[Commentary]: Don Lemon Perfectly Sums Up Why People Cut Ties With Donald Trump’s Supporters
Ever since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency in June, 2015, millions of Americans were enraptured by his bellicose, crass, and unpolished rhetoric. This was not because they were unabashed racists like Trump. Rather, the people who were quickly and unshakingly seduced by Trump felt that his off-the-cuff style was a refreshing break from the arid, scripted performance politicians generally rely upon when interacting with their constituents.
Trump must be credited with his ability to sell the image he crafted for himself – that he was a successful New York City real estate mogul, awash in cash and king of the Concrete Jungle.
His character on The Apprentice, a billionaire who fires people for failing to complete fools errands at his behest, convinced huge swaths of the electorate that the gilded offices and gritty authority were the “reality” of Trump’s life.
Those who dared challenge this brilliantly executed lie were subject to cruelty, rage, and threats.
There was never any allusion to Trump’s lifelong business failures, his billion-dollar-plus personal debts, his refusal to pay his bills, his decades-long tax avoidance schemes, or the dozens of women who have credibly accused him of sexual misconduct. Media reports of the depths of Trump’s corruption were ignored.
Nay, to the embittered blue-collar white laborer, Trump was a wealthy winner who got things done and would disrupt the political establishment that has left so many Americans behind.
There were also individuals who did not particularly like Trump or agree with his bigoted brand, but that was outweighed by their irrational hatred of Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent in the 2016 race, who overwhelmingly won the national popular vote.
For a while, at least, that excuse was somewhat forgivable, despite Trump having launched his White House bid by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals, his history of racist behavior, such as refusing to rent apartments to black people in the 1970s, or his habitual “jokes” about Jewish people’s stereotyped knack for handling money.
By the time the 2016 presidential election had arrived, Trump’s discourse had become nearly indistinguishable from what was generally resigned to the most extreme fringes of the American right, and it earned him endorsements from white nationalist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Conservative propaganda outlets like Fox News operated – and still continue to function – as kerosene to Trump’s incessant and obvious gaslighting.
And yet, 63 million Americans, including friends and members of my own family with whom I had close relationships, cast their ballots for Trump. By this point, any wiggle room I was willing to give them had evaporated.
Why, I have asked myself on countless occasions, are white people so angry? The United States was founded by and for rich white landowners, who owned slaves and established themselves as a New-World, “self-governed” gentry. The answer eventually became clear – that racism is more deeply ingrained in American culture than I and so many others had ever realized.
I admit, my inherent privilege of birth – based not on merit, but on the color of my skin – acted like blinders, albeit unintentional ones, to the horrific injustices that continue to plague our society.
As I have meandered down the unpredictable path of adulthood, I have elected to grow, learn, listen, and understand. Trump supporters, however, cling to their prejudices, weaponizing them against the very democracy and liberties they profess to defend.
It is for these reasons that those who continue to beholden themselves to Trump do not deserve my sympathy, my friendship, or my forgiveness. They are a direct, menacing threat to the safety, well-being, and by extention, the existence of myself, my friends, and my community.
On Thursday night, CNN’s Don Lemon explained to his colleague Chris Cuomo why he too feels this way:
You know what the sad thing is, and I’ll be honest with you. I have many people who I love in my life, and yeah I come from a red state and I’ve lived in several red states, there are a lot of friends I had to really get rid of because they are so non-sensical when it comes to this issue. They have to hold every single talking point they hear on state TV, and that they hear from this president. They repeat it and they are blinded by it, and when I said to you the other night, ‘there’s no way, they can’t believe it, I was just goosing you in a way, right?’
Here’s the thing: I had to get rid of them because they’re too far gone. I try and I try and I try, they say something really stupid and then I’ll show them the science and I’ll give them the information, and they still repeat those talking points, and all the while, the state [in which they reside] was a [COVID-19] hotspot… the red states have taken over the blue states where people came in because there’s bigger cities and there’s more transmission [of the virus] obviously where there are more people closer together. And so now red states are the problem.
I had to get rid of a lot of people in my life because sometimes you’ve just got to let them go. I think they have to hit rock bottom like an addict, right? And they have to want to get help, they have to want to know the truth, they have to want to live in reality, they have to want to be responsible not only for other people’s lives but for their lives. So you know what? It’s so sad and I don’t know if after this I will ever be able to go back and be friends with those people because at a certain point you just say they’re too far gone and I gotta let ’em go and if they’re willing to come back and willing to live in reality, then I will welcome them with open arms but I can’t do it anymore.
CNN’s @donlemon: "I have many people who I love in my life … There are a lot of friends I had to really get rid of because they are so non-sensical when it comes to [Trump]. If they’re willing to come back and willing to live in reality, then I will welcome them with open arms” pic.twitter.com/eLsVX1qAdD
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) October 30, 2020
Trump’s first term has been an unmitigated disaster. Right-wing hate crimes have soared, no doubt emboldened by the president’s hateful oratory. The econonmy and the environment are in shambles. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are dead because of Trump’s willful negligence regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The richest among us have made out like bandits while most of the population squabbles for scraps. Civil rights, access to health care, and economic mobility are teetering on the brink of extinction. Families of immigrants have been ripped apart, tossed into concentration camps and left to rot, having committed no crime except believing they could come to America for a better life.
I cannot accept that tolerating these crimes against humanity defines who we are as American citizens.
After four years of Trump, our young republic is as fractured as it was before the Civil War – perhaps even more so.
A handful of 2016 Trump voters have come to regret their choice, and even though they are few and far between, they may siphon away enough support to deny Trump a second term.
But those who have remained loyal to the 45th president are thrusting the United States toward an authoritarian takeover akin to the unenlightened despotism that rose to power in Europe in the 1930s.
Thanks to the Republican Party’s vast, insidious election-rigging apparatus, they may succeed.
We cannot – indeed we must not – allow that to happen. All we have to do is show up to vote.