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23 June 2016

I Am Judging You, Trumpists

I've been struggling recently with the appropriate way to think about people who support and plan to vote for Donald Trump. In previous campaigns, I was much more likely to give Republican voters the benefit of the doubt and chalk their political preferences up to some combination of ignorance, self-interest, and false consciousness. That may seem condescending or even self-righteous, but while the American political Left is not without its problems, it is at least more consistently aligned with the preponderance of social scientific evidence than the American political Right. The phenomenon of the Donald Trump candidacy seems qualitatively different, though. At the risk of confirming Godwin's Law, Trump resembles, remarkably, historical examples of fascist demagogues. I am not the first to point out the following, but Trump is exploiting the same racial and economic fears and anxieties as essentially all post-Eisenhower Republicans; the difference is that while traditional Republicans had done this either unwittingly or consciously but in coded language, Trump has been far more explicit. This has made it nearly impossible for me to offer Trump supporters the same pass that I had previously been willing to extend to Republicans in the past. I find myself judging those in the "Make America Great Again" camp because of this. It is impossible for me to believe that as forthright as Trump has been in his demagoguery that his supporters could have missed it and support him despite such a platform; instead, they must be hearing him and supporting him because of those vile statements.

I would be happy to be proved wrong in my assessment. I am not comfortable passing judgment, especially on friends and family. As an exercise, try searching Facebook for "My friends who like Donald J. Trump." (Warning: you cannot un-see this list.) I have about 20 family, friends, and acquaintances who show up. I'd rather they be good people who are getting it wrong than bad people who are getting it right.

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