With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Shame worked in Alabama

Even as his overall approval ratings continue to erode, President Trump remains popular among a swath of Republican voters for whom he can do no wrong — including his endorsement of the now-vanquished Roy Moore, an accused child molester who nearly became a U.S. senator from Alabama.

This raises an important question: How should conservative critics of the administration approach those people who, a year in, remain unshakably attached to an administration plumbing such moral depths? Should we engage and try to understand these voters, or should we shame and scold in an effort to reawaken some moral sense in a party that once proclaimed itself the defender of patriotic and family values?

Personally, I am in the “shame and scold” camp. The “engage and understand” approach is based on the deeply flawed assumption that these voters don’t know what they are doing. It is a kind of “root causes” explanation, in which Trump’s supporters are good people who are merely expressing a yawp of anger at a globalized world that has left them behind.

This explanation, ironically, mirrors one that conservatives once rejected when liberals used it to explain crime in some poor minority communities decades ago. Conservatives refused to accept the mechanistic reasoning that human beings are no more than victims, passively responsive to their environment, when it was applied to behavior among African Americans. Yet now they embrace it to explain the astounding collapse of civic virtue among the white working class.

These voters are, indeed, angry. And their feelings are not entirely unreasonable: They fear — rightly — that much of the culture of political correctness is aimed at squelching their participation in public life. And, yes, they have legitimate concerns about globalization and changes that have both improved their standard of living and put many of them out of work. ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post