When former Trump supporters – both politicians and ordinary people – start to break away from him, I predict that, for liberals, it will feel profoundly unsatisfying. They’re going to say things like:
“I loved Trump as a candidate. I agreed with everything he said. I just wish he would govern like he campaigned.”
“I don’t regret my vote – at least we stopped Hillary. And he did his best. But he couldn’t work with those people. We need someone craftier.”
“The Democrats aren’t any better. I’m never voting again.”
“I thought he was a real conservative. Turns out he’s basically a regular Democrat.”
It won’t feel like a moral victory. But the more sentiment like this you see, the more it means Trump is in trouble.
The instinctive response will be to scold: “You were okay with everything about him until now?! Shame on you.” I viscerally empathize with that.
But we have to face the country as we find it. Even now, Trump’s approval rating is almost 40%. You’re not going to shame almost half of Americans into reversing everything they believe in. The more you try, the more they’re going to dig in. What you can do, instead, is to give them room. Expand the available space for people to reject Trump while reinforcing their identities instead of rejecting them. Let them say: “I’m against Trump because I’m a real conservative.”
In the long term, the fact that 40% of Americans are fine with a candidate like Trump says something very troubling about our country. It says we have a lot of work to do in civic education, media literacy, and a host of other areas. It says we need to fix our broken institutions. It says our democracy is in real trouble.
But those are longer term issues. In the short term, to get him out, it’s going to take some moral humility – which is going to hurt.