Right before the election, I had the chance to speak with a Trump supporter who defied many of the stereotypes popular media has conveyed about the MAGA movement. He was college-educated. He worked in the tech industry in one of America’s more liberal urban enclaves. He was an immigrant who had come here from France in his teens.
It turned out to be one of my favorite interviews, so I invited him back on to the second-to-last episode of the year to get his thoughts on what has happened over the past year and better understand what America’s political dialogue might look like in the coming years.
Pierre, a name I gave him to protect his identity, is what I’ll call “Moderate MAGA”. He believes the election was more-or-less fairly won by Biden, but has some misgivings about the process and saw some irregularities. He feels the Capitol riot was a stain on American history, yet feels left-leaning media outlets put too much blame on Trump and covered the riot much differently than they covered the destruction of private property that took place during last summer’s BLM protests.
You’re never going to hear him deny the existence of COVID or use the phrase “Jewish Space Laser”, both because he feels both are nonsense, and because the political climate is such that he fears expressing his opinion at all.
In this conversation with Pierre, I came to two realizations:
1.) The Media Landscape is Hurting Us All - Pierre and I had vastly different views on what’s happened in America since 2020, much of which has been guided by our own biases and the media we’ve consumed. Outlets such as MSNBC and CNN were focused on stories around Trump’s potential abuses of power, the pandemic, or the broad level of COVID denialism in the GOP. Fox and other conservative media outlets have focused on violence in America’s cities, the state of America’s border with Mexico, and questions around Hunter Biden’s business dealings abroad.
Chances are, you read the above and felt one group of stories were overblown, while the other group reflected real problems Americans faced. The tendency you and I have to dismiss one group of stories as partisan exaggerations is more reflective of our biases than it is reality.
The problem isn’t that we see issues differently, but that we see different issues.
While Pierre and I don’t agree on much politically, I could see how a reasonable person consuming media in today’s landscape could reach the conclusions he reached.
2.) The MAGA Movement has Moved Underground, Kind Of - What I found more troubling about my conversation with Pierre was the fact he’s become reluctant to share his opinions for fear of how it might impact his livelihood. Going back to my recent interview with Arjun from The Factual, America’s social media-driven political dialogue has left little room for nuance.
This means someone like Pierre can’t disagree on one thing without having a whole basket of other policy positions attached to him. I disagreed with Pierre’s comparison of the Capitol riot with what happened during last summer’s BLM protests, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a conversation about it, nor does his position automatically make him my enemy.
All growth comes from discomfort and, in the case of philosophical growth, that discomfort takes the form of disagreement. We seem to be entering a world where it’s more difficult to challenge each other ideologically, something that will hurt America in the long run.
I started YDHTY in 2019 after reaching the conclusion Americans had lost the ability to talk with each other and the desire to do something about it. After my conversation with Pierre, I think I’m going to be doing this for a while longer.
My original conversation with Pierre can be found here.