We need to talk about business relationships, social media, and writers in the Age of Trump. I myself was a reluctant Trump voter once Ted Cruz dropped out of the primary, and I’ve been a conservative for over twenty years. Trump does some things I like and some things I don’t like. He’s a politician, so he’s automatically suspect; the lionization of politicians, people who want control over how you live, is one of the more disturbing elements of modern society. Most fiction writers are not conservatives. Most call themselves progressives, independents, or moderates. However they’re labeled, it’s clear that they’re anti-Trump. This doesn’t bother me; I came to my political beliefs through research and careful consideration, and I owe fealty to family, God, and country in that order, not a politician. I’m quite familiar with the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution; I’ve read The Federalist Papers, several books by 17th century philosopher John Locke, Charles de Montesquieu’s On the Spirit of the Laws, and similar texts to deepen my understanding of how, on what, and why my country was founded. I hope you’ve done something similar.
Social media-fueled political division has scoured our collective skin to its most sensitive layer; Twitter and Facebook are filled to the brim with angry people wielding scalpels and bile every hour of every day. This collective rage, bleeding into hate, isn’t even personal any longer. We’ve just rubbed each other raw for so long that the slightest touch draws blood and fury in equal measure. We can talk about how we got here another time, but we are here, so we’re just going to have to live with it.
If you voted for/supported Obama in 2008 and 2012, you’re no doubt terribly unhappy with 2016’s presidential results. This is entirely understandable. However, if you’re honest, you have to acknowledge that you had it pretty easy during the Obama years. Nobody seriously challenged you or what you believed. Every news outlet, save one, venerated Obama as a man who could do no wrong. The entertainment class, save for a tiny handful of actors, worshiped him. You achieved universal healthcare, nearly unrestricted immigration, the erasure of the War on Terror, and many other progressive policy gains. Even if you had your problems with Obama, it’s undeniable that the arts, particularly the literary scene, have been owned by progressives for decades. Several decades. Progressives still control it. Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, arguably the most popular authors writing today, are vocal progressives, always eager to stick it to Trump, his supporters, and his voters at every opportunity.
And yet Trump won. It’s upsetting. I get it. This buffoon, this crude, baby-handed ogre is representing us around the world, to our utter humiliation. Stupid, evil, pussy-grabbing Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States, to the cheers of every racist, sexist idiot across the country. Your disgust at such an unacceptable state of affairs needs an outlet. You’ve got to vent.
The great news is that it’s pretty safe to vent when you’re a progressive/independent/moderate writer. You’re in the majority, so you’re always going to find an audience for your loathing of Trump and his moronic supporters. It’s a way of bonding with other writers, most of whom are like-minded.
Other writers don’t make up the majority of your customers, however. At least, they shouldn’t. Readers do. And, like it or not, there are at least as many Trump-voting readers as there are Trump-hating readers. You never lose readers because of what you don’t tweet.
Now that we hate each other so much, consider what posting the next “Trump’s a KKK Member” meme does: it insults the people who voted for him by painting them as racists. And it binds his supporters to him that much tighter. Not only that, but it’s unprofessional. If you’re trying to make money, why alienate half your customer base? I’m not doing business with anyone who insinuates, infers, or implies that I’m a racist/sexist/bigot/homophobe, and neither should you.
This is not a cry for mercy; you do what you have to in the Age of Trump. In fact, I like it when you call me a racist or a Nazi because of who I voted for; knowing how small and angry and hateful you are makes me happy. Your contempt delights me. I don’t typically choose who I buy from based on ideology, but I’ll be damned if I buy books from or work with someone who goes out of his way to tell me how evil I am. You are not Stephen King. You can’t afford to alienate your customer base. He can. He’s made his fortune. You haven’t.
Conservatives in the arts don’t have to make a big thing out of not buying your books or writing for your press. We just won’t participate. When you hate us, we hate you right back. Selecting your colleagues and customers on the basis of ideology over ability is not the behavior of a serious writer.
The bottom line is that nobody gives a shit if you hate Trump. There’s no courage in expressing your banal, cheap loathing for such an easy and obvious target. Nobody gives a shit if you like him, either. Just try not to be stupid enough to call your customers idiots/racists/bigots for voting for him. You might increase sales.