To My Friends Who Still Love Trump, Again

Reuters/Leah Millis

t’s been six months since I last wrote to you. Some of you no longer fall into the category of those who love Donald Trump, but some of you probably still do. Which side you now belong to is something I don’t know, and I’m responsible for that. Why? Because up until this point, I didn’t want to know, or more specifically, I have been afraid to know. Let me explain why.

For so many Democrats like me, Trump was a known quantity from the start. It all began in 2011 with birtherism and descended from there, to his attacks on immigrants, his abuse of war heroes and the disabled, his pride at being a violent sex offender . . . and this was all before he was elected. And yet it went downhill from there, through Charlottesville, through his capitulation to our enemies, through his abuse of power and extortion of another country to serve his political interests, and so much more.

And then 2020 came, and with it, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, most of whom would still be alive today had we been led by nearly any other human with a modicum of interest and competence. But then, finally (we can only hope), we watched together the violent incitement of an attempted overthrow of our democracy. It was the final straw for many who have been immersed in their ignorance.

For the last five years, we kept hearing how Trump’s latest deed was unprecedented, “a new low,” and it became increasingly clear that the only way to put an end to it was an election. And then, even when we thought we had reached the end, we still hadn’t. These last five years have been a long downward spiral led by a man who is devoid of empathy, morality, responsibility and competence.

But many of us knew this was a risk from the very first days. You accused us of being elitist condescending haters — of disrespecting a president who respected no one, except perhaps the enemies of our democracy — but our dominant emotion wasn’t hate. It was fear.

Those fears have now been validated, but in our eternal optimism (or at least mine), I am certain we will emerge a better country. If there is a silver lining to the desecration we witnessed, it is the stark confirmation of our fears to a point that is now beyond dispute, and that has unshackled many once-Trump-loving followers from their alternative reality. The coalition of never-Trumpers, Democrat, Republican and Independent, were right all along about a future we never wanted to be right about.

But now, we must assess the damage and our ability to repair it, including the prospect of restoring our relationships with our friends, families, neighbors and colleagues — the people like you who deeply believed that Donald Trump was the best leader for the United States of America. Yes, we feared the loss of our democracy, or worse, but the most personally distressing circumstance of the last five years was the loss of you, not him. This is why, at a certain point, we couldn’t even talk to you about it. Trump became so much a part of your identity that any criticism of him — any expression of our concern or disgust with his behavior — was perceived as an insult to you. The less disruptive option was silence, and that only drove us further apart.

This dynamic compounded our estrangement, because with each transgression, we thought to ourselves, How about now? Does this do it? Is this a deal breaker? Is this the event that will finally reel you back into reality? Is this the moment when you can see, as we long have, the insanity, the destruction, the reality that this man has never understood right from wrong, has never cared about our country, and has never cared about you? He doesn’t care about you.

At a certain point we stopped asking because it became clear there was no bottom — no amount of desecration or violation that could break his spell over you. Our fears have never been all about him — we knew what he was. It’s been about you. It is painful to imagine that you — someone we care for and respect, could not see what we see, and with each horrific step, that pain has only increased. That’s why, after years of disappointment, we no longer even wanted to know what you were thinking.

But now we must know. So, with the events of January 6th fresh in our minds, we must ask again:

How about now?

Where there is great fear, there is no empathy. Where there is great empathy, there is no fear.

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