News & Politics

Here's Why Demands to 'Respect' Trump Voters Are a Trap — And How Democrats Can Win Anyway

Columnist Paul Waldman argued in the Washington Post that demanding Democrats respect Trump voters misses the point.

Photo Credit: Darron Birgenheier

Since the 2016 presidential election — and even before that — commentators across the ideological spectrum have insisted that a key problem in American politics is a lack of respect. Democrats, these writers argue, show blatant disrespect for Republican voters, and particularly for President Donald Trump's voters, and they won't be able to reverse their electoral fortunes until they fix this fact.

But as Paul Waldman explained in a Washington Post op-ed on Tuesday, this view misses the point. It's true that many Republican voters feel completely disrespected by Democrats. But that's not because of what Democrats do — it's because of conservative media.

He explains:

 The right has a gigantic media apparatus that is devoted to convincing people that liberals disrespect them, plus a political party whose leaders all understand that that idea is key to their political project and so join in the chorus at every opportunity.

If you doubt this, I’d encourage you to tune in to Fox News or listen to conservative talk radio for a week. When you do, you’ll find that again and again you’re told stories of some excess of campus political correctness, some obscure liberal professor who said something offensive, some liberal celebrity who said something crude about rednecks or some Democratic politician who displayed a lack of knowledge of a conservative cultural marker. The message is pounded home over and over: They hate you and everything you stand for.

The canonical examples of Democratic disrespect — Hillary Clinton's comments about putting coal miners out of work and Barack Obama's remarks about Republicans clinging to their "guns and religion" — are largely out-of-context misreadings, Waldman argues. The very speeches these quotes are taken from show ample amounts of respect for "Trump voters," and a few unfortunate word choices are then used against the candidates. 

As Waldman notes, this is a no-win game for Democrats. No matter what Democrats do, conservative media figures will find reasons for outrage. He does have a suggestion, though, for Democrats seeking to break through all faux outrage about disrespect: "[Never] stop telling voters how Republicans are screwing them over."

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.