Perhaps you’ve seen one of the dozens of voter panels with Trump supporters that I have moderated on “New Day” over the past five years. Maybe you caught the one shortly after Trump’s 2016 victory in which I slapped my forehead when a panelist tried to tell me that three million “illegals” cost Trump the popular vote. Or maybe you saw the one where a panelist told me he would believe Donald Trump over Jesus Christ.
Since 2015, I’ve listened closely to Trump supporters’ feelings and motivations. I’ve drawn insights from every one of my panelists on the appeal of Donald Trump as a disruptor, how they believed he was “a fighter” for them, how they believed his success in business would translate into lifting the US economy. I hoped my voter panels would help our viewers understand all sides. I hoped the panels could model civil discourse and how to hear each other. But a week after the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, I’m rethinking my position.
The cries from right-wing politicians telling us we need to hear the feelings of Trump supporters are wearing thin, as is the idea that the mob at the Capitol was somehow “silenced” or “censored” for too long. In the hour before the deadly insurrection last Wednesday, President Trump told his supporters, “Make your voices heard.” Later, after they’d trashed the seat of American democracy, he told them he loved them and that they were “very special.”
So, let us look at some of the “very special” people the President wants all of us to listen to — like the guy dressed up in the badger pelt, horns and face paint. Authorities say he’s a prominent QAnon crackpot and longtime Trump supporter. He was taken into custody on Saturday, charged with violent entry into the Capitol. I’m hard pressed to see what this malign Minotaur has to teach the rest of us.
Or how about the 60-year-old man from Arkansas, kicking his feet up in the office of the Speaker of the House? He left a “nasty note” for Nancy Pelosi and stole some of her mail. I guess he didn’t know that’s a federal crime. I’m not sure we should take any pointers from him either.
Then there’s this guy from Florida who decided to help himself to the Speaker’s lectern, smiling for the cameras as he absconded with it. He was arrested on Friday, charged with theft of government property. Before coming to CNN, I spent five years as a crime reporter, and it was an enduring truism that the dumbest criminals took photos of themselves with the stolen stuff.
For the record, I don’t think the arsonists and vandals who caused damage in Portland, Oregon and other cities last summer need to be listened to either — but I don’t hear any political leaders saying they should be. In fact, Speaker Pelosi and President-elect Joe Biden have publicly condemned those far-left rioters who wreaked havoc.
The mob that descended on the Capitol had their chance to have a say last Wednesday. Hundreds of journalists with cameras were positioned along the protest route to capture the rioters’ feelings and anger. But instead of speaking out peacefully, the crowd turned to violence: They broke windows, scaled walls, carried a Confederate flag into the Capitol Rotunda, defecated in the halls of the Capitol, killed a police officer, savagely beat another one with a pole holding an American flag and crushed yet another officer in a door while he screamed for help.
Of course, the domestic terrorists who stormed the Capitol do not represent all 74 million Trump voters. But you’d be amazed how many Trump supporters still believe the fact-free nonsense the rioters were chanting. According to a Quinnipiac poll, 73% of Republican voters believe there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election, despite dozens of Trump-appointed judges rejecting those specious claims and Republican Secretaries of State investigating and confirming that there were very few incidents of voter fraud.
That’s the problem with listening to Trump supporters now versus four years ago. Today, so many more appear to have become openly delusional and untethered from reality. Case in point: A Pew poll finds that roughly 41% of Republicans who have heard of QAnon, a group that peddles the conspiracy theory that a ring of satanic pedophiles have taken over the US government, say QAnon is a good thing for the country. Some pundits say none of this is the fault of the Trump supporters — that they’ve been tricked and misled by Donald Trump and his allies. If that’s true — if they are that easily duped and manipulated — all the more reason to tune them out.
By the way, there are also three networks and dozens of online sites devoted almost exclusively to amplifying President Trump’s nonsense.
So, spare us, Congressman Jeff Van Drew, who tried to claim on Wednesday that the impeachment hearing was taking “half the country(‘s)…voice away.” And save it, newly-seated Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who wore a mask that read “Censored” as she spoke out to tens of millions of Americans. It’s simply not true. We heard you all loud and clear, and now a Capitol police officer is dead and our democracy was put in peril.
I’m glad I sought out Trump voters to help me understand their perspective throughout this administration. Their insights informed my reporting every single day. I wish I could say that listening to his die-hard supporters had helped them, but I don’t see a lot of healing or catharsis in the Trump crowd. Being heard didn’t seem to alleviate the grievances of so many of them, if poll responses are an indication. Rather, many only grew more dug into their faulty beliefs.
Yes, many Trump voters on our panels expressed deep and sincere regret at supporting Trump in 2016. Some of them say they wish they could take back their vote so as to prevent all the division and lying that’s come since. But what can we make of Trump’s most ardent current supporters? Today I see only more passion for him among this group — and more rage at Democrats, the press, the so-called “Deep State,” Vice President Mike Pence and everyone else who they think has done Donald Trump wrong.
So now, at the end of Trump’s term and after the deadly Capitol insurrection, I think the time for listening to present-day Trump supporters is over. There is nothing that anyone in this destructive and delusional group can teach the rest of us about being open-minded and tolerant.
Yes, I still believe in civil discourse and hearing all rational sides — not the crazy, violent side, which is what my CNN colleagues got at the Capitol when their questions were met with threats from the mob last Wednesday. I think at this point the smartest thing the rest of us could do is no longer give warped Trump supporters a platform and no longer lend them our ears. It’s time to turn off their microphones.
I’ve had it with interviewing Trump supporters who go off the deep end The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ CNN.