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Shaming: an old way to get people to change



I loved that article in the Wall Street Journal the other day:


The American presidency is always about constituencies: you need a coalition of enough of them to win, and then to help you govern. Corporate America—the businesses large and small that form the backbone of our consumer society—always has been Republican-leaning, although some CEOs incline personally toward the liberal end of the spectrum. Trump seemed to have united corporate America behind his Republican candidacy with his promises of lowering corporate tax rates, eliminating regulations and other things that would increase their profits. But now, says the WSJ, Mr. Trump’s administration is turning out not to be the administration they were hoping for, though probably the one they realistically expected.” Now, corporate leaders are “fleeing” Trump because “They just see no upside to being associated with him.”

Well, better late than never! Many of us could have told these “corporate leaders” more than a year ago that there is no upside in being associated with Trump on anything, unless they want to be branded as racists, homophobes, xenophobes, pussy gropers, science deniers, bullies, liars and greedheads. Those are not particularly savory qualities for a business to be known for!

Let’s see, who else has Trump “lost” besides corporate America? According to the latest Fox poll (the only one Trump is said to trust), “his job ratings are increasingly negative” among:

  1. Conservatives
  2. Republican men
  3. Whites without a college degree

These are constituencies that formed his base! Of course, he never “had” liberals or Democrats to begin with. Latinos never liked him, and Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio has eroded what little support they still give him. African-Americans voted overwhelmingly against him, and now, post-Charlottesville, even “Black Republicans” are finding him “a moral dilemma.”

So who’s left in Trump’s corner? The Arpaio crowd, obviously, those under-educated NRA rednecks who carry rifles in their pickup trucks because, hey, you never know when you’ll have to shoot someone. Evangelicals also seem to be sticking to him, despite the fact that he’s a sexual predator and a pathological liar who’s broken nearly all of the Ten Commandments. This loyalty on the part of “Christians” towards a man who is arguably the least spiritual president in American history can be explained simply: These people are not “Christian” in thought or deed. They use their alleged “Christianity” as an excuse to act out their resentments against non-white, non-straight, non-Christian people. Trump has, if anything, starkly illustrated the utter hypocrisy of these “Christians,” whose professions of faith we now can laugh off as absurd.

If America had a system of direct elections instead of the antiquated electoral college, Trump’s re-election prospects would be non-existent. After all, he lost the popular vote in 2016 by a landslide. And if we hadn’t permitted Republicans to gerrymander their districts in the most unholy, twisted ways, the GOP would lose its stranglehold on the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, we do have the electoral college, and we do have districts that reflect, not proportional representation as the Constitution requires, but fake patterns of conservative demographics jury-rigged by rightwing pols. There’s nothing we can do about that, in the short term. What we can do instead is try to educate those conservative voters, to wean them off this bizarre addiction they have to the Republican Party.

Problem is, in order to educate someone, they have to be educable; and Republican voters have shown a remarkably stubborn resistance to learning anything new, in politics, culture, philosophy, history or science. The battle, therefore, is going to have to be in every living room, around every water cooler, in every family conversation. Children are going to have to convince their parents that the Republican Party is not on their side. Church goers are going to have to convince their fellow parishioners that Jesus would never be a Republican. This is what change will take: not from the top down, but from the bottom up. I firmly believe these conversations already are happening; I believe that many of these corporate leaders, whom Trump has “lost,” met with fierce criticism of their support for him from their own spouses, children, cousins, in-laws and siblings.

“Shaming” is a public behavior used for nearly a thousand years in European history, whereby a village of citizens applies pressure on individuals who refuse to conform to societal norms. Shaming was widespread in colonial America, with public punishments, such as shunning, shackling, dunking and even caging. “[T]he aim was to humiliate the wayward sheep and teach him a lesson so that he would repent and be eager to find his way back to the flock.

 These days, we wouldn’t resort to those types of abusive coercion. But shaming can be a simple act of making someone embarrassed and ashamed of his behavior, in front of loved ones—kind of like an intervention for addiction. That’s what we need to do with Trump supporters: shame them.

Happy September! Have a great weekend!

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