When Donald Trump was first elected he told someone close to him that he was shocked people were still treating him so badly. After all, he was now the President. His friend had said something like “welcome to politics, they still hate you.” I don’t remember the exact quote. There has never been a minute Trump has been in power that the media or the people on the left, or the Never Trump Republicans - treated him like the President. Not one second, not one day. He was elected by a slim margin, one the Democrats could not and did not believe nor accept. Many of them still do not.
For four years there has never been a President who has withstood so many sustained attacks against him by a group calling themselves “the resistance,” which meant if you voiced support for Trump your career was ruined. You could be fired. You could be kicked out of class. Just for supporting Trump. “Make America Great Again,” or “mega” was thought to be a symbol of white supremacy and racism - it still is by many who have never really gotten Trump’s reach across a spectrum of ideologies, class and skin color. They never got it because they didn’t want to get it. Everything they hated about the country was wrapped up in one “very very bad orange man,” to borrow a phrase from the conservative media.
These are simply facts. To say them at all is to put one’s entire reputation in danger and yet no one ever stopped to ask if any of this makes any sense. I did. I was a person whose daily life was absorbed in Trump hate. I was a classic centrist democrat with the blue check and everything. If you look at my Medium account you will find many lengthy pieces devoted to Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, mocking and shaming Bernie supporters and backing up the idea that Trump’s election was tantamount’s to Hitler’s.
It didn’t start to come apart for me until the Tom Cotton episode at the New York Times. The treatment of his essay, the reaction to it — that got two editors fired and sent Twitter into a two-day meltdown was not that big of a deal. Yet to this day if I bring it up to people I know on the left they sound like I’m talking about Kristallnacht.
What was Tom Cotton’s big crime? Well, being a Trump supporting Senator, for one thing. Trump was no doubt fanning the flames on Twitter, using words like “thugs” and “animals” to describe protesters, something unacceptable to the liberal left because they recall racist slurs against Civil Rights protesters. To give Cotton air time was to “normalize” that in the minds of the left. Trump had said the military would be necessary to calm the unrest. Trump’s Twitter bluster has always run in direct contrast with the actions of his presidency, much the way they do any one of us, myself included. Big tough twitter people are often people leading lives of quiet desperation in the real world. But people take Trump at his word on Twitter, they always have, probably because he’s, you know, the President of the United States who should not be tweeting stuff like that, whether it is serious or not.
But the problem with that story in the Times was that it reflected what a good majority of Americans thought and believed the night the protested erupted. They were scared. They were worried. Not just white Americans huddled with their guns and religion in the hinterlands, but lots of Americans who were polled and agreed by a majority that if the unrest could not be contained the military should be brought in. Cotton’s point was that it would not be the first time. Needless to say, Twitter had a meltdown over this - which eventually led to a meltdown at the Times, which was followed by firings there and at other outlets, which then sparked a wave of antiracism movements that sought to remove statues, implement changes at every school and even the Oscars.
The military were not sent in because high profile people protested that action and Trump, as he’s done so many times throughout his presidency, backed down. That part never gets told. They always talk about the threat but never how there was no follow-up action on the threat.
For me, that was the moment I knew I could no longer trust the press because it was controlled by Twitter - fear of public shaming, fear of losing their jobs, whatever it was they had become compromised in my mind. They were now in the business of perpetuating the narrative they wanted to be true and cared less about what was actually true.
Thus, I took to right wing Trump world to find out for myself what was true and what wasn’t. I listened to all of the podcasts, read all of the news - watched Fox News, watched Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. I watched all of Trump’s rallies, every last one of them. I listened to you tubers who supported Trump. And I listened to Trump himself, I looked at who he really was vs. the version of Trump the left believed existed. There was a stark difference in the two worlds. You will never find this out because there has been much too much invested in the cartoon version of Trump. Trust me, this story won’t be told for at least 20 years, maybe longer.
The main takeaway for me was how wrong people got the support for Trump, how they saw it as Hitler and fascism taking hold and that all of his supporters were like the marchers in Charlottesville. No matter how many times Trump did as they asked, disavowed white supremacy no one would accept it. They just didn’t believe it. So why did they keep asking him to do it?
I learned much about both sides in spending time in Trump world for myself. I saw the version of Trump the left believes exists — and I saw the real thing, who Trump supporters are and how they see Trump. What is heartbreaking to me is how journalists simply do not do this. They probably can’t because they’d be fired but even still, it is their job to see things objectively.
Trump supporters are people who can’t stand what has happened to American culture and appreciate that Trump has the guts to stand up to all of it. That’s the bulk of his base. Sure, there are white supremacists supporting Trump and evangelicals who believe Trump has been sent by God but you don’t get to 74 million voters with them. You need broader support. And much of that support, I came to find, was driven by people like me who can’t stand what has happened to the left of late.
The thing about cancel culture is that if you are accused of something you become the thing you are accused of. There is no mercy, no forgiveness. You are expected to vacate the premises immediately and never return. For four years that is what the left has been trying to do to Trump - cancel him. What he’s doing now is what he’s been doing for four years, what drives the left insane, and probably why he was elected in the first place — refusing to be canceled.
To Trump it’s personal. He knows that people like Nicole Wallace and Rachel Maddow and Rick Wilson and all of the New York Times and CNN and the Washington Post and everyone on Left Twitter who has made it their full time job to attack not just Trump but Melania Trump (my god, no shame) and Ivanka and everyone else who has worked for or likes or cares about Trump. They’ve been waiting for that moment when Trump finally goes down. They wanted to see it in real time. To watch him take a tumble visibly on camera. To break him. That never happened and likely never will happen.
To Trump, it doesn’t matter that he’s taking a wrecking ball to convention. When has he ever cared about that? He never has. He is a tear-down President who does what he wants, whenever he wants and however he wants. That is who he is. To my mind, the hatred and energy spent on him for the last four years has been a waste of time which could have been better spent trying to make policy changes, to work with Trump to get things done. All you have to do is flatter him and he’ll give you what you want. But instead, Trump hate become a full time job and a way for the media to profit.
Worse, for me personally it was something I’ll never unsee - the viciousness brought out in those closest to me. I was meant to understand it, because they believe it was justified but it was still hard to watch day in and day out for four long years. Watching them mock and vilify Melania was especially hard. I could not stand it after a time. It was ugly. And mean. Yet supposedly this is all just A-okay because Nazis.
Now, Trump will be treated like a pariah, even though he deserves to be counted as among the US Presidents in the United States because he was elected as such. All that will mean is that millions will continue believe the government is not theirs. That rift will continue to widen and who knows where it will end up. The left will not stop attacking Trump until they see him in jail. That is where this is all going because if Trump won’t give them what they so badly crave - visible defeat - they will continue hunting the beast.
Trump’s supporters watched for four long years as they were called “racists,” treated like human garbage, and their president attacked and delegitimized. Why would they want to accept defeat to a country that did that to him and to them? Yet, on on the left, it is expected and encouraged to continue down this line of absolute civil war — us and them. With no end in sight.
Trump may be trying to build his own “soft exit” to spare himself the humiliation of public defeat. His supporters, however, are true believers. Why wouldn’t they believe the left rigged the election after they did everything in their power, including impeachment, to get rid of Trump in the first place? They believe the Democrats would stop at nothing to unseat Trump for a second term. Trump is happy to go along with it, even though he knows he’s lost, because he is giving back just as hard as they gave it to him.
The way out of this mess is simply for the winning side to acknowledge their treatment of Trump’s supporters, the implicit and overt bias in the press, an election that actually was rigged by the massive media machine that surrounds it (true in 2016 too, only the target was Hillary, not Trump) and try to bridge the gap. It is on the left, not the right, to fix this - to rebuild trust.
There should be a reconciliation panel where witnesses can be heard, including Trump himself. It should be bi-partisan and fully transparent. Only this, I believe, will unite the country.
You might think this means I “admire” Trump. You probably will call me out in the comments or on Twitter as being a Trump supporter. I’ve been called every possible thing you can imagine on Twitter - probably a Trump supporter by now. But I do not belong to the fundamentalist religion on the left. I am no longer a registered Democrat. I am no longer looking to politics for my personal identity and life’s meaning. I did not vote for Trump. I don’t know who I will vote for in the years ahead. I hold out hope things will change.
But I don’t hate Trump or his supporters - this alone is practically a revolutionary act. To see so many people energized should be a good thing, not a bad thing. Whatever Trump has built is not going away so it is in the interest of our government and those who run it to end this endless war.
What I admire about Trump is the same thing I admire about Hillary - they are people who have been criticized viciously for years yet they remain standing and refuse to go away. If they can do it, anyone can.