With the election season over, I was hoping to see the vitriol between Trump and Biden supporters become toned down and that discourse between the two groups become more civil. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, that has not been the case. Both Biden supporters and Trump supporters have been castigating each other in private conversations, in public demonstrations and through the media.
I have friends that are Trump supporters and others that support Biden. Regardless of their political leanings, I find them to be good people who want the best for their families, their communities and the nation. I had an interesting experience during the campaign season that might shed some light on why we might see both Trump and Biden supporters as “good people” who voted for their candidate based on reasonable beliefs and assumptions about the world.
My daughter and her family moved in with my wife, Theresa, and I during the pandemic. She is a Biden supporter — I’m an independent (for that reason I refuse to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries). She decided to put a Biden-Harris sign on our lawn to show her support, and while there were other Biden-Harris signs in our neighborhood, the majority were Trump-Pence signs.
The day after the sign went up, one of my neighbors asked if he could visit with me about the sign in my yard. He was surprised that I was apparently an ardent Biden supporter. We met the next day and I had to tell him that the sign was my daughter’s and not mine. But we spent a productive hour discussing the presidential race and why one person might want to vote for Trump and another person vote for Biden. We came to the following conclusions.
Those who voted for Trump saw him as:
- Supporting religious liberty.
- Against abortion.
- Maintaining the integrity of our borders.
- Maintaining a strong military.
- Creating a strong economy with lower taxes and reduced regulations.
In terms of Trump voters’ feelings about Biden, he was seen as too old, supporting big government and higher taxes, for abortion and not sensitive to the beliefs of those who are religious.
Those who voted for Biden saw him as:
- Less divisive and more willing to bring people together.
- More concerned about health care for all Americans.
- Willing to confront issues of racism in our country.
- Willing to deal with climate change.
- More able to help the country cope with the pandemic.
In terms of Biden voters’ feelings about Trump, he was seen as too divisive and abrasive, self-centered, not very knowledgeable about key issues and lacking leadership during the pandemic.
After reflecting on what my friend and I discussed, it was apparent to me that reasonable people could vote for either Trump or Biden depending on their concerns and how they viewed the world. I know many Trump supporters well. They are good people who support many of the initiatives encouraged by Trump. I also know Biden supporters. They are also good people who want their health care protected and want to see more civil discourse in the public square.
Both groups love America and want it to succeed, but do see our country through different lenses. It’s my hope that rather than criticizing someone for voting for Trump or Biden, that we’ll try to understand the issues they are concerned about, and even if we disagree with them, we can appreciate their views, and hopefully, through open dialogue, find solutions to our most pressing problems.
W. Gibb Dyer is the O. Leslie Stone Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University.