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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Trump Appears Uninterested in Winning Others Over, Content to Energize His Base

In previous columns, I have shared my belief that Trump supporters are unreachable. (They have been labeled “Cult 45.”) One could conclude from watching Trump’s rally in Tulsa that either he believes he can win over the rest of us or, more likely, that he sees electoral success in further demonizing us and thereby energizing his base to turn out for him on Nov. 3.  What he doesn't seem to realize is that his words energizes his oponents to turn out, too.
Rita and I watched his full speech at the Tulsa rally, fascinated as always at how he appeals to that base. But that base may be shrinking. He was understandably furious about the poor turnout, filling only 6,200 of 19,000 seats, but that was an improvement from how he boasted that attendance at his inauguration was the largest ever. (It was in defense of that claim that Kellyanne Conway made her famous statement about “alternative facts” on Meet the Press two days later, setting the tone for his entire presidency.)
We continue to be intrigued by how Trump supporters are able to overlook his lies, dog whistles to the “deplorables,” scorning of allies and flattering of dictators, obscene language and generally despicable behavior. How would you feel if someone you supported (or just liked) was adored by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, racists and the like? (I wrote about Hillary Clinton’s now-famous September 2016  “deplorables” speech last week, when this column appeared only on this blog.)
Like me, you probably know respectable, college-educated professionals who say they like Trump, and I enjoy conversing with them to figure out why. What I usually find is that they like how his tax cuts benefited them financially — as they did Donald Trump himself. 
One such supporter is a friend of mine, a highly successful Realtor whom I’ve known and admired for over a decade.  She said she supports Trump because his tax cuts have benefited her personally. (She’s far more successful that I am, with 59 closings, two of them over $1 million, in the past 12 months.)  She told me she is willing to overlook his negatives because of that, which I find disappointing.
    There’s another group of non-deplorable Trump supporters that surprises me, because it is in our local Rotary club, to which Rita and I both belonged.  I love and appreciate Rotary for  its “Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do,” which Rotarians recite at every meeting following the Pledge of Allegiance.  It goes like this:
  •  First, is it the truth?
  •  Second, is it fair to all concerned?
  •  Third, does it build goodwill and better friendships?
  •  Fourth, will it be beneficial to all concerned?

As Rita and I joined in reciting the Four-Way Test every Tuesday, it occurred to me after Trump took office, that our president’s thoughts, words and deeds would fail that test. We will never forget when a visiting Rotarian leader gave a talk about the Four-Way Test early in Trump’s reign.  During the Q&A part of the meeting, I thought it appropriate, despite the unspoken rule about avoiding politics, to ask the speaker how we as Rotarians should relate to a president who consistently violates all four tenets of the Test.
The following week, I was told by the club president that “several” Rotarians had complained about me asking that question — although not to me directly. The following week four female members of the club, including Rita, all resigned in protest. I stayed on, but only for another year. I believe in my heart that the vast majority of Rotarians are good people who reject Donald Trump’s leadership or lack thereof.
I considered submitting an article to Rotarian magazine raising this issue, but I never did.  I decided — hopefully wrongly — that it would not have been published, because Trump’s 30% base probably includes many Rotarians, and the organization can’t afford to offend them.  I’m happy to raise the subject in print here for the first time. 
I’m disappointed that any Rotarian thinks the Four-Way Test need only apply to them and it’s okay to support others who blatantly violate it, as Trump does every day.


  1. Hello Jim. A family member sent me a link to your blog which I enjoy. Did you know that Gov. Polis's father is also an MIT alum? Except his father was a ne-er do well only have a 5.0 GPA in physics. When were you at MIT?

  2. I, too, am an ex-member of Rotary. And that’s very, very sad. Rotary as a whole does wonderful things...things which make all parts of the world a better place. There aren’t many organizations where busy people come together to volunteer time and money to do good. The list of great things that Rotary does is enormous and if I mentioned just a few, I would do the organization an injustice by what I leave off the list. Eleemosynary!

    But, like Rita and you, I resigned. Rotary has its own original sin (it took the Supreme Court as recently as 1989 to force Rotary to allow women. 1989!) It’s not the history that’s troubling; it’s the on-going attitudes of far too many Rotary members that led me to resign.

    I spent a lot of time in Rotary and I believed enough in the organization that I spent extra time in leadership in a large local Rotary governing body. And then the disappointments grew as a host of political grievances found currency.

    In late 2016, one of the most senior local Rotary leaders posted a virulently anti-Muslim video on some social media platform. It was a time of religious intolerance in our nation...I get that...but promulgating such bilge by a senior Rotary leader started the eye-brow raising process in me. Later, a different member of Rotary pulled me aside and harangued me about Black Lives Matter. This was before the wave of protests against racism in our country. Now, don’t get me wrong...I’m not condoning violence and destruction which is an unfortunate (small) part of the current wave. But this Rotary member couldn’t get over his grievance.

    The current political environment made matters worse. Suddenly, dark instincts that were apparently repressed found encouragement and support and ostentatious voice. They more than bubbled to the surface; they became part of meeting dialog.

    It goes on. I don’t believe that the tax cuts you write about Jim are what led your Rotary club member to accept intolerance and indecency. I fear that intolerance has been given license in the name of “freedom.” And very, very unfortunately, such attitudes exist far too often in what is now a tarnished exemplary organization.