“Are Liberals Helping Trump?” asks the NYT.
Liberals may feel energized by a surge in political activism, and a unified stance against a president they see as irresponsible and even dangerous. But that momentum is provoking an equal and opposite reaction on the right. In recent interviews, conservative voters said they felt assaulted by what they said was a kind of moral Bolshevism — the belief that the liberal vision for the country was the only right one. Disagreeing meant being publicly shamed.
Protests and righteous indignation on social media and in Hollywood may seem to liberals to be about policy and persuasion. But moderate conservatives say they are having the opposite effect, chipping away at their middle ground and pushing them closer to Mr. Trump.
A few representative voices are heard from:
“The name calling from the left is crazy,” said Bryce Youngquist, 34, who works in sales for a tech start-up in Mountain View, Calif., a liberal enclave where admitting you voted for Mr. Trump is a little like saying in the 1950s that you were gay. “They are complaining that Trump calls people names, but they turned into some mean people.”
Mr. Youngquist stayed in the closet for months about his support for Mr. Trump. He did not put a bumper sticker on his car, for fear it would be keyed. The only place he felt comfortable wearing his Make America Great Again hat was on a vacation in China. Even dating became difficult. Many people on Tinder have a warning on their profile: “Trump supporters swipe left” — meaning, get lost.
He came out a few days before the election. On election night, a friend posted on Facebook, “You are a disgusting human being.”
“They were making me want to support him more with how irrational they were being,” Mr. Youngquist said.
The Times then turns to a couple of experts, including the omnipresent Jonathan Haidt:
“We are in a trust spiral,” said Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University. “My fear is that we have reached escape velocity where the actions of each side can produce such strong reactions on the other that things will continue to escalate.”…
“There is really only one period that was analogous, and that is the Civil War and its immediate aftermath,” said Doug McAdam, a Stanford sociology professor. “I’m not suggesting we are there, but we are straining our institutions more than we really ever have before.”…
One facet of recent political life has been large-scale protests against Mr. Trump. They have been largely peaceful, but when there is violence, even on the fringes, it tends to reduce popular support for them, Professor Haidt said, citing recent research. And for many Trump voters, even peaceful protests are unsettling.
The voice of Ann O’Connell, 72, is perhaps the most representative, reflecting many of the 70-somethings I know in my own life:
“I don’t have a problem with protesting as long as it’s peaceful, but this is destroying the country,” said Ann O’Connell, 72, a retired administrative assistant in Syracuse who voted for Mr. Trump. “I feel like we are in some kind of civil war right now. I know people don’t like to use those terms. But I think it’s scary.”
Mrs. O’Connell is a registered Democrat. She voted for Bill Clinton twice. But she has drifted away from the party over what she said was a move from its middle-class economic roots toward identity politics. She remembers Mr. Clinton giving a speech about the dangers of illegal immigration. Mr. Trump was lambasted for offering some of the same ideas, she said.
“The Democratic Party has changed so much that I don’t even recognize it anymore,” she said. “These people are destroying our democracy. They are scarier to me than these Islamic terrorists. I feel absolutely disgusted with them and their antics. It strengthens people’s resolve in wanting to support President Trump. It really does.”
The Times gets serious after reflecting on further polling data:
Polling data suggest many center-right voters feel the same way. The first poll by the Pew Research Center on presidential job performance since Mr. Trump took office showed last week that while he has almost no support from Democrats, he has high marks among moderates who lean Republican: 70 percent approve, while 20 percent disapprove.
One last voice echoes another influential voice of this election cycle.
Mr. Medford compares Mr. Trump to a jalopy.
“It’s like I need to get from Charleston to Atlanta, and suddenly the most beat-up car on earth shows up and says, ‘Do you need a ride?’ I think, wow, if I had any other way to get there, I’d choose it. But there’s only this terrible car. And it might not even make it.”
But he doesn’t want to get out, at least not yet…
Trump as the jalopy that you nonetheless don’t want to get out of. Hmm, that sounds familiar.