Now that Trump has won the election, supporters are voicing a common refrain: it’s time to pull together. Stop criticizing Trump. Accept that he’s the president. Pray that he succeeds. Support him!
Before pointing out what a terrible idea this is, I’d like to take a moment to sympathize with his supporters. These are people who have voted for fantasies and simple solutions; people for whom magic was more important than misogyny, xenophobia, and racism. These are people who have imagined that Trump will do good things, despite all evidence to the contrary, despite his own explicit statements, and despite cabinet choices who for the most part, have spent their careers fighting to destroy the institutions Trump wants them to manage. Understand that theirs is a fact-free fantasy world; feelings are more important than facts and journalists seeking the truth are vilified.
In this fantasy bubble it is understandable that a supporter might imagine that Trump would be an unquestioned leader — that all citizens would bow to the new truth and join in mindless worship of the new king. In this fantasy world, there is no room for criticism — it clashes with “reality,” and threatens to collapse the cognitive dissonance which allows supporters to hold conflicting beliefs. Criticism of Trump is uncomfortable, especially when backed with facts and logic. What supporters are saying is that they do not want to hear it.
This is particularly important, so I shall repeat it: what they are saying is they do not want to hear it. In times past, this has led to violent suppression of dissenting opinions, and this is a very real danger even now. Trump and his supporters have made statements decrying dissenting speech and opinions and taken steps to suppress it. Trump’s own strategy is to devalue and debase it at every turn — among his supporters, it proved an effective strategy, to sow distrust in journalism at large and point them toward bold propaganda.
I therefore return to my main point: pulling together is the opposite of what we should be doing. Instead, we should be seeking the truth, speaking the truth, repeating the truth, whenever possible. We should be criticizing Trump and his administration whenever possible: it’s important to show we’re not along for the ride, we don’t subscribe to the alternative reality that’s been constructed, that instead we believe in actual facts and truth. This is what makes authoritarians like Trump and his supporters particularly uncomfortable. This is why they don’t want to hear it. And this is why it’s so important to say it, and continue saying it.