Frustrated by the Increased Polarization of Our Country, I Spoke with a Trump Supporter. Here’s What She Said.
As we approach the 2020 election, we all only seem to agree about one thing: that our country is divided.
Whether it be about the next economic moves regarding China, the need for government regulation of abortion, the severity of the coronavirus, or more, polarization in our country has become a lion released from its cage — it runs and tramples and devours, and it does not know when to stop.
Research from the Pew Research Center indicates a growing divide among Americans on practically all issues; from government regulation to discrimination to environmental policy, the list encompasses almost all possible political issues.
Recognizing this, we have often raised the “necessity for dialogue” from “both sides” into our everyday conversations, but what does that mean?
I decided to sit down with a relative of mine, a middle-aged woman who converted to Trumpism before the 2016 election. For the editorial purposes of this article, I have gathered the key takeaways and included my afterthoughts within parenthesis and in italics. Our conversation went something like this*:
Channing Lee: Thank you for agreeing to talk with me. We often have dissenting opinions, but I’d like to learn a little more about why you now believe what you believe…
My Relative: Before we begin, I’d like to ask you to keep an open mind. Most leftists are not open to debate. They think anything they believe is true and is not up for discussion.
CL: Yes, of course I’m keeping an open mind. And I’d identify more as moderate or even center-left. Regardless, this is why we are having this conversation.
CL: Do you identify with a political party right now?
MR: No. The only reason why I registered as a Republican in 2016 was so I could vote for Trump in the primaries.
CL: Can you tell me a bit about your past political affiliations?
MR: After I graduated college, I registered as a Social Democrat, not because I knew who they were or what they were about, but because it sounded cool. I never really voted because I thought all politicians were corrupt. I instead worked to improve my spiritual life by searching for God through different faiths. But, every day, I read Politico and Huffington Post. They were my daily staples. I was ultra liberal. I read all the stuff and I believed everything.
CL: What happened?
MR: Well, I found it very hypocritical that Arianna Huffington, an ultra-liberal feminist, would advocate for her ideals, but when it came to action, it was “do as I say, not as I do.”
In 2008, Obama, a community organizer who came out of nowhere, had no real world experience and was not qualified to run for president. (Prior to becoming president, Obama taught at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years, served three terms as an Illinois State Senator, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 before clinching the presidential nomination in 2008.) Arianna fervently endorsed Obama and trashed Hillary.
Leading up to the 2016 election, Arianna endorsed Hillary like she was God. My close, long-term friends who were black became “angry black friends.” All of a sudden, everybody owed them. Obama wrecked the country. Before him, there was no elevated hatred towards policemen with this racial divide and rhetoric. (The struggle of black Americans in the U.S. can be traced all the way back to their forced arrival in 1619.)
I also watched the documentary Clinton Cash, which opened my eyes to the sheer corruption of Hillary Clinton and the amount of money involved in her foundation all around the world. I had suspected it before, but I could not believe that politicians could be so corrupt.
Anyways, due to Huffington Post, CNN, and others, I started looking around for other news sources. I got into Breitbart because it was banned. I checked out everything that was banned. I thought Alex Jones was crazy until he was banned from social media.
CL: Has it ever occurred to you why some sources may have been, in your words, “banned”?
MR: All of these mainstream media just play to their own narrative.
Anyways, 2016 was live or die for America. Anyone was going to be better than Hillary and the Clinton machine. The day before the election, I cried because I thought Hillary was gonna win. America was never going to be free the way we thought ever again.
I couldn’t believe it when Trump won. I had posted a Trump sign outside my house out of ignorance…I got a lot of hate, but I also received love letters after the election; people were telling me that I was brave.
CL: Did you not mind Trump’s brashness and habit of making offensive, off-the cuff comments? Or that at least 25 women have accused him of sexual assault?
MR: All of those were fabricated, and I don’t care. He could be vulgar, but I believe he loved America. I love America. This is the only country I have, even though I was born in Taiwan since my parents fled Communist China. China is not my country. Taiwan is not my country. America is my country. That’s all I have.
So, no. I don’t believe those allegations. Trump loves America. What they did to Kavanaugh was disgusting. I don’t believe any of these Democrats and the media smear campaign.
CL: Do you think the charges against Joe Biden are false, too?
MR: The woman has corroborators. (We then proceeded to argue about the validity of sexual misconduct allegations brought up by women against men such as Trump, Weinstein, and more.)
CL: What is your opinion on the concept of white supremacy?
MR: Don’t believe in the idea of white supremacy. White people were here before us from Asia. It is an excuse for people to sound like victims. White guilt is also completely insane.
CL: As a double minority woman (both Asian and female), have you ever experienced discrimination?
MR: When I came here at 15 years old, I had to learn English and everything in English. I studied hundreds of vocabulary words each day just to learn English. I worked hard, but I was not a victim. I was laughed at, but that only made me stronger. I thought I was superior to people who laughed at me because they were ignorant.
CL: Did anyone tell you that you were “superior”?
MR: No, I just knew because I worked hard and I believed in myself.
Take when I went to architecture school. They accepted 1,200 1st-year students, but only allowed 120 to advance to the next year… I was told by my Chinese peers that I couldn’t make it…I made it. It was not affirmative action.
In the end, only 80 graduated. Less than 10% were girls. But I didn’t do well. I was barely hanging on. All my life, I was always in the top 1% of my class, so this was crushing. It was so hard. But it built character. My success was thanks to my experience from architecture school. I didn’t quit; so many people quit.
Safe space “crap” is laughable and doesn’t help you build character.
CL: So I see that you clearly value hard work.
MR: Yes. You tech kids haven’t really lived the life. You have all the tech and stuff... but you never really worked the hard labor.
Just like illegals: illegal people have a lot of contributions to the state, but only those who worked and were not on welfare. Back then, everyone worked hard. My parents worked hard on their business, and, despite the ups and downs of business, never claimed any government benefits. They just sucked it up. Everybody worked. When I see other people take advantage of the American welfare system, I get angry. It’s not right.
CL: Have you ever experienced harassment?
MR: Being a double minority, of course I have. I had bosses who would put their arms around me while checking my drawings; there was a chauvinistic pig from Texas who hated me because he didn’t want to be questioned by women, let alone Asian women. A couple of times, I came up with solutions and he took the credit.
CL: And you were okay with this?
MR: From this I learned that you just have to improve yourself and do better. Allow them to be ignorant; it’s their path to learn about compassion. You can’t demand equality just like you can’t demand love. When we as a human race evolve (and we will) there will be equality, but not because it’s demanded. I don’t like lazy people. I don’t like people who cheat. When you see all these people taking advantage of America, I don’t like it.
CL: What do you think about the coronavirus pandemic?
MR: It’s a more contagious flu. The media is scaring the public. (I had received a very generous coronavirus care package filled with face masks, gloves, N-95s, wipes, and more from her in March. She says her initial reaction followed the information that first came from Chinese citizen journalists and has since realized that “masks don’t help.” Ongoing scientific studies continue to support the wearing of face masks as the most effective preventive method against the virus.)
CL: The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement?
MR: It’s being hijacked for the purpose of political division. It only comes up every four years. (The Black Lives Matter Movement was founded in July 2013, less than a year after the 2012 elections.)
CL: Anti-Asian racism due to coronavirus?
MR: I’ve never experienced any so I don’t know. In regards to the lady from Torrance the other day, maybe she just doesn’t like Asians. It has nothing to do with coronavirus. (She had only recently told me about a lady who accused her of being a tourist in her own city, implying she should not be there. She had been taking pictures of neighborhood shops being boarded up ahead of BLM protests. This was the first of such incidents I had heard her talk about, and it occurred during the pandemic, of course.)
CL: Gay rights?
MR: They can do whatever they want to as long as they don’t shove it down my throat. I have gay friends. I love them. I love their kids. They just can’t tell me what to think. Right now it’s to a point where they want to make me think what they think. I resent that.
CL: What sources do you read now?
MR: I spend a lot of time on Twitter. I follow Candace Owens and other black conservatives. I follow Trump, Razor, this account called Catturd, and Judicial Watch. I read Breitbart, Zero Hedge, and The Donald Win. I hate censorship. Censorship is just horrible. (Research into such sources reveal an undeniable far-right bias, with some even labeled as “Conspiracy-Pseudoscience” by bias evaluators.)
CL: When you talk to me, do you think you can change my point of view?
MR: No. I’m not trying to change your point of view, but I’m trying to explain to you what I think. You are not willing to do research because you have a mental block. I think that’s the same across the board for so-called liberals. (When my relative describes liberals, she implies socialists, communists, and anarchists. Once again, I’d identify more as moderate or center-left.) They’re not open. Most adults are so invested in their own ideology that they’re not open to opinions that aren’t the same as theirs.
CL: Has there ever been anything I’ve said that made you change your mind?
MR: No. The stuff you say is all CNN-regurgitated. I’ve heard it all. (I, for one, am proud to think for myself and read a wide range of sources. I’d also argue that, though it has its faults, CNN is much more factual than Breitbart. And I’m sure she does not watch CNN.)
MR: I pray for the president every night —
CL: I do too.
MR: — that no one hurts him. What do you pray for? You pray for the opposite?
CL: No, I really don’t. I would never wish ill on someone. I pray that he will be a better president in the ways I’ve described.
MR: He’s a great president. He’s going to be judged by history as one of the greatest presidents of modern history.
I’ve learned a few things from this conversation, which prompted me to draw a few conclusions of my own.
- Corruption has serious consequences that affect more than just the parties involved. Politicians are notorious for “being corrupt” (i.e. then-candidate Trump’s campaign promise to “drain the swamp” and the reason why so many disliked Hillary Clinton), and there is certainly some truth to that. Some may say it is human nature to be greedy, and others may blame the capitalist system, but, regardless of the direct cause, human history has proven time and time again that the combination of money and power do not bode well for those who do not possess either. My relative cites her “discovery of the Clintons’ corruption” as the source of her conversion to Trumpism.
- We may all have the same goals, but different ways of reaching them. For example, most will agree that we should help “those who are less fortunate.” However, while some view welfare as a way to help people get by (or even back on their feet), others believe it actually discourages hard work by providing incentives to “stay on welfare.” While both perspectives hold merit, we must find a way to amend policies and legislation to both provide support and encourage productivity.
- There is a reason why mainstream media is called “mainstream media.” While reputable news sources such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and others have built their reputations on ethical standards of reporting, the sources my relative frequents boast what can be referred to as “alternative facts.” If a fact is something that is known or proved to be true, it is difficult to simultaneously validate “alternative” facts. In my opinion, sources such as Breitbart and Zero Hedge instead offer conspiracy theories that are far from the truth (for example, although former President Obama’s birth certificate clearly indicates he was born in Hawaii, my relative insists that she has seen “forensic evidence” proving that his certificate was forged and that he was born in Kenya). With the dissemination of “alternative facts” comes distrust, division, and, perhaps, danger.
- While the plurality of people may claim to hold similar personal values, some inevitably interpret values in different ways, and this causes clash. For example, my relative, an immigrant, insists that, because there are successful black persons such as Dr. Ben Carson, race plays less of a role in one’s success. Others, like myself, agree that while individuals possess the power to socially advance themselves, our institutions have been created in such a way that promotes the advancement of certain demographics while presenting obstacles to others. I value equality in the system while my relative values equality in each individual’s potential for success.
- It is essential to speak to those who disagree with us. As frustrated as we may be with those whose viewpoints differ from our own, I believe we owe it to ourselves to at least try and listen to those on the other side of the aisle. While I encountered difficulties in holding the above conversation (and many others) with my relative, I feel it was necessary, if only to understand how she suddenly drifted so far from where she began. While we may not be able to change others’ opinions, it is crucial that we hold similar conversations with our peers. This may be the only way to heal our country from the deep divisions we have been enduring.
*We held this conversation over multiple days, and, since we are family, went on intermittent tangents about various other topics. My relative has read and is aware of this article’s contents.