The "Dear Trump Supporters" Video Is Well-Intentioned, But Here's Why It Won't Work
In the midst of an incredibly contentious and heated election cycle, a new video attempts to take the high road. It's essentially an anti-Trump argument, but the civil manner in which it's presented is a stark contrast to just about everything else we've seen so far. The "Dear Trump Supporters" video is a well-intentioned and refreshingly positive attempt to change the hearts and minds of Donald Trump's voting bloc. It's also destined to fail.
The premise: A couple of guys show up at a Trump rally with cameras, wearing satirical "Muslims for Trump" shirts and attempting to goad the Donald's supporters into saying stupid things. Much to these troublemakers' surprise, though, the Trump fans are kind, warmhearted and accepting of them. This probably had something to do with the fact that the provocateurs wearing Trump shirts, but never mind.
So they shift gears and instead make an earnest, completely non-incendiary appeal to the Trumpkins' better angels, and that's what makes up the bulk of the video. One of the filmmakers speaks to the camera and argues that Trump's policies won't actually address the grievances that most Trump voters have. He makes general anti-racist arguments, and suggests that if Trump supporters really want their concerns addressed, they should vote for Bernie Sanders.
Let's give credit where it's due: The filmmakers are attempting to engage in political discourse with their opponents without resorting to insults, ad hominem attacks, or negative assumptions. This is admirable, because too often, political arguments take on such a negative tone that any legitimate debate or mind-changing becomes impossible.
Unfortunately, this video is not going to change any Trump voters' minds. Despite their noble intentions, the filmmakers fail to grasp what actually animates Trump supporters, and this unfortunate misreading sends the video off the rails pretty quickly.
"If you voted for Trump or you're planning on it, please, watch the rest of this video," the narrator says. "We want to reach out to you." He then says that "Mexicans [are] not your enemies," and that they only emigrate from Mexico because trade deals have ruined their economy and the war on drugs makes the country increasingly unsafe.
This is all true, but are these facts going to resonate with the intended audience? Are Trump voters going to discover an untapped reservoir of sympathy for the plight of Mexican immigrants thanks to these arguments? Will somebody who has already decided that they like Donald Trump going to stop liking Donald Trump once they're told that Mexicans aren't really their enemies?
I wish the answer was yes, but it's probably no, and this is one of the video's major missteps. It addresses Trump supporters as if they're cultural liberals who can be swayed by pro-equality arguments and policy details. And this is a spectacular misunderstanding of Trump supporters.
From a common-sense perspective, it's obvious that Trump voters probably aren't moved by appeals to racial harmony. Honestly, why would anyone be a Trump supporter to begin with if they were inclined to be sympathetic to immigrants? Remember, Trump is the guy who called Mexican immigrants "rapists" during his campaign rollout. In a January poll, a third of Trump voters said they supported the U.S. policy of forcing Japanese-Americans into internment camps during World War II, while about 20 percent of them said they opposed the Emancipation Proclamation (!).
It's always good to see someone make a political argument that's grounded in truth, policy details, and basic respect for all humans. Unfortunately, that doesn't always work. At one point, the narrator of the video says that "you don't really believe this myth of 'makers and takers.'" I'm going to go out on a ledge and say I believe that, in fact, most Trump supporters likely do believe "the myth of makers and takers." That's why they support Trump.