Trying to understand Trump supporters has been challenging. Here’s how my efforts went.
Trump supporters (Shutterstock)

Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Ken Grotewiel served as a state representative from Wichita from 1983 to 1994. He has since worked as a mediator and facilitator to resolve public disputes.

I have done my best over the last year to understand Trump supporters and what makes you all tick. And the results are in.

I don’t hate you. It was tempting at times, but I decided there’s no upside in that.

It does seem that you really don’t like elites, at least with elites you disagree with. I know my patience with the elites of the far left is stretched sometimes. I tire of them talking about how our country would be so much better if we only listened to them and taxed everything that moves or doesn’t move. I generally agree with their goals, but I think getting there with the government they have in mind is unrealistic. If they did get there, “their” government would simply bog down under its own weight and strangle the America we all love.

Speaking of elites, though, l honestly don’t get what you see in former President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rep. Jim Jordan. I could go on, but you catch my drift. They all talk about freedom, and I’m all for that too, just not unlimited freedom in any part of our public or private lives.

You also seem a little thin skinned. AOC (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez) gets under your skin regularly, from what I read. She gets me a little steamed too, though not for the same reasons. Her views are not my views, and certainly not those of the Democratic Party as a whole. But she is one of ours, and if she is a problem, she is our problem. Not yours. Yet I don’t know why you care what she says. She has no real power in Congress, and her proposals are going nowhere fast.

On the other hand, Marjorie Taylor Greene said Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason, “And it’s, uh, it’s a crime punishable by death is what treason is. Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason,” and liked a January 2019 Facebook post that called for “a bullet to the head” of Pelosi. I admit that can get a little steamed when I hear an elected official publicly using the words “death” and “bullet” related to the speaker of the House.

This use of inflammatory speech by a member of Congress collides with my love and respect for our democracy, which I know you share with me. But back to AOC. Remember that AOC is not talking about killing anyone. She just has a vision of what this country should be about.

As to your vision for this country, it just doesn’t grab me. No offense. What you think about this country is fine. To you, it’s right. Just remember, it may never be right to me no matter how much I might try to get it.

Abortion is a case in point. I know you as Trump Republicans almost categorically feel it is right and morally necessary to keep women from having an abortion. But not all Republicans feel that way, for your information.

As a Kansas legislator during the 1980s, I voted several times on bills that would curtail abortion. After one such vote, I asked a state representative from southeast Kansas why he voted against restrictions. He was white, older, had a 1940s haircut, and came from a very Catholic area.

His answer was straightforward. In his youth, well before the Roe decision, he saw what women went through in their desperate attempts to end their pregnancies. That included going to quack doctors, trying to abort pregnancies themselves, and often leaving themselves maimed or even dead. He didn’t want to see that kind of thing again.

During my entire adult life, the Roe decision kept me from having to see what my fellow representative had experienced. Now, our collective memory of those times is gone. It’s easy for some to pretend it didn’t even happen. But it did.

I don’t think you are evil for your views on abortion, or anything else. I know some people to your left may sometimes call you evil. That’s over the line for me. Some actions are evil perhaps, but not people themselves. We must just get past this kind of thinking. I ask you to remember that others with a completely different take on what should happen in this country feel just as strongly as you do.

Feeling strongly about what needs to be done does not make it right for either side.

I remind myself often that no matter how passionately I believe something is right, I might change my views at some point in the future. When I had bosses during my work life, they weren’t right all the time, but the good ones kept adjusting their approach to get it right ― as much as possible at the time. Not forever.

Some of you, perhaps, may think that things are either right or wrong. Nothing in between. For me, being right is too high a bar. Being right is about being perfect, and I know I’m not. I’d rather fumble along in our democracy where I have a voice, and I can keep working to create a solution that lets us move forward, even if neither of us are completely happy.

Getting to whatever is “right” for us at this time in Kansas is our job. Regardless of our political views or party affiliation, we must be up to that task. Otherwise, we are left to fight over the crumbs in the bowl rather than creating a better and bigger bowl that reflects all the beauty in ourselves. It’s now or never.

I’ve tried to understand you better. All I ask is for you to do the same. It’s a start for both of us.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.

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