Trump supporters revealed

By Reade Brower | Oct 26, 2017

In a recent column I asked readers to “help me understand why you voted for President Trump and why you support him.” Posting a link to Facebook, I waited.

What happened might surprise you.

I got several emails and private messages that contained just what I asked for; some revelations.

On the Facebook post, comments began in a slow build ending up in frenzied back-and-forth. Starting with the first comment; “Trump is not right about anything,” the conversation went down a rabbit hole. The next comment said it all: “The first comment discourages me from making a comment. It’s useless.” That comment was on target, Facebook readers weren't “picking up on what I was putting down.”

Then the comments got nasty, with name-calling, generalizations and discourse that was not cordial or helpful, completely missing the point – it did not help me understand anything except something I already knew; a yelling war gets us nowhere.

On the seventh comment, a slight bend in the road; “I don’t think Trump's right! But would like to know why others do.” The next comment was a nice nugget: “I think the point is to be genuinely curious of an opposing view.” Ding, ding, ding, maybe others would follow this lead. Then another comment; “I am glad for this article. As I am not a Trump fan, I am still hard pressed to believe that everything he does is not beneficial. Most articles I have read and news channels are filled with negativity towards Trump, his approach and what his ultimate purpose is. I am happy to finally read something that had a different view point. Thank you!”

Maybe some traction? Not to be. The next 30 comments got vitriolic until an astute reader said; “This is all a bit disappointing. I thought the request was to hear from Trump supporters so we could learn or at least understand. We can’t expect otherwise decent people to respond if we jump down their throats when they open their mouths.” Well said. Unfortunately, after that, back to the mudslinging. At last peek, it had degenerated back into name-calling and the conversation was not moving forward. Sad.

On the other side, the private messages and emails did help me understand. Let me first share the gist of what they said, and then I will tell you how my interactions went. A different story of deliberate interaction, rather than the free-for-all of people trying to out-yell and out-reason each other, basically giving up on trying to have civil discourse on social media.

I had an interesting back-and-forth with a woman who loves Trump; this proved very interesting and helpful. Her original email contained a lot of CAPITALS and UNDERLINING to make her points. There was blame on the DO NOTHING CONGRESS and others for why Trump's agenda wasn't being fulfilled. She did not trust I could/would hear her, as I was a LIBERAL.

Her basic message was representative of the others I heard from privately; she said; "They LOVED President Trump because HE LOVES HIS COUNTRY" and "HIS SUPPORTERS UNDERSTAND THAT WE FEEL HIS LOVE IN OUR BONES." She continued; the "President has BALLS (courage) to take on ROCKET MAN in Korea," adding "PRESIDENT TRUMP IS A LEADER AND HAS THE COURAGE TO DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO PROTECT US" and "The coal miners are going back to work. Jobs are coming back. The stock market is out of sight," adding "During the recent hurricanes, because of President Trump's leadership, our government operated like a well oiled machine and he and the First Lady were there with the people."

She continued to help me understand; "President Trump talks like us because we all say shit and use some of the language he uses sometimes," "he is a human being like the rest of us," "he is a business man and is exactly what the country needs," "he is trying to help all people," "we supporters feel safe because he is our President, we are so proud of him, we trust him."

A final comment tells another piece of the story; 'President Trump does not see us as a basket of DEPLORABLE and IRREDEEMABLE. He sees us as precious and we have worth in his eyes."

This was good stuff; it gave me a sense of where this Trump supporter was. She felt unheard before and feels Trump understands her. Trump-haters need to let this sink in; this is what she feels and rationalization won't change her mind. Neither will yelling over her or lecturing her that she is wrong and that Trump doesn't care about her or anybody else except himself.

Instead of arguing, I continued on my mission; I wrote back this reader (and the others who had similar sentiments). I began by telling her that I did not identify with the label of LIBERAL (especially one in CAPS); I explained I was an Independent Moderate who leans a little to the left on social issues and a little to the right on fiscal matters.

The dialog began; I told her my son and 20 million other Americans weren't feeling love; Trump's swift action to end subsidies effectively strips my son and others of health insurance, which I think is a right for all people in our country. She answered me in a sensitive way; understanding the plight of my son sympathetically, but feeling that casualties were necessary for us to get health care fixed for all of us.

As the back-and-forth continued, we found respect for each other. I respected her views, many of which I could not get my arms around, and she in turn began to respect mine, even asking me my opinion on whether I thought we would be better off if Clinton had won (instead of telling me what she thought).

The capitals disappeared and she responded kindly when I told her, as part of our back-and-forth, I had not used any adjectives or name-calling to describe President Trump; I was responding to one of her comments, asking her to consider my feelings (I did not like her labeling Obama, adding that Obama had taken over a country mired in an unwinnable war, an economy that was on the brink of deep depression, and a country divided). I was responding to her comment that "OBAMA was trying to lead us down the path of socialism or worse and I saw him as a Muslim Jihadist trying to destroy our country from the inside."

What happened next was quite remarkable; we began to "agree to disagree" on the big points, but she offered me some hope when saying that a bipartisan approach was needed. We emailed some more; she told me about her daughter losing her insurance when the Affordable Care Act came out and about her background, giving me a better sense that she was a person and, by allowing me into her life a little, it humanized the experience. I felt a genuine bond; that is at least a start.

After many exchanges and back-and-forth questions, she offered a solution to the health care dilemma (I am paraphrasing) when she wrote; "Put some Republicans and Democrats in a room, feed them through a slot in the door and don't let them out until they have a solution." I wrote back excitedly, "Yes, yes, yes; I am fully on board with that solution. Let's make sure the food is awful, while we're at it, so they don't dilly-dally."

My final takeaways from Facebook and the interpersonal communications are different; on the Facebook side, stubborn leads the way, liquid courage and no listening equals a rat hole. On the interpersonal communications, both sides wanted the same thing: to be heard, to be respected, and to feel empowered that their feelings matter. It is less about right and wrong, more about understanding and empathy.

May the force be with you; stay out of the rat hole.

"You can't hear when  your mouth is open." - a Hyde School tenet (Bath, Maine)

Reade Brower can be reached at: reade@freepressonline.com

Disclosure: Reade Brower is owner of these newspapers. The opinions expressed in his columns are his own, and do not represent those of the newspapers, or their editorial boards.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Charlotte Henderson | Oct 31, 2017 23:21

I've re-read Brower's account of the exchange.  Congratulations, Mr. Brower on hanging in with the conversations until some kind of shared ground was revealed.  As you have so clearly shown, it takes time to get to that place. It's serious.  Most, as you also noted, deteriorate into swapping insults but, those who stay with it make some headway.  There aren't any instant breakthroughs.  It takes time - too long for so many.  Thanks for showing how a space for really listening to each can be created.

 

 



Posted by: Scott O'Brien | Oct 30, 2017 15:51

I don't think empathy trumps reality. There are people dying in Puerto Rico. These are Americans. He has not done a good job there. Health insurance is poised to become 20% more expensive. People will die because Medicaid has been cut. Just Remember the "do nothing" Congress is led by Republicans and Trump is a Republican President. If legislation is not passing, it's because it is bad legislation.



Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Oct 29, 2017 16:48

A good communication of opposing forces and to end with agree to disagree was profound. I did not vote for Pres. Trump but as the process goes, he was duly elected by a majority, no matter how slim. So I respect the office and pray for the best to come forth for America. Hopefully Americans also will show respect to both sides of this issue.



Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Oct 26, 2017 11:14

"Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired"  -Jonathan Swift



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 26, 2017 09:02

"It is less about right and wrong, more about understanding and empathy."

Was hoping someone would pick up https://thepeoplessupper.org/ yet there doesn't seem to be anyone interested locally in carrying the ball. You are doing a good job of getting people talking and seeing that the hurtful rhetoric goes both ways. Thanks. It takes courage and commitment.



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