Once again, it is Doug from Ontario who has set me off. He is concerned about how we can bring Trump voters back into the fold after an election in which (in our dreams) Trump gets trounced and Congress replaced. How do we help these misguided souls climb down from their grievous mistake without losing too much face?
I’ll start by telling Doug that much of Trump’s core base is unreachable. Their reptilian instincts have been given free rein, and they are simply too racist, sexist, xenophobic, and brainwashed to be responsible citizens. Deplorable indeed, we should just let them stew. There aren’t that many of them. They are mostly old white guys with bad habits. They are subject to actuarial issues that could soon render them demographically moot. And their attitude towards the virus is, shall we say, unhealthy.
But Doug is right. Beyond this core base of true believers are a much larger group of Trump voters, and we mustn’t write them off. Most are, or can be, useful citizens, though many seem to have slept through high school civics. They voted for this monster for a lot of the same reasons many of them voted for Obama. They feel, and rightly, that they’ve been screwed. That the American dream has let them down. They’ve seen their livelihoods, their money, their entire way of life pulled out from under them in a long decline that has left them confused and bitter.
They have, of course, badly misunderstood the reasons for that decline. They’ve blamed all the wrong people. They’ve put their faith in charlatans, both religious and secular. And they could use a better understanding of any amendment beyond the second. But while that makes them uninformed and gullible, it doesn’t necessarily make them bad.
So I have to believe that the virus will offer them some teachable moments. It couldn’t be more obvious, even to the oblivious, that Trump has dropped the ball catastrophically, and yes, murderously. Anyone who doesn’t see that now will surely be smacked upside the head soon, as the virus hammers the heartland. A large number will lose their jobs, contract the virus, or both.
If they lose their jobs, most will lose their health insurance. Which will leave their entire family deeply vulnerable. They will then turn to the Affordable Care Act and, oh wait, maybe not. Republicans still want to crush the ACA, even now. If you live in a red state, there might not even be a special enrollment period. And you might not get to go on Medicaid either, because your dumbass legislature didn’t accept the expansion.
So how does that work for 35 million unemployed and a killer virus ravaging the land? Imagine two weeks in the ICU with no insurance. As I said, a teachable moment.
But we can’t leave re-education to the pandemic alone. We need both carrots and sticks.
The carrots could center around arguably our three biggest problems: healthcare, infrastructure, and environment.
The loss of health insurance will surely leave even Trump voters receptive to some kind of workable plan. The choice has now become absurdly simple: either we reform the system or we die. It’s a strange-tasting carrot, but a carrot nonetheless. Once you’ve had health insurance, you never want to be without it again. No matter who you voted for.
As for infrastructure and environment, the carrot is jobs and more jobs. The problem of deferred maintenance has not gone away. Our roads, bridges, tunnels, sewers, pipelines, etc., are all in dire need of repair or replacement. We need to hire millions of people to make that happen.
And as long as we’re fixing things, we might as well make them eco-friendly as well. Because there’s an environmental catastrophe still waiting in the wings. It’s every bit as nasty as Covid, just more patient. And it doesn’t care if Trump voters believe in it or not. But maybe hiring them to fight it will help them believe. The virus has presented us with a huge opportunity to put Americans back to work.
If only America would get out of its own way.
But carrots aren’t enough. We need sticks too.
The first stick is that criminals must be brought to justice. Trump’s voters must be clearly shown that the man they elected was a malignant swindler, and that they themselves were his marks. The virus will help them with that lesson. So will his tax returns, if we ever see them.
Obama’s biggest mistake was giving the Bush criminals a pass. It let them think they could get away with anything. But that has to stop. There must be indictments for people who have so flagrantly and frequently broken the law, and those indictments need to penetrate deeply into the administration and Congress. The hope, for me, is that when Trump voters see how they’ve been lied to, stolen from, and led to their deaths by people who despise them, this too will be a teachable moment.
The other stick must land squarely on Fox News. It is impossible to overstate the carnage they have inflicted on the country. Since Trump took office, they’ve morphed into a 24/7 alternate universe, watched religiously by vast numbers of reprogrammable cultists. Too sophisticated for their own good, Fox cranks out propaganda, misinformation, lurid conspiracies, and outright lies, all nonstop. They are more than capable of making at least some their viewers believe Lysol cures Covid.
But now, for the first time, Fox has stepped in it, and lawyers are surely getting excited. Turns out, it’s not just deeply irresponsible to misinform the public about a deadly pandemic. It might also be a crime. This already has the attention of Fox's in-house lawyers. It will surely have the attention of the new Attorney General.
And where there’s criminal exposure, civil litigation inevitably follows. Class action lawyers, you can be sure, are already licking their chops, trolling for victims of deadly misinformation. They know a plaintiff-rich environment when they see one, and many of their clients will be Trump voters. Suing Fox News. Will they see the irony?
As the damage from the pandemic converges so appallingly with the damage from the Trump crime family, teachable moments will surely abound. So, in time, will opportunities to fix a broken country. For Trump voters, the carrots will be there, and the sticks will be aimed at criminals, not them. Hopefully they’ll see this as a chance to rethink a lot.