Anger and denial are stages of grief. Duh!
That thought slipped into my brain after a diehard Trump fan responded with a burst of irrational anger when I tweeted about my blog post on the Fox News settlement with Dominion Voting Systems. She claimed a PhD in experimental psychology and I figured she should have known better. She deleted her comment, but social media never really deletes anything. It was a public comment, which makes it fair game. Here is a link.
I’ve offered different theories about why diehard Trump fans still cling to Trump lies. Maybe it’s cognitive dissonance gone wild. Or maybe some people think Trump offers the only way to save unborn babies.
Whatever it is, public indoctrination is strong stuff because millions of Americans still stick with Trump, at first with no evidence to support his 2020 election lies, and now despite overwhelming evidence that he’s lying. It never made any rational sense. But then I realized, that psychologist who lambasted me is part of a pattern. When I confront diehard Trump fans with facts, they tend to respond with irrational anger.
Because they’re in denial. And denial and anger are early stages of grief. Down deep, they know Trump really did lose in 2020 and he’s still lying today, but they must pass through a grieving process to accept it.
I’m not trying to make fun of anyone. Conservatives have been looking for a champion since the Reagan years, and then Trump came along and told us what we wanted to hear. After the 2016 election, we all wanted him to grow into the job and succeed. But he didn’t. He got worse every year. And then after he lost the 2020 election, he attacked our voting process, he hatched a fake elector scheme to overturn the will of the people, he prompted intimidation and death threats against election volunteers, he engaged in numerous other plots to overturn the election, and he inspired the Jan. 6 mob to disrupt Congress counting the electoral votes. He violated our American election system more than any other president. In our long history of scoundrels–and we’ve had some doozies–history will judge Trump as the worst.
And now, millions of Americans are grieving because their self-proclaimed champion is a fraud. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. But if I’m right–if the anger and denial they express are stages of grief–then we still have hope. Because grief is a process and acceptance is the last stage. If enough diehard Trump fans finish the process, then maybe we can go back to arguing about issues again, instead of fighting a personality cult.
So, how do we get through the grief? Grief counselors offer lots of tactics. They include empathy, active listening, validating feelings, and exploring coping strategies. Unfortunately, these soft approaches might make diehard Trump fans even more angry, because Trump continues to condition his believers that anyone who doesn’t support him is part of a liberal conspiracy to take over the world. And we don’t have unlimited time because the 2024 election is fast approaching.
Sooner or later, diehard Trump fans must face a dose of cold, hard reality. Trump never was a conservative champion. He was in it for power and he pandered to us. Trump lost the 2020 election, his hand-picked candidates lost in 2022, and if Republicans keep hurtling down a path to nominate him in 2024, he will lose again and Republicans will find themselves one more step closer to oblivion. Which means people with ideas conservatives don’t like will gain even more power.
Or we’ll go to war with ourselves when a new Trump dream-team tries to overturn another election. I don’t like to think about those consequences.
We’re past time to find a different conservative champion.
It should be you!