Maybe, instead of rallying against Trump the man, we could connect with his supporters. And maybe that’s the only thing that will do any good.
Trump seems to embody everything wrong with this country, at least in the circles I run in. He’s the American Ego run rampant, an American bogeyman. Recently, I overheard my daughter and some friends having an impromptu comedy show in the living room. Suddenly, their giggles turned to raucous peals of laughter. They had decided to make Trump the butt every joke in their comedy routine.
Meanwhile, my Facebook feed was overrun by post after post shaming Trump for the controversial things he says and slamming his supporters for being either too dumb or two bigoted to know any better. In the real world, protesters were turning up the heat on Trump, obstructing him in every way they could, but no matter how riled-up his opponents got and no matter what terrible things he said, Trump’s popularity continued to grow.
In early April, I attended the (absolutely amazing) Person Power Yoga retreat that Metta Center hosted and, quite unsurprisingly, Trump was a topic that popped up over and over. On the second day of the retreat, at the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) presentation lead by Lou Zweier, a novel idea began to scratch at my cerebral cortex. Through the lens of NVC, behind all communication there is a need that wants to be fulfilled: security, respect, love, understanding, connection, attention, accomplishment, safety, creativity, the list goes on. I began to wonder, what are the needs that are attracting people to Trump?
What would happen if instead of being shamed and called racist, misogynist and/or uneducated, Trump supporters were listened to? I think we would find that they are people who feel ignored, who are afraid for their future, who are weary of this seemingly inextricable bond that exists between the government and corporations that perpetually funnels the riches and power of the world into the hands of the those very few at the top. Maybe we would find that Trump supporters are our neighbors and friends. Maybe we would find that we have a lot in common.
In New York, Trump garnered half the Hispanic vote in the Republican primary, even as one of his rivals is Hispanic. In a recent article in the Guardian called “’Not even my wife knows’: secret Donald Trump voters speak out,” we hear from a Latina woman, an Occupy protestor, a yoga teacher, a gay Muslim, a liberal sociology professor, an evangelical pastor, and a British immigrant among others. Some Trump supporters want to build walls around the country and ban Muslims, but that is not the only, or even the principal, cause of the “Trump Phenomenon.”
It’s easy to write people off if we assume they are bigots or [fill in the blank], but not so much if we step past the dehumanizing labels and see the person inside. Division and alienation is the weakness of the many, and the strength of those few at the top. What we really need is connection.
One person at the retreat half-joked that maybe we should get the Bernie supporters and the Trump supporters together. We all laughed, but I know I wasn’t the only person thinking, “What if?”
Let’s check our judgments at the door and connect. We might not be able to save the world by spreading our “progressive values,” but maybe we could build a real and inclusive grassroots community, a first step towards a system that works for everyone. Are you listening?