A close American friend recently revealed why a mutual friend was no longer speaking to me.
“She said you support Donald Trump. But that isn’t true, is it?”
My first reaction was incredulity. My second was to laugh hysterically. My third was to get angry. My fourth was to write about this, knowing that it might cost me some more friends.
How had it come to this? How did it happen that I, a relatively apolitical person who hadn’t even voted in the last US presidential election (what was the point when my home state, Maryland, always went Democratic?) and never wrote about political topics, was being shunned because of my political beliefs?
I considered what I had said that prompted my friend to drop me. I had expressed my approval that Trump had moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and rescinded the treaty with Iran. Additionally, I had said that it was Northeastern elitism and arrogance that had brought him, not Hillary Clinton, to power. I don’t consider either comment to be especially controversial.
I had also stressed that Trump wasn’t my top choice for president then or likely ever. But I had already said enough.
For many Trump haters, there is a “you are with us all the way or against us” mentality that has reached hysterical proportions. It is a view no longer relegated to just a few hotheads. It is a hysteria that permeates our most elite media, institutions, and individuals. It is mean, ugly, and very personal.
After discussing politics one evening at a café, another friend remarked to me: “I don’t understand how such a nice person as yourself can be right wing.”
The implication is that the left has a monopoly on goodness and caring for others. The comment echoes the words of the late great columnist Charles Krauthammer who once noted: “To understand the workings of American politics you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.”
I understand that comment because I once thought so myself. I was the third generation of my family to attend a “progressive” private school where we learned more about Martin Luther King, Jr than the Founding Fathers. I worked on my first political campaign at age 15 for ultra-liberal Bella Abzug and a few years later trudged through snowy Maine and New Hampshire canvassing votes for liberal icon Sen. Ted Kennedy. President of my college Young Democrats, I wept when Ronald Reagan was elected and bought a t-shirt at the 1984 Democratic Convention reading “Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Republican.”
I was drawn to liberal Democrats because they represented my values: freedom of speech and religion, civil rights, gender equality, gun control, and non-elitism. I thought conservatives were wealthy white men who abused the poor and saw women as intellectually inferior sex objects.
But slowly, while Trump was just focused on amassing New York City real estate, liberals have been attacking America and Israel, while glossing over the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. They have castigated working class people in middle America as ignorant hillbillies and mocked their religious beliefs. And they have created an intolerance for dissent.
The mythical liberal of the past — an open-hearted and generous soul helping the underdog — has become an ugly figure excoriating anyone who doesn’t share his views. Those who don’t swoon over Obama and foam at the mouth at the mention of Trump are being branded as racist and evil. Equally shocking are the stories of elitist universities refusing to let non-left speakers on campus.
All of this has succeeded in pushing people like me, who do not feel entirely comfortable voting Republican, further and further away from the Democratic Party. We are the voters up for grabs in the next election. Those that criticize and ostracize us do so at their own peril.