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To fight Trump, empathize with his voters

(Sam Anderson/ Daily Collegian)

In the past, I have written articles entitled “Don’t block or unfriend, learn” and “Listen when you argue to truly understand,” that have challenged liberals to listen to the views of those they politically disagree with. The underlying message that I hoped to convey in those articles is that it is difficult for liberals, myself included, to make up ground in politics until we realize that the best way to gain voters is to figure out why the people we disagree with believe what they do. Still, I’ve received feedback from various friends, family and social media commenters who say that they disagree with me. In this article, I want to be clear: listening to Trump voters, understanding why they voted the way they did, not only bridges the political divide in this country, it also makes liberalism less abrasive to those who currently do not agree with it, and it hurts Trump.

One common response I’ve heard to some of my articles is that we should not normalize Trump’s behavior, and that those who voted for Trump are inexcusable, no matter what. After all, it was their votes that elected Trump. I’m thinking toward future elections, though. Liberals need to make sure that swing voters who voted for Trump are not put-off by liberal candidates. To beat Trump in upcoming elections, it would be smart for liberals to persuade a portion of Trump’s voter base.

President Trump and his administration are terrible, and their policies assault the core tenets of this nation, such as freedom of speech, immigration and education, among many others. Yes, Trump must be fought at every turn. I support the protests that we have seen on this campus and throughout the country. I have been to protests and rallies on campus and I am glad there are organizers who do the work they do. Additionally, understanding Trump voters does not mean abandoning liberal ideals; it just means we need to listen, too. To close our minds to the different kinds of Trump voters only hurts the chances of removing Trump and his administration from office.

There is a distinction between Trump voters and current Trump supporters. There are people who voted for Trump for personal reasons, maybe because they saw their livelihoods slipping away and saw Trump as a change in the system. Many people just saw Trump as the better of two bad options. Of course, there are also Trump voters who voted for him because they are bigots, racists or misogynists.

The people I talk about when I say understand Trump voters are the people who align closer with the first demographic I just mentioned, the people who voted for him, but half-heartedly. Many Trump voters already do not support Trump anymore. We know these people exist because Trump’s job approval rating, according to Gallup, hovers in the low 40’s and is currently at 44 percent. This is already lower than when he was elected. The goal for liberals should be to make sure that the people who no longer support Trump do not vote for him, or other Republicans, in the future midterm and presidential elections. These are swing voters, and the best way to win them over is to understand their situation.

Listening to these people, making liberalism tolerable and accepting, is what can help people switch sides. Again, I reiterate that Trump is a nauseating president. An important way to fight him is to take out his voter base. If Trump is to be stopped, liberals need to make sure that the people who (reluctantly) gravitated toward Trump do not vote for the Republican party again.

Joe Frank is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at jrfrank@umass.edu.

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