A Guide for Talking to Trump Supporters

We need to convince Trump supporters (TS) to vote differently. This guide sets aside issues of whether TS are racist, xenophobic, or ignorant and focuses only on the practical goal of changing their actions and minds. Ostracizing them or “waiting for them to die” is an unhelpful and unacceptable approach. TS are our friends, family, and coworkers. Their votes count just like ours.

The guide is written on the following assumptions:

  • We need to do a better job of educating people on racism, sexism, xenophobia, and privilege. Liberals have, by and large, done a poor job of convincing non-liberals of their positions. What we have been doing has not worked. In fact, it tends to push people in the opposite direction.
  • All people, including TS, deserve a better understanding of justice. Liberals, when they define themselves as the only qualified moral judges, treat their fellow citizens unjustly. There are complicated reasons why TS hold their views, and many factors lie beyond their control. We do not need to respect their views to respect them as people. Even if we do not believe that, in order to change their minds, we need to fake it.
  • Shifting one’s political views is difficult and requires a lot of work. Cognitive dissonance and honest reflection are hard. It is unfair to assume that everyone can change easily. Be humble. We used to be ignorant and biased (and in many ways we still are).
  • Whatever the future looks like, it would be best if TS come with us. We want them to become former TS as a result of caring and engaged conversation.

***Disclaimer: For many people, the election of Trump was terrifying and hurtful on a personal level. The message “your life does not matter” was validated on the biggest stage. If that describes you, it is wrong to ask you to engage with TS in the way put forward in this guide. Working to change the minds of TS is mainly the job of those who are not members of the groups Trump sets out as targets of hate. ‘Ought’ implies ‘can’.

I. General Guidelines
II. What is the goal?
III. Nonpartisan reasons to worry about the Trump Presidency
IV. General Strategies

A. The Socratic Method
B. Appeal to the Constitution

V. Specific Topics

A. The media
B. “Give him a chance”
C. Abortion
D. “Drain the Swamp”
E. Race
F. Immigration
G. Islam
H. Putin and Russia
I. Anti-Trump Protests

General guidelines

  • Show emotions like sadness and care, not anger and frustration. Do not be combative. Imbue your positions with emotions. Say “I feel…”
  • Set the terms of the discussion at the outset. Say explicitly that you want to focus on ideas. Emphasize that everyone must cite reliable facts and data. Emphasize that everyone must be charitable with everyone else. Sometimes you will need to spend a whole conversation building up the value and terms of rational discourse. Say something like this:

I would like to have a discussion with you about Trump. I promise not to get upset. We both want to bridge the divide, right? Let’s start right now.

  • Emphasize that everyone must be willing to change their views. Even you. Your anti-Trump position is not based in ignorance. You have thought it through. You have better evidence and argument than the TS. So there is no risk in being sincerely open to change. Open-mindedness is not in conflict with confidence.
  • There is a nauseating amount of talk about “unity” and “coming together.” Have a discussion about what that means. Can we sincerely expect people to agree on fundamental issues that have major impacts on our lives? When has America ever been unified? ‘Unity’ is often used to delegitimize the people who oppose Trump. But the critics of Trump are pushing for what they see as a better country. Which is more American: fighting the powerful over what you think is right or telling dissenters to be quiet for the appearance of unity?
  • Do not use “politically correct” terms (‘people of color’, ‘oppressed’, ‘marginalized’, ‘microagression’, ‘trigger warning’, ‘white supremacy’, ‘privilege’, etc.). Use the term ‘vulnerable’. Be very careful with the term ‘racism’ (‘racially insensitive’ is better). The liberal lexicon triggers very negative responses for many non-liberals. Many TS view people who use those terms as everything that is wrong with America. Trump rode to victory on a wave of anti-PC sentiment. Communicate the same ideas but appreciate that you are not talking to a liberal.
  • Do not call them a racist. Or a bigot. It will immediately end all productive conversation. You can criticize their view or statement without labelling it. Here and here is why.
  • Use personal examples and anecdotes. They are rhetorically effective. Tell very specific stories about how Trump has negatively impacted you or others in your life. From a helpful article: “Rather than planning to launch shaming justice grenades on your family members, spend time preparing to strategically and vulnerably share your story with them. I’ve found that personal story-telling is one of the most effective ways to awaken people to justice and guide them along. Stories can create space for common understanding and unsurprisingly are typically better received than soapbox speeches.”
  • Fundamentally, TS are afraid. So are you (though for different reasons). Build on that commonality. It will take a lot of empathy. People are not likely to open up when they are afraid. Your real goal is to get them to stop feeling threatened by you and ‘leftist culture’.
  • Fight the urge to “destroy” or “eviscerate” them. The urge will be strong. The conversation must be about transformation, not pride.
  • Recognize that you can still have a successful conversation even if the TS does not admit fault. Be patient. Do not push too hard. Play the long game. The campaign was a year and a half long. People won’t change their minds after one conversation. Other people might also be reading or listening to your exchange.
  • Make sure the conversation is not about you—your righteousness, rightness, or sanctimony. Constantly check to make sure you are not talking to assert your moral superiority. Liberals has catastrophically failed at this. DO NOT BE SMUG.
  • When you feel a disagreement coming, slow down, return to a previous shared value, and take a different route forward. Diffuse anger.
  • End the conversation with a request. Have them read an article, watch a video, talk to someone else, and then check back with you. Ask them for something they would like you to do. Don’t end in anger or disrespect. Reject the thinking that some people are too deplorable to warrant your engagement. Yes, it does feel good to think of yourself as holy, but it helps absolutely nothing. Again, transformation, not pride.

What is the goal?

  • We have a while until the next presidential election. So the conversation with the TS should not be focused on the moral failure of their vote. Getting them to admit to a past wrongdoing is useless and even counterproductive. Convincing them that Trump was a bad presidential candidate is moot. He isn’t a candidate.
  • Rather, attempt to recruit TS to some form of activism. Find ways we can all work together to be vigilant throughout Trump’s presidency.
  • Be realistic about your expectations. Start small. You do not need to convert the TS into a #notmypresident protester. You only need to bring them to see one issue as a serious problem. Develop that issue together. Build a relationship around it. Suggest ways to get involved with it (giving to effective charities, habitually consuming quality journalism, calling congress, paying attention to local politics, talking with others, etc.). Share news about it with each other (which will enable you to combat their mistrust of the media). There are more options in the Vim’s list of ways to act
  • It begins with one issue. When there is trust and the TS begins to be involved in other communities, exposure to other issues will be natural and inevitable. Do not try to sell the TS on the whole liberal platform.

***All that follows is in service of your attempt to find that one issue.

Nonpartisan reasons to worry about the Trump Presidency

  • It is not psychologically possible to grasp the depth and variety of Trump’s conflicts of interest. We still have not seen his taxes, which, we routinely forget, is truly astonishing. He is not going to put his company into a blind trust despite bipartisan agreement that he should. Instead, his children will putatively run the business, while his children are also highly involved with the administration. Trump has already used his position of power to promote his business. Read about it here and here and here (and so many other places; just Google it). Use the Trump hotel in D.C. as an example. Every complaint Trump had about the Clinton Foundation now applies to him. This is truly wild stuff. 
    • Many people struggle to care about this (probably because it is unfathomable). So focus on the potential for corruption and (very carefully) the hypocrisy concerning the TS’s criticism of Clinton. The presidency should not be a part-time job. We should all be pushing for transparency in the government. And currently, Trump is going in the opposite direction.
    • Use Trump’s kleptocracy as evidence that he does not actually care about the working class. Trump is not going to run the government like a business. He is going to run the government for his business. Trump, not the American people, is Trump’s main concern.
  • There is only one person in the government who thinks that Russia and Putin are not serious threats to the United States and basic human rights—Donald Trump. Republicans have spent eight year criticizing Obama for bowing down to Putin. Now Trump is reaching new depths. It is also impossible to wrap one’s mind around Russia’s involvement in the election. Keep up to date on it. We need to resist normalcy bias with every ounce of strength we have. This is immensely dark stuff. 
  • David Duke, former KKK leader, and other white nationalists have repeatedly praised Trump and his cabinet picks. Although the link between the White House and white supremacy is terrifyingly close, do not use the term ‘white supremacy’ directly. Describe the ideas of these alt-right people in different terms. They believe that America can only survive through racial purity. Their ideology is unashamedly white nationalist, antisemitic, anti-Islam, and anti-feminist. TS voted for that type of message, whether they believe in the message or not.
  • Trump’s media connections could easily lead to a national news outlet (a pravda). In many ways it already has. The rise of authoritarians often starts with a baseless campaign of quashing the free press. By undermining the media Trump creates a fact-free zone around his administration. He can throw the weight of the presidency behind certain stories or news outlets. And there is no recourse. Whenever other sources question him, he will demonize and call them liars and further restrict access. Even TS should be concerned about this because, on the current trajectory, they will soon need to place every ounce of trust in Trump. There will be no check on what he calls ‘reality’. No transparency. Being complicit in the hatred of the media means that when Trump does something the TS don’t support, we will not know about it. It takes us down a dark path. (Read 1984 together!)

General Strategies

-The Socratic method-

  • The Socratic method functions through critical questioning. It is the best way to teach and learn. Basically, do not put forward an argument of your own. Listen and ask them to clarify.
  • It is a good strategy when you don’t know the TS well or when you are just beginning a series of conversations.
  • TS feel like people don’t listen to them. They want to be heard. With this approach you are diffusing the TS’s main gripe while learning about their position. In Trump people saw a political figure who acknowledged and recognized their struggles and worries. Because of that recognition, people were willing to tolerate or ignore a bunch of hate and nonsense. It is unfortunate that Trump doesn’t actually care about other people’s struggles (and, strangely, many TS know that), but the recognition, genuine or not, is extremely powerful. Take a page from Donald’s book (insert joke about the fact that Trump does not read books).
  • The Socratic method takes time and practice. You won’t be at Socrates’ level on the first try. (For a crash course, read Plato’s Republic. The prescience of book nine is haunting.)
  • Ask questions to get a good sense of the TS’s motivations and concerns. Ask what would make them give up support of Trump. Find where they draw the line. Make sure you get an answer to this.
  • Be thinking about the diversity of reasons why people voted for Trump. Not everyone you encounter has the same motivation. Remind yourself of that constantly. (Some observations about TS. Here are 5 different types of TS according to Slate. Read the Vim on the banality of evil.)
  • Be calm. Make sure your questions outnumber your statements. When you find yourself reverting to standard liberal retorts, stop and collect yourself. 
  • As you listen take note of the TS’s fundamental values. When you find one, ask about it more. Start thinking about how Trump’s values are at odds with it. (This might lead to the “Appeal to the Constitution” approach below.)
  • Ask yourself, “What would Van Jones do?” Watch his series, the Messy Truth.
  • Be careful not to be patronizing and disingenuous! Respect can go a long way. See a similar approach here.

-Appeal to the Constitution-

  • TS and non-TS share a respect for the Constitution. We can all unite under it. That means all TS and non-TS should be united against Trump.
  • Traditional Republicans purport to care about the Constitution. Get the TS to talk about that care. Emphasize it and establish it as a shared value between both of you.
  • Trump became president, by and large, on his own, being who he is. He fought every segment of the establishment. He fought every tradition and custom. And there is nothing more ‘establishment’ and traditional than the Constitution itself. There is no surprise, then, that Trump does not care about it.
  • Trump knows frighteningly little about the Constitution.
    • He said at a meeting before the GOP convention that he would defend article 12 of the Constitution. There are 7 articles in the Constitution
    • In response to Khizr Khan’s powerful question at the DNC convention, Trump said, “Mr. Khan, who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, which is false.” The irony is difficult to fathom since Khan does have that right, and the fact that Trump did not know that suggests that he, in fact, has not read (or at least understood) the Constitution. (Let’s not forget Trump’s other response in which he lists his successful company and buildings as his sacrifices for America, analogous to the sacrifices of a gold star family.)
  • Carefully point out conflicts between Trump and American values:
    • 1st amendment
      • Freedom of assembly- Trump repeatedly criticizes protests, whether or not they are related to him. See the section on protests below.
      • Freedom of press- He has threatened suing the press (We’re going to open up those libel laws”) and criticizes the media with a baseless ferocity unfit for any politician. Trump’s stance towards the press is deeply anti-Constitutional.
      • Freedom of Religion- He has suggested surveilling and registering Muslims (or at least, as the policy looks now, people from Muslim majority countries, which would be ineffective and de facto discriminatory). His travel ban is the manifestation of his xenophobic suspicions. He said about mosques in response to the the 2015 Paris attacks, “Nobody wants to say this and nobody wants to shut down religious institutions or anything, but you know, you understand it. A lot of people understand it. We’re going to have no choice. Some really bad things are happening.” That is what is called a dog whistle.
    • 4th (unreasonable searches and seizures). He advocated expanding stop and frisk across the country, despite the fact that its discriminatory.
    • 8th (cruel and unusual punishment). He has proposed bringing back illegal forms of torture and uses ISIS’s actions as justification (seemingly we operate by the same ethical standards as ISIS). He has also advocated ‘taking out the families’ of terrorists.
    • 14th (Equal Protection Clause). Trump’s comments on profiling are alarming.
    • 15th (Right to Vote). We are facing massive campaigns of voter suppression. Trump already won with them. Voter intimidation is deeply anti-Constitutional. There were 868 fewer polling places in this election. Push the TS to give evidence of voter fraud. Real evidence. Stop the conversation and have the TS do it. 
  • We cannot sacrifice these ideals, no matter our fear or insecurity. “Freedom isn’t free,” right? Help the TS realize that if they want to stand by the Constitution they have to stand against Trump on these issues. And sometimes that will open us up to risks (but be careful with this idea).
  • No matter how pragmatic or soothing Trump’s policies might seem, we must admit that we are jettisoning our respect for the Constitution. Present it as a dilemma: “Do you want to racially profile or do you want to follow the Constitution? It cannot be both.”

Specific Topics

-The media-

  • Ask for specific and concrete examples of bad media. The generalized critique of the homogeneous “Media” has been repeated so many times without contradiction that it is now accepted by everyone. But the reality is more complicated. See a discussion here.
  • Stress that everyone hates the media now. We have our sought after unity! Work together to understand the problem more fully.
  • List examples of good media coverage. The “MSM” spent a lot of time on Clinton emails. The TS could probably get behind that.  
  • The message that ‘the MSM is horrible’ is good business for fringe (almost exclusively right wing) sources. It expresses the idea that the truth can only be found in one place. And when everything else is derided as dishonest, everything you get from your own source is by definition true. Then the source can say anything it wants. Frightening. (Trump fuels it.) Ask whether the TS’s views on the media come from assessing the media or from certain pockets of the media itself.
  • Emphasize the importance of the freedom of the press, as outlined above.
    • Ask whether they trust themselves to decipher good and bad arguments/information. Refusing to engage with other sources is evidence of a lack of trust in one’s rational faculties.
    • People get stuck in their echo chambers. Have each other vow to branch out. Make a pact that you will both start consuming news from a source on “the other side.” (Liberals can start with Ben Shapiro.)
  1. Send each other examples of good media. Have a discussion about why you think it is good.
  2. Do the same with bad media.

  3. Try to pinpoint exactly what makes media good or bad.

-“Give him a chance”-

  • When you are inevitably given some version of this message it is important to realize what it really means. You are not literally being asked to give Trump a chance. The phrase is actually signaling a general weariness of political discussion. We have all been through nearly two years of painfully ubiquitous political news. There was an assumption that we would all drop it and move on after November 8th. And now you are pushing it back into the TS’s life. “Give him a chance” really means “Give me a break.”
  • If we take it literally, there is a certain stupidity in the statement. Of course we will give him a chance. In fact, no one has a choice about whether to give him a chance. That is what the result of the election is: a four year chance. It is not as if our response could be, “Give him a chance? Well, I was going to impeach him single-handedly before the inauguration, but I hadn’t thought of it like that before…”
  • Point out that you are giving Trump a chance but that giving someone a chance is not the same as being uncritical.
  • Ask where the TS draws the line. How many chances are enough before we can be critical?
  • Say that critiquing our elected officials is a foundational American value and practice. In a representative democracy, the well-being of our government is dependent on an informed populace. So we need to be carefully aware of what Trump’s administration does with its chances.
  • Point out that the “chances” we are giving Trump included his actions during the transition—for instance the selections for his cabinet. We gave him a chance to select a quality chief strategist and he failed.
  • Say that it is not fair to expect people to forget what Trump said during the election. List some of his claims and policy suggestions. Share stories about the effect the campaign had.
  • Push the conversation to another issue. Say, “I am nervous about giving him a chance on immigration,” for example.

-Abortion-

  • People get very passionate about this and there is seemingly no way of convincing them otherwise. So tread lightly!
  • The main approach to take on this issue is to question the notion of single issue voting. Argue that all voters should be educated on a wide variety of issues. We should not let our choices hang on only one issue. See some argument here.
  • Do not argue the ethics of abortion. If you have to, grant them that the act of abortion itself is immoral. Even with that concession there are very strong pro-choice arguments.
  • Focus on the role the government should play. The government cannot outlaw everything that is immoral. Limited government means giving people the freedom to make choices—even if we disagree with them.
  • We all want a world with fewer abortions. But that should mean that women have easy access to resources like healthcare, education, economic security, and a culture that accepts their choices.
  • Give evidence that outlawing abortions primarily decreases the number of safe abortions. It also locks more women into places of vulnerability. This has implications on education, both for the woman and her child. Lack of education leads to poverty. And poverty leads, literally, to death.
  • In essence, then, outlawing abortion is counterproductive.
  1. Agree on a homework assignment. Share articles and data with each other. Do not end the conversation.
  2. But again, focus first on the problems of single issue voting.

-“Drain the Swamp”-

  • This is largely a symbolic idea. If government “worked,” whatever that is supposed to mean, no one would care about lobbyists and political favors. The government has an image of unmitigated dysfunction, and “drain the swamp” is meant to capture the idea that burning everything down will somehow be good. Ask the TS how they know that. Won’t the swamp simply fill with more corrupt characters?
  • “Drain the swamp” is also hopelessly vague. It becomes whatever a TS wants it to be. We know that people grasp the parts of Trump they like and dismiss everything else as bluster and showmanship. Ask how much of the swamp needs to be drained.
  • You can show, quite demonstrably, how Trump has failed for follow through on his promise.
  • Appointments in the administration:
    • Reince Preibus (Chief of Staff)- chairman of the Republican party for 5 years.
    • Jeff Sessions (Attorney General)- senator for 20 years, attorney general in Alabama for 12
    • Rex Tillerson (Sec. of State)- CEO of Exxon worth a lot. Read about this man. Then try to believe it.
    • Tom Ricketts (Deputy Sec. of Commerce)- investment banker worth $5.3 billion, son of founder of TD Ameritrade, owner of the Chicago Cubs
    • Betsy DeVoss (Education Sec.)- worth $5.1 billion, married to heir of Amway fortune (the multilevel marketing scheme), major campaign donor
    • Elaine Chao (Transportation Sec.)- wife of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and longtime D.C. insider (she was Sec. of Labor for George W. Bush).
    • Wilbur Ross (Commerce Sec.)- businessman worth about $2.9 billion and major Trump donor,
    • Steve Mnuchin (Treasury Sec.)- former Goldman Sachs executive worth around $40 million, said about his support of Trump, “Nobody’s going to be like, ‘Well, why did he do this?’ if I end up in the administration.”
    • Rick Perry (Energy Sec.)- 14 year governor of Texas and two-time presidential candidate.
  • A regular dream team for the poor working class, huh? The administration will likely be the wealthiest ever.

-Race-

  • There is a wide variety of views on race among TS. How we approach this topic will vary widely as well. Here are a few points to consider.
  • Have the TS consider the hypothetical ‘What if Trump were black?’ How would he be perceived differently? Could he have gotten away with everything? (See Van Jones talk about it.) Consider the contrast between Obama and Trump. 
  • Talk about what the slogan “Make America Great Again” means to certain communities. When was America great? For a lot of people, America today is better than it ever was. For a lot of people, going back is a frightening notion. Try to get the TS to put themselves in the shoes of another person.
  • Trump made comments about U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel that people on all sides called racist. He said that the judge cannot be unbiased because of the judge’s heritage. The judge was born in Indiana of Mexican descent. Paul Ryan rightly said, “Claiming that someone cannot do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.” (Then he cowardly reaffirmed his support of Trump.)
  • The KKK and literal Nazis support Trump. You will undoubtedly hear a terrible and infuriating argument in response to this fact. Be calm and take it step by step. Remember the Socratic method. 
  1. The point is to get the TS to see at least one of these instances as problematic. Recruit them to be on guard against future problems of racial insensitivity in Trump’s policies.
  2. Direct the TS to SURJ. Do some basic research into what someone can do to begin an anti-racist journey. Start with Tim Wise.

-Immigration-

  • There is very little practical difference between what Trump (sometimes) proposes and what has been happening under Obama. In fact, Trump has praised Obama’s approach to immigration.
  • Ask whether mass deportation is a good idea (and whether they hope Trump pushes for it).
  • Give anecdotes about the fear Trump has caused in immigrant communities.
  • Ask for evidence that immigration is harming the economy.
  • Immigration is an issue informed people can disagree on. There are conservative views that have merit and deserve consideration. So be measured in your critique. Take the issue in phases. Research a moderate conservative position on immigration (which will not include mass deportations) and advocate for it. 

-Islam-

  • This is a very difficult issue to discuss. Many conservatives view the ecumenical liberal stance on Islam as absolute absurdity. So do not try to bridge that divide directly. (And maybe, perhaps, just by chance, conservatives have points worth considering when it comes to Islam and refugees.) 
  • Reference the Constitution (as discussed above)
  • Suggest that setting up Muslims as un-American risks empowering ISIS further. ISIS depicts America as anti-Islam. If we disparage Muslims and make them feel like they do not belong, ISIS’s message will be validated.
  • Comedian Jim Jefferies makes some good points. Watch here (but start at around 2:45).
  1. Commit to learning about Islam together. There is a wealth of information online. Make sure you vet the sources.
  2. Read Islam and the Future of Tolerance, for starters. 
  3. Make an effort to meet Muslims.

-Putin and Russia-

  • TS generally do not care about Putin. It is difficult to see the link between a distant foreign ruler and the lives of everyday Americans. Trump won in large part because he wanted to shut America off from international military engagement. But if the topic comes up, here is some ammo.
  • First, stress the danger of having Russia furtively involved in our elections. The news on this issue is moving quickly (so read widely), but there appears to be consensus in the intelligence community. There is bipartisan concern over this. The only person ruling our Russia’s involvement is Donald Trump. Maybe Trump is right and the intelligence community wrong. In that case, we have a stack of coincidences on our hands.
  • Second, why Putin is scary: Vladimir Putin has proved himself a ruthless politician willing to go to great lengths to remain in power. Putin, who was first elected in 2000, was constitutionally barred from reelection to the office of President after serving two-terms, but he groomed a relatively unknown and inexperienced surrogate to run for office, Dmitry Medvedev. After serving a single term as prime minister of Russia, and after extending the presidential term from 4 years to 6 years, Putin returned to Russia’s presidency after winning a third presidential term in 2012.
  1. Putin has endorsed the murder and imprisonment of political rivals and dissidents.
    • Journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered after reporting on corrupt policing tactics (including extrajudicial public executions) in the Chechnyan province. Substantial evidence implicates Putin’s close ally (and shill) Chechnyan president Ramzan Kadyrov, whose use of social media parallels Donald Trump’s. See a detailed list of more suspicious deaths of Putin dissidents here.
    • Imprisoned main political rival Mikhail Khodorkovsky for more than a decade after Khodorkovsky publically questioned Kremlin policy.
  1. Putin has a long history of human rights abuses including suppressing the freedom of association and expression, and the persecution of minority groups.
    • Freedom of association: he fined non-governmental organizations that failed to display a required “foreign agent” label on publications. He authorized the extrajudicial banning of organizations deemed “undesirable foreign organizations,” whose affiliates face fines and imprisonment. Universally these “undesirable foreign organizations” are human rights groups who have questioned Kremlin policy.
    • Freedom of expression: He has permitted the prosecution of political dissidents who voiced views on social media on the grounds that such social media posts undermine Russian stability and create hostility towards the Russian people.
    • Persecution of LGBT community. He signed a law that permits media agencies and private individuals to be fined or imprisoned if found to be promoting LGBT “propaganda” among minors.
  1.  Has ordered the invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine after Ukraine expressed interest in joining NATO.
  2. Has ordered the invasion and annexation of the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
  3. After agreeing to a week cease-fire in Syria so that humanitarian aid could be delivered to the city of Aleppo, Putin ordered a deliberate attack on a UN convoy, killing at least 12 people and destroying the aid convoy.
  4. Complicit in the shooting down of passenger plane MH17, over Ukrainian airspace, which resulted in the death of 283 passengers and 15 crew members.

-Anti-Trump protests-

  • Explain that protests are an important American tradition. Stress that the anti-Trump protests are based in fear and anxiety, not in an attempt to convince the right.
  • Many people have felt directly insulted by Trump himself during the campaign, transition, and in the early days of the presidency. They feel like America has validated and endorsed those insults. Use anecdotes to illustrate.
  • There is a sense of powerlessness and helplessness after the election. Protests are an attempt to regain some of the power. It is a public display of frustration and anger. We can understand the destruction of property through this lens. Destruction and delaying traffic are meant to display the agency that the election called into question.
  • Many of the people protesting do not have many other means of having their voices heard. They don’t have representation that cares about them. They don’t have the power to influence the societal structures that impact their lives. Protests are one of the few voices they have.
  • Protests are also about building community. People come together to grieve with others who feel the same.
  • Ask the TS whether their views of the protests come from the words of the protesters themselves. The most popular news outlets do a poor job of covering the protests. Stress that TS are not the only ones who feel poorly represented by media.
  • People who criticize protesters usually have never had real reason to protest. If they are ever harmed, they usually have effective channels and avenues for recourse. Have them think about the fact that the arguments they are making are identical to those that were made against MLK. Have them think about how they admire some protests (perhaps the Boston Tea Party or Tiananmen Square). Our first impulse should be to listen, not criticize.
  • Fundamentally, the approach we should always take towards protests and even riots is empathy and compassion. Before criticizing, we all need to work hard to understand the actions and circumstances of people different from us.

1.  Research the history and philosophy of protest together.
2.  Take a field trip to a protest together.

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12 thoughts on “A Guide for Talking to Trump Supporters”

  1. […] In these unprecedented times a variety of weighty and scary political science terms are swirling around the internet: totalitarianism, authoritarianism, autocracy, despotism, tyranny, and fascism. Only recently has it become important for everyone to know what they mean. What exactly is an autocracy? And what is the difference between totalitarianism and authoritarianism? Or between despotism and tyranny? Few people can give ready answers. Because these terms are thrown around loosely and to powerful rhetorical effect, it would be good if we as a society understood their meanings and the relations and possible combinations among them. It would also be nice to know what risk there is of America becoming one of these states. Let’s bring nuance and careful thinking into the discussion. […]

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