In “The Death of Compassion” Mr. Blow says the Trump phenomenon is devoid of compassion, and we must be closed to compromise. Mr. Kristof tells us that “Even if Trump Is the Enemy, His Voters Aren’t,” and then he tells us not to adopt Trump’s trick of “otherizing” people, even Trump supporters. It’s unusual that I feel compelled to put in a comment to Mr. Kristof this time “Sheri” from New Mexico has something to say. Ms. Collins says “Trump Is Bad For Water and Puppies,” and that maybe the president keeps talking crazy to divert attention from the fact that he doesn’t have anything else to report. Here’s Mr. Blow:
Folks, we have been here before.
After Ronald Reagan, a celebrity-turned-politician, carried 49 states in his devastating defeat of Walter Mondale in 1984, Democrats were whining and moaning, shuffling their feet and scratching their heads.
Reagan had done particularly well with those who would come to be known as Reagan Democrats — white, working-class voters, particularly in the Rust Belt, whom a New York Times contributor would later describe as “blue-collar, ethnic voters,” who were drawn to Reagan’s messages of economic growth and nationalistic pride.
But just like Donald Trump’s path to victory, Reagan’s was strewn with racial hostilities and prejudicial lies.
While Trump’s tropes involved Mexicans and Muslims and that tired euphemism of disastrous inner cities, Reagan used the “welfare queen” scare, as far back as his unsuccessful bid for president in 1976.
As I have written before, Reagan explained at nearly every stop that there was a woman in Chicago who “used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent, deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.”
But it was not as it seemed.
As my colleague Paul Krugman wrote in 2007: “Reagan repeatedly told the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen — a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud. He never mentioned the woman’s race, but he didn’t have to.”
As Gene Demby perfectly summed up on NPR in 2013: “In the popular imagination, the stereotype of the ‘welfare queen’ is thoroughly raced — she’s an indolent black woman, living off the largess of taxpayers. The term is seen by many as a dog whistle, a way to play on racial anxieties without summoning them directly.”
So, then as now, economic anxiety and throbbing xenophobia were convenient shields behind which brewing racial animus could hide.
Indeed, Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again” was first used by Reagan.
And yet, Democrats in 1984 were quick to look for the lessons they could learn on how to reach out to the Reagan coalition, instead of condemning it.
In the days following Reagan’s win that year, The New York Times reported:
“Democratic Party leaders began yesterday what they foresee as a long and agonizing appraisal of how they can renew their appeal to the white majority in presidential elections and still hold the allegiance of minorities, the poor and others who seek federal assistance.”
In a telephone interview with The Times for the article, then-Representative James R. Jones of Oklahoma, a fiscal conservative, said, “I think we should adopt the slogan of compassionate conservatism.” He continued, “We can be fiscally conservative without losing our commitment to the needy and we must redirect our policy in that direction.”
But in truth, there was no compassion to be had in that conservatism then — and definitely not now.
In 1981, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., who was then president of the National Urban League, stung the Reagan administration:
“I do not challenge the conservatism of this administration. I do challenge its failure to exhibit a compassionate conservatism that adapts itself to the realities of a society ridden by class and race distinction.”
But while Reagan at least operated under the veneer of positivity and hopefulness with the language of a “shining city on a hill,” Trump has pursued a blatant appeal to anger and hostility with his talk of a nation in decline.
Over the years, compassionate conservatism has had its moments, including being espoused by Jack Kemp and President George W. Bush. That all feels like quaint, retrospective ephemera now.
Compassionate conservatism is dead; Trump and his band of backward-thinking devotees killed it.
Trump is rushing headlong into Muslim bans and mass deportations, wall building and Obamacare dismantling. Indeed, it feels like the campaign promises Trump is keeping have to do with cruelty and those he’s flip-flopping on have to do with character.
For instance, it is now abundantly clear that Trump had no intention whatsoever of draining the swamp in Washington. He is simply restocking it to his liking.
This is why I have no patience for liberal talk of reaching out to Trump voters. There is no more a compromise point with those who accept, promote and defend bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia than there is a designation of “almost pregnant.”
Trump is a cancer on this country and resistance is the remedy. The Trump phenomenon is devoid of compassion, and we must be closed to compromise.
No one need try to convince me otherwise. The effort is futile; my conviction is absolute. This is a culture war in which truth is the weapon, righteousness the flag and passion the fuel.
Fight, fight, fight. And when you are finished, fight some more. Victory is the only acceptable outcome when freedom, equality and inclusion are at stake.
And now here’s Mr. Kristof:
A few days ago, I blithely tweeted a warning that Democrats often sound patronizing when speaking of Trump voters. That provoked a vehement reaction.
[the text of his tweet, which will not embed for me, is “Yes! Democrats still too often sound patronizing when they speak of Trump voters, and it’s hard to recruit people you’re patronizing.”]
“Sorry,” Jason tweeted back, “but if someone is supporting a racist ignoramus who wants to round up brown ppl and steal my money, I’m gonna patronize.”
“This is normalization of a hateful ideology and it’s shameful,” protested another.
“My tone isn’t patronizing,” one person responded. “It’s hostile. Intentionally. I won’t coddle those who refuse to recognize my humanity.”
“What a great idea!” another offered. “Let’s recruit a whole bunch of bigoted unthinking lizard brains because we could possibly ‘WIN!’”
And so the comments went, registering legitimate anxieties about President Trump — but also the troubling condescension that worried me in the first place. I fear that the (richly deserved) animus toward Trump is spilling over onto all his supporters.
I understand the vehemence. Trump is a demagogue who vilifies and scapegoats refugees, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, racial minorities, who strikes me as a danger to our national security. By all means stand up to him, and point out his lies and incompetence. But let’s be careful about blanket judgments.
My hometown, Yamhill, Ore., a farming community, is Trump country, and I have many friends who voted for Trump. I think they’re profoundly wrong, but please don’t dismiss them as hateful bigots.
The glove factory closed down. The timber business slimmed. Union jobs disappeared. Good folks found themselves struggling and sometimes self-medicated with methamphetamine or heroin. Too many of my schoolmates died early; one, Stacy Lasslett, died of hypothermia while she was homeless.
This is part of a national trend: Mortality rates for white middle-aged Americans have risen, reflecting working-class “deaths of despair.” Liberals purport to champion these people, but don’t always understand them.
In Yamhill, plenty of well-meaning people were frustrated enough that they took a gamble on a silver-tongued provocateur. It wasn’t because they were “bigoted unthinking lizard brains,” but because they didn’t know where to turn and Trump spoke to their fears.
Trump tries to “otherize” Muslims, refugees, unauthorized immigrants and other large groups. It sometimes works when people don’t actually know a Muslim or a refugee, and liberals likewise seem more willing to otherize Trump voters when they don’t know any.
There are three reasons I think it’s shortsighted to direct liberal fury at the entire mass of Trump voters, a complicated (and, yes, diverse) group of 63 million people.
First, stereotyping a huge slice of America as misogynist bigots is unfair and impairs understanding. Hundreds of thousands of those Trump supporters had voted for Barack Obama. Many are themselves black, Latino or Muslim. Are they all bigots?
Second, demonizing Trump voters feeds the dysfunction of our political system. One can be passionate about one’s cause, and fight for it, without contributing to political paralysis that risks making our country ungovernable.
Tolerance is a liberal value; name-calling isn’t. This raises knotty questions about tolerating intolerance, but is it really necessary to start with a blanket judgment writing off 46 percent of voters?
When Trump demonizes journalists as “the enemy of the American people,” that is an outrageous overstep. But suggesting that Trump voters are enemies of the people is also inappropriate.
The third reason is tactical: It’s hard to win over voters whom you’re insulting.
Many liberals argue that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and that the focus should be on rallying the base and fighting voter suppression efforts. Yes, but Democrats flopped in Congress, governor races and state legislatures. Republicans now control 68 percent of partisan legislative chambers in the U.S.
If Democrats want to battle voter suppression, it’s crucial to win local races — including in white working-class districts in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere.
Yes, a majority of Trump voters are probably unattainable for Democrats, but millions may be winnable. So don’t blithely give up on 63 million people; instead, make arguments directed at them. Fight for their votes not with race-baiting but with economic pitches for the working and middle classes.
Clinton’s calling half of Trump voters “deplorables” achieved nothing and probably cost her critical votes. Why would Democrats repeat that mistake?
Yes, the Trump camp includes some racists and other bigots. But it’s a big camp, and let’s not be so quick to affix labels on every member of a vast group.
This column may offend everyone, from Trump enthusiasts to liberals who decry them. But my message is simple:
Go ahead and denounce Trump’s lies and bigotry. Stand firm against his disastrous policies. But please don’t practice his trick of “otherizing” people into stick-figure caricatures, slurring vast groups as hopeless bigots. We’re all complicated, and stereotypes are not helpful — including when they’re of Trump supporters.
So apparently it’s just fine when Bobo Brooks stereotypes liberals, but we have to suck it up… Gotcha, Nick. Here’s what “Sheri” in New Mexico had to say to him:
“OK — 63 million aren’t deplorable…just 62 million are…Really, Mr. Kristof. I almost always enjoy reading your columns and think you are a man of conscience, but you are going too far with this one. In WHAT way did Hillary Clinton indicate that she didn’t care about the economic conditions around the country? She cared, but they refused to hear her. That makes them at least stupid if not deplorable.”
Now here’s Ms. Collins:
And now, things that are Really Happening in the world of Donald Trump.
We bring you this list as a public service. It’s easy to be distracted by all the strange/contradictory/awful things the president says. For instance, a lot of people were stunned when he responded to a question about anti-Semitic attacks in the United States by citing his winning numbers in the Electoral College. Then, when the question came up again and he yelled at the reporter who asked it.
Much, much later, Trump did read a statement denouncing racism and anti-Semitism. But even that seemed … worrisome. It’s not just that an elected official should know how to answer that question without a lot of prep work. Everybody should know how to answer that question. Your 3-year-old nephew. Your Uber driver. Uncle Fred who gets drunk at Thanksgiving. Nobody gets to ask for a script.
Maybe he keeps talking crazy to divert attention from the fact that he doesn’t have anything else to report. In Washington, outside of the ongoing disaster that is immigration policy, actual changes have been sparse. A lot of the departments don’t have new staffs yet — and some never will if Trump keeps insisting on only hiring people who never said anything negative about him during the campaign.
However, some little gremlins have been busy on the government websites, clearing out unpleasant information on issues like climate change. The Department of Agriculture has taken down its list of violators of the Animal Welfare Act, including “puppy mills” rife with dangerous and unsanitary conditions.
The justification for that one seemed to involve concern that the list violated the privacy of people who are terrible to little dogs. It’s hard to say for sure, since no one is picking up the phone at the headless Department of Agriculture. But if you’ve got a Republican member of Congress, be sure to go to the next town meeting and yell, “What about the puppies?”
Trump, who likes to be thought of as a decider, showed his stuff this week, resolving a dispute between two of his top appointees. It was a surprising development — who knew there were enough cabinet members in place for a fight? The battle featured Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in an argument over transgender rights.
Sessions, in one of his very first moves on the job, had decided to reverse a federal guideline that public schools should let transgender students use the bathroom of their choice. DeVos — who knew she had it in her? — objected. Trump sided with Sessions, taking what appeared to be the opposite position from the one he espoused during the campaign.
The president, it turns out, is more conservative on social issues than the guy who was running in all those primaries against Ted Cruz. Now, with virtually nothing to lose, he’s gotten worse. Wow.
This gets depressing really fast. No wonder we’re looking for distractions. Everything weird going on in the world seems to have a Trump connection. For instance, there’s that assassination story involving the North Korean dictator — the guy who has, um, a really strange hairdo. His estranged half brother was mysteriously murdered in a bizarre assault. One of the women arrested claimed she believed the whole thing was a segment of a TV reality show. Just saying.
Congress, meanwhile, has just been sort of wandering around, trying to avoid thinking about health care or schedule any town meetings. Repealing Obama-era regulations is just about the only thing getting accomplished:
Guns: Last week our lawmakers took a very strong stance protecting the right of Americans to purchase guns despite severe mental impairment. Thanks, Congress!
The House and Senate voted to repeal a background check rule that screened out people who are receiving special Social Security benefits because mental problems made it impossible for them to work or even manage their own money. The National Rifle Association calls this “Obama’s unconstitutional gun grab.” Because, obviously, just because you can’t handle a Social Security check doesn’t mean you can’t handle an assault weapon.
Clean Water: Another repealed regulation prohibited coal companies from dumping their waste into streams. When he signed the bill, Trump claimed the change would save “many thousands of American jobs,” which is of course completely nuts, unless polluting the water is going to eliminate competition from natural gas. The federal estimate of lost jobs is around 260 per year.
Free the oil and gas companies: Trump also signed a bill repealing a rule that publicly traded oil, gas and mining companies had to disclose payments they make to foreign governments.
Talk about keeping your campaign promises. The president vowed to get rid of useless regulations, and already he’s opened the road for dirty Appalachian water and oil companies bribing other governments. With mentally deranged gunmen waiting on his desk.