We live in bubbles — bubbles that can range from demographics to political affiliations to even sports teams’ affiliations (sorry, but I cannot stand the Patriots and I barely follow football). So I wasn’t surprised to learn about the Internet outrage regarding The New York Times’ decision to hand over its editorial page to Trump supporters last week.
Discontent and even hate between the left and right is not a new phenomenon. It is not even unique to the Trumpian world that we live in today. While animosity and divisiveness has perhaps risen since the beginning of the 2016 election season, it might not even be strongly correlated to the Trump effect. Partisan antipathy has risen steadily since 1994. While 21 percent of Republicans viewed Democrats as “very unfavorable” in that year, 17 percent of Democrats viewed Republicans unfavorably as well. Fast forward to 2016, and those numbers are now 58 percent and 55 percent respectively. A small minority of members of each party view each other as favorable or even neutrally.
No wonder some people found the article in the Times called “Vision, Chutzpah and Some Testosterone” so offensive. It featured short letters on why Trump voters were happy with his first year in office. The outrage can be summarized by the following:
How dare the Times let those deplorables speak. Is the newspaper too soft on Trump? I mean, they let a 40 percent minority of voters speak their mind — they must be fascist supporters.
Salon published an article that accused The New York Times of “Trump-voter fetish.” I suppose interviewing and printing the viewpoints of 40 to 45 percent of American voters is a fetish. I understand that liberals despise Trump. From calling the continent of Africa a “shithole” to passing a tax bill that throws money into the owners of Maseratis and Hermes pocketbooks, there is much to be angry about. But to be angry with voters — no matter how ignorant they may be — for having a voice, is slightly ridiculous.
The New York Times has many columnists that are left-leaning, and a few that are conservative. However, I can’t name one columnist that has written anything even somewhat positive about Donald Trump. Believe me, I know how terrible our president is as a leader, let alone as a person.
The point of the editorial and opinion pages is not to reinforce or indulge your own manner of thinking. The point is to challenge pre-existing ideas and to convince someone to change — or at the very least reconsider — their opinion on some matter. I don’t read Paul Krugman or Charles Blow frequently because I understand the viewpoints from the left; I read Bret Stephens not because I agree with him, but because I want to step out of my own view and enter a different bubble.
The following is an excerpt of one of the letters from a Trump supporter featured in the Times article:
“I’m thrilled with the progress that President Trump has made in defeating ISIS, cutting taxes for middle-class families and making court appointments. Thanks to the tax cuts, my husband and I stand to keep a much larger portion of our paychecks. I’d like to see more work in securing the border, enforcing immigration laws, improving our infrastructure and combating political corruption in D.C. (in both parties)…
What I like least about his presidency so far is the tweeting. It’s often immature and lowers the tone of the debate while debasing the office of the presidency. That said, I think the media needs to be a lot more evenhanded in its coverage of him and keep its personal opinions in check.”
In an era where people’s dating profiles include requirements like “no Republicans,” maybe it’s time we hear from those who disagree with us. It’s important to listen to other perspectives in order to inform our own. But please don’t take this as an endorsement to watch Fox News. You’d have to pay me as much as Trump (allegedly) paid that porn star for me to endure that “news” channel.