Patterico's Pontifications

12/21/2020

An Argument for Silence In The Face Of Trump’s Ardent Loyalists

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:12 am



[guest post by Dana]

When there is no reason to further engage with Trump superfans:

[O]rdinary people worn out by the dramas and lies of the past four years have a right to refuse to take Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters seriously. To reject further debate with people whose views are completely incoherent is not only understandable, but sensible.

I am not talking about all 74 million people who voted for Trump. Some voters may well have supported Trump in both 2016 and 2020 with a sense of hesitancy, perhaps focused on a single issue, such as abortion, or because they were making a raw and self-interested calculation about taxes…

Instead, I am talking about the people who are giving Trump their full-throated support to the very end, even as he mulls a military coup; the people who buy weird paintings of Trump crossing the Delaware, or who believe that Trump is an agent of Jesus Christ, or who think that Trump is fighting a blood-drinking ring of pedophiles. These supporters have gone far beyond political loyalty and have succumbed to a kind of mass delusion. It is not possible to engage them. Indeed, to argue with them is to legitimize their beliefs, which itself is unhealthy for our democracy.

I don’t want to treat our fellow citizens with open contempt, or to confront and berate them. Rather, I am arguing for silence. The Trump loyalists who still cling to conspiracy theories and who remain part of a cult of personality should be deprived of the attention they seek, shunned for their antidemocratic lunacy, and then outvoted at the ballot box.

If we’ve learned one thing about “Trumpism,” it is that there is no such thing as “Trumpism.” No content anchors it; no program or policy comes from it. No motivating ideology stands behind it, unless we think of general grievance and a hatred of cultural and intellectual elites as an “idea.” And when views are incoherent and beliefs are rooted in fantasies, compromise is impossible. Further engagement is not only unwarranted, but it can also become counterproductive.

This is why I see no point in a “national conversation” or in “reaching out,” or other euphemisms for attempts to better understand the movement that formed around Trump. We already understand: Trump tapped into traditions of ethnic and regional grievances and social resentments that are present in every democracy and wedded them to bizarre theories and conspiracies.

The only people who need to engage such voters are political strategists, because enough of these voters in the right states can drive the Electoral College into a ditch. But the rest of us no longer need to participate in long chin-pulling exercises about “what they really want” or why they cannot grasp reality.

I agree with this approach. Because, really, what is there left to say that hasn’t already been said? What sound arguments are left to be made? Would a collective response of silence be received as a further disenfranchising of an already angry group who turned toward Trump for this very reason? Quite possibly. But how does a nation rationally deal with a large swath of its population that holds as truths the outrageous beliefs cited by the writer? The private citizen who is a Trump loyalist is one thing, but what about those who have their hands on the levers of power and hold these beliefs? And with regard to personal relationships: What point is there in continuing to have these sorts of heated discussions and debates with loved ones who happen to be Trump loyalists? Especially when both sides know that nothing can be said that will change anyone’s mind. It not only leads to friction but I believe it also breaks down the relationship. While everyone has to decide for themselves what they consider a bridge too far in a relationship, there are simply times when silence is the only reasonable response. It might also be the only response that can preserve the remaining bonds that hold two people together. The fact is, silence can often speak volumes more than anything that could be said out loud. Unfortunately, it can easily go unheard.

–Dana

61 Responses to “An Argument for Silence In The Face Of Trump’s Ardent Loyalists”

  1. Good morning.

    Dana (cc9481)

  2. Good morning. I agree with this article, for the most part. When dealing with a tantrum, it is better not to engage.

    Most people realize Trump will cede the White House to Biden on 1/20/2021. Remember that the media will hype up any sort of rumor or innuendo of Trump doing something else because clicks sell.

    Hoi Polloi (139bf6)

  3. I have had two debates with Trump supporters that I thought could handle some push back. When challenged, they soon became agitated and both times it ended with their yelling “I don’t care!”

    Both times.

    noel (9fead1)

  4. https://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt2826.htm

    ד אַל-תַּעַן כְּסִיל, כְּאִוַּלְתּוֹ: פֶּן-תִּשְׁוֶה-לּוֹ גַם-אָתָּה. 4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

    ה עֲנֵה כְסִיל, כְּאִוַּלְתּוֹ: פֶּן-יִהְיֶה חָכָם בְּעֵינָיו. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

    Sammy Finkelman (3915d0)

  5. @noel It depends maybe on what you were arguing about. It sounds like this was an argument that Fact A (which they were initially disputing) outweighed Fact B.

    Sammy Finkelman (3915d0)

  6. This has been my policy for years now, unless it is to berate or mock them to make a point. Anyone who tried engaging in real conversation with such people would meet, at best, proud and unrelenting ignorance. Why bother?

    Patterico (115b1f)

  7. I’m glad Tom distinguishes, as I do, between the superfans who love love love everything about Trump, and the people who voted for him while recognizing and acknowledging his deficiencies. Those are two very different groups, IMO.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  8. I’m glad Tom distinguishes, as I do, between the superfans who love love love everything about Trump, and the people who voted for him while recognizing and acknowledging his deficiencies. Those are two very different groups, IMO.

    Since Nichols had already spelled it out, I felt that referring specifically to ardent loyalists and Trump superfans in the post reinforced the distinction.

    I have found that Trump supporters who made a strategic decision in their vote for him, whether to keep their states red or to help down-ticket candidates, are thoughtful individuals who felt that they really had no choice but to vote for someone they believe to be an awful human being and choice for the presidency.

    Dana (cc9481)

  9. For example – one of my friends denied that Trump ever lies. A point which can be disproven rather easily. I can mention Obama’s birth certificate or Trump’s promise to release his taxes, but they just look at you and blink. You know they want to say something like “well, they all lie”… but they know better.

    They’re all in. They have Trump flags and signs. MAGA hats and MAGA masks.

    noel (9fead1)

  10. This is one I have never seen before. There have been a few Trump flags and signs GOING UP in my neighborhood over the last couple days.

    Believe it. He could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue.

    noel (9fead1)

  11. I agree with this with respect to the idea of overturning the election results. I say this even if I was shown some evidence of fraud at this point. Not interested. Too late. Just as I no longer want to hear about how some state’s election process didn’t follow state law — again too late.

    It may be that we can talk about ways to ensure that non-polling-place voting can be made more secure and less susceptible to subjective, or biased, decisions and establish better ways of making the process uniform. But when that devolves into claims that the election of 2020 should be undone, all I can say is wait until next time.

    Yet I cannot go along with the idea that there is nothing behind “Trumpism.” There is. There are some long-standing and as-yet unaddressed grievances held by a large portion of the electorate. Since it is unlikely the incoming administration will address them positively, these grievances will remain a factor going forward. Sucessful Republican politicians will need to listen and find a way forward.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  12. Yet I cannot go along with the idea that there is nothing behind “Trumpism.” There is. There are some long-standing and as-yet unaddressed grievances held by a large portion of the electorate.

    What do you think would be an effective way to address those grievances? And, if they believe that Trump represents the answer to said grievances, what chance does a rational plan have? Do you think the most ardent of his fans would be open-minded enough to consider such plans? Because to me, that specific group is not open about anything other than protecting the Trump Brand and offering him alone their loyalty. It’s far less about specific issues of contention and more about fealty.

    Dana (cc9481)

  13. Believe it. He could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue.

    I believe that after four weary years of him in the White House, his public sheen has significantly faded except with his most ardent fans. I don’t think he currently has the power that he once had that would make his statement true today.

    Dana (cc9481)

  14. Well, here’s an article about how the Democrats are addressing their demonstrated weakness with the working class, a weakness that allowed significant Trump gains.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  15. And, if they believe that Trump represents the answer to said grievances, what chance does a rational plan have?

    They believe that Trump was championing their situation, however ineffictively. That does NOT mean that it was Trump or Bust. Both parties will need to address these issues going forward.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  16. Believe it. He could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue.

    Oh, maybe in Arkansas, but not in NYC. He’d be arrested there.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  17. How much of the Trump dead-enders are there because they love Trump himself, or because they viewed him as their last, best hope. There are communities sinking out there in fly-over country that are getting desperate. Trump may have failed to help them in the end, but no one else was even talking about helping.

    That needs to change.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  18. Nichols is a smart guy. Funny, too.
    It’s still incredible the number who still believe Trump’s Big Lie. They’re not tethered to any serious facts.

    Paul Montagu (77c694)

  19. Yet I cannot go along with the idea that there is nothing behind “Trumpism.” There is. There are some long-standing and as-yet unaddressed grievances held by a large portion of the electorate. Since it is unlikely the incoming administration will address them positively, these grievances will remain a factor going forward. Sucessful Republican politicians will need to listen and find a way forward.

    There’s no more to “Trumpism” as practiced–I use a religious term deliberately–by the superfans who love him no matter what than there is to the conspiracy theory that shape-shifting reptiles from space are in control of all our governments. You can’t move forward with either group because what they think happens in the real world is untethered from reality and placed firmly in faith. You let them be and ignore them. And if it turns out that it’s true you need support from those people to keep the real world running, then God help us all.

    JohnnyAgreeable (c49787)

  20. Next door neighbor of my daughter and EW went from 0 thin metal post yard signs oon election night to 6 Trump signs by Thanksgiving weekend. Now hes down to a Knights of Columbus keep Christ in Christmas sign. My daughter actual won the poster contest in regionals for that K of C campaign, yet she is only barely applying to 1 of the catholic high schools and purely as safety valve.

    urbanleftbehind (7c04cd)

  21. What is behind “Trumpism” is simply a divorced-from-reality narcissist. That is Trumpism in a nutshell. While certainly Americans were drawn to him because of their grievances (unemployment, lack of jobs that paid enough, feeling diminished and cut off by the political class, etc), it quickly moved toward cult status with Trump manipulatively tapping into those feelings to increase his own brand. It was always way more about how he could personally benefit rather than how he could help.

    Dana (cc9481)

  22. Noel @ 3 and 9,

    I’ve had similar experiences.

    Dana (cc9481)

  23. Well, here’s an article about how the Democrats are addressing their demonstrated weakness with the working class, a weakness that allowed significant Trump gains.

    More and more proles, ahem excuse me, I mean workers, realized that the much-touted safety nest is only a net to pull them into the government’s clutches: that the minor bureaucrats at Unemployment and Public Aid are not there to help them but to help themselves to a steady government job at best, and some just to amuse themselves by making them sit up and beg for a table scrap; and cocktail waitresses with their New Green Deals are just interested in getting payback for the years they had to smile and show cleavage for tips, I think.

    Not that Trump is any better but, in this one respect at least, the Democrats are a bigger fraud than he is.

    nk (1d9030)

  24. Tom Nichols, who thought “Steele did the right thing” and that Trump is “compromised by Russian intelligence”, somehow sees “dramas and lies of the past four years” that are not his own.

    beer ‘n pretzels (042d67)

  25. I have had two debates with Trump supporters that I thought could handle some push back. When challenged, they soon became agitated and both times it ended with their yelling “I don’t care!”

    Years ago a friend of mine get agitated and angry when I said something critical of Trump. As I tried to adduce my evidence, she kept interrupting: “No he’s not! No he’s not!” She avoided me for a while after that. We patched things up but have kept politics out of the conversation since then. This person doesn’t really fit into the description of the Trump base — doesn’t live in a struggling town in fly-over country, didn’t lose a job to globalization, isn’t a strict social conservative — but was emotionally invested in defending Trump. It’s bizarre how he commands such loyalty.

    The people who publicly promote their coup fantasies should get public pushback, because they’re encouraging Trump to think he has all Real Americans on his side. But privately, little good comes from trying to debate the Trump faithful.

    Radegunda (b6cc34)

  26. I have people in my life who are Birthers, 9/11 Truthers, Hillary-killed-Vincers, and now Trumpers. The sum of what I’ll tell any of them is that, while I may love them personally, I’m no more interested in what they have to say on these subjects than I am in a junky’s detailed argument for why giving them money to buy one more hit of heroin is actually a really really good idea.

    lurker (d8c5bc)

  27. this one respect at least, the Democrats are a bigger fraud than he is.

    I’d say it’s a toss-up. In terms of fraud creds, who can really beat the “Trump University” guy who has posed as his own publicist and hung fake magazine covers with his own image on his wall and claimed to have won awards that don’t exist and pretended he got three Nobel prizes and said that no one reads the Bible more than him …

    The best that can be said about Trump is that his fraudulence is often so risibly transparent. And yet a lot of people manage to fall for it, or else they take the position that all the obvious falsehoods don’t mean he’s actually a dishonest person.

    Radegunda (b6cc34)

  28. BTW, that friend I described in @25 was a Rubio supporter, but once Trump got the nomination she would brook no criticism of him.

    Radegunda (b6cc34)

  29. the obvious falsehoods don’t mean he’s actually a dishonest person.

    Oh it goes far beyond that. The obviousness of the falsehoods shows he has nothing to hide, proving he’s actually a paragon of virtue.

    lurker (d8c5bc)

  30. @29 — That’s basically the argument that Trumpers have been making with their mantra of “He’s unfiltered! He doesn’t parse his words like a politician!”

    Radegunda (b6cc34)

  31. The tail just doesn’t understand why the dog no longer wags when it tells it to.

    Glorious.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  32. What is behind “Trumpism” is simply a divorced-from-reality narcissist. That is Trumpism in a nutshell.

    You’re confusing the message with the messenger.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  33. @32. Yep.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  34. This person doesn’t really fit into the description of the Trump base — doesn’t live in a struggling town in fly-over country, didn’t lose a job to globalization, isn’t a strict social conservative — but was emotionally invested in defending Trump. It’s bizarre how he commands such loyalty.

    Did you ask her why? Or were you too invested in your criticism?

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  35. Problem is that we’re not just seeing ardent loyalists saying loony things on Twitter or in the streets. We’re seeing GOP institutions — the things that are supposed to be guardrails against fanatical lunacy — chiming in, or running to the front of the parade. E.g. there’s the Texas lawsuit (as Benny Belvedere puts it):

    What we have here is 18 states, and a sizable chunk of Republican officials, basically saying, “Look, we simply don’t want votes for Biden to count.”

    And it isn’t just Trump with his pathological tweeting. It’s also members of Congress saying things like this:

    If Biden is inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States on January 20th, it will mark the final hour of conspiracy to dismantle the American election process, and the first hour of conspiracy to dismantle America.

    And it’s White House meetings involving people that Trump invited because they’re agitating for martial law and seizing voting machines. From that Benny Belvedere piece again:

    This is Clownsville level stuff, right?

    Right, but it’s Clownsville merging with DC; it’s Clownsville setting up shop in the White House…. We allow our suspicions that these are fundamentally unserious people bewitch us into thinking their plans won’t get anywhere.

    Radegunda (b6cc34)

  36. OT- When America truly was great: 12/21/68;

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEH12INI2Wk

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  37. Lest you forget, there’s still a core group of ardent loyalists – aka zealots- who crave Reagan be added to Mt. Rushmore and dream of changing the FDR dime to a Reagan dime.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  38. Did you ask her why? Or were you too invested in your criticism?

    It wasn’t that I was so invested in my criticism. I’m really not very confrontational, and I’m certainly far less assertive than this friend. After she objected to my statement, I made an effort to demonstrate that it had a factual basis, and she kept cutting me off with a content-free, raised-voice objection: “No! No! No he’s not!” This was at my doorway. I didn’t want to keep arguing; I just wanted her to go away, but she seemed determined to get me to yield to her point of view, in which anything she had not seen on Fox couldn’t possibly be true.

    Radegunda (b6cc34)

  39. Tom Nichols, who thought “Steele did the right thing” and that Trump is “compromised by Russian intelligence”…

    Nichols was right that Steele had enough troubling intel to alert authorities.
    It remains that Trump has not said a cross word toward Putin since the Golden Escalator ride, and Trump was trying to work a real estate deal with Putin while running for president.

    Paul Montagu (77c694)

  40. Dana must have come to the realization that populists don’t care what you and the other never trumpers think. Populists are running the republican party now and keep telling you never trumper conservatives “don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” These former white trash democrats are populists not free trade economic conservative libertarian. Yelling god, guns, gays and abortion no longer fools them into voting against their self interests. Reagan’s trickle down economics and free trade has devasted the working class while making the rich even richer. Many years ago one of the marx brothers said the rich would get richer and the poor would get poorer. Fortunately non-exploitive capitalism is a better solution then communism. The democrats are socialists and the republicans are now populists. Maybe you can join join the libertarian party and smoke dope with them as you cry about the wonders of free trade and predatory capitalism. Corporations are people too! Mitt romney.

    asset (aef6da)

  41. she seemed determined to get me to yield to her point of view, in which anything she had not seen on Fox couldn’t possibly be true.

    Why did she support Trump? That’s a different question than why did she object to your statements. These folks did not just get replaced with pod people while they slept, they decided that Trump was their guy to the point of irrational adherence. Why?

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  42. asset–

    It’s not just the GOP that was focused on keeping the upper-middle-class’s portfolios rising. Every Democrat since Bill Clinton had the same agenda, and so will Biden. And so did Trump, to a great degree. That’s where the donations come from.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  43. Tom Nichols, who thought “Steele did the right thing” and that Trump is “compromised by Russian intelligence”, somehow sees “dramas and lies of the past four years” that are not his own.

    beer ‘n pretzels (042d67) — 12/21/2020 @ 9:57 am

    Imagine repeating over and over and over that it’s somehow a bad thing to realize Trump is indeed totally compromised and controlled by Russia, even now after he’s defending Russia for attacking the USA all year.

    I guess BnP is trying to convince someone… Perhaps himself.

    You really cannot support Trump and the USA at the same time at this point. I know some great people who support Trump, but they unwittingly are opposing our great nation.

    Dustin (4237e0)

  44. Lest you forget, there’s still a core group of ardent loyalists – aka zealots- who crave Reagan be added to Mt. Rushmore and dream of changing the FDR dime to a Reagan dime.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5) — 12/21/2020 @ 11:31 am

    Oh yeah Trump is great because he damaged the party of Reagan and this is glorious despite, you know, a third of a million dead Americans. Because Reagan is the boogeyman.

    Dustin (4237e0)

  45. @40. Yep.

    ______

    As rest of world restricts travel from UK; Fauci recommends NOT closing down travel from UK to U.S. as Covid mutation, up to 70% more infectious and deemed “out of control” by Britain’s Ministry of Health, spreads.

    He’s wrong. And works for the plagiarist-elect now.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  46. @44. Party of personal responsibility, Dustin.

    If Trump told you a sure fire cure for Covid was to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge- would you do it? If Fauci told you to welcome arriving travelers from the UK today w/a wet kiss, would you do it?

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  47. @42 Couldn’t agree with you more. However like the tea party in the republican party the progressives in the democratic party are slowly gaining power in the democrat party. AOC not pelosi/biden is the future of the democratic party. What has saved the corporate clinton/biden establishment wing of the democrat party are older black women voting in southern primaries which is why dnc front loads southern primaries. Aoc countered them in california with latinx votes for sanders.

    asset (aef6da)

  48. Trumpism is less a battle of ideas and more a battle of emotions and attitudes. There’s been no Trump idea that has really caught the imagination of the country….and has led to sustainable legislation or governmental reforms. Super fans just like that he pisses off the right people….and that appears to be enough. Sure there was that $1T in tax cuts…..much of it going to the rich….which you would think would bother commenters like asset to no end…but nahhh…he got some crumbs…I guess. And then our massive trade war….how did that work out? And did ditching TPP prevent China from moving into those markets instead? Pesky details…like new wall vs replacement “very bad” wall.

    But these are all details that get away from how we are supposed to feelz about what Trump says….which is akin to the sugar-high following binging out on an entire box of Twinkees. We now see what it’s like to have much of the GOP playbook look like the front page of the National Enquirer. Now some predict….or maybe decree is a better word….that this is the new normal. That Trumpism has such deep roots that there’s no recovery….wonky Paul Ryan has been replaced by muscular Stephen Miller and that gentlemanly Lewandowski chap. I guess we’ll see. Most adults know that you can’t live on Twinkees, Ho hos, and mindless rants forever. The GOP lost to an old guy hiding in his basement. Eventually that will sink in….

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  49. Imagine repeating over and over and over that it’s somehow a bad thing to realize Trump is indeed totally compromised and controlled by Russia, even now after he’s defending Russia for attacking the USA all year.

    Or, maybe, Russia is retaliating for Trump’s cyber attacks on Russia:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/15/us/politics/trump-cyber-russia-grid.html

    Hoi Polloi (139bf6)

  50. There’s been no Trump idea that has really caught the imagination of the country…

    Except there is; the modern ideological conservative movement has been cratered.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  51. Side tracked…..conservatism will out last the cult of personality…because inevitably, it actually stands for time-tested ideas….whereas Trump stands for Trump. This was a temper tantrum enabled by a a fat unfocused primary. People will sober up….and will want something more edifying.

    “Where’s the beef!?” Clara Peller in Wendy’s ads circa 1984

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  52. “Where’s the beef!?”

    H’s a McDonald’s man, you know. But side-tracked? More like-a-la-carted-off.

    You and Mona and Jonah and George, et al., must do lunch w/Clara–for oh, say the next five decades. Welcome to 1964. 😉

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  53. So whatabout Maria The Convicted Russian Spy Butina’s sugar-daddy for three years, namely Overstock ex-CEO Patrick Byrne, meeting with Trump in the White House to discuss overturning the election by foul means or fouler along with usual suspects Flynn, Powell, and Giuliani? Is that like a Steele dossier? Or is it Putin wanting an eyewitness account?

    nk (1d9030)

  54. @53. So what about Elvis meeting with Nixon and begging the Big Dick to give him a badge and make him an undercover FBI narc? 😉

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  55. “must do lunch w/Clara”

    Unfortunately Clara is a bit deader than ideological conservatism.

    “Don’t let them bury me! I’m not dead!” Dennis Alan, The Serpent and the Rainbow, 1988

    AJ_Liberty (a4ff25)

  56. Not by much; maybe a decade. 😉

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  57. 43. Dustin (4237e0) — 12/21/2020 @ 1:15 pm

    …Trump is indeed totally compromised and controlled by Russia…,

    I don;t think Trump is totally compromised and controlled by Russia – otherwise he’d be doing a whole lot more. But I am not so sure about Mike Flynn. Maybe Flynn just hopes to be richly rewarded.

    And if Trump was so totally controlled by anyone, why would all these people need to be lobbying him?

    Sammy Finkelman (3915d0)

  58. It couLd be that Putin just wants to create a crisis of confidence in the legitimacy of the U.S. government. It might make fertile ground for the recruitment of spies, for one thing.

    We’ll see how long talk radio keeps t up.

    The lies are not only about the election – they’re about the law.

    Sammy Finkelman (3915d0)

  59. Fervent Trump supporters are best treated as cult members. When a loved one is in a cult, persuasion is not likely to work; instead, let the person know that you love them and are there for them. And, reinforce bonds that have nothing to do with the cult.

    norcal (b4d7b1)

  60. I mostly stopped engaging with hard core Trumpists about a year into Trump’s term, when I realized I was a futile cause and a waste of time engaging them for anything. Since they are emotionally dug into Trump, any debate with them will be emotional, rather than logical and rational.

    HCI (92ea66)

  61. Trump supporters mostly have differenr sources of information.

    Sammy Finkelman (3915d0)


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