I probably shouldn't be writing this. I am afraid that this will cause some of my friends on the left to hate me while at the same time causing some of my friends on the right to feel a bit of justification that they really shouldn't feel. So while I am a bit worried about what the reactions to this post might entail I am going to write it anyway because I feel it needs to be said.
As the title says this is about defending some Trump voters, not all of them. Some of them are white nationalists and some are ignorantly anti-Muslim and some are blatant sexists. I am not defending them. The Trump voters I am defending are the ones who feel so left behind and so frightened by the way they see things going in America that they voted for anything to cause the country to change direction in the hope that things might get better for them. These people would have never voted for Hillary Clinton because to them she represents more of the same, or worse. I am a liberal city dweller. I like the way things are going. The economy is doing much better, jobs are plentiful, every state in the country now recognizes my marriage. Things are pretty good for me. But if I wasn't a liberal city dweller I might have a different outlook.
In rural America the unemployment rate is much higher than it is in urban America. Rural America is shrinking, the factory jobs have left, it is very difficult to make a living farming, drug usage is on the rise, and the rest of the country looks at you as backwards, racist, at best "quaint". People are seeing their small towns dying right before their eyes and it frightens them. Things did not seem to improve much for rural America during the Obama Administration and many rural Americans wondered if they could survive 4 more years of the same kinds of policies. This led many of them to vote for Donald Trump.
Many of these voters would have voted for Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio if one of them had won the Republican nomination, but when Trump was nominated as the Republican's presidential candidate their votes followed. I don't believe most of these rural voters are racist (at least not any more than any of the rest of us white folk who are benefiting from a racist system are), I don't believe most of them go out of their way to be sexists or anti-Muslim either. I'm sure some of them have some pretty unsavory traits but it is hard for me to believe they are all terrible people. What they are is desperate people, frightened people, people who feel like they have been ignored and left behind and this turned their votes to an outsider. In this case the outsider was Trump.
I have heard friends ask how I can say they aren't racist or sexist or anti-Muslim when they voted for a candidate who is a racist and a sexist and anti-Muslim. To answer this I think we need to look at ourselves.
In 1992 Bill Clinton ran for president and during the campaign we found out that he had been less than faithful to his wife. We were told by Gennifer Flowers that she had been involved in a 12 year affair with Bill Clinton, something Clinton denied. Then Flowers produced recordings of conversations she had held with Bill Clinton and Clinton was actually forced to apologize to Mario Cuomo for comments he had made about him on the tapes. There was no way to not take Flowers' claims seriously. Even though I knew all of this I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. Does that make me a cheater or a womanizer?
In 1993 the subject of gays in the military came before President Clinton. As Commander in Chief he could have simply removed the ban on gays serving in the military. Of course he realized that this could have cost him a huge amount of political capital and so instead of acting he turned the decision over to Congress who produced a convoluted piece of legislation that President Clinton signed and which led to a dramatic increase in the number of gay and lesbian service members being kicked out of the military. In 1994 President Clinton pushed for passage of his Omnibus Crime Bill which expanded the death penalty and led to a massive increase in the number of people incarcerated in America, African American men making up a huge part of the increase. This was a racist piece of legislation. Some may say that its effects were unintended but this legislation was publicly promoted by President Clinton and his wife by using exceptionally racist language which can leave no doubt about the legislation's intent.
In 1996 Bill Clinton ran for reelection and I voted for him a second time. So I voted for a candidate who threw gay and lesbian service members under the bus to avoid problems for himself and who pushed for the passage of a racist, fear mongering, piece of legislation that was promoted with horribly racist language. Since I voted for this candidate, twice, does that make me anti-gay and racist?
I don't bring any of this up to attack Bill Clinton, plenty of people have been doing that for years and he isn't even in the same league of terrible as Donald Trump. I bring this up to show that we all choose to ignore some pretty terrible things in the candidates we vote for because we like at least part of what they are saying, or just as often we ignore their faults simply because they are on our team. If Bill Clinton had been a Republican Democrats would still be talking about him like he was the spawn of Satan. Instead we stand up and cheer him, with his racism problems and his problems with throwing gay folk under the bus and his womanizing as part of our consciousness. If we had acted towards Bill Clinton the way we are now expecting Trump voters to have acted we would have elected Bob Dole.
I think Donald Trump is a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, and completely unqualified to be president. I don't believe all of the people who voted for him are racists and sexists and xenophobes though because I don't think I am an anti-gay, womanizing, racist even though I voted twice for a person who could be accused of being these things.
All politicians are carrying around some pretty heavy baggage and every time we vote we choose to ignore most of the baggage of the candidate we are voting for. Most of Trump's supporters did the exact same thing, and while Trump is hauling around a lot more and a lot heavier baggage than any other presidential candidate in my lifetime it doesn't mean that all of the people who voted for him are carrying the same matching luggage. If we are honest with ourselves we are all hypocrites in some way, we become even more hypocritical if we refuse to admit this.
Trump is an embarrassment to our country, some of his supporters are also pretty horrible people, but not all of them. Probably not most of them. If we treat them like terrible people they will all go out and vote for Trump again in 4 years. We don't want that to happen. Treat good people well, and voting for Trump, by itself, does not keep someone from being a good person. Lets show people what we really stand for, and I don't think what we stand for involves condemning anyone we disagree with.