Many Donald Trump Supporters Deserve Respect

In a recent editorial, The New York Times columnist David Brooks skewered the character of Republican front-runner Donald Trump while simultaneously arguing that many of his supporters "deserve respect. They are left out of this economy."

I appreciate that David Brooks makes this important distinction between Donald Trump supporters and the candidate himself.

From all the evidence I've seen so far, it seems undeniable that many of Donald Trump's supporters are motivated by his xenophobic, misogynistic, racist and nationalist rhetoric and demagoguery. It would be disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

However, this same evidence also persuades me that there are many Donald Trump supporters who are motivated more by economic anxieties and dissatisfaction with the dysfunctional performance of the political system. In my view, these are legitimate grievances and should not be dismissed.

It is easy and understandable, but misguided I think, to assume and stereotype all supporters of a particular candidate as being motivated by a single cause. This goes for any political candidate. After all, it was not so long ago that Hillary Clinton's support coalition in the 2008 Democratic primary included a number of people motivated by racial concerns over nominating an African-American candidate.

I therefore believe it is important to remember that the support coalition of all candidates is diverse. There are stupid reasons to support any of them, but there are legitimate reasons as well.

Those who do not support Donald Trump should point out his serious character flaws and unfitness for the office of the presidency. They should point out the potential danger to American society and the planet earth at large. They should loudly spotlight how his rhetoric and potential policies would harm religious, racial and ethnic minority groups in American society. They should do everything they can to exercise their right of free speech to engage in reasonable discourse with those who support Donald Trump to attempt to persuade them to change their mind.

However, they should also remember that not all Donald Trump supporters are supporting him because they are as xenophobic, misogynistic, racist and nationalist as he is. These Trump supporters motivated more by economic anxieties and government dissatisfaction deserve to have their views taken seriously and to be treated respectfully in our public discourse.

I'm grateful to live in a political system where we have the freedom, opportunity and responsibility to discuss and debate the reasons (hopefully the "smart" reasons and not the "stupid" reasons) for supporting the various candidates we have available to us. Most humans throughout history have not enjoyed that same privilege. May we use it responsibly.