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First it was former Daily Show host Jon Stewart. Then it was U2 frontman Bono. Now it’s New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. All three men are, in their own way, stars of the Left. All three men vehemently oppose President Trump and most of his policies. But all three men have approached Trump voters with an admirable degree of humility and nuance. That’s because all three grew up surrounded by Trump supporters or people very much like them.

Stewart said after the election, “I thought Donald Trump disqualified himself at numerous points … [but] there are guys in my neighborhood that I love, that I respect” who voted for Trump. Bono has said, “I opposed Trump while all the time understanding that many of the people who support him are the kind of people I grew up with, and can see myself in to this day.”

Now comes Kristof, writing in his most recent column that his hometown of Yamhill, Ore., is “Trump country, and I have many friends who voted for Trump. I think they’re profoundly wrong, but please don’t dismiss them as hateful bigots.”

Kristof received a backlash among his liberal Twitter followers for writing that Democrats can come across as patronizing when they talk about Trump voters.

The outrage amounted to, “Yes, of course we’re going to be patronizing to people who voted for an ignorant racist hatemonger!” One reader wrote, “I won’t coddle those who refuse to recognize my humanity.”

And that’s been much of the Left’s response so far to Trump and the scores of millions of people who voted for him: I won’t tolerate their intolerance, and I refuse to recognize the humanity of those who don’t recognize mine.”

It’s not a very helpful approach, Kristof explains.

Kristoff reviews all the reasons why he and other liberals think Trump is THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD. But then he adds, “But let’s be careful about blanket judgments.”

He goes on to explain the economic and social factors that drove many of his old friends to support Trump, and says that he believes those factors had nothing to do with ignorance, race or bigotry.

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Kristof writes that just as Trump tries to “otherize” Hispanics and Muslims, many of Trump’s liberal opponents try to otherize Trump supporters. He lists three reasons why this stereotype of Trump voters is unhelpful.

First it’s too simplistic — millions of Trump voters also voted for Obama. Second, it “feeds the dysfunction of our political system.” The third reason is tactical, he says: ” It’s hard to win over voters whom you’re insulting.”

Kristof ends by making one more plea to his liberal readers to stop otherizing and stereotyping Trump supporters. “We’re all complicated, and stereotypes are not helpful — including when they’re of Trump supporters.”

Stewart, Bono and Kristof can’t simply dismiss Trump supporters because they know too much about them to believe the liberal caricature. They have been forced to reconcile two different conceptions of a Trump supporter: one, the Trump supporter whose political opinions they find wrong and offensive, and two, the friend or family member whom they know, respect and love.

They’re three liberals who are approaching the Trump era with a genuine desire to learn and understand. Let’s hope they’re not the last.

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Daniel Allott is deputy commentary editor for the Washington Examiner



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