A Liberal Paradox

The other day I overheard a guy I know who most certainly voted for Trump complain that a guy he knows has said he won’t do business with Trump supporters.

Well, I wasn’t about to wade into that one. I can have interesting conversations with this guy I know about a range of subjects, but politics is not one of them. He’s swallowed he Breitbart line wholesale: Hillary Clinton belongs in jail, Barack Obama is the worst president ever, etc., etc. I don’t know where to start, and even if I did, I recognize a closed system when I see one.

It did get me thinking, though. First I thought about the fellow who doesn’t want to do business with Trump supporters. I get it. We’re supposed to be willing to park our values at the door where money is involved. To keep the job we’ll do whatever we have to do, unless we’re lucky or relatively well-off or very, very brave. To obtain a product super-fast and/or super-cheap we’ll overlook the labor practices that make faster and cheaper possible. Among other things, this pretty much forces us to dissociate our values from the choices we make in daily life. We also tend to get really angry with anyone who by word or deed suggests that we could do otherwise.

The Trumpbusters' work is just beginning.

The Trumpbusters’ work is just beginning.

So on one hand I’m with the fellow who doesn’t want to do business with Trump supporters. When the differences between candidates are primarily philosophical or political, it’s possible to “agree to disagree,” as the saying goes. With the presidential election of 2016, such a position is a cop-out. Donald Trump ran a relatively fact-free campaign devoted to exacerbating fears and fomenting racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. He made promises that the Constitution would not let him keep, presumably because he was unaware of what the Constitution said or thought it didn’t apply to him. And he demonstrated over and over and over again his total unsuitability for high office: short attention span, lack of self-control, grudge-holding, ignorance of history, disregard for facts . . .

I’m flabbergasted by anyone who could disregard all of the above and actually cast a vote for the guy. No way am I going to “agree to disagree” with them. Would I say out loud that I’m not willing to do business with them? Probably not. Martha’s Vineyard comprises six small towns, and in small towns it’s generally possible to know a fair amount about the businesses and tradespeople one deals with and to make one’s choices accordingly. I might edge away from doing business with Trump supporters, or with overt racists, sexists, and fundamentalists, but the chances are good that they won’t even notice that I’m taking my business elsewhere, never mind wonder why.

rainbow-flagSo the guy I know who voted for Trump and was indignant that anyone might decline to do business with him as a result noted a contradiction in the other guy’s position: What about the bakeries who refused to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples and were court-ordered to pay damages as a result? (FYI, here’s info about one case in Colorado and another in Oregon.)

If I wanted to get legalistic here, I might point out that Trump voters are not a protected category, or that it’s not the act of voting for Trump that people object to but the ugly values that vote represents. I could also wonder, as I did when those wedding-cake cases came up, why any same-sex couple would choose to do business with anyone who challenged their right to marry. Maybe they didn’t know? Maybe there were no equally competent alternatives?

For now, however, I choose not to go there. Instead I say, “Yeah, I get the connection between refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and refusing to do business with Trump supporters. But listen to what you’re saying, will you? Tolerance of those with divergent views is a liberal value. Laws that require that clients and employees be treated equally regardless of race, sex, creed, disability, sexual identity, and all the rest are liberal laws. And you, my friend, just voted for the most blatantly not liberal candidate to come down the presidential pike in my lifetime.”

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
This entry was posted in Martha's Vineyard, musing, public life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Liberal Paradox

  1. I also draw the line at this election. I cannot change the next four years, but I will not condone the sentiments or actions based on racism, classism or nativism. After having listened to the current President being mocked, insulted and castigated for eight years, I will no longer allow people to think I “agree” with them or Trump. Rather than stay silent, I now flatly state I do not agree. I think what is important for us from The Other Side is to remind these winning voters that they do not own or get to control the opinions of the rest of us. And we darn well might stand up to them, second amendment or not….because it pays to note that the First Amendment was that of Speech…not power of any other kind. Besides, it might do the silent majority some good to know another majority will no longer be intimidated into publicly agreeing with them. Feel free to take Romney out to dinner for that…


  2. Terry Lewis says:

    I’d like to think we could be passionate about something and yet allow the other person to be passionate too. I have a friend who is a died-in-the-wool Trump advocate. But I like the guy! So we agree to disagree. Sometimes, if we’re both up to it, we go hammer and tongs on an issue. I must admit it mystifies me how I could like a guy with such values – but I do! Thanks for your post

    Liked by 1 person

    • For me it’s not the passion itself, it’s what inspires the passion. I’ve got friends who are very passionate about professional and/or college sports, especially football. This mystifies me, and deep down I think they’re a little loopy 😉 , but it doesn’t get in the way of our friendship. We roll our eyes at each other’s interest or disinterest and then move on. With the Trump supporters I know — yeah, usually we have other things to talk about, and I know that there’s more to them than support for Trump, but still, supporting Trump falls into a different category than supporting a professional or college sports team.

      Although — for some people the two seem to be very similar. Democracy is a spectator sport for them. It’s all “rah-rah for my team” without much thought that electing someone to the Oval Office is rather different from cheering a team in the NFL playoffs.


  3. Juleann says:

    If tolerance is a “liberal value” I guess the guy who doesn’t want to do business with Trump supporters didn’t get the memo?

    I prefer to think of tolerance [of divergent views] as a human value, rather than a political one — especially since neither side seems willing to demonstrate this behavior towards people who think, believe and voted differently than they did. Unless we all try to find some “give” we are hopelessly doomed.

    Don’t get me wrong — some (not all!) of the people who voted for Trump appear to be unwilling to protect all Americans equally and continue to hold on to deep-seated beliefs about “others”. Regardless, we need to honor their right to think this way while we develop strategies to change their minds. Which won’t happen by not doing business with them!

    I continue to believe that getting this poison out in the open will be the best thing that could have happened.

    Liked by 1 person

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