A Trump-Era Etiquette Guide
George Roper, my good friend from high school, is dead now. When alive, he was often as right-wing as they come—complete with a passionate anti-Obama blog. And yet George and I avoided hand-to-hand combat. Up to his death several years ago, we followed each other on Facebook. He even talked up my novel. Similarly my parents got along just fine with a neighbor who would go on to help craft Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy.
But what to do about the Trumpists? How to socialize with them? Donald Trump himself is not just a racist with ties to anti-Semites, he is also a sexual predator and kleptocrat who admires authoritarian killers in the Putin vein. I know the reason for the long dyed hair. It’s covering up sawed-off horns.
The good news is that most people in places like Georgetown and Alexandria, where I live, are not as likely to run across Trumpists as Americans elsewhere in the country are (he did, after all, win the electoral vote thanks in part to voter suppression and Jill Stein). But even in D.C., face-to-face encounters will happen. Ivanka, remember, attended Georgetown for two years and undoubtedly is reconnecting with some old friends. How can progressives interact with Trumpists at a party or online and still respect themselves in the morning? Or at the family dinner table?
Ahead are a few thoughts not from High Society in D.C., but from Almost Outside the Beltway:
First, realize there’s more to life than politics. As little as I respect Trump, I’d also wonder about the 73-year-old retired prison guard in Washington State who supposedly divorced her husband of 22 years because he planned to vote for The Donald (“a deal breaker”). “It opened up areas between us I had not faced before,” Gail McCormick told Reuters. “I realized how far I had gone in my life to accept things I would have never accepted when I was younger.” I suspect the next sentence would have been: “Shows you—we have different values.” True, perhaps. But why should it have taken Ms. McCormick all this time to find out? Trump was a symptom, most likely, not a cause of the breakup.
Still, one poll found that 16 percent of respondents stopped talking to a friend or family member due to politics, and 30 made the sayonara complete. Here’s a more sensible response. Stop talking about politics. Otherwise enjoy the other people’s better side. Family and friendship first! You can always go online or to a political rally and find scads of people who share your beliefs. Dear family members and old friends are not so replaceable.
Another suggestion, a bit related, would be to try to distinguish between The Orange One and his followers or quasi followers. Also, look for areas of agreement if you can comfortably discuss politics with the Trumpists.
Our dictator in waiting is exactly as Richard Cohen described him in the Washington Post, “a one-man basket of deplorables.” But many of the people who voted for Trump were really just protesting against East Coast elitism, worker-hostile trade policies, and high Obamacare premiums. Nod when you can, and add your own progressive angles. Yes, so many powerful Ivy Leaguers in the East Coast media, Congress and elsewhere are out of touch with the needs of run-down cities in the Heartland. Free trade should not happen without sufficient retraining opportunities and other protections for workers, especially the full right to unionize. Obamacare premiums are in fact too high for many. Higher taxes on the one percent to pay for it? Simply put, voting for Trump as a protest does not by itself make anybody Satanic, and a little empathy with a Trump-loving friend, acquaintance or family member can go a long way.
I’d also remember that many of the people working directly for Trump are there in part to contain the damage, not because they swallow his bilge. In this category I would place Secretary of Defense James Matthis and Security Adviser H. R. McMaster. Were they my friends, I would understand.
Similarly, if I knew Ivanka Trump from Georgetown, I would not shun her but rather keep the lines of communications open despite concerns over the blurring of government and family business.
That said, I’d encourage my fellow progressive to keep speaking out against Trump in person and online, and to march, otherwise protest and resist. The last thing we want is to normalize Trump. Just don’t get in shouting matches with friends and family you have little chance of converting anyway, and don’t de-Friend anybody online if you otherwise find them likable.
Consider Trumpism a hyper-annoying but not “deal-breaking” flaw, like snoring loudly or forgetting to replace the cap on the toothpaste, and get on with your life and relationships.