Morally Decent Trump Supporters

Thinking about how we view others in the age of Trumpism

Posted Nov 28, 2016

Gage Skidmore, CCL
Source: Gage Skidmore, CCL

I did not vote for Donald Trump. As my Facebook friends, friends in real life, and others can attest, I was strongly opposed to his candidacy and did not want him to become President of the United States. I don't have a particular political perspective that underlies my opposition to Trump. I have been a Democrat, Republican, and Independent since I first registered to vote back in the 1980s. I’ve voted for members of both major parties in a variety of elections.

I am a Christian, and offered some arguments against Trump from that perspective. I’m also a moral philosopher, and offered an argument against Trump from a more general ethical point of view. I am very concerned about the influence that some members of the “Alt-Right” appear to have in his administration. And I believe some (I have no idea how many) of Trump’s supporters are racist and support him for reasons related to these views. I have no interest in defending Trump, his policies, or these kinds of supporters.

However, many Trump supporters are not racist, they are not sexist, they are not homophobic, they are not nationalists. They have genuine moral concerns that led them to vote for Donald Trump. They are morally decent people who care about their country, their communities, and their families. I think they were deeply mistaken in voting for Trump. And I don’t agree with all of the perspectives I’m about to describe. But as I teach my students, one crucial ability that we need to develop is being able to stand in the shoes of others and try to see things from their perspective, without demonizing them.

Here is a glimpse into some of these perspectives to consider:

  • The small business owner who can’t afford health care for himself, and who believes that his business may not survive due to the costs and regulations related to Obamacare.
  • The nurse who thinks the motivation behind Obamacare is good, but who also sees how the regulations and costs associated with it are harmful to many.
  • The teacher who is deeply convinced that abortion is immoral, because she believes that the the unborn are human persons who have the right to life. She cannot imagine voting for a pro-choice candidate.
  • The small business owner who, for reasons of her conscience, does not want to be forced to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, because she thinks it will make her complicit in this. In addition, because of her faith and views about the dignity of all human beings, she would give her life if required to save the lives of that couple.
  • The ex-Marine (if anyone is really ever an “ex”-Marine), who believes that we are making a grave mistake with some of our policies related to terrorism, and thinks Trump will make us more secure.
  • The many who are tired of being painted as bigots by the media and many on the left because they are concerned about terrorism and national security, believe in a traditional sexual ethic, don’t think that welfare should be abused in the ways that it is, and so on.
  • Poor white males who have little to no economic prospects, who are told by parts of the media and others that society is structured to their advantage. They wonder how this can be so, when they have little to no hope of escaping poverty.

Regardless of our political perspectives, we need to find as much common ground as possible, and fight together for the common good of both the United States and the rest of the globe. An important first step in this direction is to try to see things from perspectives that differ from our own, rather than lumping all of those who disagree with us into a large category by which we can easily dismiss them and their beliefs.

I don’t believe that Donald Trump is the answer to what ails us, but neither do I believe that the way forward is to demonize all of his supporters. We can do better, and we ought to do better. There will be some bitter political fights in the next 4 years, but if we can identify first as Americans, with a shared belief in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of us, we have a better chance of moving ahead in at least some positive directions.

@michaelwaustin