As a moderate conservative, I have a love/hate relationship with center left news sources like NPR and Slate.com. They often put out thoughtful pieces, but the latter often leans too far left and misses the larger perspective.
Case in point is William Saletan’s article with this ungainly title/subtitle:
The Five Baskets of Trump Voters: The deplorables make up only one basket. If Democrats dismiss the other four, they’ll keep losing elections. 1
Unfortunately for this author, not only does he merely add more insults by creating more negative stereotypes, he misses the larger picture that these types exist in every camp, especially when your camp has migrated to the extremes, as both RNC and DNC have. His five types are interesting, though I think he could do more to spell them out clearly. So here I offer a summary of this awful partisan view, and suggest positive alternatives.
1. Haters – “The Lost”
There are true haters are at the fringe of nearly every political group. The KKK, The Nation of Islam, and The New Black Panter Party represent some of the different corners of this dark group of people. 2 3 Or as Saletan puts it:
The first basket is the deplorables: people who love to hate. These are the folks who paint swastikas and write racial slurs on Twitter.
The two mistakes we can make with respect to these groups is (a) engage them only diplomatically or intellectually, because they are typically beyond reason, and (b) use them to paint everyone else in the opposing movement.
This is the mistake Hillary made in her “basket of deplorables” comment. Not only did she paint half of the conservative electorate with this (i.e. a majority), she really thought that this was the motive of most people supporting Trump. Accusing people of bad motives when they are not there? Not smart.
A positive response: We need to see these people as people who are really lost in an influential, hateful ideology. We can reach them by appealing to principles that we agree on – smaller government, less taxes, and meaningful protectionism where it is necessary. And we also need to stand them up with the truth that racism and hate are not valid means of living in this world, but destructive and ungodly. Hard people (I know, I’ve been one) need both affirmation of what is true that they hold to, plus a 2×4 to the head to awaken them from moral darkness.
2. The Pliable and Ignorant – “The Ready”
The second basket is people who liked Trump’s vilification of immigrants or agreed with him that Clinton didn’t “look like a president.” They’re easily manipulated.
Besides continuing to insult people, the author has unfortunately adopted a negative view towards those who have less education and are trusting that leaders can help them. But we are all a bit like this, trusting experts, and you have to choose – do you treat these people with respect, and try to lift them up by educating them, or do you talk down to them and manipulate them with cunning to get your desired result? The liberal author of the article seems to think that is how conservatives view people, but his use of this approach may speak more to how Democrats, who have earned the elitist “we know what’s best for you” approach see the people – as mere sheeple.
A positive response: Pliable people can be influenced, but we must also lift them up by teaching them to think better, regularly inculcating the “why” of what we are doing, not just bellowing war cries to get their adrenaline going. They may not be philosophers, but we need to show them that we respect them and expect more from them than obedience.
3. The Insensitive and Blind – “The Uninformed”
The third basket is people who don’t see racism or sexism anywhere.
The inability to see the plight of others is a human condition, the fruit of personal and spiritual immaturity. I have to admit, I don’t see or experience discrimination in my daily life, but that’s because I’m a white male. I teach my kids to respect and love the police, maybe because they’ve never unjustly hassled me. Being ostracized as a minority does suck, and I’ve experienced it on a few occasions.
Part of what has clouded our ability to see the plight of others, especially black America, is their poor choice of poster boys who are often thugs instead of truly innocent people. It’s like crying wolf – there is a wolf out there, but nobody is going to listen if you keep putting forth bad examples.
A positive response: We do need to get out into our downtrodden communities and find out how the feel, what they experience, and see things from their eyes. We are uninformed if we don’t understand the plight of the poor. And we need to evangelize our uninformed friends with a fuller perspective and a call to compassion that accompanies the truth.
4. The Minimizers – “The Ideologues”
The fourth basket is people who don’t think it’s a big deal. They shrug off Trump’s taped comments about grabbing women as “locker room talk.”
Again, this author is pejoratively putting his finger on something important – the fact that our ethical sensibilities get warped when we have an ideological agenda. We start to think that the ends justifies the means. That we can ignore bad character in order to get our political goals met.
In this case, both candidates were ethically compromised, so it wasn’t a case of justifying evil (as some did in the case of Trump’s awful confessions), but a case of lesser evils.
A positive response: We need to shut down any minimizing of evil – Trump’s remarks were part of misogynistic rape culture, just like Jay Z’s lyrics. Wherever we live, we need to promote decency. We need to warn our ideological friends that the ends NEVER justify the means, and such “cheating” ends up in disaster, not success.We also have to teach idealists how to prioritize their goals, and encourage 80% solutions, not 100% perfection.
5. The Lesser Evils – “The Pragmatists”
And the fifth basket is people who were genuinely troubled by the way Trump treated women, or the way he talked about a Mexican American judge or the mother of a Muslim American soldier, but who voted for him anyway, or stayed home, because they couldn’t stand Clinton.
So that last case of people he has some modicum of respect for, but not much. Heck, I even feel slimy for having voted for Trump. I guess I am a pragmatist. But to call me evil for making this decision? My friend the HippieHeretic is an Anabaptist who decided NOT to vote this time around for just that reason – he did not want to be culpable either way. I respect that, even if I disagree. I hope he sees my reasoning as well (he does, he just disagrees).
As a negative example, pragmatists encouraged Christians to vote for Hillary because contraception reduces pregnancies, and therefore abortions. Why not just be practical? Why aim for a mere legal prohibition, don’t you know that doesn’t work? The problem with this is that in cases of human rights, eventually you need to make a law. You can’t just provide economic incentives to stop murder and slavery. Pragmatism alone can be moral cowardice. 4
A positive response: I don’t think pragmatism is ethically compromised, so the only “corrective” I can think of for pragmatists is to encourage them to be a little MORE like the idealists below (not to be confused with the ideologues above) – they need to figure out when it is time to ruffle feathers and make change happen rather than just always take the path of least resistance. Sometimes you have to break stuff, because not doing so is moral cowardice.
6. Platform over Personality – “The Idealists”
The slate.com author did not mention this group, but I added them because it is an important group. The idealists work from the ivory tower – they work and vote from detached principle, and can overlook faults to reach their long term ends. I voted for Trump because I care most about the unborn, and the great effect that the lifetime appointment of SCOTUS judges makes.
A positive response: While voting and acting from principle is one of the higher forms of motivation, we can’t let our long term views and principles ignore the real moral evils in our midst. This detached view can lead to moral indifference just like pragmatism, and we need to ask our long term thinkers to consider the pain of those who are hurt in the short term. How do we help the poor if we reduce welfare? How do we help unwed mothers if we close down abortion mills? We can’t be so farsighted that people don’t matter (even if we are planning the best possible future for them).
Of course, none of these negative categories matter as much when you actually have a mature, ethically sound, thoughtful candidate. You can vote for them because you rightly believe in them. In that case, it doesn’t matter which group you fall into. But in any case, all people need to be respected as people, lifted up out of their faults with love and truth, and encouraged to be rightly motivated, to act ethically, and to be fully informed.
- The Five Baskets of Trump Voters (slate.com) ↩
- List of organizations designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups (wikipedia) ↩
- The New Black Panther Party (splcenter.org) ↩
- Hillary Clinton Is the Best Choice for Voters Against Abortion (christianpost.com) ↩