This is a guest post by David Jay Morris. He addresses a problem which has troubled me for years: How to "deprogram" the hard-core Trump supporters who constitute somewhere between thirty and forty percent of the population?
Progressives often fall into the trap of presuming that such people are beyond reach, that the Trumpers are like the boys-become-donkeys in Pinocchio
-- no longer human, no longer capable of reason or comprehensible speech. It's hard not to agree with that pessimistic conclusion after one has read a story like this one
about a pro-Trump evangelical rally.
They came to pray with their president, though in truth many came just to worship him.
But the fact that such a rally has become necessary indicates that even these voters may, in fact, be open to independent thinking. Christianity Today editor Mark Galli
has recently made the same point. Asked about the reaction to his famous editorial, he noted:
I was a little surprised that Donald Trump and then Franklin Graham thought it was worth commenting on. And it did strike me as a bit ironic that they both said that it wasn’t significant or going to make any difference. It makes you immediately think that they do think it’s significant, or they wouldn’t comment on it.
You may have decided -- as I did, some years back -- that a back-and-forth dialogue with Trump's evangelical supporters is pointless, since right-wingers have become so wedded to bizarre conspiracy theories that they no longer recognize "normal" points of reference. Nevertheless, clever tactics might
be able to penetrate the protective force fields surrounding their brains.
Finding a way to communicate with these robots is an extremely important endeavor. To accomplish that end, the few billionaires who favor our side should give up their self-important quests for personal glory. Instead, they should fund campaigns intended to liberate the minds of their fellow citizens. The goal should not be conversion to liberalism but an increased receptivity to new thoughts.
Again: The words below the asterisks were written by David Jay Morris.
* * *
At long last, the obvious truth that the Republican Party under Trump has become an out-and-out cult is starting to break though into America’s mainstream consciousness. Along with this, the realization is growing that we are far, far beyond the realm of normal politics and that American democracy now faces an existential threat unlike any we have known since the Civil War.
The possibility that we could lose this thing is real.
And that’s not even the worst of it – if four more years of Trump are somehow rammed down our throats, democracy and majority rule in the U.S. will not be the only thing to go. Any real chance to derail a runaway climate catastrophe in our or our children’s lifetimes will die as well.
To say that the very survival of civilization as we know it – if not the human race itself – is at stake sounds so crazy that I hesitate to write it.
But that is where we are.
The question – the only question – is how do we stop it?
Put another way, how can 35 percent of the U.S. population be deprogrammed, especially when they live in a walled-off propaganda-based information universe in which up is down, night is day, and people seriously believe that Donald Trump is the second coming of Cyrus the Great?
A small ray of hope came recently with the Billy Graham founded Evangelical Christian Magazine Christianity Today’s editorial supporting the impeachment and removal of President Trump from office for the obvious reason that he lacks the basic morality the office requires.
While an isolated action unlikely in itself to have much impact, this break from the lockstep white Evangelical support for Trump is important because these are his shock troops – the true believers without whom the cult of Trump would be nothing. And while any objective observer can easily see that no one could be further removed from the teachings of Jesus in their words, deeds and thoughts than Trump, his WETS (White Evangelical Trump Supporters) do actually believe themselves to be Christians. Anything that shakes this self-image – that causes people in the movement to start to recognize the fundamental incompatibility of these two positions – represents a huge threat to the cult of Trump, and the power it lets Trump wield over what was once the Republican Party.
Where Christianity Today’s editor-in-chief Mark Galli’s Trump criticism might fall short, however – along with that of other serious and rational believers such as Pete Buttigieg – is in failing to recognize the strength of the lizard-brain fear state that has taken hold of the WETS. Theirs is not the well-considered Christianity of Thomas Aquinas. It’s pro-wrestling Protestantism – simplistic, bombastic and fake to the core – The perfect match for Trump’s pro-wrestling presidency.
So how do we break through that?
One answer might lie not in rational, well-considered arguments, but in fighting fear with fear. Don’t question the wakadoodle theology, use it. In simplistic terms, frame Trump for what he ought to be in the fundamentalist pantheon – the Deceiver and agent of the Antichrist. Stress how following Trump endangers not just the country and the planet, but the fate of their souls.
Okay, you might be saying, so far, so good, but how do we get these ideas into the constant view of the people who need to see them? They aren’t exactly going to be promoted on Fox News or the Christian Broadcasting Network, so what can be done?
This brings us, at last, to the title of this article – Billboards, Bumper Stickers and Bloomberg.
Do you really want to save our country – and the world – Mr. Bloomberg? How about taking a chunk of your vast fortune and using it flood the purple and red states with hard-hitting billboards painting Trump and his friends in exactly the way they ought to be framed if one accepts the theology and vocabulary of fundamentalist Christianity.
For example, imagine a large billboard on the upper left side of which is an image of Jesus ministering to the poor and in the lower right unflattering images of Trump and various prominent proponents of the so-called “prosperity gospel.” The large caption could read, “Do you worship the Messiah…or the modern-day money-lenders?” In smaller letters at the bottom of all the billboards would be, “Follow the Divine, not the Deceiver. It’s not just your country that’s at stake. Visit www.TrumpTheDeceiver.com” (A supporting web site which could be created to document the myriad ways Trump and his cronies are anything but Christian.)
Another one might show an image of a wise and compassionate Jesus in the same position in the upper left with a picture of a ranting Trump on the right with Jared Kustner’s 666 building in the background. The large caption could read, “Do you worship the Divine or the Deceiver?” Smaller text under Jesus might say, “Brought God’s Good News to the world.” Under Trump could be, “Fined $2 million for operating a fraudulent charity. Settled fraud lawsuits against Trump University for £25 million. Lied to or misled the American people more than 15,000 times since becoming president.”
A rather different one could show a large picture of Trump and Putin sitting together with the simple caption, “Putin and Trump are not your friends.”
Others could focus more on the bogus theology underpinning the whole Christian right enterprise. For example, there could be a billboard divided in half by a vertical line. On the left at the top, there could be a picture of Jesus teaching and underneath it the caption, “What Jesus said about abortion:” Underneath that would, of course, be nothing, since Jesus is never reported to have said anything on the subject – although both abortion and infanticide were common practices in his day. In the top right area could be an image of Jesus throwing over the tables of the money changers in the temple, under which would be the caption, “What Jesus said about the greedy rich:” followed by choice biblical verses such as, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap.” And of course, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
A similar one could focus on homosexuality vs. concern for the poor.
You get the idea. More clever folks than I could easily come up with dozens more.
Needless to say, the life-span of most of them would probably be quite short, which is another reason why it would be ideal for this project to be backed by someone like Mr. Bloomberg. As soon as one was burned down, shot up or painted over, a new one would need to go up in its place.
As everyone knows though, Mr. Bloomberg isn’t the only billionaire throwing millions and millions of dollars at the Democratic Party nomination, so I have a suggestion for Mr. Steyer as well. With an estimated net worth of some $1.6 billion, he is a very, very wealthy man…but not quite in Bloomberg’s league. Instead of billboards, why not spend a few million on a really tough bumper sticker campaign?
Some of them might use the same themes as the billboards:
“Do you worship the Divine or the Deceiver?”
Trump is NOT your friend!
“Do you worship the Messiah or the Money Changers!”
Trump is NOT your friend!
Others might go in a little different direction. For example:
“Trump worships greed. Do you?”
“Jesus wasn’t white!”
“A brown man died for your sins.”
Why do you hate them?
How about it, Michael and Tom?
According to the New York Times, Trump is now overtly telling his WETS that God is “on our side.” What are you going to do about it?
About the author: Now semi-retired, long-time believer in progressive causes David Jay Morris is a former international news editor and columnist for the Guam Daily Post and has worked for the New York Daily News and Long Island Business Review. Holding British-American dual nationality, he now lives in the UK with his wife and dogs and works part-time as a teacher, Japanese – English translator and editor