By Paul V. DeMarco
After my June column, “Losing well is critical to democracy,” in which I praised Tom Rice for his grace in defeat and compared his response to Donald Trump’s incessant lying about his loss, I received an email from someone whom I will call “Randy” who is a Trump supporter. Randy told me he grew up in Florence and now lived out west. He was back home visiting and saw the column. He is a volunteer poll worker and has witnessed “serious problems with conducting fair elections” although the only example he cited was an error that involved 40 votes in a local election.
Given that Steven Wukela won the Florence mayoral Democratic primary by a single vote in 2008, I agree with Randy that election integrity is paramount: votes must be properly counted and only eligible voters should vote.
I was curious about his poll-working experience and wanted to know more. Did he believe that the 2020 election had been stolen? How did he think it had occurred?
But the most interesting statement in his email was “Trump gets his power from loyal voters like me. He is nothing without the huge support he enjoys from voters. Whenever you insult him, you actually insult voters like me which cost Tom Rice his job from fellow Trumpers!”
I found this very helpful. For someone like me who knows and respects many people who voted for Trump but sees Trump himself as reckless and solipsistic, I wanted to engage with Randy and find out why he is such a devoted follower.
I was also encouraged that he ended his missive with this benediction: “I enjoyed reading your column but could not disagree with you more.”
Randy’s sentiment, that he could both enjoy my column but totally disagree was refreshing and is largely missing from current political discourse. My intuition is that there are many Americans like Randy, who can disagree enjoyably and leave an argument respecting their opponent.
I quickly composed an answer. The first draft was civil but contained the accusation that due to his fealty to Trump “he had a ‘chip-on-the- shoulder’ attitude” and that he was “primed to be insulted.”
When I reread it, I realized that I was making the error that so many of us make – I assumed I understood his motives, that I could read his mind. It’s always better to allow people to tell you why they feel the way they feel. Of course, they may or may not reveal their true motivations, but it is worth hearing them out.
So I edited my draft. Here is what I sent:
“Randy, I really appreciate your responding to my column. Thank you for your service as a poll worker and the insights in your email. I would be happy to entertain evidence that there was significant fraud in 2020. I agree that elections are not perfect. But the fact that 40 voters voted twice in (your home state) is a far cry from what would be needed to overturn a presidential election… After almost two years and 60 court cases in which no evidence of fraud was found, I think your position that significant fraud existed is weak. Your position is also opposed by attorney general Bill Barr, countless election officials including the Republican Secretary of State who certified the result in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger (who recently beat the Trump-backed candidate in his primary reelection campaign), and the U.S. Congress. Again, I would be open to hearing the evidence and being swayed by it.
I’m interested in your statement ‘Whenever you insult him, you actually insult voters like me.’ I’m not out to insult Trump and certainly not people like you who support him. I’m stating what I believe to be a fact, that he knows he lost the election and is purposely pushing a lie about fraud because it is effective with many of his supporters. He has a unique and strong bond with you and many others. I would benefit from your telling me more about why he means so much to you.
I truly value your willingness to engage with me civilly. If you would, please write back. Thanks and best wishes, Paul”
I sent that over a week ago and as of this writing have not received a response. But for me the possibility that he might respond is energizing. So much of what I read and listen to makes me grit my teeth in despair. I sit between the two warring sides as they lob innuendo- and contempt-laden grenades at one another. It’s depressing and deeply boring. There are many of us in this no-man’s land. If what was said on Twitter was what most of us truly felt about our political opponents, fistfights should be breaking out daily in every grocery store in the country.
Truth is, only a small fraction of us participate in our media dialogues and fewer still enjoy it. Most of us would rather have honest discussions that include various points of view. I hope Randy writes back, or if not that someone else who disagrees with me will.
This column appeared in the Florence Morning News on 7/20/22. Still no response from Randy, but I plan on sending him the blog post. Maybe we can engage him that way.
Paul, thanks as usual for your contribution. It is particularly appreciated this week because my laptop is in the shop with the Geek Squad, so I’m trying to do all my work on a Mac, which is very unpleasant. And difficult. It’s only partly that I don’t know how use a Mac. The bigger problem is that my FINGERS don’t know how. The letters are a little closer together than they are on my PC, so I keep hitting the wrong ones. And far worse the backspace key (which Apple calls the “delete” key, even it works quite differently from a real delete key) is in completely the wrong position. But don’t let me get started on this.
But I have a question: Did you send me that column about Rice having lost? Because if you did, I don’t think I received it…
Oh, by the way, on the Mac thing…
I’ve discovered something that helps a bit — I’ve started looking at the keyboard while I’m typing, rather than at the screen.
That’s something I haven’t done since I first learned to type almost 50 years ago. I’m not sure the actual LOOKING is helping so much (although it does help to see what my fingers are doing as they do it). I think a big part of it is that it forces my brain into an unfamiliar mode, and that helps me be more mindful — just as I was when I learned to type. It puts me in “learning” mode more than “doing” mode.
For so many decades, typing has been such an automatic, involuntary activity that the concept of THINKING about it no longer resides in my brain, unless I do something to force it to happen…
Y’all, I think this is the column Paul refers to. I can’t say that for sure because they won’t let me read it without subscribing, which I’m not going to do. I’m subscribing to too many newspapers already (at last count, six, I think).
I think I went over the number of free connections they allow (just getting links to Paul’s columns), and unfortunately the pay wall doesn’t start over when a new month starts.
Of course, I’ve seen worse. I discovered this morning, trying to click on a link from Twitter, that National Review doesn’t allow ANY freebies before you subscribe.
Which doesn’t make good business sense to me. Why even put the link on Twitter if you’re not even going to let the reader see a couple of your pieces so he can describe whether he WANTS to subscribe?
“But the most interesting statement in his email was “Trump gets his power from loyal voters like me. He is nothing without the huge support he enjoys from voters. Whenever you insult him, you actually insult voters like me which cost Tom Rice his job from fellow Trumpers!”
My dad supported Trump- but my dad doesn’t defend Trump in this way.
Randy’s comment is a bit odd to me because no politician is anything without support from voters. So I am not sure that’s all that insightful.
Trump supporters created a dangerous situation: As Trump himself said, he could actually do anything, including commit murder in the street and he wouldn’t lose any support from his supporters. I believe that is true. But that is tragically sad. But I think it says terrible things about his “supporters.”
I don’t consider those folks supporters. I consider that a cult.
The ironic thing is – Trump was the very definition of Deep State. He demanded 100% loyalty from everyone, even though he didn’t offer any loyalty. He fired people that disagreed with him.
He installed a political flunky/kid right out of college to implement a system in the civil service that prioritized loyalty to Trump over job skills and abilities. I don’t think see how anyone anywhere thinks that is a good idea.