Trying to Change Trump Supporters is a Waste of Time

Oh sure, some are reachable, but there are better uses of our energy than trying to convert MAGA nation

Tim Wise

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“Does this angle make me look like a douche?” Yes, very much so. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Don’t let the title fool you.

I’m not saying that all Trump supporters are indelibly wedded to their current hero, incapable of changing their minds or walking away from him or the ideology to which he has given voice.

After all, I am friends with several people who were once overt white supremacists, even Neo-Nazis, but who have turned their lives around and now fight against racism as hard as they once fought for it.

And if white power skinheads can move from the sickness of Nazism to a genuine belief in pluralism, surely MAGA folks can break free from the political personality cult in which they find themselves.

However — and this is the caveat that informs the title above — spending any significant time trying to be the source of their conversion is a waste of energy.

As for those friends of mine who used to throw up Heil Hitler salutes and now are working to undo the damage they caused? They’ll be the first to tell you that what changed them wasn’t some fact-based dialogue with a liberal.

Instead, it was usually a combination of some act of kindness from someone in one of the groups they hated — which they had no right to demand or expect — and specific life events, like having a child and worrying about the legacy they were building for their offspring, being arrested, or coming to see how the violence they preached and practiced was coming back on them.

In no instance was it due to a well-crafted essay, speech, online post, or deep conversation over a couple of beers.

They’ll also be the first to tell you that helping others get out of the movement — which all of them work to do — isn’t scalable in the long run.

Oh sure, they’ll try and do it, partly out of a sense of obligation to bring other people out of that life, much as former gang members sometimes do. But as for defeating the larger white supremacist movement? That, they would all agree, will take more than one-on-one conversion efforts.

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Tim Wise

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)