They walk among us

There are many, many reasons for rational, humane people to be dismayed at the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. I won’t rehearse them all in any detail — the horrible lesson that outright lying wins elections, the normalisation of racism, the appalling role-model he presents, the very real threat that he’ll start a nuclear war just because he can, and so much more.


But none of that is what dismays me most.

The bit that really hurts my gut is this: people that we know and love and respect voted for him. People we interact with daily looked at a racist, serial sexual-abusing, self-aggrandising, tax-dodging, bill-welching man-child and said “Yes, I’ll have some of that”.

I’ve grown resigned to Brexiters. Some who voted Leave are actively racist, sure; but most Leave voters were just misled by a campaign of lies, and now feel they can’t back down because of their pride. It’s infantile, but easy to understand and forgive.

But Trumpers: those are a different matter. They are people who knew exactly what Trump is, and what he always has been — and voted for him anyway. Either they knew what he was and they didn’t care; or, even more frightening, they knew what he was and actively wanted someone like that as president. Those are the only two options — because there’s surely no-one out there who didn’t know what Trump was.

So here I am, safely over in the UK where our own political act of self-harm threatens only us rather than directly threatening world peace. Should I shut up and let Americans do their own whining?

It’s not that easy, and here’s why. After church on Sunday I was chatting with someone who I think of as a friend, who has a position of some responsibility in the church, who I’ve worked with and who does fine work that truly helps people in vulnerable situations — and he mentioned in passing that if he’d been American he’d have voted for Trump.

I am forty-eight years old. I think it is literally true that in those 48 years I had never previously been speechless. But on Sunday I realised I had literally nothing I could say in response to my friend. All I could do was walk away, walk right out of the building and sit in the car until the rest of the family eventually joined me.

My path has not yet crossed again with the friend in question, but I dread the day when they do. I have no idea how I am going to be civil with him. Again: this is someone who looked at a serial sexual abuser and thought “That’s the kind of president America needs”. How can I respect my friend again? How can I take seriously anything he says? How can I hear his thoughts on any subject and not internally reply “Yeah, well you chose Trump so what do you know?”

Who would have believed such ignorance or malice (and those are the only two options) could exist here, in our nice, cosy church in its pleasant village?

The Trumpers are here. They’re not just strange, illiterate, obviously hostile rednecks; they’re right here among us. They look just like us; they talk like us. They could be our friends and maybe even our family.

That doesn’t just scare me, it makes me feel sick.

48 responses to “They walk among us

  1. This might be worth some of your time. It discusses what you are saying, from a different point of view:

  2. Oh, and one note on your friend. You could forgive him…. and then stay friendly with him as before…

  3. I’m assuming you’ve seen this article by now?

    If not, definitely check it out. It’s probably the best explanation I’ve come across of why reasonable individuals would vote for a man like Trump.

    Here’s the thing: Humans are remarkably good at tailoring their perception of facts to match their own preconceived notions. While I am sure that nobody can plead ignorance to the horrificness of Trump’s nature, I think a lot of people were minimizing the glaring truth in the hopes of finding their savior.

    I think Trump’s election was a desperation move from a large and desperate class of people. I think it was a terrible response to a real problem. It’s the wrong solution, but it’s unhelpful to see Trump voters as monsters.

  4. “most Leave voters were just misled by a campaign of lies, and now feel they can’t back down because of their pride”

    Do you have any evidence whatsoever to back up this remarkable observation? I voted Remain (usual disclaimer required) but none of the people I know who voted Leave could possibly be described in this fashion. By most I assume you mean that say, 70 percent of Leave voters had no idea which way they would vote in the referendum until the sneaky newspapers lied to them and suddenly their course was set? Is that how you think people work? That’s not my experience of humans. They generally have a preconceived notion of reality then spend their time cherry picking data which fits. I would cite you as an example. You’re not even able to provide data – because I’m certain no poll in existence could prove that claim. I’m sure many Leave voters would be incensed or repulsed by your offer of forgiveness.

    I understand that I’m not as forgiving as a Christian, being a mere Atheist, but if a friend (assuming we both agree on the meaning of the word) said he’d have voted for Trump, or Clinton, or Thatcher, or Corbyn I genuinely wouldn’t give a tupenny toss. Other than to find it interesting enough to quiz him over it down the pub. My god man – how far up your own arse do you have to be to refuse to socialise or engage with a chum because of their real or perceived voting intentions? What the hell is wrong with you? Snap out of it.

    One last thing – you describe the only two positions on Trump as being ignorant or malicious. That’s perhaps the best example of a false dichotomy I’ve ever encountered, and a fault of logic I will think back to for a long time to come. I fear the distance between your perceptions of peoples’ motivation and the actual nuanced narratives, history and decisions that go into making up an adult human’s actions is a breathtaking gulf that certainly requires further reflection.

  5. Well, Jason: “You could forgive him … and then stay friendly with him as before” is of course the goal. It’s what I want to do, and I fervently hope in time what I will do. But just saying it doesn’t make the problem go away, and the problem is my friend is not who I thought he was. Processing that, at the very least, takes some radical recalibration. And while I do believe we have a responsibility to love everyone, the specific spirit in which you love an individual is very much dependent on the kind of respect you have for them. That’s changed.

  6. rjubber, lots to reply to there. I hope it’s OK if I skim over the Brexit bits, since they are not really germane to the present post. We can return to that later in another thread if you like.

    On the substance of your comments: your rebuke is well taken. I am not proud of how shaken I am by Sunday’s experience, and I am certainly not recommending it as a reaction for others to emulate. I am just reporting a true fact about how I was completely freaked out by someone who I thought I knew, and it turned out I didn’t.

  7. That’s entirely fair comment – I was responding to your article as if it was a think-piece, when it’s fairer to say it was an honest appraisal of your visceral reactions, warts and all. Looked at like that perhaps you could re-examine exactly what it is you demand of your friends. You can’t know a person entirely – finding that stuff out is what make friendships interesting – but you readily accept their religious, pop song, food, film, artistic and other choices may very wildly from your own – so political views may well fall on that scale. I’m personally very interested in politics, but I’ve learnt many people I meet in life are far less interested. They’ve got other stuff going on, like raising kids, supporting a crappy football team and all the other baggage of every day life. Their political opinion may be deeply analytical or they may not give a flying monkeys until every few years another election rolls around and they drag some cobbled together view up for inspection. Very few people actually act on their political guff. I’ve seen leftwingers denounce capitalism as dead from their shiny new laptops and I know people who might be inclined to ‘send them all back’ in the purely abstract sense but who are fully integrated into their south london community and moved to tears by the plight of Syrian refugees. It’s a crazy complex world out there and most people are a walking mass of contradictions. Maybe try arguing from a devil’s advocate position now and then – I find it a healthy way to nudge my own prejudices around a bit, of which I have a sackful.

    Why not ask your mate why he would have supported Trump – it probably won’t be “because I really like sex pests”. :-)

  8. Of course you can be friends with someone who supported Mrs Thatcher, or even Tony Blair. Thinking that Thatcher was wrong about the mines and Tony was wrong about Iraq is a difference of political opinion. It’s the kind of thing which people can respectfully disagree about. Most socialists and most conservatives want basically the same things (schools for everyone, hospitals for everyone, more jobs, less crime) but disagree about which bits should be done by the state and which bits should be done by individuals. That’s not the kind of thing which has an absolute “right” or “wrong” answer.

    Could I be friends with someone who supported Hitler? I suppose it is just possible that I might say “I meet Herman once a week in the pub and chat to him about folk music and early episodes of Spider-Man, and he seems nice enough: apparently, he has absolutely shocking political affiliations, but as long as he doesn’t mention them, neither will I.” But I am not sure that I ought to say even that. I think that “genocide is wrong” is true in a way that “privatizing British Gas is wrong” can’t ever be. I think that there would come a point where I would have to say: “Once I found out that Herman positively supported the genocide of the Jewish people, I made it clear that I did’t want anything more to do with him, even though I actually find him pleasant company.” Once you’ve expressed views of that kind, you’ve sacrificed your place in respectable society.

    I think that the idea that one’s preference for Clinton over Trump is in some way comparable to one’s preference for Corbyn over Thatcher is very dangerous thinking. Thatcher was a constitutional politician with right wing views; Corbyn is a constitutional politician with left wing views; once all the shouting goes away, a very large amount of Thatcher’s beliefs could be shared by Cobynites; and a very large amount of Corbyn’s beliefs could be shared by Thatcherites. (Both agree with the health service, both oppose the death penalty, both oppose private gun ownership, and both support Britain’s nuclear deterrent, apart from Corbyn.) Trump is an entirely different thing: a new thing; a thing so far off the scale that compared with him Corbyn, Thatcher and Clinton differ only on technicalities.

    I mean, for goodness sake: Trump has actually advocated the use of torture. Not said he’d turned a blind eye to officials being a bit rougher than they should be, although that would be bad enough: but actually advocated it. The idea that “voting for someone who supports torture” and “not voting for someone who supports torture” is a little self indulgent disagreement about politics on a level with “legalizing secondary picketing” and “not legalizing secondary picketing” boggles my mind. It’s not about a left wing politician vs a right wing politician; it’s about common humanity vs evil. There’s no other word for it.

    If a friend said “You know, in the 70s, I was a member of the National Front; I certainly daubed swastika on asian shops, and I was part of a riot in which a black guy was hospitalized; I feel terribly ashamed; can we still be friends?” then of course I could “forgive” him. We’ve all done shit we’re ashamed of. But if a friend said “My idea of a good time is to daub swastikas on foreigners houses and beat up black people: do you want to come with me” then the relationship would simply be at an end; even if I liked them in other ways.

    Don’t normalize Trump. He’s not a right wing politician, he’s a white supremacist crazy man. And I don’t see how anyone can not know that.


  9. Thank you, Andrew. You have said exactly what I would have said, had I managed to rein in my emotions while writing the post (but, as always, rather better than I would have said it).

  10. Andrew – are you saying that people who voted for Trump – all 60 million of them – are all exactly equivalent to National Front members who go round painting swastikas on the doors of asian shops? That seems to be the point you’re making. I may well have misunderstood, but the inference is there.

    Your notion that Trump is very different from Thatcher and Corbyn is interesting and well made – but you seem to be extending this difference to his supporters, which is a much less coherent through-line, especially in relation to the current discussion topic. People are not their voting patterns. Your illustrations use hypothetical actions not hypothetical votes, which is where this discussion started. It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that somebody who voted for Hitler in 1936 isn’t the same as somebody who gassed Jews in 1943. I also don’t buy that Trump is in some different demonic league entirely from anybody who has come before – he definitely isn’t by the standards of American presidents. Very dangerous thinking? I suppose we need to wait until he’s actually held office to see how that pans out.

    Ignoring the “don’t normalize trump” meme which has been bouncing around social media recently, I’d also take issue with your final statement. “And I don’t see how anyone can not know that.” – that’s a classic argument from personal incredulity, an automatic fail as arguments go, although a fine expression of your personal passions on the subject.

  11. I’m Canadian so in similar boat to yourself, and in a similar state of mind – sort of shocked and appalled. We’re forced to give the Trumpers a line and to see how it pans out.. who knows, theres a chance, right? But Trump himself is very in-Canadian, someone who just rubs everyone the wrong way; a brash infantile asshole of a man. And then people went and voted in droves for him .. it gave me cognitive dissonance. But I’m Canadian, so, whew, right? Surely everyone I know must think along my lines, right?

    A very good friend of mine, that I admire and respect, as an intelligent go-getter, who does well for his friends, and is a live life to the fullest sort of guy. Stand up. And black. Who would vote for Trump if he could, who goes on about it every day. *cognitive dissonance*

    I know some Muslim folks who would vote Trump.


    I’ve read the above (the Cracked article is very good); but I cannot forgive the apparent personality of the man or those he surrounds himself with.

    (Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t vote Hillary in good conscience either, and wonder how those two got to be the only choices; still, the choice of a Random Monster or More of the Same … I dunno. Perhaps the Americans have made the Brace Choice, and if it goes sour will rise up with those arms they’re so proud of….)

  12. I found this to be a great summary, Mike.

    “Not all Trump supporters are racist, but all of them decided that racism isn’t a deal-breaker. End of story.

    I guess being a mysogonist, xenophobe, or habitual liar didn’t matter either.

  13. I was surprised that Trump won the nomination, and then more surprised that he won the election. That said, everyone I’ve talked to this year has hated BOTH candidates, in a way that I’ve never seen candidates hated before. Personally I preferred both vice presidential candidates over either presidential candidate. I don’t know how the the people I know voted (and I don’t really want to), but I suspect that a number of them (30-40%?) voted for Trump over Hillary in the end. Ultimately we had to make a choice between two terrible options, and here’s why I think Trump ended up with the edge:
    – Hillary is seen as smart, conniving, and (to some) evil. Many believe she would do real damage to the country as President, and that she has the will and power to do it. She is seen as the “devil you know”. She stands for something and will work hard to achieve it, and if you don’t like her stance you don’t want her to do that.
    – Trump is seen as arrogant, crazy, unstable, selfish, and *ineffective*. He only cares about himself, and is unfit to rule. He is more likely than Hillary to 1) get himself impeached, 2) abdicate, or 3) simply enjoy being a figure head while he lets others take care of the work of ruling a nation. He is definitely the “unknown” to Hillary’s “known”, and so the bet/hope here is that he will randomly do less damage than she would have, and that 1,2, or 3 above will limit his damage if he’s really bad. He doesn’t stand for anything, and his actions will basically be random.
    – There are a lot of people who feel like they’re worse off than they were before Obama, and they blame Obama for it. Obama originally campaigned on Hope and Change, and many people feel like their hopes were disappointed and the change was for the worse. Hillary is seen as the continuation of Obama’s broken hopes and bad changes, and Trump is seen as at least having a chance of fixing that. Sort of a “what we’ve been trying isn’t working, so let’s try the wildcard and hope we get lucky rather than keeping on trying the same old thing” kind of attitude. Personally I think Obama promised a lot of things he had no control over, and now people blame him for a lot of things he had no control over because of those promises, and Hillary inherited that as the next Democratic candidate.
    – The media seemed to be so overwhelmingly anti-Trump that I think it actually helped Trump (Jason’s article above was a very interesting read). I’ve seen something similar in a city referendum, where one side poured around 8 MILLION dollars into promoting their side via flyers, calls, etc., and the other side spent almost nothing. Voters ended up overwhelmingly (57%) voting *against* the side that inundated us with their propaganda, and I think voter turnout was *larger* than normal (usually city referendums get very poor turnout). I’m convinced if they hadn’t tried so hard they would have had a much better chance of passing. It seems that telling us over and over what we should think ended up driving us away from their viewpoint, rather than convincing us of it. I honestly think people got so tired of hearing that Trump is the devil that in the end they thought “Surely he can’t be THAT bad” and adjusted their view of Trump upward to counter-balance the blatant media bias.

    P.S. I would be really interested in seeing how pessimists vs optimists voted, because it seems like the pessimists would prefer Hillary’s predictability, and the optimists might prefer Trump’s volatility.

  14. I’m not really sure what to make of a discourse where anyone who has a differing point of view is dismissed as being racist, ignorant and infantile, and that they might be forgiven. I’ve seen an increasing amount of this sort of thing lately and I find it a somewhat disturbing trend; at the very least, it shuts down any sort of communication which may reveal why they made the choices they did.

    I think it’s incorrect to make a firm judgement of someone’s moral integrity based on this type of choice where a dichotomy develops between the good and great who made the “correct” decision and the stupid and nasty who didn’t. Especially as my personal experience is that such a judgement is evidently no guarantee of how those people are going to treat me as a person, which I can’t help but feel is a rather more important measure of a person’s character.

  15. Well, I am not going to get into a discussion of whether Clinton or Trump had better policies: even assuming anyone knows what Trump’s policies actually are, that’s not the issue. The issue is that Trump, aside from his very evident unsuitability for politics, is simply not an acceptable human being.

    I’d hoped that writing this post would help to purge me, to leech some of the post-Trump poison out of my blood. What’s happened instead is that reading the comments has made me see that things are much, much worse than I’d realised.

  16. I am not saying that everyone who disagrees with me is racist. I am saying that everyone who voted for the racist man is racist.

  17. Or, at the very least, that everyone who voted for the racist man voted for a racist man.

  18. What does calling them racist actually accomplish, though?

  19. People make entirely too much of Trump’s election.

    People act as though he’s clinically insane and will launch all the missiles on a whim. No he won’t. Maybe he even said something to that effect (I don’t know), but a politician’s word is not worth a damn, and Trump’s is worth much less than that. His speeches are incoherent rambling, which means he cannot means most of what he says, seeing as he contradicts himself incessantly.

    A man like Trump can talk and talk, but will rarely act against his own self-interest.

    Votes for Trumps it seems , are anti-establishment / anti-system votes. That’s the man #1 appeal. His second best was appealing to the working class with promises to bring back jobs and prosperity to declining industries.

    Well-meaning folks object to this “insanity”, but I don’t think his voters viscerally feel that anything disastrous will happen (neither do I, for what it’s worth).

    A big case is made of his racism and sexism, but I doubt it factored much in the votes he received. Let’s be honest, it didn’t hurt either. What probably did help him a lot was the man’s ability to keep going despite these labels, that most politicians will immediately try to wash themselves clean off, even if they are groundless.

    Finally, let’s not forget that the president is the head of the executive. While he does set the tone for policies, the power to vet laws belongs to the houses. These are controlled by the republicans, and have been for some time, yet no one was screaming fire yet.

    The real problem with Trump is that he sets a bad example. It’s bad to have a seemingly racist or sexist president. It sets a bad example and does in fact have, I believe, a pervasive influence (as a kind of license felt, for instance, by law enforcement officers). On the other hand, racial tensions were already at a peak in the united states, and the president was black. So clearly, its only a small part of the story.

    There’s also the risk that the republican majority, seeing the man’s unexpected success, will be goaded into applying some of the policies he suggests.

    Some of it may be bad, but again, I doubt he’ll act against his own interest. His business do have their share of immigrant labor for instance, so already there, I doubt he’ll be as firm as he sounds (in fact he has already toned his rethoric done some — though that is not to be especially trusted).

    In fact, I believe a major staple of his program will be protectionism. If he wants a second mandate, he has to deliver to the working class. He cannot win on divisive rethorics only. In fact, even among tyrants, that is exceedingly rare. Hitler restarted Germany’s economy and Mussolini made the trains run on time, famously. Ineffective tyrants face restless opposition, which in the US could turn itself in an impeachment vote fast enough.

    So Trump is bad, but are things fubar? No, far from it.

    In fact, such shocks are probably unavoidable in the current political state of affairs. Just like the Brexit vote. It won’t be the last either. It’s necessary because the current system is not workable for a large part of the population. Realignment must occur.

    And seen under this lens, maybe we should welcome the minor shocks we experience now. They aren’t good things, but Britain leaving Europe is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, and Trump is a trash-talker clown, not a competent fascist with a master plan.

    For my second Godwin point, I’ll go for an example were this kind of shock did not lead to a realignment, and what came out of it: the beer hall putsch.

    PS: a meta-comment on the commentary over Trump’s nomination (mostly elsewhere, I applaud the maturity of rjubber and Vometia above): people seem to start with Trump=bad, and then look for explanations of why people were so blind to that fact. Where in fact, I think to get to truth, you have to start from the people themselves, and unencumbered by preconceptions.

    I’m somewhat puzzled by your conclusion though (“What’s happened instead is that reading the comments has made me see that things are much, much worse than I’d realised.”). I think what the comments are telling is that maybe it’s worth wondering why people voted for Trump rather than why they didn’t vote against him.

    And I think there’s hope there: according to me they voted Trump because they felt viscerally that disrupting the establishment was more important than not having a racist figurehead. They did not vote for Trump especially because of his xenophobic rethoric. Neither did they feel something disastrous would happen.

  20. I think Nicholas’ comment says it for me, and I feel slightly cheap in just responding with a short paragraph, but I definitely agree with the suggestion that Trump and Brexit were both the result of an anti-establishment sentiment much more than they were anything else. Very many people, rightly or wrongly, feel that “The Establishment” has been failing them for a long time and this was an opportunity: whether it was an opportunity to make their voice heard, or to upset the apple cart, or to play a wildcard in the hope that any change could be a change for the better, they all play into it.

    I think to dismiss them all as simply being racist and/or ignorant people who perhaps need to be put in their place is a risky approach that will generate more heat than light.

    In my case, I have little invested in either: I have my opinions, but given that in both cases it was a somewhat fumbling matter of trying to discern the least worst outcome, it’s not a topic I approach with a great deal of enthusiasm for anyone involved.

    I think there is a risk of seeing things through the lens of a single issue, too. Although I can’t speak personally from the racism angle, as an LGBT type I am another potentially “endangered minority”. But in spite of the overtly hostile rhetoric of some of Trump’s homies and the honeyed words of some of Clinton’s, I have to wonder how much difference there would be in reality. Because the reality I’ve experienced is that some of the most hostile behaviour has been from self-styled “liberal left” types, curiously. Which just makes me think. If it matters (and it shouldn’t, but for clarity) my own general disposition is quite strongly left-leaning, but I always find plenty to disagree about.

  21. I find it very disturbing for an avowed Christian to call someone “not an acceptable human being”. That’s now how we’re supposed to be.

    My biggest problem in all of this is the dehumanization of people who don’t agree (and agree COMPLETELY) with us.

    This is insanity. You talk about not knowing this man, WTF is that supposed to mean? Do you really believe that your can accurately know the heart of another person?? You KNOW that to be untrue, you know that only God knows that.

    Yet you are judging this person based on what you think of him. Its as if everyone is building epic strawmen, epic evil strawmen, in their minds and then judging their fellow man.

    As a Christian, I believe that it is NOT my purview to judge my fellow man, that’s Jesus’ job and thinking it to be mine is, well in fact, a sin. We’re told to love our enemies, and our friends. I’d assume this could be easily extrapolated to do not turn your friends into your enemies through our lack of compassion or understanding.

    Can you imagine if Jesus had went around during his ministry looking into the hearts of people and saying, “we’ll you’re not perfect and I can’t even understand why you feel that way you do so I won’t forgive you”….
    HE could have said that to EVERYBODY!!!!

    It is our call to forgive, it is our call also to not judge. WE are not the judge.

    You do the things that you feel are right with how you interact with the world to show your beliefs. Let other people see that, and if that changes them, great. Also realize that other people actions, like your friends comment, are opportunities to take a closer look at your views and feelings.

    I think this crap of “you don’t politically agree with me” so you must be EVIL is complete bullshit. There were solid moral reasons to vote AGAINST (not for, almost no one voted FOR someone) both the major candidates this election. So cut the people who only had bad choices, but yet had to choose anyway, some slack.

  22. I just stumbled on this, which kind of harps on the theme of “what do you think you know and how do you think you know it?” regarding Trump. Well worth a read:

    The author is a smart guy, whose opinion I deeply respect. I think this is one of the best blog post I’ve ever read (and incidentally it is also relevant to the election I think, although it was written long before that):

  23. The “Still crying wolf” piece is essential reading, but I’d also commend to you Ross Douhat’s comments on it:

  24. “Andrew – are you saying that people who voted for Trump – all 60 million of them – are all exactly equivalent to National Front members who go round painting swastikas on the doors of asian shops?”

    I am not saying that, and I am sure you do not really saying that.

    Mike said that he didn’t know if he was able to go on being friends with a Trump supporter; someone else said that it was self-indulgent to behave as if political differences really mattered, and that he should simply forgive him and carry on as before. I gave two imaginary examples of being friends with someone with appalling political views — the Nazi I meet in the pub each week to chat about non political subjects, and the friend who, confides that, a long time ago, he was in the National Front and engaged in violence against majorities. I said that in the first case, the admission of Nazism would (in my view) end the relationship; but in the second case, of course you could a forgive a friend for having done bad things in the past which they now regret. It is is no way implicit in what I said that Trumpism is “exactly equivalent” to either the Nazis of the 1930s or the neo-fascists of the 1970s. I responded to a general claim “a person’s political views should make no difference to whether or no you can be friends with them” by saying “here are two examples where I think it would make a difference.”

    As I have written elsewhere, deliberately misreading analogies as if they were comparisons is one of the least constructive tactics in online arguments.

    “CALVES are to COWS as KITTENS are to CATS”
    “Don’t be ridiculous! Have you ever tried milking a cat?”

  25. Andrew, thanks for the accusation. I did not deliberately misread your analogies – that’s why I explicitly asked if I had misunderstood you. I can assure you I was making an honest attempt to understand the point you were trying to make and engage with it. You are apparently quite certain however that I am lying – which I can of course neither prove or disprove to your satisfaction.

    I’ve re-read the penultimate paragraph of your first comment and if you’re not comparing the *active* act of physical violence against black people with the considerably more *passive* act of voting in a limited binary voting system then I’m clearly still struggling with the nuance of your writing style.

    In case there is any confusion – to me your comparison (or analogy – choose your preferred synonym) is somewhat ineffective or unclear. You do better in the follow up comment, but it still suffers from an unreasonable comparison between a physical act and a political view/hypothetical voting intention, *in my honest opinion*. I consider those two things too dissimilar for one to work as a suitable metaphor for the other.

    The point remains – as has been made by many commentators on this thread – in the recent election it was entirely possible to prefer voting Trump over Clinton for a multitude of reasons including a general ‘fuck you’ to the establishment without being a passionate fan of his every idiotic utterance. If that notion is outside your imaginative capacity, then fair enough, we are at an intellectual impasse and can move on honourably.

  26. Voting for Trump was an act of desperation by people in rural areas. It was not all that different from the Brexit vote except that the US has a lot more large cities than the UK. When I watched the Brexit results, I was expecting to see the old north/south divide. Instead I saw an urban/rural divide. The US election was a lot like that. The expectation was the usual divide between the old Confederacy and the old Union which is geologically similar to the north/south divide in England. Instead it was urban/rural.

    Trump lost the popular vote, but we have affirmative action for rural areas written into the US constitution, so he’s going to be our new president. This will hurt the blue areas a bit, since Republicans always induce recessions. However, Trump and his party’s policies are going to bleed the red areas so thoroughly that we’ll have to ditch the red/blue divide and call it the blue/white divide.

    Given Clinton’s ties to the folks behind our ongoing economic depression, I can see why people had trouble voting for her. A lot of Trump voters once (or even twice) voted for Obama, so race isn’t the only thing. Eight years ago the joke was some guy answering a pollster saying “I’m voting for the n—-r.” I think they’d vote for a two headed camel if they promised to pump some life into the rust belt and rural areas. It’s a pity one wasn’t on the ballot.

  27. ”Hitler restarted Germany’s economy and Mussolini made the trains run on time, famously”

    These things are famous, but are also untrue. They confuse what people said they did with what they did, which is never a good idea. And particularly not with fascists.

    Generally, fascists are rubbish at everything apart from hatred and rallies.

    ”Trump lost the popular vote, but we have affirmative action for rural areas written into the US constitution”

    I have no idea whether this is true, but would like to. You’re referring to the Electroal College system I assume? Is there anything you could link to over it being weighted towards rural areas? (To emphasise, I am not disbelieving, just curious.)

    Overall, Trump chose to play the race card. This is a more important point than whether he is personally a racist or not. Which means that some (of course not all) Trump voters saw the racism as a plus. This may be unpalatable but we’re stuck with it.

    Also, it may be due to the way this debate started, but there does seem to be some kind of a priori assumption going on, that if someone is a racist that’s just all there is to it. I’d like to know what makes them like that. And understanding is not the same thing as condoning or excusing.

  28. You’re referring to the Electroal College system I assume? Is there anything you could link to over it being weighted towards rural areas?

    I assume the point is that states get two guaranteed votes in addition to the ones they get in proportion to their population, which is automatically going to over-represent low-population-density sates compared to high-population-density states.

    Another word for ‘high-population-density areas’ is ‘cities’.

    So states with lots of cities, or big cities, in, are going to be under-represented compared to states which have fewer, smaller cities.

    You could plausibly characterise such low-population-density states as ‘rural’.

  29. The Electoral College in the US is winner takes all within each state. While states without large cities have fewer votes in the EC, there are a lot of them. They tend to have close votes. The states with large cities have more votes, but there are fewer of them. They tend to vote solidly for the Democrats, the urban party, but the “excess” votes are “wasted”.

    Good evidence for the EC being biased towards rural voters is that our last two Republican presidents were elected with minority votes. Bush Jr had 600K fewer votes than Gore, and Trump had 2M fewer votes than Clinton. Those two candidates won by appealing to rural voters while they were opposed by urban voters. This would seem to run counter to various arguments about Democracy in which the majority is expected to rule. Of course, the UK has its own political surprises as parliamentary systems often have coalition governments with strange bedfellows.

    There’s a lot of this pro-rural bias in our constitution. Look at our Senate where each state has two senators. One senator may represent 50 (or more) times as many people as another, but each has only one vote in the Senate. The lower House, in theory has more even representation by population, but the district lines are set at the state level, so the Democrats would probably need 60% of the vote to take back the House.

  30. The Electoral College in the US is winner takes all within each state

    Not technically true for every state. But for most of them, yes.

  31. “’I’ve re-read the penultimate paragraph of your first comment and if you’re not comparing the *active* act of physical violence against black people with the considerably more *passive* act of voting in a limited binary voting system then I’m clearly still struggling with the nuance of your writing style.”

    Here is what I was trying to say in plain language.

    The claim had been made that only a narcissist or an extremely self-indulgent person would terminate, or consider terminating a friendship because of a person’s voting intentions. (The exact accusation was that Mike was “up his own arse” which is, by the way a METAPHOR: no-one was suggesting that Mike had really attempted this anatomically improbable feat.) It was also insinuated that a person who would terminate, or consider terminating, a friendship because of another person’s voting intentions must be mentally ill or defective in some way — they “had something wrong with them” — and further that they were in some kind of trance or passion that they could choose to “snap out of.”

    My response is:

    1: Voting intentions are, or may be, indicative of deeply held beliefs and

    2: Nearly everybody finds certain deeply held beliefs abhorrent.

    3: It is neither narcissistic, nor self indulgent, or a sign of mental illness or entrancement to choose to terminate a relationship with some who reveals that they have beliefs that you find abhorrent.

    Not everyone finds the same things abhorrent so different people certainly have different “red lines”. I can think of examples of beliefs which would cause me to end a relationship with someone (or consider doing so) which might very well be different from yours, or Mike’s. It may very well be that deeply held beliefs which are associated with intending to vote for Mr Donald Trump are not ones which you find abhorrent; and it may very well be that you disagree with me about what beliefs a Trump-voter is actually likely to hold. These are all debatable points or points about which one might “agree to differ”.

    The argument I was making was that the statement “there are no circumstances under which a person’s voting intentions could negatively impact on their relationship with another person” — is, as a general proposition, false. It is possible to think up plausible exceptions to it.

    I hope this clarifies things.


  32. “My biggest problem in all of this is the dehumanization of people who don’t agree (and agree COMPLETELY) with us.”

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting that everyone has to “agree completely” with “us”. I went to some lengths to say that a supporters of Mrs Thatcher (a fairly long way to the “right” of British politics) and a supporter of Mr Corbyn (a fairly long way to the “left” of British politics), while disagreeing on very many things, could still be expected to be friends, and to mutually respect each other’s views. I do think that certain views place you outside normal discourse: the idea that our enemies, and even the families of our enemies, should be tortured is one such example. I do not think that I could be friends with someone who supported torture. I don’t think we could even be mutually respectful opponents. But even that is not the same as saying “I do not think that he is a human being”. In general, it is mainly the “alt” right who I have heard saying that their opponents are zombies, moorlocks, troskyites, rats, cockroaches, etc…But I don’t know if they really mean it or not.

  33. Andrew – I think I finally get what you’re saying – and it’s a lot easier to understand without conflating the intellectual with the physical, or visions of swastikas in my head (plans for everyone). As you’ve stated it, your argument finally becomes much more coherent and I now understand the point you’re making. However I think you’ve only managed to wonderfully articulate a non-controversial position against a strawman. Some of the blame for that must lie with my initial response to Mike’s post and is the source for our inability to come to a common understanding.

    To clarify I’m *not* saying I can’t understand how it’s impossible to remain friends with somebody no matter what their politics – that’s a ridiculous position. Obviously if a chum tells me he’s an active and eager member of the Paedophile Information Exchange then he’s not coming over to the house for christmas ever again. I was responding to the very specific example Mike described. He’s just walked out of church and bumped into a friend of some standing, who presumably hasn’t ever expressed any outrageous opinion in the past, such as hatred for the jews etc. This friend then expressed which way his quite possibly under-informed vote would go, if, hypothetically, he was able to vote in a different country’s election. Mike then appears to have a fit of the vapours, goes to sit in his car and shakes with horror, unable to understand what alien creature he has just confronted. That’s rather precious. He doesn’t seem to have allowed for somebody else knowing far less about American politics than he does. He hasn’t engaged with that person on any level or asked why Trump would get his vote. An expressed voting preference just *isn’t* enough to go on, although perhaps you can find an extreme KKK/PIE example to knock all the straw out of. Maybe if after further discussion he discovers that his friend is entirely clued up to Trump’s pronouncements, wholeheartedly supports his stance and, for instance rather like’s Trump’s notion that restorative justice against black (exonerated) rapists should be lethally different from that against white rapists – then by all means kick him to the kerb! But he doesn’t appear to have gone through any investigative phase whatsoever. He’s leapt to judgement based on the absolute bare minimum amount of information. If it wasn’t clear that that was what I was annoyed by, or thought was unworthy of Mike’s better nature, then the fault lies with my initial response, and having not considered an entirely literal counter to my admonishment.

  34. Andrew.

    I find it interesting that you deny supporters of one candidate withdrawing friendship from supporters of another candidate is demanding agreement in ALL things then go on to conflate a simple vote for a candidate with tacit agreement of ALL that candidate’s positions. This is a contradiction.

    The fact is that one side has openly made cause to name the supporters of a particular candidate Evil, solely because of that support with NO KNOWLEDGE at all why someone actually voted for them. As I said there was a lot more reason to vote AGAINST candidates this election than FOR.

    To put it to an alternate example bluntly: Do you believe that supporters of Clinton absolutely supported the destabilization of Libya, the US’s tacit support and encouragement of the assassination of Gaddafi (“we came, we saw, he died”), and the creation of a huge amount of refugees? Because you are accusing Trump supporters of approving things he’s SAID he might do vs. voting for someone who’s actually done bad things.

  35. I have not been able to bring myself even to read all the comments in this thread (though I do intend to when I’ve got my head back together a bit more). But in the mean time, I highly recommend Matt Wedel’s post Why (and who) your vote for Trump hurts. It’s by a mid-western boy, born in Kansas and brought up in Oklahoma, who’s lived in California for the last 20 years. He’s responding to his old friends and family in Red states who are unhappy with what he’s been posting about the election.

  36. Mike, first of all thanks for this post, and the discussion it has provoked. Although there have been some unfortunate things said, I think for me it has resulted in a greater understanding of both sides.

    Ever since I read your post, I’ve been struggling to understand your reaction to your friend. I’ve been wondering, “How could a seemingly reasonable Christian blogger I read have such an immediate and hostile reaction to a friend simply because that friend thinks he might have voted from Trump?” I would have understood if you had been dismayed and confused about it, but in my view those feelings should result in an attempt to understand why this friend, whom you know “truly helps people in vulnerable situations”, didn’t match your mental model of how he would vote. I would expect a rational reaction of “I don’t understand. There must be something I’m missing here, and I should work to figure out what that something is.” That’s the reaction my mental model of you says you should have had. Instead, your reaction is 1) immediately cut off contact, 2) question if you can be civil with this person, and 3) imply that he’s an alien, ignoring all your prior friendship and knowledge of him in the face of that one comment. You also put words into his mouth, “That’s the kind of president America needs”, and claim as factual that the only possible reasons someone could vote for Trump are “ignorance or malice”.

    As a result, my reaction to your reaction is “I don’t understand. There must be something I’m missing here, and I should work to figure out what that something is.” I think I may finally have a theory that might explain your unexpected reaction to me: You don’t have a problem with Hillary. You didn’t see the election as a difficult choice between two bad options; you saw it as an easy choice between a reasonable candidate and a monster. In *that* light, it makes more sense to me that you’d react so unreasonably (from my perspective) to someone who says they think they might have voted for the monster. I suspect that your situation might be a result of your friend’s ignorance/downplaying (from your view) of Trump’s true dangers plus your ignorance/downplaying (from his view) of Hillary’s true dangers.

    Side note: If I had to pick movie settings to characterize (to an extreme) the flavor of what the country might look like under each candidate, here’s what I think many people would agree with: Hillary is a dystopian police state, where the thought police rule and people exist to serve the State. Trump is a wild western, where a corrupt sherif rules capriciously and everyone must fend for themselves. As a nation that values freedom and individuality above almost everything else, it’s not surprising to me that the flavor of the western was a little more palatable to the voters than the flavor of the dystopia.

  37. Honestly Mike, I think you are really overreacting to this. And, to be honest, I would find your overreaction as strange and scary as you find Trump voters, if it weren’t for the fact that so many of the people I know are having the same reaction- imagine having almost everyone around you a Trump voter and you might get the gist of how I feel. You’d have to accommodate, right?

    Don’t get me wrong- I was initially amused by the Trump candidacy, then perplexed, and eventually alarmed. I never wanted Donald Trump to be president, and I did not vote for him (easy for me because I have refused to vote for anyone for President since the day I cast my first ballot for Bill Clinton in ’92.)

    But you know what- Trump is not the bogeyman. He’s actually a center-left guy, and primarily an opportunist. He’ll be hemmed in by Congress (the Republicans are going to have to deal with him, but they don’t like him, and will give him much less latitude, I think, than the party normally gives their President.) The press hates him, and will put everything he does under the microscope.

    What I think you do not understand (and this is understandable, as you are not from the US) is that Trump was a reaction to something that very much deserves a reaction. He was not, by any means, a good or reasonable reaction (nor was Bernie, a candidate I have known vaguely since I was 12) but he was a reaction.

    That people voted for Trump does not make them fascists, racists or misogynists. I would not have cast a vote for him, but I understand what people were reacting to by doing so. It is simply not true that half the US is made up of racist troglodytes.

    So stop freaking out, at least until Trump takes office and does something worth freaking out about. I suspect he will be more moderate than you think he will (he currently plans to deport about as many people as were deported under Obama, but I suspect that he will actually deport less) and I’m pretty sure that life will go on, even under President Trump.

  38. Tagore, thanks for the would-be reassuring words. Unfortunately, they’re not getting the job done. The key issue is this: you try to make me feel better with “He’s actually a center-left guy” but for me, and many of the people I know, this is not remotely about left or right, Republican or Democrat. If Trump had run as a Democrat and won I would, I think, be equally despairing. The issue is the person: the liar, the cheat, the serial adulterer, the tax-dodger, the racist-sympathiser, the muslim-hater, the despiser of Mexicans, the pussy-grabber. Those are the issues, not the policies — whatever the heck they eventually turn out to be.

    And it’s no good saying “It is simply not true that half the US is made up of racist troglodytes”. The votes cast say otherwise, and that’s the reality. People will say they’re not racist — which is why Clinton was ahead in all the polls. But they way they actually vote tells you what they are: if not racist themselves, then prepared to tolerate it in others.

    Thanks anyway, though.

  39. They are racist in that they do not care about the suffering of other folks that are far from view. There is a chasm there between that and hating blacks, gays and other minorities, and in the space of this chasm we can find hope.

    Like I said earlier, racism is not what made people vote for Trump. Feeling abandoned and resentful of politicians who did them more harm than good, that did it much more than anything else. It’s also why Trump got more vote from blacks and latinos than Mitt Romney, despite Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric.

  40. Well, Mike, when it comes to pussy-grabbing we’ve been assured, for many years, that the personal pussy-grabbing peccadilloes of our politicians were not pertinent to their political prowess. Also, I like alliteration.

    I happen to think that Donald Trump is a man of very low character, partially because of his pussy-grabbing, but I do not think his sins in this regard are any worse than (or even comparable to) those of Bill Clinton or those of Ted Kennedy (who was lionized in the state I live in, while famous for sexually assaulting every waitress he came across, pun intended.) To put it very simply, you can’t apply standards to just one party forever. Eventually the other party will adopt them.

    You say “The votes cast say otherwise, and that’s the reality.” but you’re sort of assuming the conclusion here aren’t you? Your argument seems circular- Trump voters are troglodytes, because only a troglodyte would vote for Trump, right?

    You’re right that Trump is a liar, and a man of very low character. But his opposition was also so, and perhaps moreso than Trump, or at least more consequentially so.

    I guess what it comes down to for me is that I do not think Trump particularly worse than Clinton. I am appalled that either would be considered fit to run for, let alone hold, the office of President, but I am used to thinking things like that- I think them at the end of every primary season.

  41. Well, Tagore, I am not going to get into a Clinton-is-just-as-bad argument. That’s like saying “Cornelius Fudge is a compromised and weak-willed Minister of Magic, might as well vote for Voldemort”.

  42. Well Mike, I’m not asking you to get into that particular argument. I am just asking you to recognize that people had disparate reasons for voting Trump, and a lot might have been holding their noses over some of his rhetoric, while not considering it as consequential as you do.

    You’re certainly not obliged to do so, but I think that before you decide to tar 60 million Americans with the brush of unrepentant racism (especially when an African-American was recently elected president, and then re-elected) you ought to consider that a lot of factors go into American elections, and that voters are generally most concerned with what hits closest to home.

    I happen to dislike populism in general, and Trump’s brand of populism in particular, but I understand why it was successful in this election (though, as I said before, I would never have been a Trump supporter.) I think that things like freer trade, substantial levels of immigration, etc., are, on the whole, good things.

    But I am not so blind that I do not see that there are losers in this transaction, and a lot of them. That they happen to mostly belong to a class that has suddenly, and only recently, been treated with a remarkable degree of contempt in American culture does not help.

    I feel like I’m standing between two wasp’s nests, neither of which can help poking the other, and each of which is armed with endless reasons the other should be eradicated. I don’t particularly like either, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get stung.

  43. Well said Tagore. You have been blessed with your mother’s genius. I knew you when you were wee sprite. My name is Ken Farrell. I live in Indiana now but once upon a time I lived in Sawyerville P.Q. I hope you are well. Mike will probably never understand how American values translate into this mutated form of democracy. The system will evolve slowly, too slowly for me, but minds like yours will help to seed anew. Wonderful metaphor btw, wasps.

  44. Jason:

    I find it very disturbing for an avowed Christian to call someone “not an acceptable human being”. That’s now how we’re supposed to be.

    You’re right. I wrote sloppilyand thoughtlessly here. What I would have written, had I thought it through, is “That is not an acceptable way to be a human being”.

  45. Ken- I was indeed very small in Sawyerville, small enough that I didn’t know people’s last names for the most part. Are you Kenny-Benny? If so I certainly do remember you (and in fact I think I still have your kitchen table, though it is in storage at the moment.) Anyway, I don’t want to clog up Mike’s comments, but if you are so inclined you can feel free to drop me a line. My email address is my first and last names concatenated at

  46. Hey, my comment section is yours to use as you wish!

  47. Pingback: What I’ve been reading lately, part 18 | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  48. Pingback: Why Trump matters to me: I love America | The Reinvigorated Programmer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.