Friends don’t let friends debate Trumpies

In today’s irrational environment, there’s no point launching into rational arguments

The author, a Chico resident, was the CN&R’s editor from 2006-09.

As anyone who knows me well knows, one of my closest friends in Chico staunchly supports Donald Trump. That’s probably not a shock to folks who recall my editorship of the CN&R: I aimed for open discussion in the op-ed section—and even endorsed a few conservative/Republican candidates when deemed the right call. That editorial philosophy is not radically different from today’s.

Back to my friend: He’s got Texas roots, but our common piece of ground is Arkansas. We both love sports and talk baseball. Through the 2016 election and well past the 2018 midterms, we’d debate politics on Facebook. Mutual friends would lurk, savoring the spectacle, confessing in conspiratorial whispers how much they enjoyed me—or him—delivering verbal haymakers. They wouldn’t always realize no bad blood spilled, that at the core the dialogue is always cordial.

I typically don’t engage in political discussions online. It’s a low-reward proposition. How often does a reply comment change someone’s mind? Rarely, in my experience. I’ve mostly challenged my friend on his “shares” and sources.

Now, I don’t even do that.

I’ve reached the conclusion that there’s no point in launching rational arguments into an irrational environment. That’s not to demean my friend; he’s well-read, just comes to starkly different conclusions and chooses memes accordingly. No, it’s come from the window he and others open for me into the mindset of Trump backers.

Simply put, we don’t live in the same country—or the same state. Based on the overlap in groups such as Chico First and One Chico, we don’t live in the same city, either. The divide goes beyond tribalism, affiliation with a team; Americans—Californians, Chicoans—can’t even find agreement on what’s fact and who’s reliably delivering facts.

Pick an issue: homelessness, the economy, climate change, the president’s words and actions. It’s impossible to find bases of consensus in the “fake news” era.

Diehards are entrenched. Appealing to logic won’t work. Save your breath; don’t get carpal tunnel syndrome. Politically engaged citizens—and candidates—should focus on independent-minded allies.