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.