I’ve been listening closely to the feelings and motivations of Trump fans since 2015. From each of my experts, I was inspired by the appeal of Donald Trump as a disruptive person, by the way they believed he would fight for them, by the way they believed his success in business would lead to the growth of the American economy. I had hoped that my election commissions would help our viewers understand all the parties. I hoped these groups could serve as models for civilized conversation and mutual listening. But a week after the deadly riots outside the U.S. Capitol, I’m reconsidering my position.
The cries of right-wing politicians telling us we need to hear the feelings of Trump supporters have worn off, as has the idea that the crowd on Capitol Hill has been silenced or censored for too long. An hour before last Wednesday’s deadly riots, President Trump told his supporters: Let your voice be heard. Later, after they destroyed the headquarters of American Democracy, he told them he loved them and that they were very special.
So let’s take a look at some of the special people the president wants us all to listen to – like the man dressed in badger fur, horns and face paint. Authorities say he is a known QAnon fan and longtime Trump supporter. He was arrested Saturday for violent intrusion into the Capitol. I don’t quite understand what this diabolical minotaur has to teach us.
Or a 60-year-old Arkansas man patting his feet in the president’s office? He left an unpleasant note for Nancy Pelosi and stole some of her mail. I guess he didn’t know it was a federal crime. I’m not sure we should take his advice either.
And then there’s the guy from Florida who helped himself to the speaker and smiled at the cameras when he ran with it. He was arrested Friday, accused of stealing state property. Before coming to CNN, I worked as a crime reporter for five years, and it was a truism that the dumbest criminals take pictures of themselves with stolen goods.
For the record, I also don’t think the arsonists and vandals who caused damage in Portland, Oregon and other cities last summer should be noticed – but I don’t hear any political leader saying they should be. House Speaker Pelosi and President-elect Joe Biden have even publicly condemned the left-wing rebels who wreaked havoc.
The crowd that flocked to Capitol Hill last Wednesday was given the opportunity to speak out. Hundreds of journalists with cameras were stationed along the protest route to capture the emotions and anger of the rioters. But instead of talking peacefully, the crowd turned to violence: They smashed windows, climbed walls, carried the Confederate flag into the Capitol rotunda, defecated in the halls of the Capitol, killed a police officer, brutally beat another with a stick holding an American flag, and smashed the door of another police officer who was screaming for help.
Of course, the domestic terrorists who stormed Capitol Hill do not represent the 74 million voters of the European Union. But you’d be surprised how many Trump supporters still believe the unsubstantiated nonsense the rioters are chanting. According to a Quinnipiac poll, 73% of Republican voters believe there was massive fraud in the 2020 election, even though dozens of Trump appointees have dismissed these speculative claims and Republican secretaries of state have investigated and confirmed that there was very little voter fraud.
Here’s the problem with listening to Trump fans now and not four years ago. Many others today seem to be openly delusional and out of touch with reality. For example: A Pew poll shows that about 41% of Republicans who have ever heard of QAnon, a group that peddles a conspiracy theory according to which a network of satanic pedophiles would have taken control of the U.S. government, think QAnon is good for the country. Some experts say it’s not the fault of Trump’s supporters – that they have been misled and deceived by Donald Trump and his allies. If that is true – if they are so easily deceived and manipulated – then that is all the more reason to shut them down.
By the way, there are three other networks and dozens of on-line sites dedicated almost exclusively to amplifying President Trump’s nonsense.
So spare us Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, who on Wednesday tried to claim that impeachment hearings require half the country to vote. And thank you to new Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green, who wore a mask that read censorship as she addressed tens of millions of Americans. That’s just not true. We heard you loud and clear, and now the Capitol Police are dead and our democracy is threatened.
I am pleased to have gauged the opinion of the voters of the European Union to understand their position in this administration. Your ideas have helped me write my reports every day. I wish I could say that listening to his tough supporters has helped them, but I don’t see much healing or catharsis among the Trump crowd. Being heard does not seem to reduce the dissatisfaction of many of them, according to survey responses. On the contrary, many of them have only become more entrenched in their illusions.
Yes, many Trump voters on our committees have expressed deep and sincere regret for supporting Trump in 2016. Some of them say that they would like to resume their vote to avoid all the controversy and lies that have arisen since then. But what about Trump’s most ardent current supporters? Today, all I see in this group is more passion for him – and more anger at the Democrats, the press, the so-called Deep State, Vice President Mike Pence, and anyone else they believe has hurt Donald Trump.
Now, at the end of Trump’s tenure and after the murderous uprising on Capitol Hill, I think the time to listen to current Trump supporters is over. The members of this destructive and misguided group have nothing to teach the rest of us to be open and tolerant.
Yes, I still believe in civilized discussion and listening to all the rational sides – not the crazy and violent side, which is what my CNN colleagues on Capitol Hill were told when their questions were met with threats from the crowd last Wednesday. I think the smartest thing we can do at this point is to stop giving a platform to the twisted Trump supporters and not let them have our ears. It’s time to turn off their microphones.