Sheila has a good post on “The Appeal of Fascism” that you should go read. It’s no secret that Trump has authoritarian tendencies and that it’s not a small number of his supporters regard this as a feature rather than a bug. So, what the hell is going on? It’s too easy to dismiss Trumpists (not that Sheila is doing this) as goose-stepping Nazi wannabes. Sure, there are some out there. Charlottesville showed us that. But if that’s the answer, we might as well just pack up the American experiment and get ready to start shooting at each other. If nearly half of your fellow countrymen are simply monsters, then you’re just biding time until the Apocalypse.
So, I don’t think most Trump supporters are monsters. But I’m also tired of trying to understand them. As Sheila observes:
Pious exhortations to more progressive Americans to “reach out” to those resisting social change aren’t just embarrassingly one-sided (no one is telling the alt-right to try to understand those dark-skinned or Jewish or Muslim “libruls”); they also have a distressing tendency to be either naive or condescending– or both.
There’s no shortage of Trump supporters who dismiss liberals as un-American. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I don’t see a lot of energy being spent by Trump supporters or really anyone else trying to understand Clinton or Biden supporters. Endless New York Times safaris to talk to white people in the diners of the great Flyover were not balanced by right-wing publications talking to black people in the city trying to understand why they didn’t like Trump.
I don’t know what “the answer” is in terms of trying to get the division to be less pervasive and less vitriolic. But I suspect it has something to do with having people from opposite sides of the divide interact more frequently in ways that don’t involve discussing their differences. I suppose having people steer clear of unhappy discussions is a very Midwestern approach, but I just don’t see any upside in trying to resolve these kinds of differences. You can’t reason someone out of a position he didn’t reason himself into. These cultural biases we have internalized which divide us from fellow citizens who have internalized other cultural biases aren’t, by and large, views that we’ve come to objectively. Some of them may well stand up to objective analysis as being good positions to hold, but an unconscious, emotional attachment probably came first – subsequently clothed with logical defenses. If I’m right, the question ends up being to ask what we can do together that doesn’t involve discussing our differences and which will allow us to interact in a way that teaches us that we’re part of the same community and that very few of us are monsters.
Basically, the more alien we regard “the Other” as being, the bigger problems we’re going to have. We have to reduce the alienation somehow.