Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.
Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US. Most recent sense check, Entry #332. An update coming later in December.
In the previous entry I committed to try and understand why people continue to support Trump. What is particularly puzzling is support for Trump by people whose core values are polar opposite of Trump’s behavior. Why would one make such a decision?
Because a discussion about Trump can be so emotional, I thought it better to first have a couple of “experimental conversations.” Also, and maybe somewhat selfishly, I thought the experimental conversations should be with people who are really more acquaintances than close personal friends. Thus, if the experiment went bad, then the consequence of alienating each other would not be damage to a close personal relationship.
Two candidates for the experimental conversations immediately came to mind. #1 was someone from high school with whom I’ve had no contact since other than on Facebook. #2 was a second-generation immigrant with whom I had a working relationship a couple of years ago.
When considering the candidates, I understand somewhat why the one from high school might be a Trump supporter. Why the second-generation immigrant supports Trump makes no sense. Why would he ever support Trump? He’s Hispanic, grew up in south Texas near the border. Obviously, I’m missing something in his logic stream.
A key open issue with the research is the venue for the dialogue. Each venue has benefits and drawbacks. Facebook is easy to use but uncontrollable. The conversation between us could be interrupted by a myriad of friends of the participants or of mine.
Email might be okay to introduce the idea and present a few questions, but nuances and subtleties are nearly impossible in email. Plus, the time lag with back-and-forth emails would break the rhythm of the conversation. Texting would be faster but, as with email, nuance remains nearly impossible.
So the plan? Use old technology. The initial contact with the candidates will be email. The email will discuss the experiment and ask about participating. If yes, then set a time for a call to begin the conversation.
Given the sensitivity of the topic, one of the guidelines will likely be that the candidate can stop the interview at any time, but with the commitment that within a few days, we would try to talk again. If the second call goes south, okay. The experiment with that person fails. Not to be discouraged, lots of experiments fail. Also, like experiments one should make every effort to understand what went wrong, and not just point fingers at the other person.
After a couple of experiments the idea is to talk to more Trump supporters, trying to understand their perspective. “Why waste your time?” has been a frequent comment from people I’ve discussed the idea with. The conversation usually also includes, “Trump supporters will never change.”
The naysayers are probably right. But the curiosity in me is compelling. Maybe, just maybe, there’s an underlying issue creating support for Trump that can be addressed with a solution that is good for society at large and addressed without Trump’s usual bombastic and hurtful approach.
At the worst, the experiment should become good conversation at cocktail parties and family gatherings. Rather than yelling at one another, talking about the experiment might allow different camps to have civil discourse. You never know.
So, I’m off to pursue my naive experiment. I’m going to try and start this week. Probably won’t have any results for a couple of weeks, but I will post them in the blog.
If you have an idea about how to approach understanding why people with a polar opposite set of values than Trump still support Trump, please let me know. Or, if you have a question or two you’d like to have answered, please forward as well. Thanks. All for now.