Thursday, 17 November 2016

Trump voters are culpable for what comes next

via Gage Skidmore, Flickr
Should we empathise with Donald Trump’s supporters? Are they all racists and bigots? Likely not – to both questions.

By giving Trump their votes, supporters have granted him a mandate to implement a racist and xenophobic policy agenda. That’s democracy.

While not all Trump fans are racists, it's about turning a blind eye to what Trump says about other groups in society, and voting to give him that mandate. Trump fans are therefore culpable: they share the responsibility.

That’s the message of this opinion piece, much of which I tend to agree with. I don't like the headline, though: people are the sum of their actions, and can't be judged good or bad by just one.

In any case, just because I or you believe someone's wrong doesn't make them bad. It's political polarisation. The same mud has been thrown at Conservative voters by UK Lefties, who seem to equate voting right of centre with immorality. I'm wary of this.

My main reservation is that after politics has become so polarised (to the detriment of positive instincts towards compromise and sensible centrist policies), there is now a firm risk of further entrenchment in the years to come.

However, I agree with the nub of the Slate op-ed. It contains this uncompromising message to Trump fans who are indignant at being painted as racists, bigots or xenophobes – because they in many cases aren’t – but they still voted for a candidate whose rhetoric suggests that he is all those things.

“That you have black friends or Latino colleagues, that you think yourself to be tolerant and decent, doesn’t change the fact that you voted for racist policy that may affect, change, or harm their lives. And on that score, your frustration at being labeled a racist doesn’t justify or mitigate the moral weight of your political choice,” writes the Slate article.

Consider this. Not all those millions of Germans who voted for the Nazis in November 1932 saw themselves as anti-Semitic.

But nonetheless they were prepared to vote for a candidate to lead Germany who clearly was, judged by his rhetoric at the time, and confirmed in history's hindsight.

While it's an extreme example, I am going to maintain this dark comparison.

That's because the non-racially-motivated reasons why Germans voted NSDAP in 1932 are remarkably similar to those of Trump's US voters in 2016.

Think about it: disillusion with mainstream political consensus; distrust of a generation of politicans; patriotic rally rhetoric to make Germany/America great again; jobs for blue collar Germans/Americans; a law and order platform amid racial strife; and to provide strong national leadership.

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