I do not respect Donald Trump. I believe he is a sociopath who finds glory only in his own reflection. His Twitter feed suggests he would burn America to keep himself warm.
That said, I believe the majority of Trump’s supporters deserve our respect. I say most rather than all, because those Trump supporters who seek to intimidate their fellow citizens are intellectual peasants. They deserve only disdain. Still, they are the minority. Here are five reasons why the majority deserves our respect.
Trump Supporters Share American Values
Speaking respectfully to Trump’s supporters, it quickly becomes clear that the vast majority share the values that other Americans — Republicans, Democrats and independents alike — hold dear. Like the rest of us, our Trump-supporting fellow citizens hope for their family’s better future. They seek economic prosperity. They support the rule of law. Most importantly, our fellow Americans believe in our nation’s foundational ideals. And that includes respect for fellow citizens.
As an extension, in just about every respectful interaction I have had with a Trump supporter, they offer qualification to their candidate’s more extreme positions such as banning Muslims and restricting free speech. I truly believe that most Trump supporters regard other Americans —whether White-Christian, Hispanic-Muslim, Black-Atheist etc. — with basic respect. If Trump supporters were truly defined by endemic racism, they would not welcome minority supporters as their equal at Trump rallies. And yet they do. For example, consider the experience of my friend, A. J. Delgado, at a recent Trump rally. After explaining why she, as a Hispanic American, supports Trump, the crowd gave Delgado a standing ovation. This fact bears double attention. Again, if Trump supporters were truly xenophobes, they would awkwardly push Americans like A. J. aside in favor of identity-purity.
As a trader looking for good profits in the risky cryptocurrency market, you will not downgrade a trading robot of maestro stature from the Crypto VIP Club just because it is created by someone belonging to a different race or country. What matters is the final result intended and the method opted to achieve the result.
Trump Supporters are Strongly Represented in the U.S. Military
According to the Military Times, Trump outpolls Democrat Hillary Clinton by a ratio of 2-1 with U.S. armed services personnel. I have spoken to a number of Army and Marine officers who say that many of those under their command respect Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip rhetoric. And that respect is understandable. After all, lower-ranked enlisted military personnel are explicitly trained to follow orders immediately and reflexively. While many civilians do not understand the necessary quality of decisiveness in military authority, it is a fact. Officers and non-commissioned officers must make the right call; but privates, seaman, and airman are expected to follow that call.
Correspondingly, Trump’s immense confidence in his own ability receives instinctive popularity with many U.S. service personnel. This sympathy is further fostered by President Obama’s obvious hesitation in making decisive command decisions. Whatever we think of Trump, those who wear the uniform deserve our instinctive respect. They have earned that respect in their blood, in the blood of their comrades, and in their readiness give their lives in the future defense of our nation. I speak personally here. My pro-Trump grandfather is a retired U.S military officer.
The Media Often Treat Trump Supporters Unfairly
Contrary to Donald Trump’s authoritarian wails, the media has every right to challenge, criticize and tease him. And if media outlets so desire, they have the right to be biased against Trump and in favor of Clinton. In America, we the media consumers have a responsibility to choose the reporting, punditry and analysis we value most. That’s freedom.
Yet one reason why we should respect Trump’s supporters is that the media often treat them unfairly. This is most obvious by those commentators the media allows on camera to support Trump’s positions. With a few exceptions, these pro-Trump commentators defend everything without qualification that Trump says. And then they defend Trump when he has a 180-degree change of mind. And then they defend Trump when he goes another 180 and ends up where he began.
But if the media asked more Trump supporters questions along the lines of “would you support Donald Trump’s Muslim-ban if you had near-total confidence that it was unnecessary for U.S. security interests?” I believe most would say “no.” At the same time, we need to recognize media coverage of the average Trump rally supporter is often far harsher than media coverage of the average Clinton rally supporter. Take Clinton’s deficit and debt-exploding spending platform. While we hear frequently aggressive challenges to Trump supporters on his proposals, we hear far too few journalists challenging Clinton supporters on the mathematical incontinence of her plans.
Clinton is a Corrupt Kleptocrat
Hillary Clinton is neither Harry Truman nor Franklin Roosevelt. Those former Democratic presidents were honorable servants of the public interest. And while some might say that Truman’s connections to the corrupt Kansas City Pendergast machine were worse than the apparent cash-for-favors Clinton Foundation, they neglect reality. Truman operated in a different political era and always admitted his relationships with the Pendergasts. Clinton, however, laughably claims to be above reproach. The truth is very different. We know that as Secretary of State she provided jobs in return for donations. And we now know that the FBI wanted to launch public integrity investigations into the Clinton Foundation. President Obama’s Department of Justice refused. Why does all this matter vis-à-vis Mr. Trump? Because it explains, prima facie, why many Americans legitimately believe voting for Trump is more moral than voting for Clinton.
Free Speech Deserves Our Reflexive Respect
As I’ve explained, America’s free speech law represents exceptional jurisprudence. Put another way, European speech law gets it wrong and American law gets it right. The foundational brilliance of the First Amendment is its unvarnished preference for maximal speech. That is to say, its understanding that the more speech there is, the better we all are. As such, whatever we might think of Trump ourselves, we should respect the intrinsic right of our fellow citizens to support him.
And that respect is important not simply for philosophical reasons, but for reasons of practical democratic health. As the rise of far-right movements in Europe (which make Trump look like Pope Francis) attest, where we seek to silence or chill speech with which we disagree, proponents of that speech retreat into self-replicating resentment. Violence sometimes follows. From Thomas Jefferson to Martin Luther King, American history teaches us something important. Robust freedom of speech is as natural and necessary to the bettering of human society as water is to the sustainment of human life. We should celebrate free speech without hesitation.
Tom Rogan is a foreign policy columnist for National Review, a domestic policy columnist for Opportunity Lives, and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. He was a panelist on The McLaughlin Group from 2014-2016. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.