Ask Rich: How do I welcome MAGA followers into talks about democracy?
In this ongoing series, Logis, a former Donald Trump supporter and founder of Perfect Our Union, answers our readers' questions about leaving the MAGA movement. Send your questions to AskRich@thefulcrum.us.
A reader asks: How can I accept into the conversation about the future of our country those who support a candidate and movement that disavows our own Constitution, does not believe in the peaceful transfer of power and proposes ending elections?
Rich responds: I understand why you — and many others — regard MAGA as anti-democratic. But as someone who spent seven years interacting with MAGA voters on a daily basis, I can attest to the fact that many of them aspire to achieve the same goals as those who oppose Donald Trump: more economic opportunity, holding the corrupt accountable, upholding our constitutional rights and more.
Trump voters sincerely believe that he and the MAGA movement are the elixir to a variety of real and perceived economic, political, social and cultural ills.
I certainly understand the impulse to shun them. I fervently believe, however, that efforts to continue perfecting our union and democracy mandate that we reach out to those in MAGA, in a non-judgmental and empathetic way, to empower them to start questioning the movement’s myths.
I also want to acknowledge that there’s nothing easy about doing this. There are several different ways to start the conversation. Rather than debating policy, you could open up a respectful back-and-forth by asking something such as:
“I recognize some of the reasons why you want another Trump presidency. Do you recognize some of the reasons why others don’t want another Trump presidency?”
They are more than likely to have thoughts about that; once they respond, you’ve created an opening for a discussion that the Trump voter might never have had. Continue to gently probe their beliefs without being confrontational.
Remember, how we challenge is key; acknowledging another’s beliefs does not mean concurrence. The purpose isn’t to polemicize; it’s to dialogue. Inquire as to what the Trump voter’s values and beliefs were before 2016; ask — but don’t demand — what it might take to change their mind; if they might be overlooking pertinent facts; if their worldview might be a bit too black-and-white for a multi-colored world. Relatability can be found here, as all of us have our own blind spots.
Again, I know none of this is easy. But please consider the possibility that most MAGA and Trump voters are good and decent people. That’s what I believe after having spent years congregating, and breaking bread, with them.
If you have friends and/or relatives who remain MAGA supporters, try to separate your respect and love for the person from your opposition to Trump. Think about your relationship with this person before Trump arrived. As a MAGA activist, I severed ties with many of those closest to me because of how they voted. When I left MAGA and apologized to them, almost all of them accepted my apology.
The relationships I have lost, and then repaired, are more loving and enriching today than before I joined MAGA; those closest to me never gave up on me, and I implore those with friends and family who remain in the thrall of MAGA not to give up on them. Over time, I anticipate that more Trump supporters will have their own remorseful epiphany about MAGA; when they do, be there to help them work through the difficult process of renouncing their deeply-held beliefs. Welcoming them back — free of judgment and aspersions — will bring an inner peace to all.
A reader asks: What or who propelled you to diversify your news and opinion sources? I have widened mine to include more conservative sources to get a broader window on issues important to me. A conservative friend that I trust influenced me.
Rich responds: Your friend is very wise! My MAGA community was tight-knit, but insulated from any media and news that rebutted or refuted our sincerely held beliefs; we treated such information as Pravda-like enemy propaganda. In future columns I’ll go into more detail about why I left MAGA, but suffice to say It took me an entire year to leave, from the summer of 2021 to the summer of 2022. I refer to it as “my year of Heaven and Hell.” Leaving MAGA was a very individualized process for me — a personal reckoning.
When I began having doubts about my support for Trump and MAGA, I experienced a surge of curiosity that led me to discover views and opinions that challenged the false and/or distorted storylines and punditry I consumed. I rekindled the voracious inquisitiveness I'd developed years earlier as a newspaper reporter. In addition to diversifying my sources – which include centrist and moderate, left-leaning and right-leaning outlets – my interest in history (especially American) dramatically increased after leaving MAGA; I came to realize how inextricably linked the past and present are.
Knowledge is liberating, and ignorance is oppressive.
A reader asks: You said you left MAGA in 2022 when you became disillusioned. I imagine you still like some things about Trump. If you were able to pick the next president, what qualities in Trump would you like him or her to have and which ones would you not?
Rich responds: Two lasting achievements of the Trump administration were: the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act, which expanded access to medical care for our heroic servicemen and women, and Operation Warp Speed, which accelerated production and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine – a "medical miracle," as former Vice President Mike Pence aptly described it.
Though I don't believe there is a singular foundational characteristic of a successful, positively influential leader, if I had to pick one quality it would be: genuine care for others. George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Joe Biden come to mind. We entrust our elected officials with immense power; no one will ever get everything perfect and disappointments are inevitable. A leader worthy of studying and emulating is one who takes responsibility for failure (even if the leader wasn't the cause), and gives the credit to the team for wins.
I don't believe effective leaders surround themselves with unapologetic "yes” men and women, as Trump did. Important decisions that have potential ramifications for our nation, and perhaps the world, mandate a potpourri of ideas, so the leader can find a compromise that incorporates an amalgam of the best suggestions. Leaders with bold visions do not easily succumb to the temptation to scrap their entire blueprint after a temporary setback.
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