Photograph by Charlie Neibergall / AP
I finally figured out why this is all so frustrating. Now I know why I’m so tired.
The more this Presidential campaign drags on, the more it’s clear that Donald Trump is irrelevant to many of his very supporters.
Nothing about him really matters to them:
It doesn’t matter how grossly uninformed he is on the most fundamental issues.
It doesn’t matter how reckless and impulsive and immature he acts.
It doesn’t matter how fast and loose he is with the facts or details on any given topic.
It doesn’t matter that his PolitiFact truthfulness rating is somewhere just below pathological liar and Pinocchio.
It doesn’t matter how corrupt his business practices have been.
It doesn’t matter that he is nearly devoid of substantive policies regarding crime, education, the economy, foreign policy, or terrorism.
It doesn’t matter how vile or disrespectful he is toward women, Muslims, veterans, immigrants, or the LGBTQ community.
It doesn’t matter that he is unable to engage in anything resembling coherent, nuanced conversation on complex matters of race, economics, immigration, or sexuality.
It doesn’t matter that his temperament is more suited to a WWE wrestler than the Leader of the Free World.
It doesn’t matter that he seems to be completely unaware how the Presidency or our government actually works.
These things are of little consequence, because many Donald Trump supporters just want to vote for Donald Trump—period.
It’s a decision they made at some point many months ago, and they don’t care to let reality influence this decision now, no how terrible that reality is. Truth will simply not get in the way of how they feel, and so they aren’t at all interested in delving into his past or critiquing his daily embarrassments or talking about what his Presidency would actually look like. Fact-checking him is unnecessary. Demanding accuracy or consistency is of no value. Asking for decency isn’t on the docket.
Whether Trump’s supporters believe he represents a loud middle finger to the political establishment, or some renegade cowboy coming in to shoot up all the bad guys, or whether he simply makes them feel better about the stuff they’re afraid of, they’re going to vote for him regardless of how terribly he acts or what disgusting things he says. The content of his character, the nonexistence of a plan, and the lack of any relevant experience governing all seem unimportant. He talks like some 40’s movie gangster while tossing around verbal molotov cocktails of nationalism and doom, with a splash of Jerry Springer and a twist of Old Testament Angry God: America as imagined by a comic book super villain—and this is all fine.
And that’s why arguing with people who want to vote for Donald Trump is fruitless and why I refuse to do it any longer.
When someone chooses something without reason as their primary motivation, trying to use reason to convince them to discard it is a fool’s game. All the cogent, rational arguments in the world will fall on deaf ears because those ears are permanently closed.
Making fun of Trump supporters or questioning their character serves no valuable purpose either, other than to cause them to dig in their already dug-in heels as you fight in vain against the incoming tide.
Trump himself proved prophetic early in the year when he said he could murder someone in broad daylight and not lose his base. It’s one of the few truthful things he’s said since beginning his campaign—and unfortunately, also one of the saddest.
I’ve written several times as to why my personal convictions as a Christian and Trump’s conduct make voting for him an impossibility, and though I’ve made numerous invitations, I’ve still never received a coherent faith-based argument from a single Christian as to why they are voting for him. I’m no longer letting that concern me and I’ve stopped waiting because in my heart I don’t believe that such an argument exists—and I think they know it. They just want it to be so, and so they’re voting as if it is so.
Ultimately, I understand that many Trump supporters are motivated primarily by fear, and fear is a heck of a drug to get out of your system once you’re hooked on it. There’s no way someone can kick that kind of fear cold turkey and likely not between now and November.
When your kids are afraid of the dark, you can turn on the light and show them everything around them is exactly the same, but if they’re convinced the Bogeyman is real, they’ll be terrified when the lights go off again. Donald Trump has convinced much of his base that the Bogeyman is at the door and hoping the border and taking their jobs and stealing their opportunity, and coming for their money, their guns, their freedom, and their children. They can’t see the reality no matter how much you shine a light on it all. Most of them aren’t bad, stupid, or hateful people—just really terrified people. They aren’t the enemy, the fear that Donald Trump has leveraged in them is.
And so this is really about the rest of us.
It’s about those of us who see through the hissing hyperbole and the brash tough guys antics and the ever louder and dumber rhetoric, and who can see that beneath it all, that the emperor is butt naked.
The redemptive act in times like these isn’t to attack or argue or try to badger people into changing their minds. It isn’t to meet insult with insult or venom with venom or threat with threat.
The redemptive act in the face of this kind of fear is to live and to vote as a direct and unflinching response to that fear; to nullify it and render it helpless and show it for the paper tiger it is.
We who are unafraid need to engage the political process, because if we do, the lights will come on and the bogeyman will vanish for good—and maybe then we’ll all be able to get some sleep.