So, someone you love is voting for Donald Trump.
You’ve watched him slither into the vacuum of coded hate created by conservative pundits and start saying out loud what Fox News & Co. have been dog-whistling for twenty years. We’re going to deport Latinos and build a wall to keep them out! We’re going to shut down the borders so even American Muslims can’t get back into this country! Black people don’t succeed because they’re lazy! Ugly fat women should be fired and replaced with nice pieces of ass! You’ve seen the cartoonish narcissism. The way he lies as casually as a sociopath. And the sheer idiocy. “An extremely credible source has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” “Obamacare is killing everybody. It’s killing everybody.”
And you know what? This person you love, they’ve seen it too. They’ve seen his racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, maniacal ravings and they’ve decided they’re going to vote for him anyway. They plan to walk into that booth on election day with their eyes wide open and cast a ballot that says this heinous clown is the guy they want to handle the myriad overt and covert wars America is embroiled in, to restore our crumbling infrastructure and deteriorating school systems, to overhaul our energy policies to prevent climate change from wrecking the planet even further, to thwart nuclear proliferation and spearhead international diplomatic initiatives, to sustain and rebuild the disappearing middle class, to close the gender gap, to tear down systemic inequalities, to get a handle on gun violence, and to heal the partisan divide that has made governing this country nearly impossible.
The guy who once spent an entire month on Twitter chiding Robert Pattinson for dating Kristen Stewart, that’s the guy your loved one is going to vote for to lead the United States of America.
Here are five things you can do to not lose your mind over this reality.
1. Accept that you’re not likely to change your loved one’s mind about this right now.
The sad reality of American politics is that the overwhelming majority of people are low-information or single-issue voters, meaning that they don’t understand or don’t care about the sum of what elected officials do, or they vote based on their perceptions of a candidate’s personality as opposed to a candidate’s qualifications. This person you love, they’re likely voting for Trump because he “tells it like it is” or “isn’t part of the establishment” or “isn’t owned by special interest groups.” You can talk about Trump’s idiocy and bigotry all day long, and explain why it’s terrifying to think about those things intersecting with the demands of the American presidency, but your loved one is probably not going to hear you. It’s important to manage your expectations about this so you don’t end up feeling even more defeated than you already do.
2. Make it personal.
Telling someone they’re wrong isn’t really an effective way to change their mind. Instinctively they bristle up like a cat’s tail and respond with anger and defensiveness. The best way to reach people who disagree with you politically is to make it personal. You love this person who is going to vote for Donald Trump and they love you. Maybe they don’t realize how much you stand to lose if he is elected. Explain it to them.
“I only make 67 cents compared to every dollar my male colleagues make, and Trump has proven that he has no interest in closing the gender pay gap. I work really hard and am barely able to pay my rent and buy groceries, and Trump’s going to make it even harder for me to get by.”
“By using racially charged language and scapegoating techniques, Trump has incited his supporters to attack brown people. I have anxiety every time I leave my house and walk past the houses with Trump signs in the yard.”
“Trump doesn’t believe I should have the right to marry the person I love and as long as marriage-equality remains a talking point in American politics there will be people who feel like they have the right to discriminate against me.”
3. Do good in a different direction.
Rather than ramming your head into a wall you probably can’t crack, figure out how you can change a small piece of the world and start moving in that direction. If your main goal becomes changing your loved one’s mind about Trump, you are setting yourself up for a miserable 2016. You’ll feel impotent and frustrated and angry and despondent because the chance you’ll get through to them is so slim. (They haven’t been duped by Trump. He is what he is and he hasn’t disguised it.) But doing good and seeing positive change, that’s going to nourish your spirit, encourage your heart, calm your brain, and give you momentum to change more and more and more things for the better.
- Campaign for the candidate you believe in. Get involved with grassroots organizations in your area.
- Campaign for the issues you believe in. Find organizations doing what you want to do to change the world, and join them.
- Do good things that aren’t explicitly political. I work with the ASPCA here in New York to take care of feral cat colonies, including spaying and neutering these sweet street angels. It doesn’t make a difference in the presidential election, but it makes a difference to homeless cats, and that makes a difference for my heart and my community.
4. Be wise about the information you consume.
The hot take cycle on the internet always moves at a feverish pace, and quadruply so during election season — this year, it’s out of control. I have dialed back the time I spend on Twitter and Facebook by about 90 percent this year. The onslaught of stories, the replication of a single piece of information, the frantic opinions, the ping-ponging mania of every shift in public perception, and the people I love and respect saying things that made me want to poke out my eye with a fork: I had to back away from it because it was making me anxious and depressed. Be extra vigilant about what and how you’re consuming news and interacting on social media this election season. You don’t have to read and respond to every single story. You don’t have to be up to date with every single shift in the polls and every word that comes out of every candidate’s mouth. You get to choose when and how you learn what you learn.
5. Talk it out with like-minded people.
Whether it’s here on Autostraddle dot com or in a Facebook group or on Twitter or at work or in a pub, vent out your frustrations with people who also love someone who is going to vote for Donald Trump. Commiserating will help you cope and provide you with a support network of people who are also striving to enlighten their friends and family, too. Being hugged by someone who gets it always helps.