The Corner

On Respecting Trump Voters

For some opponents of Trump, it’s not enough to say that they’re wrong. It’s also important to say that they’re bad people. At Bloomberg View, I argue that this line of thinking is both counterproductive and unjustified.

People who disdain Trump voters en masse are, it seems to me, confusing two questions: Should an intelligent and decent person back Trump? And can an intelligent and decent person back Trump? I’m a firm no on the first question. But the answer to the second question is yes.

Someone — a lot of someones — might think that mass immigration is lowering wages, that Trump is the only candidate who would try to do something about it, and that he should therefore be president. Or someone might think that our government has been dysfunctional for a long time, that we need someone who is not beholden to the orthodoxies of either party to fix it, and that Trump fits the bill. Or someone might think it’s important for Republicans to win the White House, and Trump has shown such surprising political strength that he is the best candidate for that purpose.

All of these arguments are, I believe, seriously defective. They don’t “justify” voting for Trump, as Kirchick puts it. But these are not obviously delusional or hateful reasons for supporting him. They are not different in kind, morally or intellectually, from the reasons tens of millions of people voted for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in 2012.

And here’s an email from a reader who disagrees with me:

It’s obviously really bad business for analysts to get high and mighty with potential readers, but it’s not inappropriate to conclude that support for Trump is a sign of bad character.  Could be racism/misogyny or indifference thereto.  Could be indifference to the rule of law.  Could be policy ignorance bred by years of echo chamber exposure to politics. Could be a desire for a strong man. Could just be voting without paying attention (a lower level offense, but still a character defect).  I see the argument for not saying it in public, and I would agree if this were merely about people choosing terrible policy, but it’s much more than that.
 

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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