Why I cannot join the Resistance

I hate the fact that Donald Trump is President of the United States. Sometimes I just stop what I am doing and think, “We have a reality TV show conman who is our president.” Then I consider what sort of world I live in. I was one of those who was convinced that Trump would not win the Republican nomination and then when he won the nomination I was convinced that Clinton would defeat him. Clearly I was wrong but I was not the only one who was wrong so I take a little solace in that. So here we are with what I think is the most incompetent, unsuitable president our country has ever seen.

So you would think that I would be part of the spreading “resistance” that has been mounted against Trump. As much as I bad mouth Trump you think I would be one of the leaders in it. And I have plenty of friends who are part of that resistance. They eagerly jump on any news about Trump’s Russia’s connections or any bad news that comes out about him. But I cannot join them in this. I do not want a failed presidency. A failed presidency is not good for our country, and I do not wish it upon us.

But there is more to my hesitation to be part of this resistance than the desire to not have a failed presidency. I think there is something wrong with this resistance and I cannot get on board with them. Some of this is summed up in the recent article by Gerard Alexander. He points out that the Democrats have presented themselves in a way that illustrates an arrogance to non-progressive voters. This type of arrogance is a big part of what made Trump’s victory possible. I am disturbed that so many Christians voted for Trump, but I have to acknowledge that Clinton and the Democratic party did very little to try to convince them to do otherwise.

As of right now I want to see Trump defeated in 2020. But the idea of his defeat does not excite me. Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm for his potential loss is considering what comes after Trump. I see little evidence that progressives or the “resistance” crowd have any desire to truly listen to those who voted for Trump. It seems that Trump supporters are only enemies to be defeated and not people with real problems. I do not know how to get through to them that while Trump is not the answer to their problems that these individuals have legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. Perhaps replacing Trump with progressives who see half the country as “deplorable” will be an upgrade in leadership, but I am doubting that it will be much of an improvement.

The problem may be confidence. Or to be more precise overconfidence. I do not like Trump’s pronouncements that he can fix anything. Whether he actually believes that or not is debatable, but I find it insulting that Trump proclaims himself to have an ability to fix everything when I know that is not true. But I find many progressives also to be overconfident about their ideas. This overconfidence often comes out in the way they envision those who disagree with them. I think it is this overconfidence that leads them to having dismissive attitudes to many who supported Trump.

I saw evidence of this when I did my research on cultural progressive activists. It is not surprising that my respondents believed that their social and political agenda was best for society. If they did not have such beliefs, then they would not be activists. However it was clear that they had a significant amount of contempt for those who did not share their beliefs. Some of the activists thought that conservatives were simple-minded buffoons being lead by evil leaders

…the Republican Party uses religion (esp. Christianity) to control people and fool them into voting against their best interests. (Male, aged 36-45 with Master degree)

They want to impose their irrational concepts (dogma, theology) on other people. They let their leaders, who I think may often be corrupt, lead the members against their own best interests. (Male, aged 66-75 with Doctorate)

Others asserted that their political opponents were incapable of engaging in critical thinking.

I tend to view them as uneducated people, or those who don’t have the capacity for critical thinking. Perhaps driven by fear. They also feel the need for some sort of birthright, something they feel they have inherited. (Female, aged 46-55 with Master degree)

I think they represent one of the most destructive forces in modern society. They represent irrationality and anti-critical thinking at its worst. (Male, aged 46-55 with Doctorate)

Finally, there were some who argued that conservatives, especially religious conservatives, should not engage in the public square. They contended that allowing them to do so would be dangerous to the rest of us.

It (having Christian right living in the neighborhood) would bother me 100 percent — since I view them as untrustworthy and dangerous to political stability. (Male, aged 66-75 with some college)

They are THE MOST DANGEROUS ENEMY of America today. They threaten our founding principles, modern thought, and intellectual progress. They are Enemy #1 of all of humanity. They are worst than Al-Qaeda because they have captured the American Flag and the word “patriotism” to hide their destructive agenda. (Male, aged 56-65 with some graduate training) Capitalization in original text

Now I fully realize that many conservatives have similar levels of dismissive attitudes towards progressives. Indeed we only need to listen to terms like “the swamp” and “fake news” to understand that conservatives also have ways to reduce their opponents’ arguments down to silly caricatures rather than contend with their opponents’ arguments in good faith. But many of my respondents, even as they promoted dehumanizing images of conservatives in the most narrow-minded of ways also talked about the value of science and being open to alternative points of view. They contended that the conservatives they opposed were incapable of entertaining other perspectives but in doing so often indicated their own lack of self-introspection.

I suspect that progressives have a unique blind spot in that part of their social identity is that they are open to different ideas and perspectives when in reality they are as narrow-minded as the rest of us. This can lead to a higher than normal level of arrogance towards their political and social opponents since they have a hard time envisioning that those opponents have any good ideas, and they justify this assertion with an argument that they are objectively correct. Their ability to self-correct is damaged by their confidence that they are indeed open-minded despite the disparaging ways they talk about their political opponents. Their arrogance may be a critical reason why Trump was able to play on anti-elite sentiment in our society and become President.

I understand that as a Christian I have to be careful about overconfidence myself. As one who has gone through a dark time where I was forced to intellectually evaluate my beliefs, I am very confident about them. Of course I could be wrong, but obviously I do not believe that I am wrong or I would change my beliefs. But I dare not let that confidence turn into arrogance as I am in a society where there are many others who have come to different conclusions. I do not have to agree with those conclusions, but I should respect that others have approached issues about ultimate reality as best they can and be humble about how I treat them.

I think one of the ways I keep my overconfidence in check is by constantly being around those who think differently than I. It is hard to develop dismissive attitudes towards atheists, Muslims, Jews, spirituals, and such when I work around them and they are humanized in my presence. I have to wonder how often some progressives truly interact with non-progressives. I am not talking about putting up with the disagreeable uncle during the holidays, but rather working and interacting with those conservatives on at least a weekly basis. If you are a progressive, have you talked with a Trump voter, not in a dismissive way but in a way to where you are trying to understand the type of pain that led them to support Trump? I have. Which is why I know that the issues they want to address are real. It is too bad that they have chosen a solution that will not address those issues.

As I stated above, I do not want to see a failed presidency. I clearly do not have a lot of confidence in Trump, but a failed presidency will hurt a lot of people. I hope Trump can work out an agreement with North Korea that stops their development of nuclear weapons. I would love to see his tax plan continue the recent good economic news. I hope he makes smart appointments in the judiciary and government. A lot of people will be hurt if he fails to do these things. Do I think he will be successful? No. But I would rather he succeed than fail. Despite my low respect for him, I am not rooting for him to fail.

The problem is that I think a lot of the “resistance” are rooting for his failure. It seems that they would rather see him fail no matter who gets hurt. In fact, seeing people get hurt helps to push their political agenda. This misplaced priority is also a factor of being unwilling to consider if others may be correct. But they show no hesitation in believing that there is anything that their political opponents can offer. Their confidence in their agenda makes it possible for them to ignore how damaging that failure would be to many in our society as long as this failure promotes that agenda. Little wonder I am not eager to see them take power as I believe will happen in 2020.

In 2016 I wanted to see a Republican party that would truly compete for the votes of political moderates and people of color. I saw some of the externalities of the Obama administration and so if the Republicans won the election, I could hope that some of them could be address. But instead we got Trump.

I remain a political moderate. I keep hoping for good candidates from both parties so that I will not have to go third party again. So in 2020 I want to see the Democrats provide a message and a candidate that truly indicates that they want to listen to and serve all of the people and not merely the non-deplorables. I suspect that the Democrats are going to let me down. I have not seen a willingness among progressives to move beyond their own political agenda to figure out how to govern all of us. But I was wrong about whether Trump could ever be president. Maybe I will be wrong about the Democrats disappointing me. One can only hope that I will be wrong again.


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9 responses to “Why I cannot join the Resistance”

  1. Regarding “Sometimes I just stop what I am doing and think, ‘We have a reality TV show conman who is our president'”: I know how you feel.

    Regarding “It seems that Trump supporters are only enemies to be defeated and not people with real problems”: Yes–and, of course, there are conservatives–especially conservative Christians –who see Democrats as “only enemies to be defeated and not people with real problems”. Some of them seem to think “GOP” means “God’s Own Party” and “DNC” means “Devil’s National Committee”.

    Regarding “Some of the activists thought that conservatives were simple-minded buffoons being lead by evil leaders”: That’s understandable, isn’t it? It has been obvious since he was a candidate in 2015 that Trump is an unscrupulous populist demagogue. And yet it seems he is more effective in his demagoguery now than ever, as we can see in his success (with much assistance from Fox News and right-wing talk radio) at convincing many millions of Republicans that the Department of Justice, the FBI, and Robert Mueller are conducting a “witch hunt” against him because they want Hillary Clinton to be president.

    Regarding “Their arrogance may be a critical reason why Trump was able to play on anti-elite sentiment in our society and become President”: I have no doubt that it was a reason. Conservatives complain about it all the time–quite understandably so. Yet they seem not to recognize that there are conservative elites, too, who are arrogant.

    Regarding “the resistance”: The House of Representatives has just approved a prison reform bill with bipartisan support–and yet some progressives are against it because it is a project of Jared Kushner. Van Jones, himself a progressive, said last night on *CNN Tonight with Don Lemon*: “We can fight on 99 issues, but on one issue can we at least get together and get something done?”. One can see this here: https://www.facebook.com/donlemoncnn/videos/1679526562101242/

  2. “have you talked with a Trump voter, not in a dismissive way but in a way to where you are trying to understand the type of pain that led them to support Trump?”

    Yes, I do regularly. The pain that drove them to it was the trauma of having to live with a black president for 8 years. You are asking me to condescend to them by reducing my expectations of their moral character. I refuse.

    • So you say that you have listen to Trump supporters in a non-dismissive way by making a dismissive attribution about them. I have talked to dozens of Trump supporters and not a single one of them brought up Obama’s race. So you will understand if I do not trust your ability to actively listen to them for understanding and not to create a strawman argument.

  3. And you’ll understand if I don’t trust your ability not to whitewash all the bigotry that invariably laces a Trump voter’s rationale. You are using “active listening” as a fig leaf for a refusal to hold people to account for their prejudices.

    • Actually active listening is how we stop dehumanizing others. I guess thinking that all of Trump’s supporters are bigots and racists helps you to take away their humanity. I feel sorry for you.

  4. “I cannot resist an awful president with horrible policies because it might mean I would have to associate with some resistors who strike me as arrogant.”

    Conservative evangelicalism is mind-boggling.

  5. I have family members who are Trump voters. I love them but I can categorically state that the Trump voters that I know are characterized as profoundly ignorant, profoundly hypocritical, profoundly racist (they don’t say n******, but Obama is a Muslim Kenyan sort of nonsense). They preach the republican party line. They think abortion is the greatest evil but kids need to pull themselves up rather than depending on handouts. They think that Christians are the most persecuted people in the US despite numerous lines of evidence that show the opposite. They think that America was founded on Christianity and the Bible and think “more christians in power is a good thing because biblical values should be legislated”. They make excuses for Trump that they never had to make for Obama or even Hillary.

    Trump lies? Oh that’s not a lie. Let me tell you what a lie is When Obama said “You can keep your doctor” or when Hillary lied about Benghazi. Mueller’s investigation is a witch hunt but the republican political witch hunts that led to 8 Benghazis were genuine and investigated on good faith. Please note that inconsistency. If Jesus were a democrat, these Trump voters would kill him.

    That’s it in a nutshell.

    At the end of the day, the devil offered them the world as long as they follow him and his evil dehumanization. And all the Trump voters said “Amen”.

    Would you allow someone else to suffer so you could live in comfort? So that your suffering would be lessened? Because the Trump voter said “Yes, let them suffer. I’m more important.”

    Look – I feel pity for some of these groups. They’ve been screwed by republican nonsense for decades. And now, it’s just instinct to hate democrats. It’s just instinct to follow the guy who says sweet nothings. And the democrats haven’t focused on certain issues (because republicans gutted unions and ensured outsourcing) just like the democrats haven’t focused on certain issues such as black slavery (earning pennies on the dollar in prison where justice is remarkably correlated to the color of ones skill – yeah – it’s modern slavery) and all the other countless problems in inner cities that people of color predominately have to deal with. All those groups have a legitimate right to be angry with a government that consistently prioritizes the needs and desires of the wealthy over the rest of us. That poor white loser in the midwest should join forces with that poor black loser in the inner city ghetto. They have a lot in common.

    Also – let’s get away from this nonsense that the poor went for Trump. The trump voter wasn’t poor. He was a white guy with a good credit score. The poor don’t have the luxury of cutting their noses off to spite their face. The group that went for Trump were libertarians and people who were well-off and well-privileged in this society through a variety of social benefits accrued to them that are not present for other groups. This PR marketing is just that, PR. It’s not what the numerous investigations into the Trump voters shows.

    (and of course, the conservatives are going to point out the fringe poor that voted for Trump. They would never point out the comfortably well off middle class guy who has a nice suburban home and has a vacation every year… but that’s the real Trump voter.)

  6. First of all, many progressives are rooting for Trump’s failure, not because we want our country to fail, but because his policies are destroying America. The tax plan signed into law that was a giveaway for the rich while screwing the middle class on delay – I rooted against that. His plans to destroy the ACA and not put a competent health care plan in its place – I rooted against that. His administration’s policy of forcibly tearing children from their undocumented parents – I root against that. If he actually bothered to turn to infrastructure, like he mentioned during his campaign, I could support that. But instead he’s focusing on dehumanizing undocumented immigrants. I cannot in good conscience support most of Trump’s policies. Supporting him would be to the detriment of the vulnerable and the oppressed.

    On listening to Trump votes – see, the problem is that many of us *are* listening. I have spoken with Trump voters – and it’s not that I want to believe that they’re bigots (many are friends). And with every single one, once you get past the “Hillary was worse” arguments and have a deeper conversation, it’s “Muslims are terrorists and Trump will keep us safe,” or “I don’t want my money to go to *those* people,” or “build the wall because of all those rapist immigrants Trump talks about.” I wish that weren’t true, but that is my experience – and like you, I have cultivated relationships with all kinds of people.

    Here’s the thing – Trump campaigned – and continues to run – on appeals to prejudice, and half of voters (and most white evangelical ones) did not see this as a dealbreaker. Those are the facts – and we shouldn’t ignore the facts to spare the feelings of Trump voters.

    What you have failed to address is – if we are being met with bigotry as Trump voters’ answer, then what?

    • I think you are sincere. I expect Trump to fail. But I hope he does not. I think that hope separates me from progressives. And no not all of Trump voters are bigots. Yes all of them prioritized putting a race baiter into office for some reason or another and that is not a small thing. I think progressives tend to dismiss the concerns of such individuals with statements such as “they are all haters” or something like that. And if that continues to happen and there is not a legitimate outreach to such individuals (and I hope you will admit that there really was no such outreach in the last election) then Trump will win again in 2020 and I think neither of us want that. But no I will not be part of a resistance that is so dismissive of the real problems about 40 percent of the country face. Neither will I be supportive of Trump so it looks like third party again for me if something does not change.