There’s been plenty of talk about how Donald Trump’s candidacy has brought out the worst in his supporters. They shout at protesters. They yell at media. They chant for Hillary Clinton to be jailed and sometimes worse. They’re emboldened in their racism and their xenophobia because their leader stands before them like some dark cheerleader, goading them with hinted rhetoric he can shrug off by saying he didn’t actually say these things, it’s not his fault if people take it the wrong way. It’s brutal and ugly and maybe the scariest of the many scary things Trump has wrought.
But he’s also brought out a harshness in those who oppose him. We’re quicker to anger now. We pounce faster. We drop people from our Facebook feeds and our circles of friends if their support of Trump is too staunch. We feel anxious, worried, afraid that if we don’t give a full-throated rebuttal to what Trump is spewing, it won’t be enough. It was that boiling anger and despair that played a good part in me taking a break from this blog; everything felt like it was going to be a shout.
Yet I also can’t shake the feeling that this merits a little shouting.
One of the message boards I frequent has a pretty tight moderation policy, and they recently handed out a warning to someone who made some pretty sweeping — and negative — generalizations of Trump supporters. Basically calling them out for racism and misogyny and bigotry, the standards. The argument from the moderators was that there were likely members of the boards who supported Trump and didn’t fit those descriptions. And while much of what Trump stands for is indeed repellent. the mods weren’t going to let open season be declared on his supporters on their board.
And I feel like that’s exactly the kind of kid-glove treatment that allowed Trump to get to this point. Instead of him being slapped down as the buffoonish clown he is, we laughed. He’d liven up a boring primary season, but he’d eventually go away like the sideshow he was. And then he starter gaining traction, and became too good a story to ignore, and the media gave him air time because his antics got ratings. Who wouldn’t rather watch the GOP court jester over the dour and uninspiring would-be kings? And we kept getting told the uglier aspects of his campaign were the fringe, were not representative, that most of his supporters just wanted lower taxes and to feel safe.
But what got lost in all that was the price those supporters were willing to pay for a little more money in their pockets. That for far too many, the demonizing of entire groups of Americans was an acceptable price to pay if it meant they came out ahead in the deal. And in the desire for a compelling election narrative, Trump was legitimized, accorded courtesy he did not deserve, until there he was accepting his party’s nomination. Because we were so certain it could never happen, we didn’t do enough to make sure it didn’t. We tried so hard to be tolerant of those who weren’t. We wanted to be the high ground. While they scorched the earth all around us.
So maybe it’s not fun to feel like you’re constantly battling. Maybe it makes social media a little less fun sometimes. Maybe everything does end up being a shout. But that’s what we get for not making noise all along.