Charlotte City Council member Dimple Ajmera says supporters of President Donald Trump have no business running for office in Charlotte. It’s a silly thing to say. It’s an unproductive thing to say. I sort of recognize why she said it.
Ajmera, who was appointed to the council in January to replace fellow Democrat John Autry, is running for an at-large seat this fall. In an appearance Sunday on the news show Flashpoint, she said: “Republicans that are supporting Trump, they should have no place on City Council whatsoever or in the mayor’s race.”
That doesn’t mean Ajmera thinks Trump supporters should be banned from running, as some Republicans tried to say this week. But it does mean she thinks they shouldn’t have leadership roles in our city.
That’s harsh, but there’s a certain logic behind it, no? It goes something like this: If you’re a Trump supporter, you support all the different parts of him – the misogynist, the anti-Muslim and so on. He’s a president who pursues discrimination and values divisiveness. You can’t pretend you don’t own all that, too.
That’s the part I recognize, by the way – the how-can-you part. As in: “How can you align yourself with all Trump’s flaws?” I thought it more than once during last year’s election.
The answer, of course, is that supporting a candidate or party, or even a principle, is not nearly that simple. A lot of Trump supporters don’t align themselves with the worst parts of him. They voted for him because he was their last shot in November to restore conservative policies in Washington. Or because they had struggled under the president we had. Or simply because they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton, who definitely had her share of flaws, too.
For many, that Trump vote was and is a hard swallow. An uncomfortable tug between principles and pragmatism. If you don’t know what that feeling is like, ask someone who pulled the lever for Bill Clinton a couple decades ago.
Dimple Ajmera should know this. As a City Council member, she works with Republicans who may have voted for Trump but are far from Charlotte versions of him. Surely she also knows other Republicans who are more than one-dimensional.
Or maybe not. It’s not breaking news to note that too many of us wall ourselves off from thought with which we disagree. Doing so not only results in an inability to understand perspectives other than ours, it causes us to homogenize the other side.
We contribute to that, sometimes, in the media. We set up binary battles on issues – a choice of firm left versus firm right. That only encourages the divide.
There’s another possibility with Ajmera: She might simply be executing smart campaign strategy. If you want to get ahead these days, you don’t do it from the middle. Moderates don’t pull in good TV ratings. They don’t get buzz on social media. And in a progressive city like Charlotte, they probably don’t win at-large races for City Council.
Dimple Ajmera is far from the first person to give into that, political or not. Because the easiest way to feel better about yourself these days is to make someone else look worse.