When I write about people struggling with addictions or homelessness, liberals exude sympathy while conservatives respond with snarling hostility to losers who make “bad choices.”The rest of the column is an elaboration on a fairly basic premise - we are all in this together, we all have legitimate reasons for making the decisions we make, most people are good. Well, except that orange-haired charlatan. Kristof is firmly of the left and it is unreasonable to expect, well, reasonableness about his nemesis. As a Progressive Democrat, Kristof is concerned that his party is, despite its aversion to guns, shooting itself in the foot. He points out his reader's response to an earlier column:
When I write about voters who supported President Trump, it’s the reverse: Now it’s liberals who respond with venom, hoping that Trump voters suffer for their bad choice.
“I absolutely despise these people,” one woman tweeted at me after I interviewed Trump voters. “Truly the worst of humanity. To hell with every one of them.”
Maybe we all need a little more empathy?
“I’m just going to say it,” tweeted Bridgette. “I hate these people. They are stupid and selfish. Screw them. Lose your jobs, sit home and die.”As an aside, I can't help but pedantically note the historical lack of self-awareness and the blindness to irony of one his commenters above - "We’re not a party for racists.” That from a member of the party of slavery, the KKK, segregation and Bull Connor (a longtime DNC member in good standing.)
Another: “ALL Trump voters are racist and deplorable. They’ll never vote Democratic. We should never pander to the Trumpites. We’re not a party for racists.”
The torrent of venom was, to me, as misplaced as the support for Trump from struggling Oklahomans. I’m afraid that Trump’s craziness is proving infectious, making Democrats crazy with rage that actually impedes a progressive agenda.
One problem with the Democratic anger is that it stereotypes a vast and contradictory group of 63 million people.
“Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and just deplorable folks,” Senator Bernie Sanders, who has emerged as a surprising defender of Trump voters, said the other day. “I don’t agree.”
The blunt truth is that if we care about a progressive agenda, we simply can’t write off 46 percent of the electorate. If there is to be movement on mass incarceration, on electoral reform, on women’s health, on child care, on inequality, on access to good education, on climate change, then progressives need to win more congressional and legislative seats around the country. To win over Trump voters isn’t normalizing extremism, but a strategy to combat it.
Nothing I’ve written since the election has engendered more anger from people who usually agree with me than my periodic assertions that Trump voters are human, too.
In an odd illustration of his own lack of self-awareness, Kistof's position seems to be that indeed Trump voters are wrong and ignorant but he wants to tone down Democrat outrage in order to make it more feasible to educate and convert Trump voters. It seems to come down to what I might paraphrase as "Republican voters are stupid but only some of them are evil. Because stupid people control the White House, the Senate and the House and most of the state governments we have to tone down the outrage in order to educate enough of the stupids so that they start voting for us." While that is a strategy anchored in reason, I am not sure that on its own it is a particularly winning strategy.
Especially since his readers appear to want nothing to do with a strategy that is not founded on primal rage. The first dozen comments at the time I read his article give a flavor for how disenchanted his readers are with this token gesture towards reasonableness, respect, inclusiveness, fellowship, and basic humanity.
Clearly, the belief that non-progressives are inhuman, irredeemable, ignorant, and evil runs strong in this community.
C Wolfe is a trusted commenter Bloomington IN 18 minutes ago
Well, I can out-"Trump country" you, my dear Mr. Kristof, having spent my entire life in West Virginia, Tennessee, and Indiana. And I don't know how you reach Trump voters. Could you give us some suggestions? We're just frustrated because they're so immune to information.Reply 10 Recommend
tom is a trusted commenter pittsburgh 18 minutes ago
The Trump voters that are working poor are merely uninformed. The reason they are uninformed is the media's fault. The practice of offering opposing ideas as being balanced in news coverage gives the advantage to those that lie and purposely misinform./ The media has the responsibility to point out misinformation when it is offered.Reply 3 Recommend
The other problem is rural areas do not have available valid news sources. Often Faux news is the prime time news available.
And as you point out often it is gun control as their single issue, which biased news coverage is their only nes source.
And lastly its their racist bias on which the republicans capitalize.
beatrice charleston, sc 19 minutes ago
If we wish to bring people together as the author says "Maybe we need more junior year “abroad” programs that send liberals to Kansas and conservatives to Massachusetts." but instead of college - maybe in complement as not everybody can or want to go college- a civil/community draft mixing people from different geographic regions and social groups will go a long way toward this goal. A lot of European countries are thinking along this line since military draft disappeared a sense of community was lost over the years. Military draft was a great social mixer it was not just about preparing for war.Reply 2 Recommend
rhporter Virginia 19 minutes ago
let's start with the obvious: the man who loses the popular vote should not be installed in office. that's democracy 101. in addition you blithely Overlook the depths of white racism in Oklahoma, throughout the South certainly, and as recently demonstrated amongst most Republicans. all of that is deplorable and properly generates hostility, as does affording an honorable platform to the odious Charles Murray.Reply 5 Recommend
Ann Waterbury Ann Arbor, Michigan 19 minutes ago
Most of the Trump voters I know are not poor. They own businesses, live in comfort, and buy wine through business oriented newspapers. They complain that schools don't provide them with skilled workers, and have never supported a mileage for schools in their lives. They hate taxes and having to provide health care to their employees. Then there are the others who hated having a black president, and would never vote for a woman. As for the voters you describe, the few I have known used to sneer at "professors" who earned less than they did "on the line". They were Democrats in those days. They were sadly ill prepared for today's economy by poorly supported schools. They like Trump and his crudeness. None of these people are easy to like, but I don't sneer. They are better at sneering than I am: Witness their glee at his destruction of our government.Reply 14 Recommend
John Heenehan Madison NJ 19 minutes ago
"I hate these people," Nicholas quotes one person about Trump supporters.Reply 7 Recommend
I confess I harbor some hate toward them, too, but not half as much as I find they hate everyone outside their bubble.
And that is a compelling reason all by itself to dislike them.
Bill Greene Florida 19 minutes ago
I don't hate Trumpsters but there's no reasoning with willful ignorance and/or stupidity.Reply 12 Recommend
ama los angeles 19 minutes ago
trump voters may continue to support their dear leader, but as we continue to move closer and closer to war, to domestic collapse in social services, to environmental disaster, and to the real smoking gun that is a russian connection, at some point these misguided folks will see that it they had voted for HRC, our planet would not be in the peril it is now.Reply 5 Recommend
Grey James Island, SC 19 minutes ago
I agree with an op-ed Frank Rich recently wrote in NYMag. It's a waste of time to try and convince Trump believers. They have to be ignored while the focus is on the moderate people who can be convinced. Even if successful and a progressive agenda saves them, they will be ungrateful and blame Obama for their problems.Reply 10 Recommend
Ed Meek Boston 19 minutes ago
I don't hate Trump supporters but I am really angry at them. Given the choice of a captain who was eminently qualified and who would have steered us in the right direction, Trump voters chose instead a slightly unhinged sexist bigot and con man who is heading us into dangerous waters with no idea where he is going. They didn't just vote against their own interests, they voted against the best interests of the country. They bear responsibility for Trump and for this, they cannot be forgiven.Reply 5 Recommend
That does not mean we have no common interests. As we liberals, we want what is best for them and our country and we will work toward those ends.
UH NJ 19 minutes ago
The venom spouted my ideological peers proves once again that hypocrisy is an ailment that knows no political boundary.Reply 4 Recommend
More troubling, though, is the way facts are manipulated to support entrenched ideas. Kristof gives us a real gem when he says that "7 percent of America’s land mass is in Democratic landslide counties" This might very well be true, but is completely irrelevant. Twisting this statistic to attempt to prove a point is exactly the same kind of pretzel making we've had to endure from the alt-right. In a democracy it is the number of people that matter, not the size of their lawns.
Would that we lived in one - then we'd be able to say that we'd finally elected a woman (albeit 50 years after India and 28 after Pakistan - two 'shining' examples of gender equality - irony intended)
Lizzieinmatera Matera, Italy 19 minutes ago
I come from Oregon, too. The Oregonians I know would never be swayed by a Trump. How NOT to feel contempt for those who voted for a man quite visibly inadequate?Reply 4 Recommend
Iconoclast1956 Columbus, OH 19 minutes ago
It puzzles me that so many millions of Americans overlook Trump's many deceits. But criticizing Trump voters won't do anything to improve the situation. The best course of action for those in the opposition (like me) is to work hard through the political process.
UPDATE: I now see Every story I have read about Trump supporters in the past week by Alexandra Petri, in which Petri gently mocks the MSM Kristofs of the journalistic world. There might be others she is mocking as well but the parody strikes very close to the Kristof oeuvre.