Dan Rodricks: How to convince a Trump supporter it’s time to move on | COMMENTARY

A tweet by then-President Donald Trump is displayed on a screen during the first public hearing before the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack in Washington on Thursday night. The committee opened a landmark set of hearings by showing video of aide after aide to former President Donald Trump testifying that his claims of a stolen election were false, as the panel laid out in meticulous detail the extent of the former president's efforts to keep himself in office.

Most Americans avoid the subject, and you can understand why: Half of the country thinks Donald Trump was the worst president of all time, while a sizable chunk of the other half wants to see him back in the Oval Office. So, among relatives and friends, it’s a fraught topic.

“Let’s not go there” might be one of the most common phrases heard at family gatherings over the last seven years.


But I think we should go there because, if you care about keeping this democracy, you have to challenge those you like — or only sorta like — on their continuing support of Trump.

It’s awkward, you say, not to mention totally hopeless. Why waste time?


I mostly agreed with that, until now. As a friend on Maryland’s Eastern Shore said after listening to Thursday’s prime-time hearing of the House Jan. 6 select committee: “Before tonight, I wondered, ‘How could it get more damning for Trump?’ Yet, there it is.”

The evidence gathered by the committee shows that Trump supported a dangerous and ultimately violent effort to subvert the results of the 2020 election that he lost. The Proud Boys did not act alone. Trump encouraged the onslaught and did nothing to stop the Jan. 6 violence in the Capitol. For no other reason, such a man should never set foot in the White House again. Those who would like to see that need to hear that it’s a really awful idea.

Fox “News” won’t tell them, and they’re not going to hear it from the conservative radio stations or podcasts they listen to. All they’re going to hear is that Jan. 6 was nothing, that Joe Biden is the worst president ever and something about Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Despite the odds against changing minds, we should not let that go.

I write this from Baltimore, in the blue state of Maryland, where it’s possible for a Democrat, moderate independent or Republican Never Trumper to completely avoid an encounter with a Trump supporter. And, even then, most of us are at a loss for words.

What do you say to a person — even a relatively reasonable person — who still thinks Trump is the man?

Here are four responses to common assertions of Trump supporters.

Biden is the worst president since Jimmy Carter.


Even if I agreed with that, it’s beside the point. Whether Biden is good or bad, you would not expect him to violate his oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That’s the problem with Trump. He’s the first president who refused to accept the results of an election and resisted the “peaceful transfer of power” to the next guy.

That’s because there was widespread fraud in the election.

Come on. You don’t really believe that, do you? There’s no evidence of fraud and, based on what the House investigation found, numerous people told Trump there was no evidence of fraud in the weeks after the election. Yet, he continued to push that line. So, the basis for your belief is Trump’s say-so. Is that good enough for you?

Let’s say you were on a Baltimore jury for the trial of a guy accused of murder, and the prosecutor said the guy did it but provided no evidence. You wouldn’t just take her word for it, would you? It would be an assertion, not a statement of facts. On the other hand, if you’re only watching Fox, and not watching the House hearings, it’s like you’re a juror ignoring evidence and just trusting the defense attorney that his client is innocent and the victim of a corrupt prosecutor.

The Democrats already impeached Trump for Jan. 6 and failed to convict. They’re just trying again.

You know why the Senate didn’t convict: All but seven Republicans were afraid to buck Trump. It’s different this time. There’s been a long investigation and, at the risk of sounding like a civics class teacher, you owe it to your country to consider the evidence. Nearly 50 years ago, back when Richard Nixon was up to his neck in the Watergate scandal, Republicans in Congress, members of his own party, saw the facts and told Nixon they could no longer defend him. He’d won the 1972 election in a landslide, but had to resign two years later.


In Baltimore, Mayor Catherine Pugh, a Democrat, did something criminal, and no one defended her. I did receive a letter from a man who listed the “good things Catherine Pugh had done for Baltimore,” and while it represented fair comment, it completely missed the point.

You might like a lot of what Trump did in office — giving tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, separating immigrant families at the border, making nice with Vladimir Putin — but that’s all beside the point now. What happened on Jan. 6 was a crime against democracy, and we shouldn’t elect any politician, president or his enablers in Congress, who supported it in any way. There are other choices.

So what are you saying, vote for Biden again?

No. This is not about him. This is about Americans acting like grown ups, coming to their senses, looking at evidence and not accepting lies, recognizing a real crisis and the potential for it to happen again. I don’t know if this is getting through to you, but at least I tried. Let’s have a cocktail.