Washington will immediately tell you, 'You can't do that.' That's the elite class telling you, 'We're smarter than you and you don't know what's good for you.'... Further infuriating the voter, and making the voter more dedicated to Trump."

The media and a huge number of liberal advocates played directly into their hands. I think the theory is, that if you can stereotype the trump supporters as stupid, people won't want to be trump supporters, because no one wants to appear stupid. But it just totally backfires. Even if it's not explicitly the desire to humiliate Trump supporters, it is a really huge part of the media / entertainment narrative.
by: Mike (contact) - 18 Nov '16 - 08:39


Meta Information:

Title: Empathy for the Devil
Date posted: 10 Nov '16 - 09:25
Filed under: General
Word Count: 980 words
Good Karma: 91 (vote)
Bad Karma: 52 (vote)
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