The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Persuading Republicans to Dump Trump

July 5, 2016

I have one more Trump post I have to write. My first bemoaned how Trump could possibly be competitive in the presidential race and the second lambasted Trump’s positions on domestic and foreign policy. I have no illusions that I’m convincing anyone who isn’t already convinced he is a danger to the republic. However, should you read this and have friends in your orbit who are flirting with supporting Trump, here is some ammunition for your Facebook feed, dinner conversation, passenger pigeon, what have you.

Basically, my hunch is that people will listen to you because they know you, but they also might listen to you if they trust the information sources you rely on. Republicans might only listen to other Republicans so I’m going to pull together the most persuasive quotes from prominent Republicans who have said never Trump.

How does political persuasion work?

My bet is that if you raise these and other points with people who know you that they will be less likely to engage in a flame war with you online than they would with some random person they’ve never met. Norms of civility ought to kick in with people who have some history together.

I am Facebook friends with folks I went to high school with where I grew up in Texas, and though we disagree mightily about politics, we see each other’s family photos on-line. Based on our shared history and mutual appreciation of family, I believe we can approach our interactions online with respect. I recognize that this becomes attenuated when people who know me but don’t know each other interact in the comments thread, but I can and have shut down threads when people get personal on my FB wall.

Maybe I’m naive or misinformed about how political persuasion works, but this is something I study. Much of my work on transnational social movements is about framing and efforts by principled advocacy groups to persuade others to join their cause. My wife, Bethany Albertson, is a political psychologist who studies similar dynamics.

She brought to my attention the work of up and coming communications scholar Katherine Haenschen who has carried out on-line experiments to see if friends can induce their friends on-line to vote through online reminders. Her forthcoming paper in the Journal of Communication found such reminders could increase voter turnout from between 15 and 24%. She draws on Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld’s classic theory of the two-step flow, where people learn from more informed members of their social networks who themselves have learned from mass media and elites. I think this captures my intuitive approach to persuasion on Facebook.

One of the other central insights of political psychology is that messengers or sources matter. People are more likely to listen to people if they come from a trusted source. Partisan cues, race, gender, or some combination can serve as powerful information short-cuts that determine who people listen to (see David Domke’s work here).

The Messengers

I’m probably a terrible messenger when it comes to convincing Republicans that they shouldn’t vote for Donald Trump, but the following prominent Republicans might be better placed to successfully make the case. I will update periodically if new folks come forward.

Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for George W. Bush and prominent evangelical, writes:

Some Republicans keep expecting Trump to finally remove the mask of misogyny, prejudice and cruelty and act in a more presidential manner. But it is not a mask. It is his true face. Good Republican leaders making the decision to support Trump will end up either humiliated by the association, or betrayed and attacked for criticizing the great leader. Trump leaves no other options.

and this:

As a leader, Trump has succeeded by appealing to stereotypes and ugly hatreds that most American leaders have struggled to repress and contain. His political universe consists of deceptive experts, of scheming, of criminal Mexicans, of lying politicians and bureaucrats and of disloyal Muslims. Asked to repudiate David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, Trump hesitated, later claiming a “bad earpiece.” Asked to repudiate the vicious anti-Semitism of some of his followers, Trump responded, “I don’t have a message to the fans.” Wouldn’t want to offend “the fans.”

This is not flirting with the fringes; it is French-kissing them. Every Republican official endorsing Trump should know: This is the company he keeps. This is the company you now keep.

Marc Racicot, former governor of Montana and chairman of the Republican National Committee, writes:

But after long and careful consideration, I cannot endorse or support their decision to express their frustration, anger and disappointment by selecting Trump as the Republican nominee for president. Trump has demonstrated neither the aforementioned qualities of principled leadership, nor offered any substantive or serious conservative policy proposals consistent with historical Republican Party platform positions.

Kori Schake, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who worked for the National Security Council and the State Department under President George W. Bush, said:

But, she told POLITICO in an interview Monday, “it is true, and I wish I had a better alternative,” adding that Trump is “such a political arsonist” that she cannot support him, particularly for his comments regarding women and minorities, which she called “unconscionable.”

Christie Todd Whitman, former governor of NJ and EPA administrator, reflecting on Trump’s comments on a judge of Mexican descent presiding over the Trump University case, writes:

These statements in themselves are rude and inappropriate, to say nothing of revealing of his lack of knowledge of the judicial system. But the real danger of this — just one of literally hundreds of similar incidents on the campaign trail — is that it incites his supporters to racism and a sense that the “system” is out to get them. Trump is not the victim of the judicial system; he is or has been the defendant in 3,500 lawsuits — that’s not the mark of a victim, but rather a perpetrator.

Ben Sasse, current U.S. senator from Nebraska, wrote:

Given what we know about him today, here’s where I’m at: If Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee, my expectation is that I will look for some third candidate – a conservative option, a Constitutionalist.

I do not claim to speak for a movement, but I suspect I am far from alone. After listening to Nebraskans in recent weeks, and talking to a great many people who take oaths seriously, I think many are in the same place. I believe a sizable share of Christians – who regard threats against religious liberty as arguably the greatest crisis of our time – are unwilling to support any candidate who does not make a full-throated defense of the First Amendment a first commitment of their candidacy.

Conservatives understand that all men are created equal and made in the image of God, but also that government must be limited so that fallen men do not wield too much power. A presidential candidate who boasts about what he’ll do during his “reign” and refuses to condemn the KKK cannot lead a conservative movement in America.

Mitt Romney, 2012 GOP candidate for president, made a strong appeal to his party against Trump: 

Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants, he calls for the use of torture and for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit first amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.

Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.

Mike Lee, current Utah Senator, said:

“I mean we can get into the fact that he accused my best friend’s father of conspiring to kill JFK,” Lee told Newsmax’s Steve Malzberg, who asked about the lack of a Trump endorsement.

“We can go through the fact that he has made some statements that some have identified correctly as religiously intolerance,” Lee added. “We can get into the fact that he is so unpopular because my state consists of members who were a religious minority church — a people who were ordered exterminated by the governor of Missouri in 1839 and statements like that make them nervous.”

David Brooks, conservative columnist for the New York Times writes:

Trump represents the path the founders rejected. There is a hint of violence undergirding his campaign. There is always a whiff, and sometimes more than a whiff, of “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

and this:

They seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter.

Pete Wehner, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, served in last three Republican presidential administrations, wrote:

Even more disqualifying is Mr. Trump’s temperament. He is erratic, inconsistent and unprincipled. He possesses a streak of crudity and cruelty that manifested itself in how he physically mocked a Times journalist with a disability, ridiculed Senator John McCain for being a P.O.W., made a reference to “blood” intended to degrade a female journalist and compared one of his opponents to a child molester.

and this:

Others, like me, consider him emotionally unstable, unprincipled, cruel and careless, the kind of demagogic figure the ancient Greeks and the American founders feared.

A letter to Trump supporters co-signed by Francis Fukuyama, John J. DiIulio, Jr., Mickey Edwards, among others

But we ask you to consider whether Mr. Trump—who as far as we can tell is far more interested in himself than in anyone else—is really going to do anything for you or for the country, other than continuing to say things that aren’t true, make promises no one could keep, constantly brag about himself, and insult and try to bully the growing number of people and groups he doesn’t like. We don’t think he will. We believe that you—that all of us—would come deeply to regret putting this man in charge of our country.

Richard Armitage, a retired Navy officer who also served as an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, said of Trump:

He doesn’t appear to be a Republican, he doesn’t appear to want to learn about issues. So, I’m going to vote for Mrs. Clinton.”

Erick Erickson, prominent conservative blogger, wrote:

A lot of Republicans are going to start making claims that we must rally to the nominee, no matter who he is. I know for certain a large number of Trump supporters will not rally to a Cuban. I will not rally to Trump. Frankly, if Trump is able to get the nomination, the Republican Party will cease to be the party in which I served as an elected official. It will not deserve my support and will not get it if it chooses to nominate a pro-abortion liberal masquerading as a conservative, who preys on nationalistic, tribal tendencies and has an army of white supremacists online as his loudest cheerleaders.

Meghan Milloy, American Action Forum and founder of Republican Women for Hillary, said:

“That being said, I can’t vote for someone like Donald Trump, because he’s overtly racist and misogynist.”

Kathleen Parker, conservative columnist for the Washington Post, wrote:

The fact is, Trump hasn’t needed any help in exposing his prevarications, exaggerations and just plain awful behavior. His words and deeds speak for themselves. Thus, the idea that there’s some sort of anti-Trump cabal in the Post newsroom is nonsense.

S.E. Cupp, conservative columnist, on Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, said:

“Most Republicans find what Donald Trump said to be repulsive,” she said. “It’s repulsive morally. It’s repulsive if you cherish the Constitution. It’s repulsive if you’re a good conservative. It’s repulsive if you like freedom of religion. It’s repulsive on so many levels.”

Rod Dreher, senior editor of the American Conservative, wrote:

It’s incredible when you think about it for more than two seconds. If you’re a Republican, you wake up in the morning not knowing what your party’s presumptive presidential candidate is going to say, except that it’s likely to be inflammatory and crazy.

And it’s only June!

George Will, conservative columnist who left the Republican Party over Trump’s nomination, wrote of Trump:

“He is an affront to anyone devoted to the project William F. Buckley began six decades ago with the founding in 1955 of the National Review — making conservatism intellectually respectable and politically palatable.”

Jennifer Rubin, conservative columnist for the Washington Post, wrote

We suspect that when he gave Donald Trump the opportunity to unify the party, Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) knew Trump wouldn’t be able to do it. Someone as narcissistic and as devoid of conservative principles as Trump couldn’t become a conciliatory, minimally coherent Republican. Still, he probably did not expect Trump to blow it so quickly and vividly….

It is not simply that Trump lacks consistent conservative principles; rather, he lacks any principles whatsoever.

Tom Nichols, professor at the U.S. Naval War College, and vocal critic of Trump

Yes, fellow conservatives: Trump is worse than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Their policies are liberal, even leftist, often motivated by cheap politics, ego, and political grandstanding. But they are policies, understandable as such and opposable by political means….

In fact, Trump’s policies are not policies. They’re just feverish revenge fantasies. Trump, a scam artist whose entire career has been based on victimizing the working class, should be the target of that anger. Instead, he is encouraging Americans to turn their hostility away from him and against their fellow citizens, inviting us into a war of all against all over which he will preside as an amused dictator.

David Boaz, vice president of the Cato Institute, wrote:

Not since George Wallace has there been a presidential candidate who made racial and religious scapegoating so central to his campaign. Trump launched his campaign talking about Mexican rapists and has gone on to rant about mass deportation, bans on Muslim immigration, shutting down mosques, and building a wall around America. America is an exceptional nation in large part because we’ve aspired to rise above such prejudices and guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone.

Mona Charen, conservative columnist, wrote this in the National Review

The man has demonstrated an emotional immaturity bordering on personality disorder, and it ought to disqualify him from being a mayor, to say nothing of a commander-in-chief.


Norm Coleman, former Minnesota Senator, is all in never Trump

When a man mocks the disabled, dismisses the valor and honor of America’s veterans, such as Sen. John McCain, and defames the last Republican commander-in-chief, he is not to be trusted to lead our nation’s military in times of peace or war.

There is a coarseness to Trump that degrades the political discourse, such as when he calls women “fat pigs” or attacks a female reporter by a not-so-subtle reference to her menstrual cycle.

And any man who declines to renounce the affections of the KKK and David Duke should not be trusted to lead America. Ever.

We have been deceived by a con artist. A fraud wrapped in the veneer of being a businessman, who has slapped a slogan on a baseball cap and is closer to being president of the United States than any bigot, misogynist, fraud and bully in modern American history.

Mark Salter, former aide to Senator John McCain, also not a Trump fan

[Trump’s] policy views are like some drunk’s rant. If he tried to do anything like he says he will, we’d have no allies, a lot more enemies, and more of them with nukes. Finally, he’s unfit for the office, too, temperamentally and morally, a narcissistic bigot.

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Joshua Busby is an Associate Professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin. He is the author of Moral Movements and Foreign Policy (Cambridge, 2010) and the co-author, with Ethan Kapstein, of AIDS Drugs for All: Social Movements and Market Transformations (Cambridge, 2013). His main research interests include transnational advocacy and social movements, international security and climate change, global public health and HIV/ AIDS, energy and environmental policy, and U.S. foreign policy. He also tends to blog about global wildlife conservation.