I am not talking about all 74 million people who voted for Trump. Some voters may well have supported Trump in both 2016 and 2020 with a sense of hesitancy, perhaps focused on a single issue, such as abortion, or because they were making a raw and self-interested calculation about taxes. Trump picked these voters up from Republican campaigns that came before him, and he will bequeath them to the Republican candidates who come after him. Some of these voters, as we learned this year, can be persuaded to reject candidates such as Trump.
Peter Wehner: Trump is losing his mind
Instead, I am talking about the people who are giving Trump their full-throated support to the very end, even as he mulls a military coup; the people who buy weird paintings of Trump crossing the Delaware, or who believe that Trump is an agent of Jesus Christ, or who think that Trump is fighting a blood-drinking ring of pedophiles. These supporters have gone far beyond political loyalty and have succumbed to a kind of mass delusion. It is not possible to engage them. Indeed, to argue with them is to legitimize their beliefs, which itself is unhealthy for our democracy.
I don’t want to treat our fellow citizens with open contempt, or to confront and berate them. Rather, I am arguing for silence. The Trump loyalists who still cling to conspiracy theories and who remain part of a cult of personality should be deprived of the attention they seek, shunned for their antidemocratic lunacy, and then outvoted at the ballot box.
If we’ve learned one thing about “Trumpism,” it is that there is no such thing as “Trumpism.” No content anchors it; no program or policy comes from it. No motivating ideology stands behind it, unless we think of general grievance and a hatred of cultural and intellectual elites as an “idea.” And when views are incoherent and beliefs are rooted in fantasies, compromise is impossible. Further engagement is not only unwarranted, but it can also become counterproductive.
This is why I see no point in a “national conversation” or in “reaching out,” or other euphemisms for attempts to better understand the movement that formed around Trump. We already understand: Trump tapped into traditions of ethnic and regional grievances and social resentments that are present in every democracy and wedded them to bizarre theories and conspiracies.
Perhaps most important, much of our own sense of well-being will be lost if we continue to engage with people who believe that millions of votes were falsified from coast to coast, that the military should move into the swing states and hold new elections, or even that thousands of Chinese troops were bombed into submission on the border of Maine.
David Frum: How long can this continue?
Ordinary people should tune out the noise. No one needs to think one more minute about why a woman from New York would speed along in her car while ranting into her phone about stolen elections when she ought to have been watching the road. And the media have a particular obligation to end their fascination with these Trump voters. We don’t need yet another pilgrimage to diners and gas stations to hear from people whose only sources of information are cable-news hosts plumping fantasies about Venezuelan voting machines. We need not ruminate on the evangelical writer who thinks we must pray for the crackpot lawyer Sidney Powell. And journalists should stop providing media oxygen to would-be heroes such as the Texas mayor who said that if Trump called on him to take up arms, he’d engage in civil war.