May 20, 2024 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

What would you say to someone on the fence about Trump?

Remember, they probably don’t know what you know.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Editor’s note: I’m sending today’s edition to everyone, paying subscribers and free sign-ups, in an effort to start a conversation about what you would say to someone who’s on the fence about Donald Trump. What’s your best argument? Have you changed minds? Reply to this message or email me at If the responses are as good as the below, I’ll make this an ongoing thing. — JS

It’s that time of the year to remind readers and subscribers of the Editorial Board that you are, by dint of being readers and subscribers of the Editorial Board, kinda sorta not normal.

You spend time thinking about politics. Most people don’t do that. The most time most people think about politics is however long it took to talk to the last person they talked to said about politics. 

To put this another way, we tend to assume, because we spend time thinking about politics, that most people know what we know about politics, including all the dangers of a second term for Donald Trump, including all the era-defining achievements of Joe Biden’s first term.

They almost certainly don’t.

When I say “most people,” I’m not talking about people who believe propaganda and lies. I’m not talking about people who are so deep in the tank for Donald Trump they’re unreachable. Those people actually spend lots of time thinking about politics. The difference is it’s bullshit. 

I’m talking about people who know so little about politics that Donald Trump can come off as a reasonable person. Think about that. If you know something about politics, that’s not possible. But if you lowered your political knowledge to the average person’s level of political knowledge, Trump can seem like the reasonable flip side of Joe Biden.

And I don’t mean to insult anyone who doesn’t know much about politics. I once knew very little myself. I knew so little I voted, to my shame, for Ralph Nader in 2000. Politics, like anything else, takes time to learn. Everyone needs a reason. I had reasons. Most people never find one. The result is that lots of people think Trump is just another politician, though perhaps better, because he doesn’t act like one.

So … knowing most people most of the time don’t know much about politics, what would you say to someone who might be on the fence about voting for Trump. By “on the fence,” I mean genuinely on the fence. I mean someone who might want to vote for him but has doubts. What would be your most serious effort to persuade that person? 

Last week, I put that question to my Twitter followers. Here are the best responses. (I have edited for length, context and clarity.) If you’d like to join the conversation, click the reply button (or email me at If I get quality responses, I’ll make this an ongoing thing – a set of tools we can use to defend our democracy.

What would you say to someone on the fence about Trump?

David Akadjian: If the person truly is on the fence, I talk about how every first-world country is a democracy. The common thread in third-world countries is they’re run for the benefit of a few at the top.

John Panzer: I’d ask what their top values are. Then I’d point out how Trump is directly opposed to those values, giving examples.

Elizabeth Gardner: If they’re on the fence, because they aren’t paying attention, you might point out how many people worked in his administration aren’t coming back, are warning people not to vote for him, or are testifying against him. Contrast that with Biden’s team.

@YesQuake: First thing, I would do is listen to their concerns and life situation. Example: Recently, I was talking with a Trump supporter who was upset to learn taxes are taken out of her Social Security. I could tell her that was a GOP bill passed under Ronald Reagan.

Catherine Hagman: Honestly? The warming planet. I know it’s not the top Republican issue, but then that’s precisely the point. Biden acts on the environment. Trump will exacerbate the crisis. Oil profits and tax cuts won’t rescue anyone from the only Earth we have.

Roger A. ReynoldsWould you do business with that guy? Would you do a professional service for that guy without being paid up front, in full? Would you want your wife sat next to that guy at dinner? Do you trust anyone with no art in their life? Do you cheat at golf?

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Jon vanHorneYour savings and any wealth you have are only protected by the rule of law, which Trump has promised (see Project 2025) to end. Russia oligarchs have learned this rule.

Steve Dowling: My question would be, “Why do you think he’s going to do anything he promises?” Couldn’t repeal Obamacare, Hillary is still at large, the wall won’t ever be built, infrastructure week was a joke …

@IvoGatzinski: Demonstrate concretely how Trump already has cost her/him real dollars, and how another Trump term will be worse for her/his personal finances. A selfish opportunity-cost argument.

@kmgunder: Look, we disagree about economic policy and probably some social issues. But we almost certainly agree that soldiers who’ve sacrificed for their country deserve our utmost respect. Look at just how horrifically he’s treated them. Oh, and once Trump is dictator …

@fxshea62Maga isn’t conservative. They take their foreign policy cues from Putin. They proclaim family values with an adulterer as their leader. Jeez, the man can’t even pay his own bills. The dictator answer should’ve been, “No, I would not be a dictator, even for an hour.”

@Lukethomas101Trump isn’t a Republican. Ask them to mention any issue that a traditional Republican cares about (respect for law and the military, fiscal responsibility, the US Constitution, small government) and show how Trump opposes what someone like Reagan believed.

Fran AuerbachHe tried to overthrow the government of the United States in order to stay in power. He wanted to destroy our democracy which had been America’s backbone from the beginning. I cannot image any American being OK with this.

@Soaps_Hope: Forget policies for one election. Listen to Trump at a rally in full sounding like a lunatic. Listen to Biden sound like a compassionate, intelligent and decent man who can talk for over an hour straight. Then tell me which of these two you want in charge.

@beatthebrain: Your daughter, granddaughters, nieces and their female friends, and their teachers and coaches etc – all of them need you to be a good dad, grandfather, uncle, and vote against Trump. They will probably face extreme death-dread horribleness otherwise.

Robert ThweattYou may assume the trains will run on time. They won’t. They’ll derail. Things that never occurred to you to question will become insecure. There will be nothing you can do. Not go to court, not vote. You’ll have to hit the streets with BLM and maybe get shot.

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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