The Trump Dead-Enders

Historians in the News
tags: Trump, Tom Nichols

Tom Nichols is a professor at the Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School, and the author of “The Death of Expertise.” The tweets below appear in two threads on his Twitter feed, here and here

So, I had an interesting run-in with some Trumpers today, and it's story worth telling. (Mute now if you're not into story time.) I was part of a panel at Harvard talking about the Helsinki summit. Afterwards, two middle-aged women had some, er, questions. /1

During the talk, I had said (in response to a question) that Helsinki was not going to move the needle on Trump's base support, not least because the Trump base is willfully ignorant and refuses to hear anything they don't like about the summit or about Russia at all. /2

After the talk, they wanted a debate. "Did you say I'm willfully evil?" one asked me. I said: "No, I said you're willfully ignorant." Much spluttering. (Both were immigrants, btw: India and post-Soviet region.) /3

Both did the standard Trump thing: talking at me in a fusillade of words punctuated with questions that they would not let me answer. This is a compulsion with Trumpers: they must - *must* - constantly explain to you why they *had* to vote for Trump. /4

There was the standard litany of phantom Trump successes, including - really - that Trump is "taking jobs away from foreigners and making them give them back to Americans." When I brought up foreign workers at Mar A Lago, they agreed: Bad. But Trump? Good. /5

Finally, I said: "Look, what you believe to be true is false. The things you think are facts are not facts. We can't go further here." This elicited lots of fast talking about why false things were true, and why Trump is generally awesome. /6

Finally, one of them said: "You should respect my view and not call me ignorant. That's not reasonable" I said: "You are not a reasonable person, and this is not really a discussion where I can respect your view. You think Trump is doing great. I think he's a disaster." /7

To which she said, and I quote: "Well, he's not as bad as Obamanation." I said: "Obamanation?" She said: "That's what he was, an abomination." This was the person who had just implored me to be respectful and reasonable. I rolled my eyes and she left. /8

The other lady was nicer, and said that I was the only Never Trumper she'd met she thought was funny and engaging. (Hmph. Many of us are.) But I finally said: "These things you think are happening aren't really happening." /9

She said, out of nowhere: "Well, I supported Obama. But I couldn't vote for Hillary." I said: "That's irrelevant to what's happening now, isn't it?" She then launched into the Hillary Crimes Litany. I said, again: But that's not relevant *now*. We then parted amicably. /10

My point? These two people will never, ever change their minds. They are not accessible to reason. They demand agreement and respect, even when they don't give it and are themselves unreasonable. This is the cohort that neither the GOP post-Trump nor Dems will ever reach. /10

They were flummoxed when I said: "I don't respect that view. Your facts are not accurate. You are not reasonable." They were used to people deferring to them in a more polite way, I guess. (One of them did say it was kind of refreshing that I was honest with her. Yay, me.) /11

Still, it was a reminder that facts and reason are useless. I'm pretty hard to talk over, and these ladies were like being caught between two North Korean televisions. What they wanted, like most Trumpers, was to explain to you at length why Obama and Clinton are evil. /12

I think it solidified for me that these types of Trumpers are just lost. They're not going to climb down, change their minds, listen to new information. Trump really could shoot them on Fifth Avenue. There's no point in discussion, because they don't *discuss*, they *preach*. /13

No rational or fact-based politics will reach these folks. I hate to say that, because I believe in the power of reason and facts. But they're gone. Some of them are nice people, but dumb. Some of them are just bad people. But rationality isn't going to change much here. /14x

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