How To Talk To a Donald Trump Supporter, Part 1: Immigration

I can’t believe it’s come to this, but here we are. Late September and we are gearing up for the first of three Presidential Debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Undoubtedly, the results of these debates are going to become topics of vigorous debate on Facebook, around the water cooler, and when you visit your family and talk to that one Uncle of yours.

This is no laughing matter. As things stand today, this race is far too close. 

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This is no time for liberals to stew in their own smug superiority; this is no time to make jokes about how unrealistic of a candidate Donald Trump is; this is no time to block friends with differing opinions.

Donald Trump stands a real chance of winning the Presidency right now, and the only proper course of action is for those of us who want to prevent that to actively do something. For many of us, this involves volunteering, phone banking, and knocking on doors. But for the rest of you — even if you don’t have the time to volunteer — you definitely have the time to speak to the people who you know who are undecided (and push them towards Clinton) or who are for Trump (and try to nudge them back to not voting).

I’m no master of persuasion or super-expert in politics. But I do have a little experience and I have had some success over the years in helping people to think about things in a different way.

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Before I begin, I want to share three quotes that I always keep in mind when approaching political topics with friends and acquaintances (this also helps at work, and in relationships, but I digress).

  • “I never saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1808.
  • “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” – Dale Carnegie, 1936
  • “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” – Unknown, prior to 1863.

You literally will not, ever, be able to argue, harangue, or criticize someone into not supporting Donald Trump. But you may be able to help them change their own minds.

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Statement: Donald Trump will make us safe. 

Answer: Did you know that America has actually been getting safer, not the other way around?

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But you’re right, Donald Trump supporter, that violent crime rate is still too high. But it’s going the right direction (under 16 years of Democratic presidents and only 8 years of Republicans). And I would rather be safe, too.

So if America is getting safer, why did Trump recently have a speech where he literally screamed that our nation was in “crisis” and “terrorism in our cities” was “threaten[ing] our very way of life”?

What specific policies that Donald Trump has outlined would make us safer?

Statement: Donald Trump will make us safe from Islamist extremist terrorism.

Answer: What makes you think that Trump knows anything about that? In fact, throughout this campaign Trump’s proposals on national security from his Muslim ban to “taking” ISIS’ oil and “bomb[ing] the hell out of” the group have been slammed by terrorism and national security experts, even Republican ones.

But putting that aside for a moment, let’s put that danger in perspective.

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It is a huge problem worldwide — and that is a growing problem for Americans as well. Death and destruction and misery abroad is not just a humanitarian conflict that we should all care about, but it spawns more extremism every day and presents a growing threat to our national security.

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Statement: Trump will stop dangerous immigrants and refugees from coming in to the United States.

Do you know how many refugees have committed acts of terror in the United States since 9/11? Zero. Only three of over 784,000 refugees have even been arrested for planning terrorist activites with only one of them planning an attack in the United States with plans that were “hardly credible.”

Statement: I agree with the Wall.

I don’t think the Wall is a crazy idea. I don’t think it’ll be particularly effective at stopping the flow of drugs, etc., but there are worse ways that we could spend $25 billion I suppose. But the method of enforcing the border — every politician is against illegal immigration — is not a reason to vote for one candidate over the other.

Statement: Trump will stop the dangerous immigrants/refugees!

Which ones? And how?

By the way, did you know that the average processing time to asylum seekers can last up to 24 months, and that refugees from Syria actually take longer because of the difficulties verifying their identities and security concerns from their region? These agencies use biographical and biometric information about applicants to conduct a background check, interview with a DHS officer with training in this screening process, and refugees from Syria go through the “Syria Enhanced Review” process.

And, of course, only 2% of the refugees admitted have been “single men of combat age.” Most of the refugees have been women, children, the elderly, and families.

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We can’t do nothing, friends. Mocking in whispered tones around the office at that Trump supporter isn’t going to stop them from going to the polls on November 8th. Engaging in screaming matches or trolling them online isn’t going to change their minds.

Many people — if not most people — on both sides vote as much with their heart and their emotions as they do with their brain or logic. In the case of Trump supporters, there are many who “feel” unsafe and “feel” like Trump will do a better job of making them safe. For those of us who back the Democrat, we have a little more than a month to dispel those notions.