When most people think of Reddit, “civilized dialogue” isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. “Screaming hordes of racist 15-year-olds shit-posting Pepe memes and doxing women who dare express an opinion on the internet,” maybe, but not respectful communication. Despite the improved moderation, tons of useful threads, and popular AMAs that have helped the site shed some of its negative connotations, there’s a ways to go before the wider world doesn’t see posting there as throwing chum into swirling waters of hungry troll-sharks.
And yet, one of the only places for thoughtful discussion between Trump supporters and critics has sprung up in a subreddit, and it is actually managing to flourish. The r/AskTrumpSupporters site defines itself as a place for people who don’t support the president to ask questions of those who do, in a civil manner. For anyone who’s ever looked at President Trump’s latest childish tweet-storm or inane babbling on some topic about which he clearly knows nothing and thought, “What the hell are his supporters thinking?” this is the place to find out.
As The Daily Dot discovered in a recent exploration of the subreddit, Ask Trump Supporters has eight moderators—one of whom is a non-supporter of Trump—dedicated to guaranteeing a “neutral ground” in which their mission can unfold, based in an effort of mutual understanding. “How do you get to know someone better? Ask questions. Ask yourself why you hold that view of Trump supporters or non-supporters. Respectfully ask the other person how they came to those conclusions.” Each commenter is asked to self-identify as either a non-supporter or a Trump voter, and the moderators rigorously enforce an environment geared toward discouraging the stereotypes on both sides. (Read: No “cuck” or “libtard” accusations from the pro-Trump folks, no “bigoted racist” arrows fired from critics.) Questions deemed leading or intentionally argumentative, rather than polite and curious, are removed.
As opposed to the provocative and deeply depressing pro-Trump advocacy of subreddits like r/The_Donald, Ask Trump Supporters is a place for anti-Trump types of all political leanings to get some answers without the instantaneous flame wars that occur anytime these two groups engage elsewhere on social media. For example, recent discussions have included, “Do you think the Washington Post’s analysis of Trump speech patterns is fair?” and “Are foreign media outlets part of the mainstream media?” There’s also the newly timely “How do you view colleges and universities?” helping to combat the profound anti-intellectualism sweeping the right at present. Commenters can ask for clarification and refinement of various points, and all without the instant “Racist!”/”Snowflake!” that has made caring about politics in America such a post-apocalyptic hellscape for the average person. It’s almost enough to make you briefly forget the 99 percent of other political debates currently happening on the internet. Well, whiskey helps, too.