How to talk to Trump supporters this Thanksgiving

If you’re like me, you’re probably still coming to terms with post-election America. I’m heartbroken so many people voted for an erratic racist and misogynist with no political experience. I’m beyond frustrated to see another climate science denier in power. I fear for my neighbors, my country and the planet. To avoid drowning in my anger, I’m grasping to find some common ground with conservatives.

Thanksgiving presents a great opportunity. Some San Franciscans will spend the holiday with Donald Trump supporters. While avoiding political discussions may be tempting, don’t. Let’s build bridges with friends and family and work to alleviate the growing divisiveness.

When it comes to the environment, relating to conservatives is as simple as changing the message to emphasize economic benefits and religious responsibility.

Economic benefits

Republicans support a free market and oppose policies they perceive limit growth, like environmental regulations. But many of these policies actually help the economy. If conservatives really want growth, jobs and affordability, they should promote renewable energy and distributed power.

California’s climate change laws are a prime example of policies that benefit the environment and economy. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, our state’s economy has grown under strict regulations and ambitious renewable energy goals. A UC Berkeley report released in July found renewable energy projects have created jobs in regions with high unemployment rates.

Across the country in Florida, solar offers freedom from big utility monopolies. During the election, these companies backed a deceptive constitutional amendment that would have allowed them to raise fees on solar customers and limit competition. While a majority of Floridians voted for Trump, they also voted for solar. Some hope Trump will back solar, too.

“He’s spoken about the fact that electric monopolies are corrupting influence,” Debbie Dooley, founder of the Green Tea Party Coalition and a Trump supporter, told the LA Times. “I feel extremely hopeful. I think people may be surprised how much solar advances when the emphasis is energy freedom and independence.”

While Trump doesn’t make me hopeful, Dooley’s conservative environmental message does. Simply put: You don’t have to bleed green to appreciate more green in your pocket.

Religious responsibility

I am still shocked so many evangelical voters voted for a president who has had three wives, sexually harassed women, spreads hate and essentially gilded himself in gold. Obviously, the promise of Trump’s socially conservative policies matters more to these voters than his practices. But if they really want government to protect religious values, they should also care about God’s creation — the people and the planet.

A growing number of religious people see a connection between faith and environmentalism. For more than a decade, San Francisco-based Interfaith Power and Light has made the moral argument for responding to climate change.

Last year, Pope Francis called on Catholics — and all people — to care for our common home. Many faith groups, including the World Evangelical Alliance serving more than 600 million evangelicals, also support the Paris climate agreement. (Yes, the one Trump says he wants to tear up.)

These people of faith understand climate change is already affecting people’s homes and livelihoods. When leaders scoff at the hardships of the poor and vulnerable and propose more policies to degrade water and air, people of faith should be alarmed not enthusiastic.

Environmentalism has always been a bipartisan issue

Conservative president Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency. Federal laws to regulate air and water pollution were passed and strengthened with bipartisan congressional support. California’s former Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed our landmark climate change law and recently said he’d like to strap the mouths of climate-denying politicians to an exhaust pipe.

Finding common ground with Trump supporters is hard. But when it comes to the environment, we do have an opportunity to work together. Thanksgiving is our chance to stop preaching to the choir and start learning what motivates other Americans.

Robyn Purchia is an environmental attorney, environmental blogger and environmental activist who hikes, gardens and tree hugs in her spare time. Check her out at

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