Shutting Down The Debate

I am not a Trump supporter. During the Republican primaries, he was my last choice. I started out with a Ben Carson bumper sticker, I warmed up to Carly Fiorina, and eventually moved to Ted Cruz as people were dropping out of the race. Like many people, I was appalled at some of the characteristics I saw in Mr. Trump. In the end, of course, he became the nominee.

While I am not a Trump supporter, I did vote for him. My vote was not based on any belief in him as a candidate or as a person. I drew some solace in the fact that he seemingly surrounded himself with some good people, such as Mike Pence and Ben Carson. And he released a pretty good list of potential Supreme Court candidates. However, I never reached the point where I actually believed he would fulfill the promises he made.

But for me, I recognized that on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, this country would have elected either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as our next President, and there was NOTHING I could do to stop that. A vote for a third party candidate (in THIS election), most of whom we had never heard of, was not going to change that fact, although it might change which one of the two would win. But either Trump or Clinton would be elected, and there was no question about it.

So I had to look at Trump and Clinton and see which one I felt would best serve this country. Both of them are deeply flawed. Trump’s flaws were obvious in his character, his business affairs, etc. Clinton’s flaws were equally apparent, with her numerous scandals throughout her entire public life. There’s no point in recounting them here.

In the end, I believed that Trump (and Pence) would be the better of the two choices. So I voted for him.

Based on that SINGLE act, I have been repeatedly called, in the media, on social media, and elsewhere, a racist, a bigot, a sexist, a misogynist, uneducated, a redneck, and so forth. Now, anybody who actually knows me on a personal level would find it extremely difficult to support any of those labels. But nonetheless, millions of voters who chose NOT to vote for the anointed one, Hillary Clinton, have been described in the same way. (In fact, as we all know, Clinton herself called at least half of Trump’s voters “a basket of deplorables.”)

Now, most of the stories making such baseless claims try to soften the blow with disclaimers: “Not ALL of the Trump voters are these things… Just most of them…” Or “I have some friends who voted for Trump and they aren’t sexist bigots. But the rest of them are…” None of these ridiculous disclaimers are helpful in the least.

It is disturbing to me that we can’t seem to disagree politically without having such nonsensical labels immediately thrown into our faces. As far as I can tell, those applying the labels hope to accomplish two equally abhorrent purposes: First, they hope to shut down the debate of the moment. If I disagree with Obama on some policy issue, for instance, I’m labeled a racist. Thus, the one calling me a racist hopes that I will no longer express my viewpoint on that particular issue.

Second, they hope to keep me from expressing my views on FUTURE issues. After all, if I live in constant fear that any expression of disagreement will result in yet another highly offensive label (had Clinton prevailed, for example, there would no doubt be a constant deluge of “sexist” accusations in the face of any disagreement with her), then I lose my will to engage at all.

Both of those purposes are bereft of any intellectual honesty. If we disagree on a political (or personal) issue, we should be able to have a rational dialogue about it. In the end, perhaps one of us would alter our stance, based on logic and further understanding. If so, we both benefit. If we don’t change our minds, we at least respected each other enough to communicate fairly. If one or both of us has to resort to name calling and baseless accusations, that says more about the accuser than the accused. And it also means the accuser is having a difficult time supporting his logical view in the first place.

If one side of a political debate is never even heard because of fear of these labels, then nobody benefits, regardless of which side you’re on. Nothing positive is gained by simply shutting down the debate. And sadly, that’s what I’m afraid may be coming our way.

I voted for Trump, but I didn’t support him. And I assure you that Clinton being a woman had absolutely nothing to do with that.

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