This column originally appeared in my hometown newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Living on our liberal area is a blessing I didn't have when I lived in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Here, the biggest political argument is Bernie versus Hillary, so I know I'm among my tribe. But I also make sure to stay connected to conservatives through personal relationships, social media, and information outlets. Being in a bubble is like binging on Boston cream donuts: comforting, but not good for us.
Instead of dismissing Donald Trump's supporters, I've been reaching out to my conservative friends to see why they support a candidate who projects the opposite of traditional American values. The results are revealing.
Many of them don't "support" Trump so much as they hate Hillary Clinton. They honestly believe the fictions of their right-wing bubble: that Clinton killed Americans in Benghazi, committed treason by email, and should be in jail. They can't provide evidence for these beliefs, but they continue to claim that Trump, despite his obvious faults, trumps Clinton.
I strongly support Clinton and can name dozens of her policy proposals, career accomplishments, and character traits that make her a great candidate. But when I ask for positive reasons to support Trump, things get weird.
My conservative friends almost always begin with, "Trump speaks his mind." He certainly does--that's the problem. When I ask how Trump's rejection of "political correctness" and multiple profane remarks, nasty insults, and outright lies are acceptable, they deflect. When I ask if rudeness and bullying are strong presidential qualifications, they attack Clinton.
I send my friends to the most respected political fact-checker, PolitiFact.com, for a comparison of Clinton and Trump. Clinton is among the most honest politicians they've ever rated, and Trump is one of the biggest liars. "No," I assure my Republican friends, "PolitiFact isn't an agenda-driven political operation. That's Fox News."
Another reason they support Trump is that "we need a businessman in the White House." Really? Have they heard of George W. Bush and Herbert Hoover? We tried businessmen in the White House, and the results were depressing--literally.
Trump's businesses aren't really something to boast about--although boast, he does. Trump brags about using multiple bankruptcies to make money, usually by screwing everyone else. As Clinton said recently, "How can anybody lose money running a casino?" Fellow rich guy Michael Bloomberg said, "Trump says he wants to run the nation like he's running his business. God help us!"
Trump supporters seem to forget that the business of government is people, not profit. Trump isn't as great at profit as he claims, and he's even worse at helping people.
My Republican friends claim that Trump will bring jobs back to America. "Which jobs?" I ask. "Making Trump Ties in China and Trump Suits in Mexico?" The financial research firm Moody's Analytics looked at both candidates' economic proposals and determined that Clinton would create 10.4 million American jobs, while Trump would lead to 3.5 million job losses. Moody's isn't exactly a liberal think tank filled with granola-crunching sandal wearers.
My Trump-supporting friends say that he will somehow fix political corruption. This guy has been involved in thousands of lawsuits. Worst of all, New York state court found that Trump operated Trump University without a license, and two major lawsuits are pending against the fake "university" that Trump put his name on to scam millions of dollars from thousands of people. Any claim that Trump is above corruption is absurd.
The list of bad reasons goes on.
"Trump will stop ISIS!" Trump claims to have a secret plan to defeat ISIS, but he won't reveal it unless he's elected. That's just plain nuts.
"Trump is self-funded." Nope. He solicits donations.
"Trump will take care of our veterans." He stiffed veterans' organizations on charitable donations until reporters shamed him.
"Trump won't hide things like those evil Clintons." He won't even release his tax returns, something every other major candidate does.
"Trump will surround himself with great advisors." His campaign staff and surrogates are an embarrassment.
"Trump will dump Obamacare." And with no coherent plan to take its place, twenty million people will lose coverage and the insurance companies will go back to their abusive practices unchecked.
"Trump will reverse Obama's terrible policies." The policies that cut unemployment and the federal budget deficit in half? We'll keep those, thanks.
"Trump will make other countries fear us." They're already laughing at us for even considering Trump.
"Trump will save us from Muslims who hate America." Like Ghazala, Khizr, and Humayun Khan? They are what America stands for.
"Trump will build a wall and close our open borders." Illegal immigration is down under Obama. Look it up!
"Trump's a winner!" Then why is he already acting like a loser by claiming that the debates and the election are rigged against him?
All this fuzzy-headed trumpery is almost enough to make me climb into that liberal bubble and binge on those donuts. But I won't.
Liberalism means keeping an open mind--open even to my conservative friends who haven't yet provided good reasons to support Trump. But they'll keep trying. Like their candidate himself, what they lack in common sense, they try to make up for in persistence.
John Sheirer is an author and teacher who lives in Florence. His most recent book is, "Make Common Sense Common Again." Find him at JohnSheirer.com.