A brief thought on the kind of person – well, let’s be honest here, the millions of people – who may wind up electing Donald Trump as the next American president. Unflattering things have already been said about them, and deservedly so, because their behavior is frankly deplorable.
But let’s start this article on a happier note. Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Franchesca Ramsey. You may not recognize her name, but if you watch MTV or casually browse YouTube’s politics videos, you already know her face and voice. She is most famous for “Decoded,” a series of educational lectures and comedy skits that break down sensitive topics such as race and gender.
Her most recent video, “A Retirement Home for Donald Trump Supporters,” also ranks as one of her best. While I won’t spoil the various gags and punchlines, it’s fair to say that the video illustrates how the “greater” and “simpler” America for which Trump supporters yearn is really just one in which the last sixty years’ worth of progress for women and minorities has been wiped away. Naturally, it also clearly demonstrates how the vast bulk of Trump’s core supporters are motivated by racial bigotry and misogyny. Considering that Hillary Clinton recently got in trouble for referring to these same Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” this is a pretty bold statement for Ramsey to make… and many Trump supporters are complaining about precisely that on the message board.
“I see a lot of irony in that, especially for a candidate and for supporters who make wild generalizations about Mexican immigrants, about black people, about women, about LGBT folks,” Ramsey observed to me. “They continually make generalizations about marginalized people.” This is a vital point, since it speaks to the logical flaw whenever Trump supporters assume an air of victimhood. It isn’t simply that a political ideology is something you choose whereas racial and gender identities are inherent parts of who you are. The power dynamic between the forces backing Trump’s campaign and the marginalized groups opposing it is not equal, not by a long shot. “When you make a generalization about a Trump supporter, you’re talking about hurt feelings, versus generalizations about marginalized people that lead to their oppression and mistreatment,” Ramsey noted. “Hurt feelings are just not comparable to dead bodies.”
This doesn’t mean that every Trump supporter is a drooling maniac or howling monster. “Sure, I’m sure there are some Trump supporters who are nice people,” Ramsey explained. ‘But I think that we have to be really careful when we talk about ‘nice people’ versus ‘nice people who support harmful laws, ideologies, and beliefs.’ And so, you could be very nice to me and polite to me, but if you support a candidate who wants to take away my rights, who wants to profile Muslim Americans, who wants to uphold negative ideas that potentially have damaging effects for me and people that I love, then I have no problem saying that I don’t agree with that, and I think that those are not good people. I think that good people can support terrible things, and I think terrible people can occasionally do good things, and I think you have to be really good about separating those things.”
The point here is not that Trump supporters should be demonized, but that their problematic attitude need to be identified and called out. Because comedy is a powerful tool for doing precisely that, satirists from Ramsey to the Comedy Central lineup (including Larry Wilmore, for whom she writes) often point their barbs at these ordinary people and the bad things they do… such as supporting presidential candidates like Trump. The laughs may feel harsh to those on the receiving end of them, but that is nothing compared to the pain caused by the oppression which these individuals seek to perpetuate.
It’s uncomfortable to be reminded of this fact, to be sure. I can’t promise that those who watch Ramsey’s work won’t sometimes squirm in their seat as they view. That discomfort that they feel, though, merely proves that these are conversations which need to happen.