Armed with his famously short temper, and the kind of weapons of mass destruction that America once went to war to prevent men like him from obtaining Trump is quite possibly the man that will end civilization as we know it.
His supporters are an unfortunate mix of three groups. (All three groups, of course, have some overlap).
First, wealthy people, who care mostly for tax cuts and whether the president is deferential to big business.
Second, not-so-wealthy suckers suckered by Trump’s false promises, faulty logic, and confidence tricks.
Third, the deplorables. The racists, and xenophobes, the nativists, the Bannonistas, the neoreactionaries, the actual Nazis, the antifeminists, and all the other assorted bigots. The people who call liberals “not even people”. The people who argue against the Statue of Liberty. The people who wave Confederate battle flags at Trump rallies, knowing full well that that flag represents an enemy that killed far more Americans than ISIS and al-Qaeda put together. The people who call for the lynching of journalists. The people who for reasons of bigotry hated having a nonwhite president, and hate the idea of having a female president.
If you fit into the first category, congratulations. You will get your tax cuts. But at what cost? Millions of people—including many of Trump’s voters!—are going to lose their health insurance. That has huge consequences to the economy, and to the health of millions of Americans. And now a madman is waving nukes around. Seems like your tax cuts came at a big cost. Tax cuts are rather useless in a nuclear holocaust.
If you fit into the second category, I pity you. I’m sorry that Trump falsely promised he would bring back muh jobs from China, when those same jobs are instead being replaced by robots. I’m sorry he told you Mexico would pay for the (needless, costly, ineffectual) wall. I’m sorry he tricked you with his barrage of demonstrably false claims, alternative facts, and other nonsense. I’m sorry he told you that he would make America great again by adopting the same authoritarianism, protectionism, and corporatist dumbfuckery that impoverishes much of the third world. You know, places like North Korea and Saddam’s Iraq, where the masses hunger while their Trump-chinned leaders with Trump-sized egos live in Trumpian gold-plated palaces.
If you fit into the third category—the deplorables—then fuck you. Why?
Modern civilization is built upon a single transcendential virtue: social and religious tolerance. What does society look like without this? It looks like endless civil war. Yonatan Zunger, in a piece that outlines the fundamentally important idea that tolerance is not a moral absolute but a peace treaty, describes one such time:
Among the worst wars of tolerance were the religious wars which tore through Europe between 1524 and 1648. These wars were predicated on… Protestants and Catholics each seeing the other as existential threats.
As states aligned with each side, the penalty for disagreement became exile or death, a condition no one could accept.
But even after six generations of fighting, and tens of millions of dead, these wars came to an end. The Peace of Westphalia, the series of treaties which ended them, was built on two radical tenets: that each ruler had the right to choose the religion of their state, and that Christians living in principalities where their faith was not the established faith still had the right to practice their religion. A decision was made, in essence, to accept the risk of the monster rather than the reality of the war.
The Peace of Westphalia was the political foundation for the concept of secularism: that religious matters are so uncertain that the state should not have the power to mandate them. It remains one of the classic peace treaties between fundamentally incompatible groups. It was also, in turn, the basis for the concept of religious freedom brought by European settlers to North America; the American Bill of Rights is its direct descendant.
The average deplorable response to this will be one of the two things.
First, they might ask “but what about Islam? We’re not destroyers of Western civilization. We’re trying to save it by keeping out the Muslims, who kill apostates. They want to force the entire world into a Caliphate, where they rule, and everyone who refuses to convert must be killed.”
This is very unfair to the majority of Muslims, who have no interest in imposing Sharia law across the world. But there is a a bigger point here. Deplorables are quite consciously trying to save the West from the religious intolerance of ISIS with their own brand of religious intolerance. This is absurd and paradoxical. You can’t save secularism while rejecting many of the most important tenets of liberal democracy.
Why? Well, why do you think Trump gets on so well with the tyrants of the middle east? The King of Saudi Arabia? The military dictator of Egypt? They are cut from the same cloth. They all adulate centralized power above all other things. Trump is like a middle eastern despot, but with blonde hair and blue eyes. Trump’s supporters are akin to the followers of those same middle eastern despots, obsessed with social, religious, and cultural traditionalism, obsessed with nationalism, obsessed with intolerance for minorities and outsiders, obsessed with making their respective region (America, or Arabia) “great again”. Harking back into the annals of a golden past that may or may not have ever existed. (Fun fact: the world is objectively richer and more peaceful than it was 20 or 50 or 100 years ago. Another fun fact: America was objectively terrible for anyone who wasn’t white until the end of Jim Crow).
Second, the deplorables might say something about so-called liberal intolerance. “But you liberals! You’re trying to force us to bake cakes for gay people! How dare you! Christians are being discriminated against! People who say women and men are not equal are being fired from their jobs! Liberals are intolerant!”
This is oxymoronic reasoning. Liberals stand up against prejudice and bigotry, for instance the refusal of businesses that claim to be open to the public to serve gay customers. Such a refusal is transparently intolerant. It is an attempt to marginalize a group of human beings. To prevent them from being able to get along in society like anyone else. What are people supposed to do when faced with such intolerance? Shrug?
No. What the deplorables need to grasp is that tolerance is a peace treaty, not a moral absolute. We are under no obligation as individuals to show tolerance to those who refuse to show tolerance to us. Tolerance takes root through individuals recognizing that by becoming mutually tolerant toward others, we as a society reap vast social, economic, and political rewards. But if we are treated badly by others, are we expected to be tolerant of that mistreatment? People have limits. They don’t like to be trodden on. Mistreatment breeds intolerance. It is not virtuous to tolerate someone who treats you like shit. It is self-destructive to.
The rise of Trump was a rank rejection of tolerance, and compromise. The deplorables love Trump because he is uncompromising and refuses to pander to liberals, or even recognize them as valid humans. Trumpism is an attack on anyone who believes in political and social equality for all people of all creeds, colours and faiths (or none). It is an attack on anyone who understands that most Muslims and Mexicans are not criminals or terrorists. It is an attack on anyone who believes in liberal democracy, in due process, and freedom of the press. It is an attack on modernity and pluralism. It is an attack on anyone who believes that women are worth more than being grabbed by the pussy by a creepy authoritarian racist.
To be clear, not all Trump supporters are deplorables. Many are just in it for the tax cuts, or out of ignorance. But until they start acting more empathetically and treating people as human beings with rights and feelings, they must be opposed and stymied in every lawful manner possible. Their leader must face total opposition and resistance, to stop him from carrying out his continuing attacks upon truth, reason, and democracy. And yes, they are attacking democracy: over half of Republicans would support “delaying the 2020 election” if Trump called for it. Tolerance is a peace treaty, and Trump and his supporters ripped it up, and continue to rip. If they want tolerance—and their ceaseless whining suggests they do—they need to showing some themselves, and help us get Trump out.
Sooner or later, they will learn. They will learn that their leader’s economic ideas are totally bogus. Muh jobs aren’t coming back from China, no matter how much Trump whines about it. Free trade—not protectionism—is the pathway to security and prosperity. They will learn that suppressing dissent and journalism does not make a country strong. They will learn that nepotism breeds corruption, sloth, and inefficiency. They will learn that man-made climate change is real, even if takes floods and fires, and desertification for them to do so. They will learn that declaring their liberal friends and neighbours the enemy is as stupid and dangerous as declaring your Jewish friends and neighbours the enemy.
Of course, Trump is already in a position of extreme power, and has the capacity to do vast amounts of damage before this is over. It may be too late to stop a calamity on the grandest scale.
But when they learn and make amends, we must be prepared to forgive them for their aggressions.