When it Comes to Trump and his Supporters, Can Intolerance be an Act of Love?
CJ Werleman argues that if the US President is a shape-shifting salesman, his customers bear responsibility for his deadly racism and bigotry
It is right to resist racism. It is good to combat xenophobia. You should reject sexism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and fascism. You should be against climate change denialism. You should stand up to those who deliberately spread COVID-19 by not taking proper precautions.
If you are against all of the above, then shouldn’t you also hate Donald Trump? And, if you detest the US President, shouldn’t you also hate his supporters, given that Trump operates as a vessel for their beliefs and attitudes?
I would argue that to hate Trump and his supporters is an act of love.
What You See is What You Get
When Trump espouses viciously cruel, racist and reckless beliefs and discourse, he is not only revealing his innermost self but also holding a mirror up to his constituency – that roughly 30% of the country that would remain loyal to him even if he “shot somebody in the face” on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, as the President likes to boast.
Put simply, Trump isn’t selling what his supporters aren’t buying – and what they are buying is his hatred, racism, conspiracies and utter contempt for notions pertaining to justice, equality, fairness, the rule of law and democracy.
Trump is a lifelong salesman. He knows the art of the con better than anyone. He has sold fake university degrees, a book he had ghost written, overpriced condominiums, and stakes in a more than a dozen companies that have gone bankrupt. Like all successful confidence artists, he is cunning enough to take on the appearance of those he’s selling to. To warm people to his products and ideas, he mirrors and mimics his target audience, who cheer loudly at his racist jokes and boo wildly whenever he mentions Black Lives Matter.
Nobody but Trump, a guy born and raised in New York City, who represents the very definition of a Northern Yankee, could successfully convince so many red state Republicans that he’s the literal reincarnate of a Southern Confederate general.
The President isn’t threatening and carrying out violence against Black Lives Matter protestors and defending the Confederate flag and racist monuments because he’s a lifelong Confederate simpatico. He is saying and doing these things because he’s constantly trying to shape-shift into a representation of his most ardent supporters. It’s a perverted form of performance art.
The Value Proposition
Shape-shifting is how Trump, a New York billionaire who inherited his wealth and shuttles by private jet from one golf course to the next, successfully sold 62 million predominately white working-class and rural voters into believing he is one of them.
He pulled off this con by channelling their inner id or, more specifically, their race-based anxieties and grievances. It is why he launched his political career falsely accusing the first black President of being a foreign-born Muslim and it is why during the 2016 Presidential Election campaign he vilified immigrants as “drug dealers” and “rapists” and peaceful adherents of the Islamic faith as a civilizational threat.
More recently, he has described Nazis as “very fine people”, separated immigrant children from their parents and locked them in cages, encouraged police brutality, tear-gassed and shot peaceful protestors, withdrew the US from global climate change treaties, begged and bribed foreign governments and adversaries to interfere in two presidential elections, shared anti-Semitic tropes on Twitter, praised dictators and Confederate generals, expressed support for Muslim concentration camps in China, and spread dangerous conspiracies about a deadly virus.
As someone who has dedicated his journalism career to exposing and combating racism and hatred, I’m acutely aware that my expression of hatred towards Trump’s supporters could be read as an undoing of my previous work.
According to The Washington Post, which fact-checks every remark made by the President, Trump has told more than 18,000 lies and falsehoods. His hatred of immigrants and racist conspiracies has sparked a white domestic terrorism crisis, with all but one of the most recent 50 terrorist attacks on US soil targeted at black churches, mosques, synagogues and wherever racial minorities gather in groups.
Despite these moral and ethical transgressions, roughly 38% of likely voters remain loyal to the President, which means that 150 million Americans who remain unaffected by his callous disregard for decency, morality, civility, honesty, humanity and the Constitution of the United States.
It also matters not to his last remaining supporters that more than 120,000 Americans have died on his watch from COVID-19, despite knowing that he sat on his hands and did nothing for a full two months as the virus spread throughout the country. They also saw him continue to hold indoor rallies around the country and are aware he described the virus as a “hoax” at the same time as other countries were declaring a national emergency. They have seen him scorn face masks, which reduce transmission rates by 50%, and now they seen him resume indoor rallies in states that have soaring rates of infection and hospitalisation.
“If the Coronavirus is real, I would’ve got it by now,” an attendee at Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, told a reporter. Others blamed the “liberal media” for “fear mongering”, saying that the infection and death counts are inflated to make Trump look bad. Almost none of the 9,000 in attendance wore a face mask. All expressed contempt for social distancing measures.
Trump supporters even heard their President publicly confess on Saturday to sabotaging the country’s pandemic response by slowing down the rate of testing because an increasing number of reported new COVID-19 infections was harming his poll numbers.
What of Pity and Empathy?
Is it wrong to hate these people? Is it wrong to hate those who recklessly and wilfully endanger the lives of my friends and family members for the sole purpose of “owning the libs”?
While some might argue that hatred is unhelpful and destructive, which it typically is, and others might contend that we should pity and empathise with Trump supporters, I’m not so sure. What or whom exactly should I empathise with?
We know from multiple studies that so-called ‘economic anxiety’ or ‘economic distress’ does not explain voter support for Trump. It was cultural anxiety – “feeling like a stranger in America, supporting the deportation of immigrants, and hesitating about educational investment”, according to PPRI analysis.
Love would mean nothing were it not for our acute awareness of hatred, just as light would mean nothing without the presence of darkness.Ralph Jones
I hate people who dehumanise the world’s most vulnerable people – refugees – as “invaders”, “illegals” and “threats”. Pity doesn’t come close to describing my feeling of antipathy towards those who have enabled the most racist and reckless President in US history to set the country aflame by turning American against American at the same time his actions or inaction has produced the worst public health and economic catastrophe in a century.
As someone who has dedicated his journalism career to exposing and combating racism and hatred, I’m acutely aware that my expression of hatred towards Trump’s supporters could be read as an undoing of my previous work. But, as Ralph Jones observes: “Love would mean nothing were it not for our acute awareness of hatred, just as light would mean nothing without the presence of darkness.”
“Put simply, we would not have made the advances we have if it were not for our instinctive hatred of the inhumane and the barbaric,” writes Jones. “Hatred of stupidity and injustice is a crucial cog that keeps the wheel of civilisation turning; it is a constantly replenished supply of ammunition. Without justified hatred we would struggle to right innumerable wrongs.”
Hatred of Trump and his supporters might save America from Trump and the racist and vindictive whims of his supporters by mobilising support for the President’s defeat on election day. An act of love if there ever was one.