While I don’t suggest doing it often, I understand there are times in our lives where, inevitably, almost everyone reading this is going to find themselves in a debate with a supporter of Donald Trump. At one point I did my best to avoid such maddening affairs. However, as time has gone on, I’ve found myself engaging in more and more debates with “Trumpsters.” Partly because I’m still driven to confront ignorance, even if I know my efforts are ultimately futile. Another part of it is, at times, it’s actually kind of enjoyable. I’ll be the first to admit, spinning Trump supporters in circles, and backing them into corners where they’re comically contradicting themselves with nearly every attempt to defend him, can, at times, be quite entertaining.
Seeing as I’ve probably had more of these debates than the average person, I thought I’d offer a few tips for those brave (or unfortunate, in some cases) souls who find themselves debating people from the land of make believe and Trump fan fiction.
1. Whatever you do, don’t get emotional: When you’re dealing with angry people who are driven by irrational fear, paranoia and Trump mythologies, the last thing you want to do is get emotional. Remember, you’re a lot smarter, and more factually informed, than they are. No matter how ridiculous they become, the worst thing you can do is try to match their irrational emotional output. I know it’s sometimes difficult, but simply remain calm and know that reality is on your side — not theirs.
2. It’s almost completely pointless to use facts: For most people who support Trump, the only “facts” they believe are the words that come out of his mouth. It’s usually pointless to use fact checkers; math; history; video footage (even if it’s of Trump, himself, saying something); news articles that quote Trump directly; or anything that debunks the endless stream of drivel that spills out of his mouth – they’re not going to believe any of it.
The only reason I’d say to at least try to use facts is for the other tips I’m about to list.
3. Since they’re not going to believe any of your facts, ask them for theirs: Since people who are fueled by propaganda and lies are impervious to being fact checked (see #2), a tactic I typically use is asking them to provide sources to back up their claims. Be sure you specifically ask for credible, non-conservative sources. Otherwise you’re going to end up with a Breitbart-level article as “proof.” In my experience, I’ve found it’s easy for anyone to spout off talking points they’ve been fed by Trump or Fox News, but it’s much more difficult for them to actually back up (with credible evidence) the nonsense that they believe.
For example: If they claim the economy has improved, make them explain how. Show them the factual economic data from the last year of Obama’s presidency, that same data from Trump’s first few months in office, then ask them what, specifically, he’s done to “improve the economy” and where those impacts can be seen in the current economic information that wasn’t there before he came into office.
I promise, the answers they’ll come up with — if any — will be rather hilarious.
4. Inquire about specifics related to his policies: While Donald Trump says a lot of stuff – he’s almost never specific about any of it. His entire campaign was built from infomercial-style rhetoric rather than actual policies. Sure, Trump supporters can regurgitate rhetoric with the best of them, but you won’t find very many who know anything specific about how he plans to accomplish anything.
We already know Mexico isn’t paying for the wall, his health care bill doesn’t fulfill any of his promises, and his tax plan is an absolute joke. So ask them, specifically, what his policies are and how he’s getting them accomplished. Then ask them to compare that to what he said he was going to do during his campaign. Forcing them to think about what he said vs. what he’s actually doing isn’t going to likely change any of their minds, but it does often produce a rather interesting reaction.
5. Ask them how it feels to support someone who has been praised, supported and defended by some of the most horrific people alive: This is actually a question I’ve asked Trump supporters that’s stumped quite a few:
Imagine a room full of dictators who use chemical weapons on women and children (Bashar al-Assad) and tyrants who’ve had political rivals and journalists murdered (Vladimir Putin), then toss in the KKK, David Duke (white nationalist and former Grand Wizard of the KKK), and neo-Nazis. Now ask yourself this: when has a group of people like that ever been on the right side of history?
Whether they want to admit it or not, Trump’s been praised and/or defended by the likes of Putin, Assad, the KKK, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and former Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke. At no time in human history have those types of vile creatures ever been on the right side of history, so why would they be now?
Yet, when Trump supporters insist that they are, what they’re really saying is that, for the first time ever, those types of deplorable animals are on the right side of history when it comes to supporting the current “president.”
6. Ask them what would it take for them to not support Trump: At this point, what would it take for them to abandon Trump? He’s broken just about every campaign promise he made, is now lashing out at his own Justice Department that’s staffed with people he put there, and under investigation for obstruction of justice related to firing the head of the FBI, citing the on-going investigation into his campaign as his primary reason.
Is there really anything he could do that would make them abandon him?
7. Bring up some of his scandals, but attribute them to Hillary Clinton, then see how quickly they think she’s corrupt: Clearly don’t bring up some of his more well-known scandals because that would be too obvious. Find a way to word some of the lesser scandals he’s been saddled with, make them appear to be about Clinton, then after a while of letting them go on about how “corrupt and unethical she is,” inform them that those controversies were actually about Trump, not her. The reaction to that revelation will usually be rather hilarious.
8. Ask them if they would defend Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton if they were accused of the same things: This one’s pretty clear-cut. Simply ask them, would you defend Obama or Clinton if they:
- Repeatedly defended and praised Russia during an election where Russian hackers helped them win.
- Had a growing list of people linked to them caught with ties to Russia, including lobbyist groups.
- Refused to release their tax returns.
- Lashed out at U.S. intelligence officials for saying Russia was behind last year’s cyber attack against our election.
- Used social media to bash their own Department of Justice.
- Called Fox News “fake news” on a nearly daily basis.
- Had a former national security advisor get caught working as a foreign agent during last year’s election.
- Fired the head of the FBI, citing their displeasure with the on-going investigation into whether or not they committed treason.
- Were exposed by the recently fired head of the FBI that they were potentially trying to obstruct justice by pressuring him to end a federal investigation.
- Were hiring multiple big-time lawyers in anticipation of what may come from the Russian investigations.
- Settled a $25 million fraud lawsuit alleging they created a fake university to defraud people out of thousands of dollars.
- Hired close family members for top White House staff positions even though they weren’t qualified.
- Spent about half their weekends golfing at their Florida resort at a cost to taxpayers of around $3 million — per trip.
I could add plenty more to that list, but I think I’ve proven my point. Simply ask them if Obama or Clinton were accused of any or all of that, would they be quick to defend and dismiss those scandals. Something tells me they wouldn’t.
There they are, folks. I would encourage everyone reading this to use some, if not all, of these tips the next time you’re dealing with a Trump supporter.