For a man who made his living suffering fools gladly, it’s instructive to realize that even the late Christopher Hitchens had his limits. One evening in the Q&A part of one of his numerous debates on religion, a “911 Truther” stood up to confront Hitchens with the usual diatribe of poppycock the likes of which have become the calling card of “Truthers,” “Birthers,” “Moon Hoaxers” and conspiracy theorists everywhere. Hitchens would have none of it. “You’re wasting your time,” Hitchens said speaking over the interloper. “I’m not going to answer you … I have no time to waste on people like you … I’m not going to buy a pencil from your cup … next, next, next.”
Would Hitchens have dealt with a hardcore Trump supporter the same way? Perhaps. Recent evidence suggest he’d have no better luck employing any other way. One remarkable study concludes that an intractable adherent to any ideology actually becomes stronger the more you argue with him. Therefore debating a Trump supporter, the theory goes, is the moral equivalent of taking his Trump-supporting resolve to the gym.
And while Trump has yet to gun a man down on Fifth Avenue, as he famously bragged he could do without losing his core supporters, he’s done the next best thing. When Trump stood before the world press and declared his allegiance to America’s greatest foe in preference to its greatest intelligence-gathering institutions, his core supporters stood with him – and cheered.
So maybe it’s time to hang up the old debating shoes, at least as far as Donald Trump’s inner hardcore are concerned, concentrate on fence sitters and getting out the blue vote and acknowledge, if not defeat, that there exists no wit so great and no tongue so sharp that can ever hope to cut through stupidity quite that thick. Besides, in the absence of the inimitable Christopher Hitchens, what forensic power on earth can discredit the so-called “president” better than Donald J Trump himself?
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.