Dave Weigel at WaPo interviewed some liberals who are voting in the GOP primaries. Among them is a gentleman named Tom Paquin of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cambridge is home to Harvard, MIT, and a median household income of over $75,000. Paquin complains about “the neanderthals in Western Massachusetts.” If you’re not from New England, this might not be clear to you: when he talks about “Western Massachusetts,” he means “poor people.”
I’m not sure if Paquin is a liberal or a conservative, but I’m sure he’s part of the problem that has contributed to the Trump phenomenon. Donald Trump is a monster. Like all powerful political monsters, he’s drawing not only from the genuinely awful hard core of racism and intolerance in the country, but also from a lot of scared people who are allowing their fear to push them towards demagoguery and nativism. You can confront a monster like Trump in a few ways. You can play precisely to the narrative that he’s using by trying to manipulate his party’s primary, acting like exactly the meddling liberals he accuses you of being, and speaking with naked, classist contempt for several million people. Or you can try and peel off many of the people who have rallied under his banner by showing them that you take their economic distress seriously and that the fight for economic and social justice can help them too, if they are willing to join it.
One of American liberalism’s many abundant problems is an ingrained sense that the people it most needs to convince are somehow not worthy of the effort. Well, it’s a terrible mistake to support Trump. But in democracy, your job is to convince the people who believe terrible things to stop. Merely judging them makes you feel better. Convincing them makes the world better. Stokely Carmichael said, “If a white man wants to lynch me, that’s his problem. If he’s got the power to lynch me, that’s my problem.” And if 30 people support a monster like Trump, that’s their problem. If 30 million do, that’s our problem. So decide if you’d rather fix that problem or make yourself feel good by laughing about it.