An Open Letter to a Trump Supporter

Dear sir or madam:

I have spent the better part of four years trying to figure out somebody: not Donald, but you. How and why could any reasonable person repeatedly support a person who time after time eroded and disabled so many of America’s institutions, traditions, pillars of democracy and democracy itself? How could you also enable a person whose moral character and compass are not only lacking, but perhaps nonexistent; who from day one told us to believe him and not our lying eyes; who made lying a way of life and asked us to accept new definitions of truth and fact? How could more than 70 million of you, after a four-year record that couldn’t get him elected chief trash collector in many local communities say, “I want four more years of that?”

After trying to figure you out, I have to admit that I failed. I don’t have a complete answer. But I get some of it. Mostly, you like a guy who is willing to give the middle finger to everything that you don’t like. You feel that much of 21st-century America has ignored you or let you down. The world has passed you by, so screw it and all of those who are part of the “elite” crowd. Educated people. Science. Most of the news media. Facts. Truth. And anything else that stands in Donald’s way.

So I get it. And in some ways, you’re right. Much of contemporary America left you behind. Let’s start with the news media. For too long, the issues and stories that affect your lives have not been reported. That needs to change. So when reporters approach you to tell those stories, don’t reject them. Tell them the truth so that they can share your stories. Those stories can influence those who can make a difference.

That begins with government — big, small and in between. I know that many of you resent government. But that’s like your resentment of the news media. It’s not the thing itself that’s “bad,” it’s how it’s operated. Does it serve you and your concerns and needs? It’s true that for too many people, the answer is No. But then why do you support someone who has no clue how government works or how to pull its levers to help your cause? In fact, aside from pontificating from the campaign pulpit, Donald has never shown the slightest inclination to help anyone but himself. How do you support someone who has never worked a day in his life, or knows the meaning of true sacrifice? Is his middle finger that important to you that you would sacrifice a productive government for it?

One of Ronald Reagan’s most powerful lines in his 1980 presidential campaign was asking voters, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Are you really better off? Think about it. Has the America that passed you by for so long found its way to you during the last four years?

We’re all subject to tribalism, the instinct to join others with whom we share certain traits. One of those is how and what we think, especially politically. Those who yearn for a less complicated America group together. It’s understandable that some want the “good old days” to return. But the world changes. Our country changes. We all know what “Make America Great Again” means. But we can’t turn back the clock. In fact, many don’t want to, preferring to move forward, not backward. Erecting walls — literally and figuratively — is a losing strategy. As with anything, those who adapt best survive. Do some of us need help to adapt? Yes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone needs help with something sometime.

Once we join a tribe, it’s difficult to break free even a little bit. I understand that it’s not an easy cycle to break. There’s a sense of belonging as well as a gratification of pleasing those around us. It’s difficult to accept ideas that fellow tribesmen reject. I get that. We’re sometimes blinded to what exists outside of our tribal boundaries. But considering what at first seem to be bad or false ideas is the basis of a democratic society. None of us is perfect. We’re all fallible. Deep down, we know that. And if we accept that, then the next step is to recognize that someone else — even someone from outside your tribe — just might have an idea worth considering. It may be an idea that helps you, no matter where it comes from. We always have more to learn.

So dear Trump supporter, if nothing else, please consider that “the other guy” — including the writer of this letter — just might have a good idea. Listen. Give it a chance. And I tell you what: I promise to do the same.

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