Trevor Noah Makes The Case For Moderation, Suggesting That His Audience Should Reach Out To Those They Disagree With

"When you grow up in the middle, you see that life is more in the middle than it is on the sides."

Since succeeding Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah has never quite managed to win over young progressives often spoiling for the "evisceration" of Republican lawmakers and conservatives at large. But his interview with firebrand conservative Tomi Lahren last week, in which he respectfully and sincerely challenged her views — including questioning how she could liken Black Lives Matter activists to the KKK — was widely lauded by viewers and the media.

Noah's effort at finding middle ground and reaching out across the aisle is his attempt at holding up a mirror to this country's all-or-nothing approach to politics. He's expressed this view before too, when addressing police shootings and BLM. "It always feels like in America," he said in July, "it's like if you take a stand for something, you automatically are against something else."

Born in apartheid South Africa to a black mother and white father, Noah knows a thing or two about being forced to live between white and black, about having no choice but to approach people and problems with nuance. But America, Noah wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Monday, "doesn't like nuance." 

Back in South Africa, Noah recalled, comedy united people. But here it seemed to entrench people even more firmly in their bubbles. Noah noted that Donald Trump's campaign played to Americans' us-versus-them leanings and further divided the country. But amid the blustering about the hateful rhetoric lay common ground. "His embittering candidacy obscured the fact that the vast majority of Americans, both Republican and Democrat, wanted many of the same things: good jobs, decent homes, access to opportunity and, above all, respect," Noah wrote. 

Noah questioned why "moderation and compromise" was viewed as selling out or giving up, when really, "the opposite is true — moderation brings radical ideas to the center to make them possible."

He urged Americans not to abandon their values and beliefs, but also acknowledge where others are coming from. "We should give no quarter to intolerance and injustice in this world, but we can be steadfast on the subject of Mr. Trump's unfitness for office while still reaching out to reason with his supporters. We can be unwavering in our commitment to racial equality while still breaking bread with the same racist people who've oppressed us," he wrote. 

It's unlikely that Noah's op-ed was intended for a conservative audience, over whom he has little to no influence. It reads instead as if addressed to circles his show caters to — young progressives and liberals inclined to paint Trump supporters with a broad brush as racists, sexists, and/or homophobic.

(Not many are too happy with Noah's take on race in America, however. After the deluge of praise for his interview with Lahren, writer David Dennis Jr. wrote on Medium, "Tomi Lahren spouted violent propaganda on national television while Noah tried to get her to value his black life. That's not a healthy debate. That type of conversation shouldn't be celebrated. And it damn sure isn't Trevor Noah's job to convince a white person why he shouldn't die.")

To be sure, many Americans who voted for Trump are unabashed bigots (case in point: the neo-Nazis hailing Trump as their supreme leader). But there are many others whose unacknowledged privilege is cast in the same light as racism and sexism, and those are the people to whom we should and must have these difficult conversations with.

"When you grow up in the middle, you see that life is more in the middle than it is on the sides," Noah wrote. "The majority of people are in the middle, the margin of victory is almost always in the middle, and very often the truth is there as well, waiting for us."

Cover image Sam Aronov / Shutterstock.com.

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