Politics, USA

My problem with the Trump resistance

I do not like Donald Trump. I don’t like him as a president, and I don’t like him as a person. Since January 20th, hardly a day has passed where I haven’t found myself shaking my head in disbelief that this incompetent, ill-tempered buffoon has conned his way into the oval office. He is a bully and an embarrassment, and I desperately hope that the odd makers are on to something when they suggest that the chances of him making it through a four-year term aren’t all that great.

I support efforts to resist the Trump presidency, be they marches, emails to lawmakers, or the media fighting back. But as a bonafide anti-Trumper, I have got to say that a lot of the resistance that I have seen towards Trump’s presidency, policies, and the people who support him/them, has left me shaking my head as well. Trump deserves to be criticized and discredited, but much of it has gone awry, and I worry that if that aspect of the resistance is allowed to go unchecked by those who are a part of it, it will do more to empower a Trump presidency than it will to resist it.

Exhibit A: the Hitler comparisons. Donald Trump is a lot of things, but he is not Adolf Hitler. He is not even close, and anyone who says otherwise does a disservice to whatever point that they are trying to make. Trump may have authoritarian tendencies, but he is not genocidal, and when you make a Hitler comparison, genocide is what comes to mind. There are reasons for labeling Donald Trump as a wanna-be fascist—his vanity, his hostility towards the press, his affinity for executive orders, etc. But when you go straight to the top shelf and reach for the Hitler, it immediately makes me want to stop taking you seriously.

Donald Trump is far more fraudulent than any of the organizations he labels as “fake news” or “failing,” but the Hitler comparisons and other stuff like it prove that he does not have a monopoly on fact-free phenomena. Career trolls of the left like Tommy Lahren, Steven Crowder, and Milo Yiannopoulos, may have some ideological views that I vehemently disagree with, but I am almost ashamed to say that, in a lot of their criticisms of the political left, I find them to be spot on. That is much more of an indictment of some voices on the left than an appraisal of the work of Lahren and Co., but the fact that a liberal hippie like myself is finding any legitimacy in the YouTube clips of far-right provocateurs says a lot about the level of absurdity that has crept into liberal discourse.

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Exhibit B: the “Muslim” ban. I do not put the word “Muslim” in quotations to suggest a misnomer, but I do think it is more complicated than many liberals pretend. While the seven countries listed on the ban are indeed Muslim majority countries, I think it is fair for Trump and his supporters to point out that there are also 40-plus Muslim majority countries in the world that are not included in this action. What is more, it is easy to understand why one might be concerned about these seven particular countries—six of whom are hosting chaotic and destabilizing civil wars, and the other being recognized as one of the world’s foremost sponsors of international terrorism.

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But even if it’s not a “Muslim” ban, I’m still opposed it. I think that the United States has a responsibility to help resettle some of the world’s most unfortunate people, and I think that Trump’s misguided attempt to prevent international terrorists from breeching our borders probably does more to undermine our battle against Islamic extremism than it does to support it. That said, I am still hesitant to ally myself with those on the left whose eagerness to label Trump as the racist Islamophobe that he may indeed be, leads them into making gross oversimplifications regarding the complicated issues at hand.

Exhibit C: Engagement (or lack thereof) with Trump supporters—possibly also known as what lost Democrats the election. I think I’ve made it clear that I am not a Trump supporter by any stretch of the imagination. Yet amongst many of my liberal friends, I’ve oftentimes hesitated to make the very points I have made in this write-up, fearing that mere acknowledgement of liberal hypocrisy might get me scoffed and eye-rolled straight into the basket of deplorables.

A recent segment from the show “Real Time with Bill Maher” shines light on this phenomenon. In this segment, political commentator Piers Morgan is having a conversation with comedian Jim Jeffries regarding the merits of Trump’s refugee ban. Morgan is making an argument very similar to the one that I make above—an argument that is defensible, but also worthy of criticism. But rather than taking the opportunity to criticize or challenge Morgan’s argument and undermine it with reason and logic, Jefferies instead shouted two words that have really come to define the response of many liberals when somebody challenges their world view: “Fuck off.” He followed his comments with a Hitler comparison and a one-finger salute, earning him an overwhelming ovation from that night’s attending audience.

I like Jim Jefferies more than I like Piers Morgan, and I probably agree with him on more too, but “fuck off” is a conversation ender. “Fuck off” does nothing to convince Piers Morgan, or anyone watching at home, that he is wrong and that his arguments need some fine-tuning. More than anything else, “fuck off” causes people to dig their heels in, giving them no reason to believe that their arguments might be flawed and every reason to believe that the person that they are talking to is a total asshole.

I am not trying to promote the coddling of racists. I am not trying to promote tolerance for intolerance. But if you are going to get people to abandon their racist or intolerant ideas, or even get them to consider what other ideas might look like, I promise that “fuck off” is not the way to do it. Conversation is the only thing that is going to change peoples’ minds, and based on the results of the last election (whether or not Russia was the deciding factor), it appears that a lot of those conversations need to take place.

Bill Maher himself has often spoke of the need for a “liberal tea party”—the left’s own version of the crazy, irrational jackwagons on the right that refuse any form of compromise on the most extreme versions of their principles. But if that party is anything like what I’ve seen from some members of the left over the last month-and-change, I can confidently say that I want nothing to do with it. I want a left that is informed and nuanced—a left that is built on idealistic principles, but that realizes that sometimes an unidealistic world requires unidealistic solutions. Most of all, I want a left that distinguishes itself from so much of the idiocy and demagoguery that takes place on the right.

I am on board with the resistance of Donald Trump, but I do not think that we should fight fire-with-fire. If the Trump resistance is to be successful, it needs to be fair, righteous, and honest—all things that Donald Trump is not. It needs to take the high road and embrace nuance and engage in conversations with people of differing belief sets, even those we don’t like. But if the Trump resistance continues to be defined by closed minds, closed ears, and open mouths, I fear that we might be resisting for much longer than we need to be.

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