Those of us who refused to vote for Donald Trump often find that, if we criticize Trump these days, people respond with some variant of “BUT HILLARY!!” Here is a typical exchange:
ME: Trump’s latest statements show that he cares more about himself, his image, and his crowd sizes than he cares about the country.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: At least he’s not Hillary!
These responses are genuinely puzzling to those of us who opposed Trump. Hillary Clinton is not the President of the United States. Conservatives who opposed Trump are happy about that. We didn’t want either Trump or Hillary to be President. So why do people keep bringing her up? She’s ancient history.
Today I figured out why people do this. I figured out why many people are so reflexively defensive of Trump.
They’re justifying their decision to vote for him. And they see every criticism of Trump as a criticism of them, for having voted for him.
You, the reluctant Trump voter, think that if I criticize Trump, that I am reproaching you for having voted for him.
When I write: “I criticize Trump for action x” you, the reluctant Trump voter, read my statement as saying: “I criticize you because you voted for Trump.”
But I’m not criticizing you for having voted Trump.
I’m not. Really!
Relax. It’s OK with me that you voted for Donald Trump.
I understand you. I understand why you did what you did. You didn’t vote for Trump because you thought he was a great guy. You didn’t vote for Trump because you believed all his promises, or because you thought he was honest.
You just really, really hated Hillary. You didn’t want her to be President.
I get it. I didn’t either.
I have always said — always — that I fully understood why someone would vote Trump in a general election against Hillary Clinton. (If you voted for him in the primaries, that’s a different discussion entirely.) I’ve never criticized a general election vote for Trump. I’ve never criticized the people who cast that vote.
But some people are — no offense intended — a bit defensive about it.
This realization explains why every time I criticize something Trump does, I get a chorus of BUT HILLARY! in response. If you are reinterpreting my criticism of Trump as a criticism of you, then “BUT HILLARY!” makes perfect sense.
But that’s not what I’m saying. I’m not criticizing you. I’m just criticizing Trump.
Trump supporters often tell me that I have to accept the fact that Trump is president and get past it — as if I need to be told that. I’ve said many times that I accept it. I think y’all need to accept it too. His election is a given. He’s there in the Oval Office.
And now, if he acts like a buffoon or a jackass, or fails to make the “great deals” he promised us, or wastes his time on Twitter, or shows an obsession with crowds and his own ego at the expense of the nation, he deserves criticism for that.
If I level that criticism, I am not criticizing you.
I’m criticizing Donald Trump. Not you.
I respect people who cast a vote for Donald Trump to avoid Hillary Clinton becoming President. I also respect people who, like myself, found Trump a bridge too far and could not bring themselves to cast a vote for the man. If you can respect my position, I can respect yours. (If you can’t respect my position, and you’re going to throw in with the crowd that talks tough and calls other people names but runs from every actual real life fight, that is also a different discussion.)
So please. Stop taking it personally if I criticize Donald Trump. It doesn’t mean I’m attacking you for having voted for him. I know you weren’t taken in by him. I understand the fact that you considered him the lesser of two evils. You and I are cool as far as I’m concerned.
Shake on it?