Trump’s Whisper Network

What happens when the left cedes the free speech high ground?

Comments: 197

  1. “... he claims as a direct result” Well did Brett - who let’s remind ourselves is paid a lot to write 1000 words or so per week - check if this claim is true? Given it would make quite a lot of difference if it didn’t?

  2. We have to recognize that those who disagree with us are not necessarily "evil". I choose to believe that most people are doing what they believe is right.

  3. @TH Hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil from Trump. Hmmm, the perfect Trump voter.

  4. @TH There's no question that most of us are very good at rationalizing what we do and considering it to be the right thing. That was also true of the SS guards who butchered Jews in the Nazi death camps. Does that mean they were not evil?

  5. @TH there is a difference between right and wrong. Most things are either right or wrong. There are gray areas however this is in hyperspecific situations. Never is it okay to vote for a racist and a rapist.

  6. Good luck on this. It's all tribal now, and no good deed will go unpunished.

  7. It's true. And the number of secret and not so secret whisperers has grown. An employee in my office just this week unexpectedly held forth about his new found sympathy for the President. It always helps to have the right enemies even if people wouldn't give you the time of day otherwise.

  8. "noted that so-called secret voters" Imagine, voters keeping their preferences secret. The next thing you know, they'll demand a secret ballot.

  9. Well yeah. But THOSE "secret" voters do well to keep it that way. Adhering to our enemies, giving them aid and comfort, also counts after all.

  10. @SR :"Adhering to our enemies, giving them aid and comfort," What "enemies" are you talking about? Aid and comfort? Any notion of that ended with Jane Fonda sitting in a N. Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun placement. But then again, she bucking the mean nasty Federal Government. A lot of folks have done that in our history. Can you think of some examples?

  11. Oh yes, Mr. Stephens, let's just always be polite and never confront Mr. Trump and his supporters no matter what say or do. That was certainly the dignified way in the 1930s in Germany. How did that work out? And how did it work out for Hilary and the dozen or so Republican contenders Trump trampled in 2016? Then there's Republican Senator Susan Collins who suggests we just shut our eyes and ears and brains and be "aspirational" about Mr. Trump's behavior. Hmm, how's that working for ya? But you are right on one count, Mr. Stephens, it will come down to 300,000 voters in 5 or 6 states. And there will be nothing quiet, or dignified, or aspirational, about it. Nor should there be!

  12. @Ok Joe The recent tweet exchange between Trump and Bloomberg shows that Bloomberg has Trump's number. He knows how to get down in the dirt and fight Trump on a level playing field -- how to really get under Trump's skin. That is key. None of the other presidential candidates have figured it out yet, and they won't before November, because none of them know Trump the way Bloomberg does. Bloomberg is the one who can win over these 300,000 voters. And he won't have to whisper to do it.

  13. @Blue Moon Standing up to a bully may be the best thing to do. I think attacking Trump's behavior is the right way to go. Even attacking him, like Bloomberg did if you are personally attacked. The Golden Rule may apply: If you were a liar and worse, that would mean having someone stop you. For your own good and the good of others. His voters are another matter. Perhaps listening with curiosity about their choices would help one gain insight. This is not a strategy to convert them. But it could help them think it through and come to a different conclusion. Not to vote at all because they deep down don't like him would be one such conclusion. I don't mean his rageful base, since they will just harangue you, or at best, proselytize. When confronted with one of these people, I talk assertively about sports or something neutral. Finally, about shutting people down who simply want to talk about ideas that are "forbidden." It is a mistake to shut down legitimate dialogue of "dangerous ideas". Ideas that are seen in the light of day non-judgmentally allow the person to change, bring more people into the circle and may correct extremes. The Harper's article mention #MeToo and Al Franken leaving politics, but without much investigation. I had the feeling there were missing pieces that no one talked about. One reason for the proliferation of conspiracy theories is because so many things seem to be off limits for dialogue.

  14. @Blue Moon I couldn't agree more!

  15. Mr. Stephens' article is an exercise in false equivalency. Let's examine some of the complaints that Mr. Trump's supporters claim he is addressing. - If you seek authenticity in a politician, the antidote is not a man who has told 14,000 documented lies during his three years in office. - If you want to stop the endless wars, the antidote is not alienating our allies and sending more troops to the Middle East. - If you are concerned about the loss of well-paying middle class jobs, the antidote is not to give tax cuts to the corporations and owners of companies that have eliminated these jobs through automation, outsourcing, and opposing labor unions. - If political correctness has gone too far, the antidote is not prejudice and bigotry.

  16. @MidtownATL Your comment is both correct and beside the point. What man of the readers trilled by ou comment refuse to see is that unless we can sacrifice our uderstandable impusle to keep screaming We're Right You're Wrong, but intead focus on all the reasons, reagardless of our many, many politial disareements, Americans should vote Democratic this election, things we disagree about, that enraging menace to our entire political tradition may well win another term. It's terrifing how right people can be and how mindboggling blind they can be at very same time. Bloomberg or Bernie--the choice between them is meaningless COMPARED to Trump or No Trump!

  17. Will you please run for Congress?

  18. agree. add creating new super fund sites our children will have to pay for by his elimination of regulations.

  19. "Republicans will organize their campaign around the country’s material prosperity under Trump; Democrats around its moral deterioration. The latter is the trickier argument to make, but it’s been done before, most recently when George W. Bush promised to restore honor and integrity to the White House after eight years of Bill Clinton." And promptly lied the US into a disastrous war of choice against Iraq and began the Forever War in Afghanistan.

  20. @Steve Paradis Touche, Brett. And why can't Dems argue, have your rent hikes in the last four years been higher than you pay increases?

  21. @Steve Paradis Have you noticed how this week the Administration is rushing to make peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan? Another ally (the Afghanis) down the tubes for the sake of expediency and re-election (the first being the Syrian Opposition.) Trump wants desperately to use these troops brought home in advance of the election to “prove”his election promises are being kept. The other, of course, is The Great Wall against immigrants paid for, not by Mexico but, by sucking money from our own military ($3.8 million in fact.). His supporters love it and the first law of business is that money is fungible.

  22. "Republicans will organize their campaign around the country’s material prosperity under Trump; Democrats around its moral deterioration." Actually Democrats can organize their campaigns against the loss of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. While (swing) voters are liberal on many issues, they are conservative with things they like, and the social safety net tops the list. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." That can be the winning slogan for Democrats this year. It demonstrates listening, empathizing and understanding: the path to victory. And it just may save our democracy, too.

  23. And you don't have to take my word for it. Just listen to Paul Krugman being interviewed by Stephen Sackur on BBC HardTalk from the other day. Particularly the last five minutes.

  24. Absolutely, Mr. Stephens. However, don’t you think something should be done about lying? As The Guardian relentlessly points out, opinions are free, but facts are sacred. I am no genius, I have no idea of what kind of regulations can be effective against lying. I am well aware that, given the bewildering mass of news from primary sources made available by the Internet, truth can easily be considered to exist, like beauty, in the eyes of the beholder... I suppose ways will eventually be found. Let’s just hope it won’t be too late.

  25. Remember - Trump lost by three million legally cast votes. Unfortunately our electoral system is, in fact, rigged - for the Republicans. Though many may have voted for him out of sheer spite, the majority of white, working class voters did so out of frustration. After six years of Mitch McConnell shutting down any progressive programs that might have truly helped them - more stimulus, infrastructure spending, etc. - our government really wasn't working for them. It still isn't, despite the DOW being at all time highs. It will be interesting to see how this manifests itself in November. And a lot will depend on who the Democratic nominee is.

  26. @Ladybug That is the very first time I have read “a lot depends on who they nominate in November”. I say that to myself every time I see the comment “vote”

  27. I don't believe the left has ceded the free speech high ground. But see my previous post: do actions (speech) have consequences or not? Again, I agree with you on taking the high ground even if it means Democrats losing the 2020 election. I'm confident we'll have a repeat of 2007 with Trump drunk on power and we'll be woefully unprepared. But hey, the electorate representing the electoral college chose him. Anyways, after such a fiasco when China has recovered from the coronavirus and the US has been severely diminished, people will be ready for another blue wave like 2008. This time perhaps they'll remember what Republicans did. That's scenario 1. Scenario 2, a Democratic candidate wins and we try to fix the country which may be too late anyway. So 2024 may well end up being the real election unless there's a MASSIVE turnout and a complete blue wave in 2020. Whoever said history doesn't repeat but it rhymes sure had it right. We've been going through this back and forth for decades now.

  28. It's all the fault of the censoriousness left? Are you serious, Mr. Stephens? There used to be plenty of mutual respect across politcal divides, because opponents were not perceived as enemies. There were exceptions, of course, as in the McCarthy era and with Nixon's enemies list; but those of us who remember those times also remember that the American body politic regained its balance. That balance became decidedly unsteady with President Obama's election and the rise of the Tea Party. And now with trump's campaign and presidency the balance has been lost. And you can't blame the left. Ironical, 3 years of trump should have united left right and center in condemnation of his constitutional abuses, barbecue they should not be a partisan matter; but the Republican Party has, save for a few outliers, abdicated its constitutional duty. I can somewhat respect what led many to vote for trump, despite knowing his many personal flaws and failures. But respect has to be deserved, and I refuse to respect anyone who votes for him a second time. However much you love the economy and conservative judicial appointments, consider the price. To understand where I'm going with this, read Timothy Snyder's "On Tyranny - Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century". The overall takeaway is that early allowances and excuses for authoritarianism only invite more of the same. This time, his potential voters have no excuses and have forfeited all respect. 22:30 EST, 2/14

  29. @mancuroc I love Snyder's book and encourage everyone to read it because his lessons matter today. He purposely made it small enough to carry around, and it's only $10.

  30. Empathy and compassion? Absolutely. Respect? No. That is earned. For my part, I'll be doing what I can to discourage these people from voting at all. And you bet those of us opposed to Trump and ALL he stands for, are focused on these voters as well. Good luck everybody.

  31. Although you are right about the free-speech part, you're on thin ice about converting and re-converting Trump supporters. And as to whether they voted for Trump because he represented "forbidden fruit": do you have any evidence of that? If instead, someone suggested that what motivated Trump voters was 99% misogyny, racism, resentment, and intolerance, could you refute that? As to the fantasy of persuading Trump voters to see the light: this seems not only futile, but perhaps counterproductive. The New York Times has reported now and again about how "liberal" and "conservative" (a euphemism, in this case, for resentful, bigoted misogyny) voters live in different (mis) information spheres these days. They are not taking in the same (mis)information, much less agreeing on its significance. Little persuasion of red voters can occur. The challenge for the Democrats is to nominate someone who can inspire and motivate those who failed to vote last time, who voted for third parties, and who are eligible to vote for the first time (7 million of them!) A nominee with fire in her belly, who won't alienate moderates (moderates--not reactionaries), will be a great challenge. That is not to say that the answer is to nominate Bernie Sanders. That also could lead to disaster. However, if the nominee, instead, tries too hard to appease Trumpistas, former, current, and/or future, she risks losing more votes (especially among Sanders supporters) than she gains.

  32. @Just Ben "If instead, someone suggested that what motivated Trump voters was 99% misogyny, racism, resentment, and intolerance, could you refute that?" Yes, actually. While there are many Trump supporters who fit this description, there are not enough to elect him. This is what the left can't seem to wrap their head around (me included) To have this view of all Trump supporters is to be part of the problem, not part of the solution. It's not helpful. It's a cop out. It dismisses half the population without making any effort to understand them. It will only lead to defeat again.

  33. @Will Rothfuss What you've said is very thought-provoking. Let's meet partway. It's true that the loss of good jobs for less-educated people is a big part of the problem. Nicholas Kristof showed that in some recent columns about his hometown in Oregon. Point taken. However ignorance. prejudice, reaction are important factors as well. Trump clearly brings out the worst in people. Doesn't mean that that's all there is to them. No simple answer is available. But a much stronger national commitment to good public schools is a good place to start.

  34. Whatever the reason if it is wrong , will always be wrong? Trump was, is and will be always on wrong side of the history. Watch American factory.

  35. @mancuroc Great comment and I agree with nearly everything... But I will NOT give any credit to Trump for the economy! No way! President Obama created this economy. He turned what was about to be an economic collapse or another Great Depression into a Great Recession. He created more jobs than Trump and the stock market went up much more under Obama! And President Obama, facing opposition from ALL R's, saved the US auto industry. The current economy would not be as robust without a US auto industry! Trump, rather than improving it, threw gasoline on a fire with tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and ran up the deficits (now $1 Trillion a year) and the national debt, and pressured the fed to inappropriately lower interest rates. Lowing interest rates when there is no recession leads to (and has led to) irresponsible borrowing by businesses. What that means is that when there's another, inevitable downturn it will be MUCH worse than it otherwise would have been. Plus the fed has nowhere to go since rates are already near zero. Trump took the good, stable Obama economy and JUICED it irresponsibly which will lead to significant financial crisis... but as Trump planned it will be after Nov. 2020. After that, we'll see what the Trump economy really is.

  36. Thank you, Mr. Stephens, for this essay on conventional wisdom during and about this year's election where some American voters are planning to give Trump supporters a hard time. For the record, this reader always listens to the recording on both sides, keeps a respectful distance from persons wearing invisible M.A.G.A. hats and waves to them like the Queen. Appeals from conservative-minded friends of decades to become enlightened by listening to a series of celebrity and religious talk-show hosts are always acknowledged, while the radio and television remain mute during this era of transition. Now that you mention it, our respective voices seem to be dwindling into 'whisper-mode', and there will always be the lonely man sitting on the park bench, surrounded by pigeons, appreciative of your company, while you gently prepare to take off, recognizing that he is currently occupying The White House.

  37. Miss Ley, I would love to see you waving like the Queen. I would actually pay for the pleasure. Cheers.

  38. The author's characterization tonight on television that Sen. Amy Klobuchar is the best candidate the Dems could nominate is spot on. She's smart as anything, but also grounded in a likable Midwestern way. On the other hand, the infatuation the progressives have for mouthy, intolerant cancel culture is a sure way to lose.

  39. The point of this article is quite valid. Most likely, there are people who disagree with trump overall (on most issues) yet agree with him on one issue critical to them. Their agreement on that one important critical issue would make them support him and vote for him. Evangelists are one such group. They should (perhaps do) find everything about trump disdainful, however they adore his attempts to change the legal landscape on "Right To Life" issues. They hold their noses. These people coveting trump within their hearts, will be ashamed and embarrassed to publicly disclose their feelings for trump. In polls, they may be untruthful, laying a false claim that they do not support him (will not vote for him) when in truth they do support him and will vote for him. This is a major flaw with polls, because they assume that polled people answer poll questions honestly. In 2016 this turned out to be a real issue, and this is likely again distorting poll numbers today. Democrats must see this and other advantages for trump. There is greater chance that he will win re-election. We need to attack trumpism another way, by having a backup plan in case trump is re-elected. We must ensure we WIN CONTROL OF CONGRESS on Nov 3, 2020 - such that democratic control of the House AND SENATE will allow us to Re-Impeach trump and this time also remove trump if he is re-elected. We MUST defeat enough republican senators! Please Donate to Democrats opposing republican senators!

  40. @Incredulous of 45 I absolutely agree we must put McConnell out to pasture but a Senate majority of 67 to 33, which is what is required to remove a president, is about as likely as flying pigs.

  41. A well written and insightful column. I know in my heart that most Democrats and progressives are thoughtful and decent people. Most are even kind. Yet then I read many of the comments contained in these (electronic) pages, and I can see the vile hatred of cancel culture spewing forth. And even just one snarling partisan, blind to reason in his rage, more than offsets ten of his more sensible fellow travelers. And many moderates, like me, find them frightening. If you live and work in an academic environment, where wariness with respect to the thought police is a requirement for survival, whisper networks offer both relief and release—a glimpse of freedom.

  42. @Alberto "In your heart" you probably also know that it isn't Pelosi who's telling "Second Amendment people" to solve her problems if she doesn't get her way. It's your guy doing that, Alberto. Your fear of being snarled at is nothing compared to the open threat of getting blown away by red-hats slinging AR-15's.

  43. So, you find a snarling partisan frightening but have nothing to say about people who take automatic weapons into a Wal-Mart to mow down "invaders".

  44. @Alberto I don't see vile hatred from these postings. If you want to see uncivil behavior shoot right over to the WSJ and see the vitriol about any Democrat being posted. This paper is not even close to the ugliness there.

  45. I can't say I agree with Mr. Stephens here; if Trump voters ever did care about what the "elite" thought of their political sympathies I can't imagine that they continue to do so. These days they seem to be going out of their way to cheer on The Donald's oafish assertions and to call out the "snowflakes" on Twitter and elsewhere. It's hard to believe that any of them are still shy about publicizing their ignorance and/or bigotry.

  46. Mr. Stephens makes some very good points. I remember thinking that when they got into the voting booth in 2016, people would come to their senses and cast a vote against Trump. Now we see that the opposite was true and my prediction was naive. Trump was enough of a pariah by then that many people didn't want to publicly embrace him but had decided to vote for him. This phenomenon may be even more at in play now in respect to moderates and independents who see a strong economy and stock market and no new military entanglements but who would be embarrassed to own up to supporting Trump to their liberal friends. This is the scenario that frightens me.

  47. Freedom of Speech doesn't mean Freedom from consequences. The 1st Amendment gives you the right to freely and openly tell your boss that he's a tool. But that amendment doesn't protect you when he fires you. In the public domain, everyone is free to say whatever they want. So long as it's not yelling fire in a crowded theater, a person's freedom of speech doesn't end where another person's feeling state begin. Say it if you must in the public domain. If folks would do this more often, and stop feeling so stifled by political correctness culture, they wouldn't feel the anxious need to find an iconoclastic leader like Trump.

  48. I suspect the phenomenon is also true in red states. People are afraid to publicly say anything bad about Trump and risk the wrath of his rabid supporters. Case in point, Republicans in the House and Senate. I’m hoping they find their backbones in an anonymous polling both. Honesty and decency need to be brought back to the Republican Party and I believe that many Republicans long for that. To slightly edit the 1964 Barry Goldwater campaign slogan: In their hearts they know what’s right.

  49. In the age of internet almost everything we say is public, there are almost no private thoughts or communications anymore. Was it Chesterfield who said, "A wise man thinks much, says little, writes nothing"? No wonder polls are so inaccurate, we scarcely dare to reveal ourselves anymore to anyone--but in the voting booth we can be ourselves and vote our true thoughts. And, what are a lot of people thinking that they won't usually tell others? Maybe that America belongs to 'us' and not 'them'. Could that be Mr. Trump's real message, his most secret whisper, his genuine appeal?

  50. “How to pull it off this time? By treating Trump voters with respect...By listening, not denouncing; empathizing, not ridiculing; understanding, not dismissing.” The civil tone espoused here is the best one, not just for a political end, but because that is who we are and the conduct we want to bring our nation back to. At the same time, though, it’s hard to believe that supporters of a president who is disrespectful, who doesn’t listen, empathize or understand, can really find proper conduct to be important.

  51. @NM Pigs will fly before we get an op-ed imploring Trump voters to understand and respect liberals.

  52. Good advice. Speech is silver, but silence is gold, especially for those fo us who abhor Trump and the Republican party. Let us work and donate and vote for and to Democrats in utter silence.

  53. It's the height of irony that Stephens preaches to liberals that they should treat Trump supporters with respect. Trumpism is a movement that is founded on disrespect-- for immigrants, for the poor, for science, for norms of civility, for democratic institutions, and most especially, for liberals. Has Stephens gone out and preached respect for liberals and their values in his old conservative haunts? Or is he content to preach his brand of tolerance and understanding from his safe space at the liberal New York Times? Why does he have nothing to say to or about Trump supporters, other than to assure the rest of us that they're really deserving of our respect?

  54. We are a secular humanist society in Quebec. We have escaped centuries of conservative religion , politics and finance. We are currently under attack for our Freedom From Religion laws. We do not believe much in marriage it is no more than a civil contract between consenting adults, we how made little accommodation for the nuclear family and we have banned certain outward displays of religious beliefs in many of our public places like schools, hospitals and government offices. Our society is dedicated to the welfare and future welfare of our people. We just started our Enlightenment a little over 50 years ago but human rather theistic values run across our political spectrum. I do not see the American divide as anything political it is cultural and sociological. It is not a nation of similar ethics and values looking at different ways to get to the promised land. It is not about the meaning of free speech when the local diner has different hours and days for Democrats and Republicans. It is certainly not about left and right I knew Vermont when Bernie arrived arrived at and Democratic Socialist was probably the nicest name he was called. There is no free speech in America because no one is allowed to say; America is broken and maybe it can't be fixed. Maybe it is time to stop worrying about America and start worrying about tomorrow. Maybe trying to keep it together is your biggest problem.

  55. Bret, you're right as far as it goes. The election will not be won by disparaging Trump voters. But you don't go far enough, because Trump is so destructive to democracy that it is nothing short of alarming that more people don't see this. A lot of people didn't see this in the thirties, and it did not end well. It's one thing to win an election, entirely another to witness democracy going down the drain with a sizable minority cheering Trump on.

  56. I would venture a guess that the complete opposite of what Mr. Stephens proposes is actually true. I believe today there are far more people who claim they are Trump supporters publicly than actually are. Why would they do that? For fear of the man himself and his openly hostile followers and their propensity to shame, hate and otherwise abuse anyone who does not support their dear leader. There will be far more pulling the lever for anyone with a "D" next to his or her name this fall than Trump.

  57. In general, I thought calling Trump voters "Basket of deplorables" was a poor strategy. Treating Trump voters with respect is clearly a better strategy, although one cannot imagine that for one second, the Trump side is going to treat us with respect. That is because the Trump side is at least half deplorable people (ie, Hillary got it right). Trumps most ardent supporters are racist and more interested in their 401K plans than the future of democracy. I apologize for ignoring the main message to this piece. Yes, the left is not thrilled with the first amendment. But the real threat to our liberty is not from the left, it is from the Republican party.

  58. In general, I thought calling Trump voters "Basket of deplorables" was a poor strategy. Treating Trump voters with respect is clearly a better strategy, although one cannot imagine that for one second, the Trump side is going to treat us with respect. That is because the Trump side is at least half deplorable people (ie, Hillary got it right). Trumps most ardent supporters are racist and more interested in their 401K plans than the future of democracy. I apologize for ignoring the main message to this piece. Yes, the left is not thrilled with the first amendment. But the real threat to our liberty is not from the left, it is from the Republican party.

  59. "For every voter who pulled the lever for Trump out of sympathy for his views, how many others did so out of disdain for the army of snickering moralists (at the time including me) telling them that a vote for Trump was unpardonable? My hunch: probably enough to make the difference in the states that made the difference." Bret, you have this completely wrong. So wrong that it is an insult to the voters who may or may not have pulled the lever for Trump or just sat on their couches and watched TV. The Democrat leadership did not believe that the working classes would let them down. Why they believed this is beyond me but the arrogance of politicians are well known. At some stage, when you don't even attempt to solve the problems of working people they quit supporting you and go for the opposition. The egregious racist Trump was the beneficiary the last time. I hope the Democratic leadership is not so disconnected with regular people they repeat their 2016 mistake. I am not confident they have learned the lesson, they keep wanting to kneecap candidates who are listening to people's problems and want to help them.

  60. Many Trump supporters are open and proud about their allegiances. And even more so, they know their support of Trump provokes a certain kind and they enjoy the provocation. Seemingly, they revel in the fact that "respectable" upscale Democrats are outraged by Trump and his supporters. For these folks, part of the joy of supporting Trump is snubbing those who consider Trump to be beneath them. Mr. Stephens is speaking of a different crowd -- those intimidated by "respectable" Democrats, who hide their true political selves. But these folks are not unlike those who revel in provocation. Either way, the lesson is that a vote for Trump is frequently a hostile statement toward upscale Democrats. And this shouldn't be surprising. Upscale Democrats --lawyers, doctors, journalists, and other well off professionals -- are among the most self-righteous folks out there and plenty wealthy too-- a formula that regular working class and middle class folks often reduce to an intolerable and obnoxious crowd that they deeply resent.

  61. I agree the assumption of bad faith, bad epistemic states, and bad character breeds polemic arguments and polemic responses instead of bridging divides. The problem is, however, there are a lot of people with bad character, bad information willfully sought, and bad faith in discussion. Approaching such people even in good faith and with good information excites talk of the "censorious left." And that is left out in your piece. The political dialogue about "PC" is not just latching onto a reality of purge-happy liberals, it is also latching onto a reality of misinformation dealing, bigoted conservative trolls. The very thing you're suggesting the left should not see. And the thing is, personally, I just suggest people engage those with whom they can extend good faith and to simply stop engaging when they no longer feel they can do that but as a society you can't just ignore the powerful complex propping up Trump. It is actively poisoning our national conversation. I don't how you finesse that. But it is not as simple as being completely generous and putting it completely on left to be generous without pointing out the grave problems on the other side of this conversation provides a very warped perspective on it all.

  62. "Even a president who called the media the “enemy of the people” has a case to make that his opponents are more hostile to the letter and spirit of the First Amendment than he is." Duly noted...calling the media the enemy of the people and much worse, threatening to "lock them up", encouraging violence against members of the press; all this on a daily basis--not that bad. Forget all that--look over here--look what the left is doing. Nice try. As for respect, here's the deal. I do not respect the intelligence, or the humanity, of voters who saw a man who has been strong-arming and cheating people his whole life, a man who swindled thousands in the Trump "University" racket and said: "yeah that's my guy, they're all crooks anyway so let's put a real crook in the White House". If lack of respect for such folk is a flaw, it is one I eagerly accept.

  63. The nature of the human animal is tribal. However, tribal behavior tends to be not inclusive, understanding, or accepting of any differences, or often not wanting any of the truth on any issue that they disagree with, or only a little of the truth. The fact remains, that to truly be a truth teller, you have to be intelligent enough to not be part of any tribal group, whether owning one race, one religion, one gender, one political party, etc. as you will likely offend a few, a lot, or everyone. The whole truth about the issues of academic achievement, aids, abortion, birth control, criminal behavior, debt, entertainment, healthcare, honesty, immigration, intelligence, obesity, pollution, population density, rape, sexually transmitted diseases, Social Security, sports, tariffs, taxes, the afterlife, and most everything is a landmine for too many. That is why we have the comment section of the major newspapers, that truly is a place to educate the masses with the whole truth about all the issues. I love it, whether the Times here, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times, the Star Tribune, the Arizona Republic, the Great Falls Tribune, the Guardian, etc. that I read every day. I believe that the readers of all these newspapers above, and elsewhere, are paying attention, and for the most part can see the whole truth about most every issue, accept that truth, and hopefully want to act on it in real time with voting for the most common sense politicians.

  64. The common whisper network topics that are coming up are: 1. Trump stands up for the USA while Democrats want to take care of illegal aliens. 2. Trump's tax cuts are driving the economy. The Democrats will kill all that with onerous taxes and free stuff. 3. Trump's agenda is all about the USA. Democrats think along the lines of gender, race, and class and they divide the country. 4. If Democrats nominate Bernie or Warren, I will vote for Trump. I cannot vote for a socialist. These come up mostly from otherwise Democratic-leaning folks who are secretly on the fence while they publicly profess disdain for Mr. Trump and wish things were different.

  65. The banner of free speech, yaken up by Trump? You are kidding, right? All along, the current mafia installed in government has yaken the license, not freedom, to assault the truth. And further, to castigate those with the courage and patriotic impulse to defend the rule of law. And there is no equivalency between a complicit republican party (with Trump's criminality)...and the democratic party, the latter seeking justice and restoration of a badly damaged democracy. No whispers, however 'loud', may replace honesty...and the urgent need to restore trust in our democratic institutions. Moral corruption, however sneaky, must not be normalized.

  66. It seems to me that this paragraph from the column not only argues, in effect, for candidate Buttigieg, but explains what might be the most important ingredient in his still not generally understood persuasive magic: “How to pull it off this time? By treating Trump voters with respect. By asking why so many of them wound up in his tent to begin with. By acknowledging that not everything that’s said in a hush is shameful, and that not everyone you disagree with is a bigot. By listening, not denouncing; empathizing, not ridiculing; understanding, not dismissing.”

  67. You are a Jewish person, so what would you say to those who were chanting "Jews will not replace us" in Charlottesville, VA? Notwithstanding the above scenario, I agree with you. We should treat all humans with dignity and respect but at the same time there's this cult-like behaviour that is occurring that makes such treatment difficult. Furthermore, the media is amplifying those voices. You're right - a lot of people don't openly support Trump because of the context they're in but they should be asking themselves, "why not?" I have no problems stating I used to be a lot like Trump when I was younger (not I liked Trump as someone recently misunderstood), a creature of ego. I have tried to not be that person anymore but anyways, there's no view of mine I'm so ashamed of holding that I don't mind broadcasting to everyone. Are people really that afraid of being called a bigot or being dismissed? But anyways, you're advocating a "go high when they go low strategy." That is what has been tried so far. I don't think we should change because the results have been poor but I will point out that all this has done is embolden Trump. But we need to keep turning the other cheek. PS: In addition to breaking up the system, I think people don't want their country, what they are familiar with, to change. Trump is promising that won't happen even though he's a hypocrite of the first order. Democrats need those who believe in government to turn out at high numbers.

  68. @RamS It's one thing to treat trump voters with respect; that I agree with. But it's quite something else to treat trump with respect. That's something else and in my opinion a mistake. He doesn't deserve respect, certainly not just because he holds the office. I think he deserves contempt. Consequently i never refer to him as the president or president trump. It looks to me that Bloomberg, another New Yorker, has decided to ignore Michelle Obama's advice and really go at trump. I wish him, and our country luck.

  69. The secrecy of the Trump vote is profoundly affected by those Democrats who insist that working class Americans don't know their own best interests. When you tell voters that they're voting wrong lots of them will keep their true sentiments to themselves. And what is more arrogant than telling a voter that he or she has no idea what is best for himself or herself?

  70. @michjas Just because something is arrogant doesn't mean it's not true. But yes it's at least tone deaf if not down right stupid to make public statements about millions of voters that appear arrogant and condescending.

  71. Trying to come up with “the reason” that a very close election came out the way it did is impossible. Six states were too close to call the day before the election. Trump won five, a less than ten percent chance. Sometimes the longshot wins. PERIOD.

  72. Stephens has a hunch “the censorious left” was “probably enough to make the difference in the states that made the difference” in Trump’s victory. My contrary hunch is that the GOP won largely because 1. Primary voters for Sanders in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin shifted to Trump in November by margins that may well have determined the outcome (“Here’s How Many Bernie Sanders Supporters Ultimately Voted for Trump,” Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR, 8/24/17). 2. A sizable number of men AND women would NOT vote for any woman for president. 3. Blue-collar workers welcomed Trump’s attacks on job-killing trade agreements. 4. Many were tired of waiting for comprehensive immigration reform legislation, mainly with regard to our southern border. 5. Clinton failed to campaign adequately in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 6. People skipped voting because Hillary was a shoo-in. and my personal favorite 7. A minuscule segment of voters (but who knows how decisive, nudge, nudge) couldn’t bear the thought of Slick Willy reentering the White House.

  73. @Lee E. You omit two other major factors: the release and repetition ad nauseam of emails the Russians stole from the DNC. FBI Director Comey's last minute announcement of an apparent re-opening of the Clinton email investigation.

  74. I heard many Trump supporters say that in spite of what they had heard and seen, now that Trump had been elected President he'd moderate his behavior. Act "Presidential." The hostile rhetoric was campaign mode. Trump, the once Democrta moderate pro life businessman from New York City would rise to the occasion and endevor to unite the country. I hoped so too. After three years it's apparent that that was a pipe dream. If anything his election has embolded him. And his behavior, abetted by a compliant GOP has only worsened. How many voters who took a chance on Trump last time will vote for him again? How many will reexamine their choice, and decide Trump doesn't represent American values? How many who hoped like Susan Collins he'd learn lessons, but doesn't. We'll see in November;

  75. Can we get a pertinent fact or two out of the way, to save us all some trouble? In 2016 the Trump voters had per capita annual incomes that were $10,000 higher than the per capita annual incomes of Clinton voters. (The Sanders number was virtually the same as the Clinton one.) In light of that, the average Trump voter was less working class than the average Clinton voter, and economically better off. Moreover, as the credible studies all tell us, the average 2016 Trump voter was more strongly motivated by racial resentment than by, for instance, economic concerns or by free speech or by the disrespect of the Democrats. (Given all of that I myself am inclined to disagree with Bret's characterization here. What's his name gave his base lies, bigotry and fear. They liked it. We called it out. They would have voted for it whether or not we called it what it was, whether or not they were compelled by shame to do it in secret.)

  76. @Robert t The higher per capita income of the Trump voters is very interesting, given that the assumption has been that poor whites are the segment of the population that put him into office. Do you know how this number was calculated? Is it by averaging a large number of billionaires' incomes in with those poor whites who supplied the necessary votes? If a comparable method was applied to Democrats, even if the number of billionaires was the same, the fact that nearly 3 million more voters would further dilute the per capita number would have to be accounted for in some way for this number to be meaningful. To your point, however, I suspect that the Trump voters' per capita income might be even higher than this number suggests due to the topic of this article. The Crypto-Trumpers with the greatest interest in concealing their vote would be "Elitists" with higher incomes who would benefit greatly from tax breaks, even as they would have a greater need to protect their "Enlightened" reputations.

  77. @Christopher According to 538 the numbers were derived from exit polling in 23 states.

  78. Before writing to say that your opinion piece should be read again and again, and included in curricula and essay anthologies, I read the other comments to make sure I wasn’t just repeating what twenty others had said. To my surprise, I found that most of the responses took issue with your piece in one way or another. Here’s why I do not. Sure, one can nitpick, but your underlying point—that, for the sake of democracy, we should refrain from knee-jerk dismissal and disparagement of those who disagree with us—needs to be heard, thought over, and enacted. It should be a fundamental principle of educational institutions and the press. Without it, personal attack and snubbing become the norm, not only in politics but in every area of life. Your argument is not only eloquent but urgent. Thank you.

  79. @Diana Senechal from Hungary I can understand your opinion because you don't understand the deep racism, xenophobia and fear-mongering that the political right has been harboring and nurturing for many years in the U.S. Please take a more careful look at where the personal attacks and snubbing are coming from and it's coming not from liberals but from the institutionalized propaganda machines of FOX News and Rush Limbaugh. It comes from the president almost every day in the form of some petty attack or comment many of us find, simply put, vulgar. Why should I tolerate it? What's there to "understand?"

  80. @Diana Senechal I am sad to say that when I speak to my Trump supporting friends about our differences of opinion and try to make fact based arguments I am stunned to learn that they are in many cases totally ignorant of facts on what Trump and his gang are doing to the environment, among other things. They are living in a bubble of misinformation - and these are highly educated and well off people. Their choice is to stay ignorant to support their beliefs, that Trump is standing up for their societal goals. Even when I point to sources of information that confirm my arguments they deflect, or call the source biased. It's just appalling to me. And I do respect them, but not in this matter

  81. @mrfreeze6 I was born in the U.S. and have lived all my life there except for nine months in Brazil in infancy, a year in the Netherlands at age 10, a year in the Soviet Union at age 14, the past two years in Hungary, and visits to a few other countries. I acknowledge that some political arguments go nowhere. No one can afford to listen to everything endlessly. I think Bret Stephens was arguing that people should hold back from making sweeping assumptions about each other—that we should keep in mind that our personal judgments of others are incomplete and fallible.

  82. It seems to me that the greatest danger lies in the votes witheld. I have spoken to many people who did not vote in the last elections because they felt that they could not, in conscience, vote for Trump because of what he was, or for Hillary because of what the Russians via social media said she was. It is one thing to perform an act, another one to refrain from performing an act. Although I do not doubt that it happens -- this so-called "Bradley Effect"-- it is hard for me to imagine a liberal person voting for Trump. I can easily see a much greater number of people refraining all together from voting because both canditates have insulted their intelligence. For those without political conviction one way or the other, the promise of an imprudent tax break might break the tie. It's called a bribe.

  83. Sure, it was just the Russians who bad mouthed Hillary. Everyone else thought she was right as rain.

  84. " For every voter who pulled the lever for Trump out of sympathy for his views, how many others did so out of disdain for the army of snickering moralists (at the time including me) telling them that a vote for Trump was unpardonable?". numbers aside, the 'snickering moralists' turned out to be correct in predicting the assault on fundamental American liberties and values being made by Trump (and his Republican cohorts led by Barr and McConnell) as President.

  85. @Richard Gaylord -- You wrote, "[N]umbers aside, the 'snickering moralists' turned out to be correct in predicting the assault on fundamental American liberties....} Yeah, but the snickering is Brent Stephens' point. It adds fuel to the Trump supporters' fire.

  86. @Richard Gaylord Bret is right that the "snickering moralists" are a significant contributor to Trump's victory and his current political strength. How do you reinforce tribal identity and make a tribe more militant? By having outsiders (from another tribe) denounce and demean your tribe. This is exactly what Dem politicians, academic and cultural elites and the mainstream media do every day to Trump supporters. Don't you and they know that by your every disdainful comment, what you achieve is to strengthen Trump's tribe? If you/they do know, why do you do it? Sort of self-defeating?

  87. It is near impossible to listen with respect to those who use their voices to spew hate and advocate for systemic oppression of one's identity. How often do you have to do what you are asking of others, Mr. Stephens? Infrequently I presume.

  88. I honestly can't make any sense out of what Mr Stephens is saying. It seems that once again, Trump and his Republican backers are never responsible for anything they do or say. It's the fault of the "censorious left". Most people I know don't inhabit the alternative twitter universe of "cancel culture". So whatever goes on there does not impact their lives or how they vote.

  89. @Expat London I think the message here is that Republicans can't help themselves, they are who they are, and that Democrats must be the adults in the room. You know, 'When they go low, we go high.' How has that been working so far?

  90. This is a relevant topic, but I'm wondering just how many of us liberals have been outwardly hostile to friends and relatives who are died-in-the-wool Trump supporters. Not me. Its related to all the commentary on how to deal with "opposition" relatives at Thanksgiving. I think the strength of the debate is exacerbated only by one's profession, educational level, time spent on the social networks and whatnot. Fear of engagement is a genuine fact, but who has the time and energy to evangelize? And who is turned off by it? Not speaking up against injustice and cruelty is the first step to allowing even more horrible things to happen.

  91. Treating people with respect. Listening first to understand. Speaking with conviction not rancor. Responding to differences of viewpoints and ideas not with ad hominem attacks, but commentary on ideas. Being willing to consider truth the objective not domination. Recognizing that anger and bitterness withers the soul of individuals and of a nation collectively. Some principles to practice in lieu of whisper networks.

  92. Freedom of speech is a right to speak without consequence against the GOVERNMENT. Not in society. That right has never existed and never will, like it or not. To equate the two, to lazily (or disingenuously) blur that stark distinction is to play into the hands of those who (1) do not want free speech against the government (Trump administration and supporters, and if you doubt this you are smoking something powerful) and (2) those who would police society from above, forcing the government to decide how and why people are censored in society. While I don't like the call out culture, I would very much less like the government taking control of it. Freedom of speech is about politics and repercussions vis a vis a powerful government and vulnerable individuals.

  93. You lost me completely at "Even a president who called the media the 'enemy of the people' has a case to make that his opponents are more hostile to the letter and spirit of the First Amendment than he is." Yes, there are people who take political correctness too far. Every pendulum swings past the center on its way back to it. To lump all of "his opponents" together and accuse us of hostility to the First Amendment is reductive, inaccurate, divisive, and insulting.

  94. Well Mr. Stephens, you may be on to something here. The top recommended commenters for this article are ready to lash out at Trump whisperers if they speak out. And of course, chastising you for even bringing up the subject. Not much civility left here in the country of free speech.

  95. I find it hard to believe that people quietly voted for a clearly amoral candidate to "get even" with their moralistic neighbors. However, I do believe that a certain segment of wealthy people quietly voted for him because they knew he'd provide them with fabulous tax breaks and will do so again in 2020.

  96. @JF The problem is not just the tax breaks. Wealthy people have inordinate influence because they fund think tanks, pay for research, buy the books of politicians they support, hire effective public relations to manipulate opinion and, of course, contribute enormous sums to political campaigns. Enough of that went on in 2016 to determine the results of that election. Add in Russian meddling and the deterioration of news to entertainment and Trump won by accident as much as anything else. It is true that resentments fester. I hear enough from my Trump supporting neighbors to know that it plays a role in their politics. They love how Trump makes those liberal heads explode, but they also think that he's done a lot of good things.

  97. Mr. Stephens wants us to treat Trump voters with respect. Do I respect the fact that Donald Trump has turned lying into an art for? Yes I do. Do I respect the fact that Trump voters respond to Trump's outright lies (STILL WAITING for Mexico and not the Pentagon to pay for Trump's Wall) by saying that ALL Politicians lie? Yes I do. Do I respect the fact that Trump supporters ignore the fact that Barack Obama inherited an unemployment rate of 7.6% and left Office with an unemployment rate of 4.8% which is a reduction of 2.8% but give Donald Trump 100% of the credit for "saving" our economy by reducing the unemployment rate by an additional 1.2%? Yes I do. How's that for respect??

  98. I have no problem with different opinion of relatives that voted for Trump. On abortion, on guns, on homosexuality, on immigrants, on the Trump's character (or lack of it in my view), and the list goes on asymptotically to infinity. It is their opinion based on different models of reality. They think what America needs is a strongman. Democracy is weakness. However, I do not tolerate ignorance of scientific facts. No coal is not pure carbon. It is laced with toxic metals that when released in the atmosphere harms kids. No one can pretend to love their kids when supporting a coal lover. I yet have to meet a single Trump supporter who knows that coal is not pure carbon. I go for the jugular on the fact one can not have it both ways unless on attempts willful ignorance. No one hates their own kids and their realization of coal burning harm to their children, has led to severe uncomfortable feelings. Like extracting a rotten tooth can be painful, it is painful to shed a model of reality rooted in fear, loathing, and hate. But not removing a rotten tooth can quickly poison you and kill you with sepsis. We all have an obligation to take action against severe ignorance. The life of our nation is threatened with moral sepsis if the anti-science crowd has their way. The so called "religious" right to be stopped from peddling ignorance and hate poisoning public discourse.

  99. I once thought that my peers, reasonably well educated middle class folk shared *my* beliefs. Basic beliefs such as: climate change is real, the earth is more than 6000 years old, black lives actually *do* matter, "of course" women deserve equal rights...I could go on. My belief was probably always nothing more than a delusion, but over the past three years I have been regularly surprised by friends, co-workers and clients who casually announce their love and support for this president. It's so disconcerting! In Trump I see a narcissistic bully rampaging through mores, tradition, common decency, laws and the constitution. They see...well, honestly, I have no idea what they see in that man. In Washington D.C., or whatever liberal enclave Bret Stephens lives in, Trumps supporters may whisper, but in my little red state Trump supporters are loud and proud...and I'm the one who whispers.

  100. @GarthM I know what you mean. I live in a red state and I just keep silent about my concerns for my country--I wouldn't change any minds. So this works both ways.

  101. @GarthM yes, I, too, see a narcissistic bully trying to pull down our democracy. But go ahead and watch Fox News for a while, go to a town in a Republican area and read the newspaper for a while. It’s surprising. It’s a whole different story. I do see how people can be misled.

  102. @GarthM Your state is not all that little and far from red. It is not Indiana for example. It has more Democratic Members of Congress than Republicans and after the next election whether Trump can hold on or not will have two US Senators. The governor is more and more careful to sound like a moderate. If not this election then in 2024 Arizona will be a blue state. The problem you encounter is first many many outspoken Trump supporters are not even residents of the state but snowbird conservatives and two actual conservative residents are blowhard Trump supporters who believe every white person in the state outside of main university campuses agree with them. They drive their big trucks and pack their guns but are a dying breed. But given those egos and guns I don’t argue with them.

  103. I have a close friend who is very bright, kind, ethical and moral to a fault. He and is wife are raising four great kids. They all do a lot of charitable work in the community and I would trust him with my life and my money. He supports Trump, while I am a moderate Democrat who absolutely hates Trump. We've had a number of very civil conversations about it. My friend is tired of the Way Left shaming culture; their self-righteous moralizing; their demands for "safe spaces"; and their dismissal and demonization of anyone who holds views on sensitive topics that don't fully align with theirs ("cancellation culture"). The thing he likes about Trump is that he punches these people in the nose, because my friend thinks they are ruining the country. Sure, I tell him the Republicans have been doing the same thing, if not worse, and provide examples. But increasingly, even as a Democrat, I find some merit in his argument. Case in point: the uproar over the "Drag Queen Story Hour." Frankly, I wouldn't want to have to explain that issue to my five year old. As a parent, I would feel like it is being shoved down my throat at my local library. But if I express that opinion, I will be shamed and insulted as an anti-LGBTQ bigot. Just like there will likely be some comments insulting and shaming me for partially agreeing with Bret Stephens.

  104. @Jack Sonville The thing is, anybody largely concerned over the Drag Queen Story Hour is fixating too much on such things, when there are far greater issues at stake. For instance, the President turning the Department of Justice into a weapon that can be used against any of us. These folks are warring against cultural shifts, which is like fighting the tide and not susceptible to political fixes. Meanwhile, our democracy hangs in the balance.

  105. So you are outraged about the fact that people might consider you to be anti-LGBTQ for wanting to ban events organized by LGBTQ people at local libraries? Imagine that... Would you view it as similarly offensive to "freedom of speech" if someone was called anti-semitic for demanding an event where Jewish people tell stories at the local library? Would you call that "the Jewish agenda being pushed down our throats"? It is easy to dismiss people who are critical of the opinions we hold as "zealots", "extremists" or "moralists". It would be much more useful to engage with their viewpoints and maybe consider if they might have point. Self-examination and reevaluation of ideas can surely only lead to improvement. We may also want to examine the irony of calling criticism of ideas/opinions "toxic" and "dangerous for freedom of speech". Isn't criticism of an opinion just as much of an opinion that deserves protection? Isn't it more of a danger to the exchange of ideas when all criticism of certain ideas and opinions is dismissed out of hand?

  106. @Jack Sonville Standing up to the "identity police" is a trait admired by both democrats and republicans. Joe Biden, who has always been a likable but mediocre presidential candidate, surged early in part, I believe, because he didn't allow himself to get derailed by critics who immediately attacked him for identity infractions. I like least how Trump punches everyone back. I do like that he very actively challenges the usual litany of specious allegations, to which all republicans are subjected (ex., "racism", etc.).

  107. Bret's column illustrates why freedom of speech, and the democratic system which cannot survive without it, are so difficult to sustain over a long period of time. Differences of opinion foster the open-mindedness which makes a free society so attractive but at the same time highly volatile. Inevitable clashes over ideas can remain a positive force only when restrained by shared values with respect to the dignity of each individual and the principle of equal rights for all. Political discourse in this country has become so destructive because a minority of Americans at each end of the ideological spectrum have violated these values. Racism and homophobia, which the Trump camp has promoted without much subtlety, can hardly be expected to elicit a calm, respectful response from people whose worth the president dismisses. If the #MeToo movement, moreover, might have failed to distinguish between different forms of male misbehavior, the reason might lie in the difficulty in combating a culture saturated with sexism. Trump supporters, for their part, suffer by association with a man devoid of integrity and moral principles. The president's critics stereotype them partially because their public face consists of the crowds at Trump rallies shouting inane insults in unison. Nevertheless, the notion than nearly half the American electorate shares Trump's vicious outlook defies common sense and poses a real threat to democracy.

  108. @James Lee -Some of Trump's voters do scare the life out of me. I know some of them personally. They have voted Republican their entire lives and will not change. One or two call the newspapers "the enemy". Two, at least, did not vote for Obama. I believe they had a racist problem. One says his vote depends on the economy. I would not call these people dumb. I might call them lazy for not finding out the facts about Trump. They make me very sad.

  109. This freedom of speech stuff is rich coming from a guy who tried to get a professor fired for using his right to free speech. How about writing about Mitch Romney, who was threatened with physical violence if he spoke at a conservative meeting? The fact is there isn't a broad middle swatch of neutral voters in the Presidential race. Each side has morphed into basically zealotry. You either against Trump or for him. You can't persuade Trump voters. You can't reason with them. As your fellow columnist Thomas Edsell has written, the Trump voter inhabits an alternate false reality of facts, which are provided by Fox News. He, the Trump voter, feels it's perfectly fine to lie for the cause. The only way to beat Trump is to vote him out with more votes than the other side. That is it.

  110. “ Whisper networks ought to have no place in the land of the free “. Bret, I agree with you more than any of the other Conservative Writers here. A whisper network carries a strong stench of “ gossiping women “. Intentionally or not, that is hurtful to me. Sometimes, the whisper network is a strong tool for we Women to share, learn, provide support and especially problem solve. Maybe you’ve had a bad week, or this was a rush Job. I don’t know, but I’m disappointed. Please do Better.

  111. I know a LOT of people who didn't vote for Trump but didn't vote for Hillary. This time around, they'll be voting for the Democrat. Hillary just had a ton of negatives. Of course, another Hurriance Sandy the week before election wouldn't hurt.

  112. This economy will soon collapse.

  113. My head hurts. We are veering into fascism because Democrats aren’t nice enough? The party of self-doubt and self-censure is hereby urged to tamp down all the stuff about democracy and fairness because it might offend authoritarians! America’s political history is rife with violence, not to mention corruption and raw bigotry. Oh, and in the 1860’s, slaughter. But now, Bret Stephens warns us, we had best shut up or risk a political disagreement with people who want to burn it all down. The latter triumphed in 1930’s Germany because the majority were afraid of them — and, in what was believed to be reason and politeness, kept quiet.

  114. @phillygirl Spot on. Thanks.

  115. I'll take a shot at free speech. The Democrats spend too much time on TV talking about race and gender. There. Now, I still will vote blue if it can breath.

  116. The supposed "censorius left" is tiny and mild compared to the violent and hate-filled right. Trumpworld is not whispering. They are yelling and taking control. Hate crimes are way up. The "left" doesn't have the Koch network and Bill Barr. Rush Limbaugh has a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Trump fires anyone who crosses him. "Having suffered no consequences for such acts, leaders move on to bigger and more audacious targets. .... In his post-impeachment rage, Trump wanted vengeance, and he wanted us to know it. There was no one inside his Administration to stop him." The NRA is not "whispering" to promote ready access to high-powered, military-grade killing machines as simple self defense. Every time it is suggested that being able to kill and maim people with ease should not be an absolute sacred right without any intelligent care the right goes ballistic. How about abortion? Fetuses need families, mothers, communities, health care, financial support, and love once they are born. But apparently life stops at birth. In religion, spirituality and community care have been replaced by blame, greed, and exclusion. Religious leaders who ask for compassion are given short shrift. Bret Stephens take note of the overt nastiness of TrumpWorld, maybe attend a Trump rally, before he claims the left is repressing freedom of speech. Voter suppression, intimidation, and cheating are just fine, as long as they are winning.

  117. Shush please! The Trump whisperers don't need to talk out loud, the Trump rally goers more than compensate for their meekness. Trump is their Springsteen; they get so worked up over god knows what, I'd not go within miles of their mash-pit. I've often wondered if there's data showing a spike in 'road-rage' incidents post-Trump rallies. What do they do to calm down; go to a Def Leppard concert?

  118. One hopes (and I believe) that secret voters are in all camps. There should be a fair contingent of voters who are telling their family, friends and colleagues that Trump is a great, can-do, America-first president and who will vote to get rid of a blustering proto-tyrant.

  119. Let's focus on the biggest conservative lie stated by Stephens in this column: "I would also guess that the number has only grown as the censorious left has become more aggressive and promiscuous in its condemnations. No wonder the administration has taken up the banner of free speech." Please provide evidence that "free speech" is under attack by the censorious left. As another commentator points out, who has been sent to jail recently, after exercising his/her for expressing something offensive, or racist or threatening? Since when has Cadet Bone-spur (or any other conservative) been censured or arrested for blasting out bigoted or inappropriate language? Not even someone like Alex Jones has been condemned by people who should know better. My bet is, he's supported firmly by those on the "right." In fact, if you do a little research you'll find that hate crimes have increased since the election of Cadet Bone-spur and in those places where he conducts his rallies, the FBI has reported a significant rise in hate crimes. I could make a case that the huge right-wing media Fox, Limbaugh, etc. spends very little time allowing liberals equal time to speak their mind. Who, for example, is a foil for propagandists such as Hannity? The kind of speech used by conservative celebrities such as Coulteris more like a brand rather than an expression of genuine ideas. Why should we try to understand and have compassion for the things we liberals find, simply put, unacceptable?

  120. If there is anything that we have discovered over the past three abysmal years of the Trump presidency, it’s that, as in all “cults,” you are all in or all out. Has there sometimes been nasty over-reaction in the “purity circles” on the anti-Trump side? Certainly, but there has also been plenty of push back from within that same side. Where is the push back within the other side when Trump clearly crosses a line in telling demonstrable lies, taunting his opponents with puerile insults and flouting the most basic tenets of our Constitution? There is none. Republicans politicians either deny wrongdoing or, like Susan Collins, offer mealy-mouthed excuses. The zealots at Trump rallies always cheer the loudest the cruder his rhetoric, and the more appeal he makes to bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny - but hey, at least they don’t whisper!

  121. Humiliation is the gift that keeps on giving. The Hatfields and McCoys feuded murderously for generations about some half-forgotten insult. Many beliefs are deplorable, but labeling people as "deplorables" demonstrated contempt for people who have gradually fused their identities to Trump's. He's become an avatar for many. Every attempt at humiliating him feels to many of his followers as disrespect for them.

  122. I believe there are many voters with silent anger, anger at Democrats who constantly sound morally superior to others, finding fault with those on the other side. Since the word is that you've got to be stupid or a high school dropout to support Trump, these voters keep quiet. Their voice will be heard on Election Day.

  123. Back in the days of old, lots of people living under autocratic kings used whisper networks (they didn’t call them that) as a means of survival. One false move, one errant statement, and you could have a thumb or a hand or your head chopped off. Better to maintain a low profile and avoid eye contact with your betters. Trump would love that kind of environment, would he not? He believes he’s king of the land, correct, and he wants his subjects to bow down in total supplication.Those who oppose him better learn to keep a low profile and confine themselves to whisper networks. If they want to avoid being scorned, or have a thumb chopped, or get caught in Trump’s crosshairs.

  124. Wait a second; their guy is president; they control the senate. How is it that when they speak I need to take care and listen attentively, but when I speak I get kicked in the teeth?

  125. What would you do with the large subgroup of misinformed Trump supporters, who are susceptible to the dogwhistles, fear mongering and finger pointing, who find that he provides cover for their own prejudices and bigotry while allowing them to absolve themselves and their fellow travellers of the need to think? There are not good people on both sides. They are, in a word, deplorable.

  126. The most censorious pols are Trump supporters who echo Stephen Miller’s first pronouncement that his President’s authority shall not be questioned. The open warfare against critics of Trump’s demagoguery find themselves demonized daily by his sycophants and power mongers, and yet again Stephens hones in on Trump’s opposition as if Trump’s re-election depends on their political wiles as opposed to the depressing and destructive corruption of the Trump administration in nearly every aspect of our national life. Advice to the Democrats should be far from Stephens’ mind; instead he should be writing every day of the danger to the Republic of a Trump endgame. I would vote for me ex-wife’s irksome dog rather than Trump; and I would vote for Bret’s silent goldfish rather than Trump. When the corrupt Blankfein who engineered the collapse of the global economy across two decades warns us of Sanders I know we are living in a dark deadly version of a Seinfeld episode. There’s nothing to recommend a second term for Trump or his ongoing Republican Senate other than the evangelical end of days. The Rapture’s seven blasts of the trumpet may not select those the devoted believe will be raised up. Democrats telling the truth about Trump and naked unregulated greed that will kill life on this planet is either reason enough to sweep away Republicans or life as we have lived it is over.

  127. Even in 2016 the idea that many Trump voters were "quiet" because of Outrage Culture was untrue. Today it is meritless. I spoke with many "quiet" Trump voters in 2016. None craved "forbidden fruit". They chose Trump because they feared, or hated, people who were different than them far more than they cared about democracy and our republic. (A similar false Conservative narrative, that these Trump voters were motivated by economic anxiety, was already demolished by a half-dozen major studies showing that bigotry motivated them). These people voted for Trump because of his white Christian Nationalism. They were quiet because they knew it was objectively wrong and contradicted everything they supposedly believed in. How do you vote for Trump yet still say you're decent and respect the rule of law? You can't so you don't. You remain silent and pull the lever. In pulling the lever you're knowingly destroying America, yet you do it anyway. I've written many pieces about how awful Outrage Culture is, but it didn't create "quiet" Trump voters. They'd have voted for Trump even if the left was filled with choir boys, because those choir boys would still be black, brown, Jewish, Muslim, Gay,…. Thanks to Trump and the GOP we're now little different than Hungary; a right-wing authoritarian state masquerading as a democracy. Those who quietly voted for Trump did so because they wanted a right-wing authoritarian state. Antipathy to left-wing Outrage Culture was at best secondary.

  128. Excuse me I am having a difficult time understanding any of this and some of my writing is incoherent. Do blue America and red America share any common goals? I know what free speech is, we have free speech in Quebec. There is not free speech in America from the first time we visited my wife's childhood home I was told to keep my mouth shut. Democrats were called socialists 80 years ago and they're still called socialists. Here in Quebec we are passing our Freedom From Religion laws which draws passionate ire from both America's left and right. We don't want our children exposed to superstitious nonsense regardless of how long its been common practice and since we are a humanist society we are all our children. Free speech works for us because we are not afraid to hear new and different ideas but our ideas are human ideas not ideas ordained by the gods. Somebody forgot about separation of church and state and that is why free speech is a meaningless discussion.

  129. Anyone trying to figure out why voters vote as they do has never talked to voters about their preferences and why.

  130. Not everyone who supports the Trump presidency is a bigot? There are too many clear identifiers that suggests otherwise; one big one being that there's virtually nothing positive that has resulted during his presidency that wasn't kick started and already underway during the last. Of course, there is the argument that Trump's support of traditional Republican policies with judges and taxes have been a success; but a convincing argument can be made that these policies, which promote a particular white male economic and cultural dominance, is itself based on bigotry. Bigotry is so deeply baked into the American psyche that it's often hard for us to acknowledge it in ourselves.

  131. Right. Whisper voters favoured Trump over Clinton "two-to-one". That's why he lost the popular vote...and that's why his electoral win was less than the third-party votes for Jill Stein or the Bernie supporters who stayed home. Trump didn't win the election, Clinton lost it. If he wins again in 2020 with sympathetic "whisper" support, after his incompetent and vindictive actions have been on display for three years, I'm afraid America will get what it deserves. Buckle up.

  132. I would like to whisper something to Trump's whisper network. Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by 3,000,000. He "won" the Electoral College because his jailed campaign manager Manafort shared internal polling data with Putin and the GRU. They used Russian statecraft and stolen Cambridge Analytica data from Facebook to target just enough voters in 4 purple states - 72,000 - to claim an Electoral College victory. Forewarned is forearmed. Democrats can legally use domestic artificial intelligence to ensure the Electoral College looks like the popular vote. Neural network clustering, machine leaning and other artificial intelligence techniques defending the Electoral College relative to the popular vote is critical. This will demonstrate no party has an advantage from the Electoral College, it is the Achilles heel of democracy, and is a relic of a bygone era. Tactics are essential to save the Republic from a Russian asset installed to destroy the rule of law, freedom, democracy, NATO and the Constitution in America. Trump must be defeated with every resource available - every tactic at hand. Speaker Pelosi demonstrated persuasively that The Republican led Senate is no check to Trump, the Judiciary is no check to Trump, and America is on the edge of a Russian style kleptocacy where life and wealth depends on fealty to Trump. This is war. The Russian attack on our sovereign elections was the opening salvo. The resolution will require steely resolve.

  133. Mr. Stephens says "it’s worth asking whether the very fact that a vote for Trump was supposed to be shameful" ... Shameful to whom? Here in rural Ohio a vote for Clinton was supposed by many of my neighbors to be shameful. Can't Mr. Stephens ever realize that there's variety in this country?

  134. There's no question that the puritanical censor in the minds of too many liberals is not only a threat to freedom but also a barrier to enlightened discussion. Nonetheless, holding Donald Trump up as an example of someone unfairly beleaguered and worthy of "inner flashes of sympathy" is a mighty big stretch. When we argue serial liars and those who treat reason and law with contempt are worthy of sympathy, we're far past the line that separates a civil society from Hobbes' "war of all against all." Some of us are worthy of condemnation and undeserving of sympathy. Donald Trump leads the pack.

  135. The majorities where Americans live has defined their politics. The talking heads use these handles to absurd ends. The urban vote, the rural vote, the whatever racial vote, the economic vote, the liberal vote, the conservative vote,etc. It's simpler than that, and chopping up the human universe into sizable pieces pits one against the other. Where you live and how much you earn combined with ill thought out biases leads to whether representative government suits you or not. It boils down to, based on one inherent human error or another. Is government a necessary evil or not? Being human says it is. Saying it isn't fails logic. The real trick is not dismissing the institution, but, by voting, to ensure it is well administered. That is a work in progress and where the rubber meets the road.

  136. I, for one, would love to see Trump's campaign that America's economy has never been better. Trump bankrupted 6 companies serially, but not before cash stripping the companies with bonuses and salaries upfront. In criminal law, that is referred to fraudulent conveyance. I know Trump did not attend the fames Wharton Graduate School of Business, but rather was a two year transfer student to the college. Yet, even that level of education seems sufficient to calculate debt service versus business cash flow if one wasn't a fraud. The US economy has never been better? Well, when you count the massive trillion dollar deficits, and the badgered easy money monetary policy stimulus, it sure looks like one of the 6 Trump company bankruptcies built on levergae - only to crash and burn all investors, creditors, vendors, and workers. Everyone but Trump - who is cash stripping the US Treasury presently. The trade deficit has reached record levels given Trump's asinine tariff policy. This directly contradicts his predictions, but what else is new? The man has never told the truth, even if he knew it.

  137. "forbidden fruit"? Really? Try a Trump rally, the endless lies, the attacks. We all could use a bit of the tree of knowledge. Giving in to one's worst impulses and promoting lies about climate - to take one example - is civilization ending. If people are titillated by the nasty, that's no excuse.

  138. My dog and I go on long walks in the park where we meet up with many Trump supporters. I always try to listen respectfully to people who tell me that Trump is a great man. They usually hurry quickly away when I tell them that it is not too soon to impeach him again.

  139. @A. Stanton my neighbor got her dog a Trump doll chew toy for Xmas! Then the family delighted in watching their dog chew the squeak out of it.

  140. There seems to be a confusion here. First, free speech only protects you from government censorship. Second, free speech does not mean consequence-free speech. People are entitled to advocate any views they like, even disgusting ones like white nationalism. However, they’re not entitled to not suffering any social repercussions for their advocacy of said views.

  141. Quite so, Bret. I have serious misgivings about President Trump, but I have nothing but disdain for the righteous scolds that tell me what I can and cannot think, say or do. As long as I'm deplorable, I'm supporting Trump.

  142. @Joe W Spite, meet face.

  143. Righteous scolds telling you what to do? Sounds like right wing Evangelicals to me.

  144. Mr. Stephens asks how many voted for Trump "out of disdain for the army of snickering moralists (at the time including me) telling them that a vote for Trump was unpardonable?" I don't know. What I do know is that voting for a candidate purely out of spite, and for no other reason, is childish, irresponsible, and disgraceful. I will not take Mr. Stephens's advice to treat such voters with "respect."

  145. "People who freely share the most intimate details of their sex lives with near-strangers think twice about sharing some of their political views with old friends." The best sentence i have read in recent months. Completely sums up the madness, that seemingly, in a blink of an eye, we have found ourselves in.

  146. I personally know a few people who were "secret" Trump voters. If one of the socialist running becomes the Democratic candidate, I'll likely become one myself. There is no doubt that the progressive left in today's America is intolerant and only interested in free speech when it suits their purpose. The moderates and conservatives majority (yes we are the clear majority despite the spin in the media) need to be strong and stand up to this assault on justice and free speech.

  147. @Robert Lets see what the secret Trump voters are willing say out in public after 2024 if Trump wins this year. Trump is a loose canon and he's been blowing holes in the Constitution.

  148. @Robert There are extremists of every persuasion but the excesses of the left pale in comparison to the vile right-wing conspiracy theories, like Pizzagate and QAnon, that proliferate on the right. It is a favorite technique of Fox and other conservative media to scour the country for isolated leftist idiocies and blow them up into an "assault on justice and free speech." I have spent my entire career in some of the institutional bastions of liberalism, and although I have eclectic views that balance out to "moderate," I have never once had an incident or complaint that inhibited my freedom of expression. Unless you're deliberately trying to insult and provoke people, fears of leftist intolerance are way overblown.

  149. @Robert If conservatives are the majority then why do most Americans agree that having guns is bad and that they should be banned. Conservatives pride themselves in having guns. Also, Sanders isn't a socialist. He's a democratic socialist. Secondly, it is disgusting to vote for a person who has raped women and is a racist. Although Sanders isn't perfect he is 100% better than Trump

  150. Stephens: " By listening, not denouncing; empathizing, not ridiculing; understanding, not dismissing." Those are wonderful attributes, and in normal circumstances (with a normal Republican opponent), that would be an honorable way to conduct a campaign. BUT there's nothing normal about the upcoming political campaign. Are Democrats to listen, to empathize and to understand while Trump constantly lies, destroys the reputations of anyone opposed to him and spins conspiracy theories all to the delight of his base. I'm not certain of the best way to beat one of the most amoral persons on the planet, but I am quite certain that if Trump is reelected, he will only double down on efforts to punish anyone who dares speak up in opposition. Free speech may be a thing of the past.

  151. I’ll say it yet again, the tyranny of the left is just as bad as the tyranny of the right. If the left continues as it has my fear is that President Trump will be guaranteed another term. The extremes are leaving moderates of every stripe without a party.

  152. Thank you, Brett, for your admonition on how to beat Trump: "By treating Trump voters with respect.... By acknowledging... that not everyone you disagree with is a bigot. By listening, not denouncing; empathizing, not ridiculing; understanding, not dismissing." It is always good to be reminded of the Golden Rule. Always. However, I think this is just 1/3 of the winning formula for this election. The bigger element needed for a Democratic victory, will be turnout. Not just Democrats voting in high numbers, but Republicans and Independents who realize that, with Trump, we face the abyss.

  153. @Mark Keller Can you imagine even one Trump voter listening, acknowledging and respecting a Democratic voter? This is how we lose. Republicans play to win at all costs while Democrats haplessly strive to be fair and generous and it almost never works. Trump voters aren’t children who need to have their hands held and we aren’t their mommies or therapists. Politics has always been ugly but this is a whole different level. If we want to defeat Trump we have to treat it as such.

  154. @Hugh CC "Can you imagine even one Trump voter listening, acknowledging and respecting a Democratic voter?" Yes, I've had productive discussions with several. Not all Trump supporters are MAGA-rally fanatics. Some are reasonably well informed (and yes, sometimes ill-informed), rational folks. Some of these rational people have become increasingly uncomfortable and/or disturbed by Trump's behavior -- political and personal -- over the last 3 years. With those sorts, helping them find better sources of information that counter lies and misinformation can be productive. Getting them to look often requires taking their concerns seriously. If they refuse to look/listen then yes, I don't waste further effort.

  155. @Hugh CC "Can you imagine even one Trump voter listening, acknowledging and respecting a Democratic voter? " I cannot... and Republican leaders know how to get that shrinking base to turn out for the vote. In addition, because they know that time is against them, they will continue to cheat and steal as they have for years (gerrymandering, red shift, vote suppressing policies, hacked counting machines, etc...). The way to victory for Democrats is to overwhelm these shady practices through record participation in the coming elections.

  156. We can have differing opinions about "call-out culture." Actually, I do share some of your concerns. But this is not a free speech issue. Until someone gets arrested for a racist tweet or an off color joke, pleased stop trying to cloak your concerns, valid or not, as a defense of free speech. People have always, ALWAYS, built community standards for behavior and enforced those standards through social sanction. If we want to discuss those standards in an honest way, leave "free speech" out of it. Seriously, I could just as easily describe your criticisms of call-out culture as a war against someone else's "free speech," and if I did, I'd be just as wrong as you are now.

  157. @Revelwoodie How many times does Bret call out "liberals?"

  158. Revelwoodie is exactly right. When we speak of “free speech” we speak of speech free of government interference (or fear of it). The government is not involved in the “cancel culture.” Rather, the cancel culture is is an example of fighting it out in the marketplace of ideas, albeit (and this is where I would agree with Mr. Stephens) in an overzealous, mean-spirited way.

  159. @Michael Greenfield What troubles me is that public attacks that cause someone to lose their job and livelihood ought to be subject to the kind of due process that is used in criminal trials. It seems wrong to abandon fundamentals of justice like the accused's right to examine evidence, to offer his or her defense, and have the issue decided by an impartial judge or jury. Surely we don't want an angry mob to indict, try, convict, and punish someone with no guidelines to include fairness and proportionate punishment?

  160. Bret, I respect what you are trying to say to us. But, truly, it is easier said than done, most especially after these past several weeks of mockery wrought upon our Constitution, law, and justice. What we have recently witnessed have been more nails hammered into that coffin in which lies a democratic republic. For over three years, it has been one egregious and even heinous act - or word - after another, usually spewing from Donald Trump himself. Yet his Cabinet, to wit, Barr and Pompeo, his Republican Senate, and his rabid MAGA family have become more relentless and vehement in their support of their president. Now I ask you, how on earth can we treat those above with respect when in my heart and soul I feel they are not worthy of it? I will smile and wear beige, and be civil. But I am unable to empathize or certainly understand that which I can neither fathom nor accept.

  161. @Kathy Lollock Bret is advocating treating ordinary voters with respect, not necessarily members of his administration or GOP people in congress. A lot of comments here seem to show misunderstanding of the difference.

  162. @Phil: I would say that some ordinary voters did an extraordinarily damaging thing in electing a man they knew to be immoral and corrupt, having seen and heard with their own eyes and ears his behavior on the campaign trail. I would say there is nothing ordinary in this at all. The results of their extraordinary behavior, in many cases against their own interests, will be felt for decades.

  163. @Kathy Lollock I feel as Kathy does - cannot cannot fathom or accept. It truly bewilders me how some I know and have supposed are decent and reasonably bright people can tolerate, even adore the openly crudest, most ignorant and selfish public figure in our history. Yes, I get that the conflict of truth and alt-truth has power. And yes, I know there are those who are naturally drawn to this administration because their big issue is saving foetuses, or hatred of Others (of different faiths or skin color or accent or sex). But there are those who seem drawn to this new far right Via prejudice against, but adoration for the very openness of crudeness, of the new OKness of rudeness, and of hate. Is this not new in America? Is it a common trait so many kept hidden until Trump made it acceptable - and without daring to copy the behavior, rally round it with pleasure? Or are many really confused by the conflict of truth in this crude new world? I really still don’t get it...

  164. I’m sure there are lots who won’t ever admit that they pulled the lever for Trump, but did so because their social , cultural, business or religious convictions allowed them to look away while, as long as behind the scenes they could ensure judges were conservative, taxes got lowered, business rules got relaxed and so forth. But if you look at his core base - the ones that go to his rally’s, then how do you counter that? The only mutual sugar high that Trump, and his audience are getting from those rally’s is fueled by unbridled hate. Show me any of his rally’s - certainly in recent months - where he has proposed even one positive policy about anything, that isn’t largesse. I’ve come to the opinion that mainstream conservatives need to do some serious soul searching and figure out how they retake their party back from a cultist leader. In the interim, Bloomberg is probably our best hope of detrumpifying the country, and restarting civil discourse. Hopefully before we tear ourselves apart.

  165. This issue is a good deal more complicated than Mr. Stephens allows for. I am conflicted about how I feel about Trump and his supporters. In principle, within the context of political debate in a democracy, I agree with what Mr. Stephens is saying in this column. The problem is, I'm not sure what the context is now and whether or not this is just a political debate. I am not sure whether or not Trump and a sizable portion of his base believe in democracy - that liberals and Democrats are entitled to a voice in how they are governed. If, by their actions as well as their words, they would deny me the right to vote, corrupt election results, and use the judicial system to harass or imprison political opponents, this is not a political debate. It's an attempt to overthrow our system of government. I've lived through a lot of political turmoil - McCarthy and the John Birch Society's red scares, the civil rights movement and race riots, and the Vietnam war. But I have never been so unsure about the viability of our democracy or thought there may be people who are a real threat to our system of government. I believe the Nazis and white supremacists had the right to march and make their case in Charlottesville. But I don't believe I should respect them, have empathy for them or hear them out. As for Trump and his base, I don't know how to treat them. Is this just a political debate or are Trump and his supporters a real threat to my rights and our system of government.

  166. I live in a conservative area and it has been made clear to me many times that there will be consequences if I express any liberal viewpoint. I really wish we could have open discussions with one another.

  167. @John Daly Come to New York. Everyone assumes you're liberal and hate the republican president. It's the same every time a republican is in the White House, by the way. Same old hatred. Same old hubris.

  168. I'm liberal, live in MI, and would be happy to talk politics with you. I find trump supporters fascinating.

  169. "Whisper networks ought to have no place in the land of the free." What land of the free is Stephens referring to? The one where its leader attempts to have his vocal opponents investigated, tried and imprisoned? And if not turned over to the tender mercies of the Justice Dept., viciously characterized in twitters and other pronouncements for their temerity in speaking freely. In this political climate, "free speech" is quickly becoming best exercised in a whisper, as is customary in countries ruled by an autocrat.

  170. I actually think the reason we have Trump is the exact opposite— we don’t have people with the courage to stand up and defend their beliefs, instead keeping it to themselves and seeking refuge in whisper networks. Citizenship demands courage, not safe spaces. Freedom of speech doesn’t grant you the right to a friendly audience— it demands of you that you speak unpopular opinions regardless of what everyone else thinks. It is not my obligation to creat a safe space for any and all opinions, it is my obligation to speak my opinions whether the rest of the world agrees or not. What we lack is not civility but the courage to speak out regardless of civility. If we had more of that, perhaps sunlight (the best disinfectant), would Donuts job on closeted bigotry. Perhaps more importantly, we’d have more Senators and White House staffers more willing to do the courageous thing regarding Trump. We don’t need safer spaces for any opinions, we need more people for whom conscience is more important than getting along.

  171. @Alejandro F. Would someone pass this message on to Sen. Susan Collins. Thanks.

  172. I'll concede that a few Trump voters maybe be dismayed and confused about their various economic plights and perhaps misinformed about what tax cuts for the wealthy actually do. Most of them, though, at least the ones I know or have met, are racist, militantly nationalistic, and isolationist, yearning for a past that never was. I have no more time for or patience with them.

  173. Republicans have taken up the "banner of free speech" because the bill of rights provides an effective tool to enforce draconian conservative policies that can't be achieved politically or legally through the legislative process. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..." Conservative lawyers routinely ignore the first clause and focus solely on the second. "... or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Meanwhile, the press is at war with the Trump administration and people have a government hostile to their grievances. Trump is silencing far more speech through executive abuse than anyone on the left. I need only mention the Vindman twins to prove my point. The only argument that possibly carries water is the protection to "peaceably" assemble. I think we can agree the online community represents a public assembly. You don't have the right to deny someone the public space with virulent, personal, verbal assault, moral or otherwise. However, once again, the Republican President is the poster child for abusing this protection. No Mr. Stephens. The left has not ceded the moral high ground on free speech. Quite frankly, I think this election should take place on an open ballot. Democrats would win in a landslide if Trump supporters were forced to face their communities honestly.

  174. @Andy There's much truth in your comment. I learned over the past three years that even though I couldn't complete college and I had to make do and advance by myself. The two things I learned are: I am one of those Mr Trump decries as the "Elites" who reject him and his beliefs. I truly believe in a level playing field for all of us. I am more of a Democrat than I thought as watching the dismantling of our Government, Rights and Responsibilities, the demeaning of the "Fourth Estate" ( the media) and the rise of the screeching Right Wing annoys me more than I ever believed it should. Realizing the above I shocked myself but I also believe that as in the movie "Roadhouse, Opinions vary". So I walk away when a conversation starts getting out of hand. Folk are entitled to their opinions and to voice them. Violence against others with opposing views is just nasty. However even though Mr Trump has the right to hold and discuss his views as POTUS he is supposed to represent all of us. That's not happening, and I am dreading the end result of what he does. America does not need to be "White again" that's the road to destruction. Just an old white man's opinion....

  175. People did whisper out of fear when a master, Lord, or a Captain Bligh controlled their very lives and survival in the past. However, today most whisper because they are uncertain of the reality of the situation or simply due to shame. Trump supporters be they voters or elected to office, have immersed themselves in that world of shame fearful of reality. The Left has not given up on free speech and are not pursuing a cause that denies the Right free speech. It is that the Left is unwilling to succumb to a world of twisted "logic", false narratives, and lies pedaled by cheats, greed, and a "magical" past. When the Left defends free speech through word and action, it done so in the quest of rights, freedoms, and equality for all. The Right should be challenged and stopped when their use of free speech becomes dangerous, cruel, and unfair as it pursues causes that demean and divide Americans to reduce rights, freedoms, and equality. Mr. Stevens, it is laughable and deeply troubling of how far the Right and their deep state has come to suggest that "Even a president who called the media the “enemy of the people” has a case to make that his opponents are more hostile to the letter and spirit of the First Amendment than he is." That view and others like it must be SHOUTED down and the assault on the Constitution by Trump must be ended November 3rd.

  176. Well said Mr. Stephens, This is exactly the message of Pete Buttigieg and why I am voting for him. I feel the far left has been too insulting and too anti-religion and faith. I have a few members of my own family of sixty and seventy year old siblings who would be afraid to speak up for fear of being crucified by other family members. They are part of this whisper network. My brothers are Republicans not because they are bigots or members of the clan, they simply feel strongly about less government and abortion and religious liberty. The far left megaphones practically shame you if you go the church or read the bible. Mayor Pete is the first candidate to say religion does not belong to a political party. I have been gently encouraging them to look at the moderate left candidates. Again the only candidate I see who has been welcoming former Republicans into his movement is Mayor Pete. The Trump haters need to move on, stop the attacks and put the right man on the ticket as the nominee. I live next to a very active large Catholic school and parish, and today I will proudly put out my Pete sign. Mayor Pete has the intellect, compassion and inclusiveness to lead this country. Thanks again Mr. Stephens, I am always drawn to your articles.

  177. Other than a few brief hints, Mr. Stephens and most of these comments ignore the huge two "elephants in the room" that permeate the essence of Trump's popularity; the first and largest is racism, pure and simple, and the second, a bit more subtle but equally pernicious, is the willful ignorance of facts. Enuff said.

  178. @Tom Bleakley Sorry, that elephant exists only in your room. It doesn't exist out in the real world. If Trump is "racist", he's a "racist" in the mold of LBJ.

  179. This piece reminds me of something I read about the 1972 re-election of Nixon during the Vietnam war. Few people would admit to voting for him but everybody did.

  180. @Henry's boy John Podhoretz revisited this back in 2011: "The clearest example of the bizarrely naive quality of hermetic liberal provincialism was attributed to the New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael almost 40 years ago, and has been discussed in right-wing circles ever since. . . . On Friday, on the New Yorker’s website, the magazine’s film editor Richard Brody offers what may be the first accurate version of the quote I’ve ever seen (I’m assuming it’s accurate because it comes from the New Yorker itself): 'Pauline Kael famously commented, after the 1972 Presidential election, "I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.'"

  181. Whenever movements for social change are effective, those on the losing side consider themselves to be victims, who are being disrespected, unfairly, by their opponents. The religious right, losing the fight against gay marriage and LBGTQ rights, believes that it is under assault. President Trump is their champion because despite his personal lack of morality, or respect for the constitution or rule of law, they see him as fighting for them. This focus on being the victim, however, relieves the losers of the responsibility to truly assess whether or not their views are correct, and few actually undertake any serious examination of why the broader society is moving away from their perspectives. Some Trump voters flock to him because they believe he, thus they, are the ones under unfair assault. In a similar vein, southerners fighting to maintain the immoral system of slavery believed fervently that their very way of life was being attacked, that they were disrespected by the moralists from the north. Many of those feelings linger still. Well, they were right, But they were being attacked because they were wrong, very wrong. People who support this President are being attacked because if you truly value what has made this country great, supporting a President like Trump is wrong. Mr. Stephens, by playing the victim card, wants to avoid that debate.

  182. @Jon But according to Mr Trump he is the most victimized person who exists. I agree with most of what you commented on. However to behave in a manner that disrespects those who are expressing their opinions is wrong. Using their actions and violent responses to different views is behaving as they want. That way they can make you an aggressor. I disagree with most of what comes from Mr Trump and I agree he has the right to his opinions. But as POTUS he is too represent all of us so his opinions frequently are rabble rousing instead of representing all of us. Just an old white man's opinion..

  183. I wouldn't call it "fear". I would call it "indignation." Now Trump supporters are supposed to ignore the strong economy and their own optimism about their futures to indulge the democrats in their vendetta against him. Sorry, no.

  184. @AACNY Economies come and go, as this one will. Trump is borrowing at what a member of the Fed is saying is an unsustainable rate, only to achieve the same growth rate as the last President did. We are supposed to accept a modern monarchy for this?

  185. @RG You're correct. Although nothing to do with Trump, it appears the coronavirus' impact on world economy will be significant, as China is still reeling from it and the US, like many countries, depend on China for various things.

  186. @RG "Modern monarchy" is something only someone whose thinking has been distorted by animus would claim. This is the kind of thinking that demonstrates how out of touch and hysterical people have become. Our democracy is ending because they despise this president.

  187. "...the biggest whisper network of all: the one involving inner flashes of sympathy, frequently tipping into support at the ballot box, for President Trump." I do believe you're overstating your case, Mr. Stephens. Trump supporters are all not shrinking violets. Most of them are vocal, although I suspect they don't take to Twitter, as Trump does, to denounce their detractors, or opine on things on which they are not experts. Writing about the narrow Trump victory in three states--Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin--Philip Bump of the Washington Post wrote, "Trump won those states by 0.2, 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points, respectively — and by 10,704, 46,765 and 22,177 votes." Not exactly "biggest whisper network." Not to mention that Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, of which 1.7 million came from Trump's home state and Clinton's adopted state of New York. Now that is the biggest whisper network, if there was one. He and his party lost big in the midterm elections, despite scaring the country about the imminent invasion of immigrants from south of the border and sending the army to quell that imagined invasion. Too, Trump's approval ratings have not passed the 50% threshold, remaining below it throughout his presidency and only approaching 49% in one poll recently. After his acquittal, Trump is unleashed, trying to use DOJ to help his friends and trying to "get" his detractors. Hopefully, he'll pay a price for his transgression.

  188. In the last few months,many of theN..Y.Times conservative opinion writers have written strong condemnation articles towards president Trump. Yet Trump is Trump only because of strong support from his followers. It is hard to just condemn the president and not the many who agree with his words and politics.

  189. Yes you can bet the result will come down to probably even less than 300K of voters in swing states. And when the results show Trump losing by any margin, he will contest it, refuse to concede, deny the results, cast blame, invent fake numbers and say he actually won. The sure to happen errors, mistakes, lost ballots will be used by him to convince his supporters that the deep state is out to get him. We are headed for a showdown this November. The only thing more serious is coronavirus.

  190. I live in NY, I detest trump. However, if Bernie is the nominee, I’ll be making all “correct” the social noises “vote blue”, but behind the curtain I’ll write in something else which is likely a vote for trump. I know a lot of people like me, so does everyone else, they maybe saying they will vote for Bernie, but in reality Americans will not vote for a socialist given any other choice. See his massive drop in support in New Hampshire. Against Clinton he won by almost 30 points, this time he barely won, specially once the second and third were viable choices.

  191. @DS "However, if Bernie is the nominee, I’ll be making all “correct” the social noises “vote blue”, but behind the curtain I’ll write in something else which is likely a vote for trump" So you're ashamed to admit that you'll vote for Trump. Have you any insight into why you're ashamed? Is it because you know he's a terrible, unethical, greedy man and utterly unfit for the job? Perhaps you should do a bit more thinking about what your vote for Trump will actually mean for your country and your fellow Americans. And eventually, for you.

  192. I live in North Carolina and work in the construction industry. It is pretty easy to pick out many of the Trump supporters. I assure you they are not all racists and bigots with many ardent Trump supporters acknowledging that "the wall" is more about theatre and less about substance. I am pretty sure they can also pick me out of a lineup as a progressive. However, I do have quite a few friends and associates who do not fit into a neat MAGA box, voted for Trump, and may do so again. They have no interest in attending a MAGA rally and are reluctant to say out loud that they voted for Trump. We can enjoy spirited political discussions because we have some measure of fondness and/or respect for one another. They can see through Trump's lies, agree he is petty and vindictive, and do not support all of his policies. However, many also benefited from the tax cuts, their 401ks have soared, and they tend to approve of either the dismantling of government or the many judicial appointments. Some of them state that they would be willing to consider one of the democratic candidates...unless that candidate is Bernie Sanders.

  193. If we want to endlessly replay the 2016 election, I think it is far more likely that the vote was effectively skewed by people who did not vote or "undervoted" by not filling in the their choice for president, than it was by so-called "whisper voters". That this was done in micro targeted districts of major urban areas where a robust vote would have tipped the scales the other way, should be enough of a clue to what happened. This is a strategy that has a poor chance of working twice the same way. So what's next? I try to treat everyone with respect no matter their political viewpoints, but when issues are so inflamed that logical and civil discourse is impossible, keeping silent is probably the best course. I currently play in a jazz group that includes two Trump people. We have a good time playing music and politics is not discussed.

  194. Great point about how Trump's support is under-represented in polls. Those of us who want to see a Democrat in the White House and a majority Democrat Senate (very important) next year would do well to remember how we were fooled by polls last time.

  195. I don't disagree, but where are the examples such as Rush labeling people RINOs, or Mitch McConnell saying his goal is to make Obama a one-term president, or, now, with republicans trying to run Mitt Romney out of the party? Why is Conservatism so homogeneous, if not for the network you just disdained? I think it is. Interesting that Bret doesn't go into that part.

  196. great insight vis a vis the uniformity of GOP thought. this is why I read the comments.

  197. Sorry, Bret....I understand what you are saying, and yes, all of us need to have respect for each other. But anyone who voted for Donald Trump to be the leader of the free world "out of disdain for the army of snickering moralists" doesn't really deserve my respect, don't you think? And they won't get it, until they decide to have an adult attitude about the most important thing we do as citizens of the United States.