An open letter to my Facebook friends about why they should stop posting about Donald Trump

Dear friends who are opposed to Donald Trump,

We get it. We know he is a terrible person who says terrible things. We know he’s eminently unqualified to be president, and we know that it is absurd beyond imagining that he is actually leading in some national polls. We know he is a misogynist, a racist, a mercantilist, a bigot, and just generally an asshole. You’re preaching to the choir. But you’re also contributing to the viscerally negative partisanship that is infecting our broader culture, and you are inadvertently helping Trump’s cause.

The nasty partisanship is so bad that I’ve started unfollowing people because I don’t want to be a part of this groupthink. But you are my friends, I care about you, and I want to know what is going on in your lives. I want to see your baby/cat/dog/vacation pictures. I want to invite you to events and be invited to yours. I want to maintain human connections with y’all. So please, for the love of all that is good in life, stop posting articles about how bad Donald Trump is.

If you’re not convinced, I want to give you three good reasons why you might want to stop preaching about the evils of Trump:

1You are directly contributing to more coverage of him and his “movement” and empowering the people who support him.

Donald Trump has spent the last decade or more as a reality TV star. When you watch reality TV, who gets the most attention and airtime during the show? It’s always the cattiest, the most angry, the funniest, the most conniving people. Have you noticed how every time coverage dies down, he says something even more ridiculous and immediately the press and new media fall over themselves to be the first to criticize him?

Take the GOP convention for example. There were two big dramatic moments in that. The first was Melania Trump’s obvious plagiarism of Michele Obama’s speech. It was so obvious that it was caught immediately. Why would their campaign risk such a stupid mistake unless it served a more important purpose?

The second was when Ted Cruz refused to endorse Trump in his speech. Political press made hay of this and said that Trump looked angry during the speech. But Trump himself said that he had read the speech beforehand and thought it was fine! If he had cared about Cruz actually endorsing him during the speech, he had ample opportunity to make changes. But instead, the media played right into his hands by covering the juicy drama.

Trump doesn’t have policy positions. His campaign offered the VP slot to John Kasich with the promise that he would get to “be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.” That’s the entire job description of the president! When Kasich asked what President Trump would be in charge of, he was told that Trump would be “doing work to make America great again.”

Trump’s entire strategy is to distract from actual politics and earn enough media attention on fake scandals and drama until November. And you are 100% doing what he wants when you forward on stories about his awfulness.

2Everyone around you already agrees that he’s a bad person. Your article shares are well-received by people who already believe what you believe because of the lack of thought diversity inherent in our online social networks. Think of that aphorism about how you are the average of the 5 people closest to you.

Facebook algorithms determine what show up in your newsfeed. It is not chronological and it is not a complete snapshot of everything your connections share with you. When you Like a news story about something, Facebook captures that information, and uses it to show you similar posts from other friends. We unconsciously curate what information reaches us by interacting in social networks. Even Google does this with search results. Sharing a post about Donald Trump is just virtue signaling to your friends that you’re not “one of those people” who supports him. You get some likes, some comments agreeing and lamenting the state of things, but the unintended effect is that you are increasing the pernicious partisanship that everyone claims to hate and is the cause of Trump’s rise in the first place.

3You’re missing out on an opportunity to actually understand why his voters support him, and how it’s possible to offer sane policy solutions to the very real problems all Americans are dealing with.

GOP voters have lost all faith in their party’s leadership. And rightfully so! If you don’t know this about me, I was a Republican activist from age 15–20. I was president of the ASU College Republicans. I watched as the party I thought I believed in pandered to its elderly voter base with giant handouts and did next to nothing in reducing the regulatory burdens on small businesses. I left the party when the best they could do in 2008 was nominate John McCain, a big spending war hawk who never saw a defense budget he couldn’t support.

When Obama won, the GOP didn’t reevaluate their cultural position. They just decided to block everything the Democrats did and they became the party of gridlock. I still have never seen a coherent GOP opposition to Obamacare beyond just repealing it and letting people buy insurance across state lines. The leadership of the Republican party doesn’t care about understanding the problems people face in this economy. (Neither do the Democrats, but I’ll address that separately.) This became even more evident in 2012 when the GOP pulled the exact same crap on Ron Paul as the DNC did to Bernie Sanders this year.

So here we are in 2016. Nuance doesn’t exist in politics anymore. There’s actual data to support this, by the way. By looking at the votes of Congress over time, there is a very clear trend of increasing legislative partisanship that really ramped up in the late 1980s, and took off like a rocket in 1994 when the Republicans took Congress under Newt Gingrich’s leadership. There are far fewer compromises, and federal politics are almost universally seen as winner-take-all.

Republican base voters (particularly the ones who vote in primaries) are just as opposed to voting for Democrats as you probably are to voting for a Republican. And these base voters have watched for 15 years as their party leadership has ignored them and contributed to this feeling of powerlessness when it comes down to Washington DC and Wall Street versus the rest of the country.

People who feel powerless tend to lash out. They support awful things because more civil approaches have failed. They throw the baby out with the bathwater and want to reset the system.

Who are these people who are lashing out? Polls show his largest supporting demographic is white middle class people without college educations. These people feel victims to globalization. They’ve lost jobs, seen their wages stagnate, and watched as education and healthcare costs rose dramatically. All of a sudden the GOP is the populist workers party and the Democrats have become the party of the rich business interests. Let that sink in for a moment.

The problems they’re complaining about:

  • wage stagnation
  • increasing healthcare costs
  • lack of work available for people with their particular skills
  • crime
  • illegal immigration

Immigration and trade are the big bogeymen. But those are just masking the actual issues. Opposing illegal immigration and free trade deals IS NOT to going to fix any of those problems. Blocking the movement of goods and labor across borders has been shown many times to cause economic contractions. Opposing trade and immigration is going to make things worse for everyone.

Clinton doesn’t offer any ideas that will fix these problems either. She has moved leftward to placate the Sanders supporters and now opposes trade deals she once helped enact and a minimum wage increase that even the most left-leaning economists believe is too high too fast and will have many negative unintended consequences. She also is the most visibly pro-war candidate since McCain. As Secretary of State, her policies and recommendations *directly* led to the rise of ISIS in Libya. She still believes that intervening in Libya was an “example of smart power”. She is just as bad on the drug war and helped write bills that enabled the US to incarcerate more of its people (who are disproportionately minority) than any other country on Earth. Where have you disappeared to, my anti-war compatriots?

The way to defeat Trump is to offer reasonable policy positions that most Americans support, like:

  • supporting civil liberties like the right to an abortion, gay marriage, and drug legalization
  • reforming the education system so that people who have lost jobs to globalization are better able to adapt to a changing work enrichment
  • ending the federal war on drugs and pardoning nonviolent drug offenders
  • scaling back the size of the US military both at home and abroad, with significant spending savings
  • championing the proven policy that immigrant labor grows the economy
  • championing free trade as a proven policy that grows the economy
  • term limits on politicians to end once and for all the perpetual ruling oligarchy who are beholden only to rich donors

Those policies would actually go a long way to helping people find jobs, businesses to earn more which can then be passed on to employees in wage increases, ending the injustices that groups like Black Lives Matter are fighting, and ultimately ending this perpetual economic recession.

Here’s where I make the pitch that the Libertarian ticket of Governor Gary Johnson and Governor Bill Weld actually supports all of those positions. And then your response is, “but Trump is so dangerous and third parties can never win, so I’m going to support Clinton anyway.”

In a year where a reality TV star is legitimately leading in the polls to win the US Presidency, I think it’s safe to say that this is not a normal election.

If Johnson can get in the debates (a feasible task, as he only needs to gain about 5% more support in the national polls), he will be able to make this case for civil liberties and fiscal responsibility to the American public. The Johnson/Weld ticket is offering a true alternative to the status quo of Hillary Clinton and the buffoonery of Donald Trump. If Johnson can win just a few electoral votes (Utah, for example) the entire election could go to a vote of the US House. Governor Johnson represents the perfect compromise between two parties who absolutely hate each other.

I’ve heard so many people say that they want to see the day where there’s a third party option in the US, but then dismiss Johnson because they can’t let Trump win. But now is the best opportunity we may ever see to open American politics to a third party! A wasted vote is a vote for someone you don’t like and don’t believe in. The lesser of two evils is still evil.

Here is where you can read more about the issues Johnson and Weld believe in: https://www.johnsonweld.com/issues, or here is a short video of them on CNN from August 3rd: http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/08/04/cnn-second-libertarian-town-hall-90-seconds-origwx-allee.cnn. Or try taking the quiz at http://www.isidewith.com to see how closely you might actually align with Johnson and Weld. And keep in mind that they have to work with Congress to get anything passed. If, for example, their ideas on tax code simplification bother you, remember that a President Johnson can only sign or veto legislation presented to him. We elect executives, not kings.

Lastly, I gladly welcome open-minded and evidence-based discussions about policy approaches. My Facebook feed is full of people castigating opponents (I’m guilty of this as well) and propping up their own team. I miss discussing the merits of policy. So if that interests you, let me know in the comments.

With love,

Paul