38% of Republican voters in South Carolina believe Donald Trump should be the leader of the free world. I’m from South Carolina. I definitely don’t agree. However, I decided to genuinely listen to his supporters and I learned a valuable lesson.
Lets start with some background about me. I’m not a politician, a historian, an economist, or a diplomat. Like most people, I’m a collection of opposites – a small town South Carolina girl who has ventured to 43 countries and is equally happy with a Bojangles sweet tea or Italian red wine. Much of my success was built on the foundation of my middle class family who loved and encouraged me to dream big. Turning those dreams into reality was solitary path and everything I’ve accomplished can be attributed to hard work, dedication, and a stubbornness consistent with the other red heads in my family.
So there’s no question on political bias – here’s what I believe: I believe in education, hard work, and sacrifice. I’m confident those three things could solve so many of the financial concerns we face today, especially if we can build up strong family support systems. It is absolutely none of my business who you love or what you do with your body. You might not agree with me, but at least you can read the rest of this article knowing the lens that birthed it.
As someone who is far from political, why would I open up this discussion on my Facebook page? I know a lot of South Carolinians. My gut was to post something to Facebook that said, “wtf people”? Fortunately, I stopped. Some of my SC friends and family might feel estranged. I would rather dance nude in a blizzard than cause my family and friends any pain. I love these people. So, I decided to listen to their reasoning and give them a safe space to share openly and without judgement.
Here’s what I shared:
Here’s what I learned:
1. We agree more than we disagree:
Immediately, the responses started pouring in from SC. I’ll admit, I thought – Oh God, what have I done? Then, I read the responses. They were reasonable. Entirely reasonable. Next came the responses came from California and Connecticut. I found something to agree with on every single response. Rather than looking to confirm how my belief about Trump was right, I looked for a way to agree with every single responder. I might not agree on Trump as a candidate, but I found at least one common thread with every respondent. No one was more shocked than me.
2. Trump speaks for an audience that others have left behind.
- They are disenfranchised with big government and do not trust current leaders.
- They want change and are looking for a candidate that speaks plainly and will stand up for their needs.
- They all love this country and want it to return to what they view as its previous glory days
- Many of them are looking for a candidate with business experience, particularly because they, or someone they love, is unemployed or underemployed.
3. Vulnerability is tricky business, but worthwhile.
Creating a controlled fire required me to face some fears. I wanted to understand. I wanted to listen. I wanted the people I love to be treated with respect. I was petrified that this discussion could hurt someone. I was so pleasantly surprised to see that people acted with respect and followed the rules. Without taking that chance, I would have missed the opportunity to understand.
4. People want to be heard and understood.
When we speak to someone, we are often thinking of a counter argument or reciting a mantra of why our beliefs are more accurate than someone else’s. We miss the message in the drama and forget to ask why someone holds that belief. What if we all really listened and TRIED to agree? What if we look for some kind of common ground and then build from a point of unison?
What I hope the candidates hear:
I still believe Trump is a dangerous candidate. My hope is that the other candidates will learn from his success and become a better solution. People want change. Not the superficial promise of change. The kind that will bring them hope for their futures. The kind that will reward them for working hard and doing the right thing. You have to do more than tell them that you are on their side. You have to show them with specifics. Tell people not only what you will do, but how you will do it. Show them that you understand government. Show them that you will unite people – then do it! I don’t believe Trump’s supporters actually support him. They support a better tomorrow and they just don’t think you are willing to shatter glass to drive change. Buy a hammer.