April 23, 2019

Let’s stop shaming Trump voters

People who are 100 percent sure of themselves — and who can’t imagine why, for example, anyone with a brain would vote for Donald Trump — can lose all sense of humility and curiosity.

Take the case of Matt Maloney, CEO of Grubhub. The day after Donald Trump got elected, he sent an email to his employees expressing his rejection of Trump’s “hateful politics” and closing with this loving whopper:

“If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here.”

No humility or curiosity there.

Or how about University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, who held a vigil after Trump’s victory at which he said:

“Your voices worked out to be a 90/10 decision in favor of the unsuccessful candidate yesterday. Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness … that was expressed during [Trump’s] campaign.”

The other ten percent? Schlissel’s message of inclusion had no room for them. Maybe he simply couldn’t fathom that other well-meaning students in his audience could have rejected Hillary Clinton’s policies or been repulsed by her track record of coddling up to Wall Street and playing fast and loose with the truth.

As far as this university president was concerned, if you voted for Trump, you deserved only isolation and shame. Not too much humility or curiosity there, either.

One man who's always shown a fair amount of intellectual curiosity is Jon Stewart, the patron saint of the liberal set.

“There’s now this idea that anyone who voted for him [Trump] has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric,” Stewart told Charlie Rose last week. “There are guys in my neighborhood [who voted for Trump] that I love, that I respect, that I think have incredible qualities, who are not afraid of Mexicans, not afraid of Muslims and not afraid of Blacks, they’re afraid of their insurance premiums.”

Stewart, who’s a fierce critic of Trump, had the courage to recognize the hypocrisy of his liberal brethren.

Painting all Trump voters with a dark brush won’t change the result or help our community heal. Healing begins with listening, one person at a time.

“In the liberal community,” he said, “you hate this idea of creating people as a monolith. Don’t look at Muslims as a monolith. They are the individuals and it would be ignorance. But everybody who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That hypocrisy is also real in our country.”

It’s certainly real in the Jewish community. We’re always talking about the danger of stereotyping people, whether they're Muslim refugees from Syria or undocumented immigrants from Mexico. But when it comes to Trump voters, well, we seem to have no problem stereotyping away. It’s almost as if any Jew who voted for Trump must be anti-Jewish or devoid of Jewish values.

I get the anger and disillusionment many Jewish liberals are feeling right now because of the shocking defeat of their candidate. But painting all Trump voters with a dark brush won’t change the result or help our community heal. Healing begins with listening, one person at a time.

A Jewish Trump voter I spoke to recently told me she voted against Hillary Clinton because she didn’t want America to become like Europe. Yes, she hated Trump’s rhetoric, but she hated even more the prospect of America becoming a European-style socialist society. She figured there’d be a greater likelihood of that happening under a Clinton presidency than under a Trump one.

Does that make this Trump voter a racist, a bigot or an ignoramus? No, it makes her an American exercising her right and freedom to vote as she wishes.

We can judge Trump without judging that woman. It’s one thing to fight tooth and nail against Trump's decisions and policies; it’s another to demean and shame the 60 million Americans who voted for him.

It’s one thing to say to someone, “Please explain to me your thinking when you voted for Trump,” it’s quite another to fire a loaded question like, “How could you vote for such a vile man?” The first is a sign of genuine curiosity and an opening for civil dialogue; the second is a sign of aggression and an opening for verbal warfare.

I’m sure there will be some Thanksgiving tables this year with both Trump and Clinton voters. So, if you find yourself in that position, here’s my suggestion for all you Trump voters to avoid an ugly fight.

Don’t ask, “How could you vote for such a corrupt, congenital liar as Hillary Clinton?” Instead, say, “Please explain to me your thinking when you voted for her.”

Above all, regardless of which side you’re on, stay curious, humble and polite.

Those are also Jewish values.