I don’t like Donald Trump. I hope he’ll be merely a bad president and not a disastrous one. I don’t like Trumpism, either. I hope (but am not optimistic) the anecdotes of racially and sexist motivated violence are either exaggerated, reported only because they’re topical, or at least don’t represent a new trend. The night of the election I was depressed and worried. You might not believe it, but I didn’t sleep at all. Not a wink. I just lay awake in bed thinking about the future.

And yet, when people in my life criticize Trump or his supporters, I get very defensive for some reason. By “people in my life” I mean family members, close friends, coworkers, and people on the blogosphere. Even my belief that we do indeed need to understand our opponents represents a certain defensiveness because my go-to (with some past exceptions) is usually to understand Trump supporters or non-liberals in general and not to understand the liberals who oppose Trump.

Perhaps some of this has to do with “flippism,” an idea I got from Jaybird, a commenter Over There. In relevant part,

It’s the basic idea that if you don’t know which of two choices are before you, you should flip a coin. Not because you should do what the coin says, mind, but because the moment the coin is in the air, you’re a lot more likely to say “OH I HOPE IT’S HEADS” at which point you’ll know which choice you actually prefer in your gut.

Then you just have to figure out how much weight to give your gut.

I bring that up because hypocrisy can work that way for people who are on the fence. Let’s say that you’re torn on a particular policy. There’s this way, there’s that way… you don’t know which is the best one… then you encounter a hypocritical politician. Are you inclined to snort and reach conclusions about all those people? Are you inclined to get defensive and start defending the guy even before you read a single attack? Well, now you know what your gut thinks.

As upset as I was about Trump’s victory, I can’t deny that somewhere in my gut I wanted him to win, if not the presidency, then at least the GOP nomination, and not in the way that some liberals wanted him to win the nomination in order to ensure a Democratic victory. In the voting booth, even though I voted for Clinton, part of me wanted to vote for Trump just to be contrarian. In Sangamon that vote wouldn’t have affected the outcome, but it’s still something I might have done.

Some of this defensiveness and “gut support” is a luxury. I’m not among the demographics most likely to be hurt by Trumpism if the worst (or even just the “moderately bad”) predictions about what it means come true. Some of it is probably also due to what my co-blogger Oscar recently described as the “-ism-lite,” which is the type of racism (and other ism’s) that are not quite as nefarious or bad as the more obvious or open kinds, but are still wrong and withal easy for its practitioners to overlook. As he puts, it instead of rejecting out of hand, “I have to parse it, process it, and then I recognize it and decide it’s not OK.”

I realize that in this post, other than noting that I do get defensive, I haven’t really explained the defensiveness or even the types of situations that elicit that defensiveness. I’m simply noting that it’s there and I’m not sure what to do with it.

Category: Statehouse

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6 Responses to Trump and defensiveness

  1. SFG says:

    You’re a member of the Red Tribe–rural, southern, etc. Trump’s people are your people, even if you don’t like the guy himself. Tribalism is natural and instinctual. You’re just being human.

    How much weight you want to give your gut, as you said, is up to you.

    • SFG says:

      Addendum: Sorry, thought you were trumwill. This site confuses me.

      (I think the argument still holds, but…)

      • No problem. (One way to tell the difference between me and Will is that he’s a much better writer.)

        I think in many ways you’re actually right in your diagnosis. I probably lean more instinctively to the red tribe even though I’m not really in that tribe. And you’re right that the gut is just the starting point. The end point is, as you said, what we do with it.

  2. Mike Schilling says:

    I;m nit conflicted at all. Trump is a vile buffoonish narcissistic baby, and eventually (say, next week) he’s going to offend the wrong country and start World War III.

    • You’re obviously a much better person than I am.

      • That was rude of me. Most of what you’re saying is reasonable. And yet, while you’re where you are, I am where I am. Maybe someday your knee will jerk toward endorsing things you know are wrong, or maybe it never will. And if it never does, then maybe that’s because you have a stronger character than I do.

        I don’t mean that snarkily, either. Some people really have stronger character and are better able/willing to choose the right path. That’s not me, though, as much as I wish it were. If I were ever, truly tested, I hope I would finally do the right thing. In the meantime, it’s so easy to be brave on the internet.

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