Liberals Can End The Electoral Enmity: Thinking Towards 2018 (Op-Ed)

Americans who will vote for Trump have been sold a neatly packaged, well organized and expertly disseminated brand of lies and falsehoods by Trump himself and by master-trolls like Mike Cernovich. Cernovich claimed, correctly, that the alt-right has controlled the narrative on social media. With the rampaging lies and conspiracy theories flying around, it’s clear that the DNC and other liberals haven’t done enough, or we’ve gone about it wrong. Individuals behind the lies need to be called out and fought. The people they are exploiting are not.

This election cycle has been ugly, to say the least. Donald Trump has turned verbal abuse into a campaign strategy. Combine his history of sexual assault with his sexist, racist, xenophobic hate speech, and let’s call him what he is: an abuser.  Victims of abuse often face the danger of becoming abusive themselves.  The same is true on the macro scale; collective behavior studies have shown how quickly anger and hate spread through groups and can lead to a mob mentality (Miller, Introduction To Collective Behavior and Collective Action, 2nd Ed.).

Seeing The Other Side

The racism, sexism and abhorrent actions of certain Trump supporters have been all over the news, but a distinction needs to be made between the numbers in the polls and the wackos at the rallies who end up on CNN. Of course the weirdest, most off-kilter comments will be the ones we hear. This is true for all media – people want the outrageous, which is why it boosts ratings.

An article in The New Yorker, “Hillary Clinton and the Populist Revolt,” by George Packer, succeeds in putting a very human face on Trump’s base. Packer shows that Hillary Clinton understands what motivates Trump’s base. He quotes her DNC Nomination speech in which she admitted, “… right now an awful lot of people feel there is less and less respect for the work they do. And less respect for them, period. Democrats, we are the party of working people, but we haven’t done a good enough job showing we get what you’re going through.”

Clinton gave a very thoughtful response to Packer’s question, “Why are so many downwardly mobile white Americans supporting Donald Trump?”  Clinton responded by saying Trump’s support was, “certainly a rejection of every other Republican running. So pick the guy who’s the outsider, pick the guy who’s giving you an explanation—in my view, a trumped-up one, not convincing—but, nevertheless, people are hungry for that.” Voters needed a narrative for their lives, she said, including someone to blame for what had gone wrong. “Donald Trump came up with a fairly simple, easily understood, and to some extent satisfying story.””

George Packer went into more depth yesterday in his interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, “The ‘Dangerous, Volatile Game’ Trump Plays With The White Working Class. He points out the ways in which white liberals, who are primarily college educated, are seen as elitist by working class whites. To be honest, we can be. In the interview, Packer discusses how “Whiteness” was first used as a minority identifier by Sarah Palin in 2008 and how Trump has refined that into a powerful special interest group, even going so far as to say, “I love the uneducated!”

Just because Trump’s followers are largely under-educated doesn’t mean they’re stupid or deserving of ridicule (See “The Other Side Is Not Dumb,” by Sean Blanda). The status of the “Working Class” has plummeted as we’ve moved from a manufacturing to a service economy. In Stiffed, Susan Faludi wrote about how male workers, in particular, have gotten a raw deal and, understandably, carry mostly vague resentment, anger at change in general.  Trump is channeling anger, along with the fears, unease and social problems of this socioeconomic bracket, into a voice of anger.

While we may not even agree with mainstream Republican values, their opposing voice is still important for our country – homogeneity is frightening regardless of the viewpoint.  Trump’s brand, however, has out-sold the traditional GOP’s focus. NPR’s “This American Life” hilariously imagined Paul Ryan’s innermost feelings in its song, “A Better Way,” written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (of Frozen fame) and performed by Neil Patrick Harris:


Embody The Change You Want To See

“United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”  While Trump and his trolls have capitalized on our differences he isn’t the only one to blame for the divisions; we all are. When liberals mock, isolate and marginalize Trump’s followers, we are hurting our own cause. It’s counter-productive, and, frankly, just hypocritical of us to oppose stereotypes everywhere else and then lump Trump’s supporters into a monolithic persona to be condemned and even cut off from relationships.  We need to be better than this.

Trump’s rising white special interest group face the same issues of crime, addiction, and uncertainty that all impoverished groups do.  They don’t need our ire; they need help. Assistance in the form of education, healthcare, and better jobs, the kind Hillary Clinton is promoting. The glory days of manufacturing aren’t going to come back, but instead of blaming people for wanting it to, let’s offer them something else. As Michelle Obama said in her recent Arizona speech, show our empathy and offer people hope.

I’m not trying to be an apologist for racism, sexism or ignorance. I am just as infuriated by what I hear from people I know, work with, and am related to. I am choosing to focus on dialogue and disseminating facts to quell the lies, to stop the put downs and further vitriol, to end Trump’s cycle of abuse.

The “Other Side” are our neighbors, coworkers, family and friends, not a vague distant movement you can pigeonhole as “Radical ‘Christian’ Trumpansists.” It’s wrong to do this for the same reasons Barak Obama won’t use the term Radical Islamic Terrorists. When the election is over, we have to pick up the pieces and get along again. Also, remember that politicians have cashed in on bitterness over losses before (Tea Party anyone?). We will have midterms in two years. Trump’s followers have already been told they’re marginalized, let’s not add to that and have it come back stronger in the midterms. This campaign has been negative enough. Let’s leave the alienation tactics to others. Please.

Fellow liberals and progressives, ask yourself: if your principles don’t extend to people you disagree with politically, how can you convince others that they extend to people of different races, cultures, genders and orientation?

Hate has no place in progressive politics. Be angry, be vocal, but for everyone’s sake, be rational. Go after the man, with all the righteous indignation you can muster, but remember that we’re all Americans at the end of the day. Remember that “Love Has No Labels” and reclaim the word “Patriotism” in the way that The Ad Council, featuring John Cena, present it in this video:


Featured image courtesy of YouTube

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