There's considerable discussion across the media now whether shaming Trump supporters for voting for a racist, xenophobic, flaming, incompetent reactionary is productive. Shaming someone doesn't change their mind, and so, the logic goes, shaming Trump supporters as bigots won't soften Trump's support.
When it comes to the issue of the character of a people, shaming works. It may not work to change the mind of the individual who is openly displaying bigotry, but it works to change the overall conversation. It works on those who are listening, paying attention, to re-examine their own internal biases. And it can work to reverse something big.
On election night 2008, when the entire country was celebrating the election of Barack Obama, Californians were coming to terms with a parallel reality. While our state had delivered hugely for Obama, Californians also voted for Proposition 8, a state Constitutional Amendment stripping the right of same-sex couples to marry. Earlier in that year the California Supreme Court had affirmed the right to marry under the state Constitution, so the vote was actually the rolling back of rights in our state.
Something happened in the aftermath. Angry protests and boycotts erupted, and the stung some pretty well-known businesses formerly frequented by gay patrons. The most notable story was the demise of the El Coyote restaurant, whose manager and hostess (the restaurant was owned by her mother), had come under fire for donating $100 to the campaign to pass Prop 8. Protesters publicly shamed her and customers, and business went south. El Coyote wasn't the only such example, however. LGBT activists and allies had made it a point to expose and shame Prop 8 supporters.
Not everyone agreed with the tactics of shaming back then. Some, perhaps correctly, told us that people who weren't openly hostile to gays (but had donated at the urging of their Church) could get hurt, and that it was no way of changing hearts and minds. But the activists didn't let up. If you want to talk about feeling attacked for what you believe, go talk to the gay couple who just had a fundamental right taken away for being who they are, they responded.
It worked. Within 16 months of the passage of Prop 8, California public opinion turned in favor of equal marriage - long before President Obama had come out for marriage and equality, and months before the first federal court invalidated Prop 8. By the time the Supreme Court got to hearing the Prop 8 case, two out of three Californians supported marriage equality.
Shaming is not about trying to change the minds of the most ardent supporters of a candidate or of a cause. Shaming is about making it clear that there will be consequences to one's hate. Shaming is about shaking the confidence of those who weren't sure of their votes to begin with and with whom arguments of justice resonate, even if it didn't resonate enough in a given election.
Will that work with Trump? Time will tell, but here is what we do know right now. Donald Trump is not simply the man who massively lost the popular vote and is looking to be entering the White House with less than 47% of the vote. He is the man whose favorability rating is already a good 5-point lower than his vote percentage. With a 42% favorability rating while 55% of Americans see him in a negative light - a statistic not only lopsided but ridiculously backward from every other incoming president tracked - there are already a lot of Trump voters who are unsure of the votes they just cast.
And because of that, there is a great opportunity to expose this man and his most active supporters - both those in the limelight like his racist appointments and those acting out of hate in the cover of darkness - through actively targeting them for shaming, economic consequences, and personal confrontations.
We have no reason to excuse a Trump voter. We have every reason to shame Trump supporters. It can work. It has worked.