We might want to add personal friendships to the havoc Donald Trump is wreaking on the Republican party and the USA’s international reputation. Elections have a way of dropping a cleaver between next door neighbors. For example, you can’t believe the Blows across the street have put up a McCain-Palin or Romney yard sign. Have they lost their minds? But eventually Election Day comes and goes and things settle back to waving as you pass on the street and making jokes at block parties.
This time though … . There’s something so unequivocal about Donald Trump’s ethics and mental fitness that listening to someone, an acquaintance or neighbor, say they’re for the guy is like having a rusty spike driven into your mental data-bank. You’re not likely to forgive it. You’re certainly never going to forget.
In terms of deal-breakers, support for Trump is such a reckless display of poor judgment and contorted logic that it’s just not possible to shrug it off and ignore it. Trumpism leaves a permanent stain. Put simply, as a test of intelligence, by which I mean the ability to make rational judgments on matters of importance, support for Trump self-identifies you as someone indifferent (at best) to common sense and decency as well as a person comfortable with blatantly racist sentiments. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time stirring up a batch of gin and tonics for people like that.
As an old, not particularly enlightened friend once said to his (third) wife at a school fund-raiser filled with Filipino parents, “NOK, D.” (“Not our kind, dear.”)
Now I’m as guilty as anyone with the temporary cleaver thing. I can rant and fume with the best of them. But even in the case of George W. Bush, prior to Trump the least qualified, most intellectually lazy guy to run for President in my lifetime, I could process Joe and Sally Blow thinking he was a better bet for economic improvement and national security than Al Gore or John Kerry. The Blows were spectacularly wrong on both counts. But I could get to what formed their decision, albeit the fact that they always do the tribal thing and vote Republican probably accounted for 80% of their decision.
But cynical bigotry never entered into my assessment of their choice, or their fundamental values. White privilege, maybe. But a racist impulse? No.
I also get the rote tribal denunciations of Hillary Clinton as a “liar”, never mind fact-checkers like PolitiFact regularly rating her among the most honest of today’s national politicians. “Lying Hillary” is standard-issue competitive political “messaging”, especially important to today’s Republicans who quite literally have no coherent, detailed policy on any important public issue. (If you can think of one, e-mail me.) Whipping up Hillary hatred is pretty much their entire game this season.
Likewise, I get the psychological profile of the crowd packing into Trump rallies. Hell, I even pity them. If for no other reason than self-pity seems to be their primary emotional default. With that crowd the odds of the “knowing better” about a lot of things, not just politicians, are slim from the start.
But harder — make that “nearly impossible” — to understand and tolerate are traditional tribal Republicans supporting Trump so long after evidence of his bigotry-enabling rhetoric has become indisputable, and as I say, become a stain on the reputation of the party/tribe. These people, like the Blows across the street, are normally pretty confident of their savvy and quality judgment. My assumption is that while they’re much too Minnesotan to make a show of it, they count themselves among life’s winners. People who paid attention, worked hard and have put some separation between themselves and the spittle-flecked herd.
Somewhere in their better-than-average educated, normally placid brains a snake has uncoiled and revealed their kinship with a crowd that is unabashed in their enthusiasm for dog whistle racial rhetoric and a career of managerial incompetence verging on fraud.
Way, way back the nuns at St.Joe’s in Montevideo taught me to forgive. There are worse crimes committed every day than showing yourself to be an agitated fool. But making a show of supporting Donald frickin’ Trump is like telling the world you’re so far around the bend you don’t give a damn who out there will never forget.
Bottom line: More gin and tonic for me.