Wednesday, June 06, 2018

That's It. I've Had Enough.

With thanks to Chuck Jones and Warner bros.
I'm done.

I'm done arguing with trump supporters who are not interested in debate, only in bending and torturing reality in an attempt to make liberals look bad. I'm done participating in discussions in atheist groups only to have it devolve into "religious people are stupid" (televangelists aside, this is, for the most part, untrue). I'm done bringing a topic to a debate only to immediately be inundated by personal attacks, accusations that I'm a libtard, a snowflake, obsessed with Twinkies1 etc.

Our modern discourse has degenerated to a point that it may be beyond repair. In the online world, both conservatives and liberals spend more time posting things intended to denigrate the opposition than to make a valid point. Fox News is the propaganda arm of the current administration. CNN, while a little better in the objectivity department, is becoming the propaganda vehicle for the resistance.

I'm tired of entering into a debate only to have some conservative brainstem immediately start hectoring me about the 2016 election, about "Hillary lost, get over it" and demanding to know why I'm not calling for further inquisitions into her emails.

It's ridiculous. It's absurd. And it has to stop.

Sure, it can be somewhat amusing to poke the bear form time to time, especially when that bear is a complete moron, but is it productive? Does it move anything forward ? I say no.

Pundits are saying that the Blue Wave is in trouble, that trump has sort of found his footing in terms of driving is popularity up (hint: it involves voicing a sentiment to Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan that, if spoken directly, rhymes with "luck goo"). While Democrats have had surprising victories in special elections lately, the general election is going to be a tougher slog ... and they absolutely will not regain a majority if they continue down the current path of:
  • Pointing out that trump voters are morons, incapable of rational thought.
  • Keeping the old guard in place and trying to get back to "business as usual."
  • Refusing to add a spine to their platform.

So here's where we have to go if we are going to make any progress whatsoever.

Stop being assholes
Every time I go on Facebook I see posts that have, as their central point, the premise that anyone who voted for trump is irredeemable, unreachable, and not worthy of concern. They are painted as backwoods rednecks, or angry old white guys who just want to shoot things at random, or conservative culture warriors who view anything that deviates from their views -- even slightly -- as an existential threat. This is not how you Make Friends and Influence People.

I mean, think about it. Let's say someone spends a year and a half telling you how stupid you are, that your decisions were going to destroy the country, and that everything you did was wrong -- then they show up at your door, asking them to vote for their guy. How likely are you to listen thoughtfully (or at all) to their pitch?

What we, as progressives, need to do is to acknowledge that most of these folks had very real, quite legitimate reasons for voting for trump. We need to listen -- really listen, not just "waiting for them to stop talking so we can say something" -- to their concerns and, without being judgemental or smug, explain how our agenda will address those concerns.

Yes, there are going to be people who will not be swayed, no matter how hard they get bitch-slapped by the consequences of their decisions. That's just part of the price of admission when dealing with people. But I'll bet we can get quite a few over to our side.

Maybe not be so condescending and superior.
Even in a "civilized" debate with a trump supporter, any given liberal will eventually try to "help" the conservative by pointing out where they went wrong. This is a failure from the get-go, as a) nobody likes to be told they were wrong about anything, and 2) especially not by someone they view as an opponent.

Progressives need to avoid this kind of "helpfulness" the way they would a guy in a bunny suit on the subway who is cradling a shotgun and humming "I Feel Pretty" off-key. Basically, we need to employ this flowchart:

Out with the old, in with the new
Despite the fact that people like Nancy Pelosi are incredibly polarizing (she is to the right what trump is to the left), and that the words "corporatist Democrat" are being thrown around more and more frequently as insults, the Democratic Party appears to be doubling down on its current infrastructure. Nancy Pelosi, Bill Clinton, Chuck Schumer ... all of the moderates from the 90s are still running the show, even while the population as a whole moves further and further to the left.

Now, an argument could be made that this leftward surge is not necessarily a good thing -- I'll get into that in a moment -- but it is indicative of where the mindset of the general population is at. What it comes down to is that attitudes -- on gay rights, drugs, guns, foreign policy, immigration, et al -- are continually evolving, and the trend over the past couple of hundred years has been that these trends tend to move toward the liberal end of the spectrum.

Consider voting rights, for example. When the country was first founded and the Articles of Confederation were adopted, the only people who were allowed to vote were white male landowners (actually, the only people who had any legal rights at all were white male landowners). The next step was to remove "landowners" from the list of criteria, As a result, the original Constitution held that voting was the exclusive province of white males.

Eventually the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments extended voting rights to all males of voting age (then 21), regardless of race. In 1920 it was also extended to women by the 19th Amendment. The 26th Amendment, ratified in 1971, reduced the voting age to 18. This puts us where we are now, in that the only requirements to have the right to vote are:
  • U. S. citizenship2.
  • 18 years of age.
  • No felony convictions3.

Given all this, it makes sense that centrist and right-leaning Democrats should be playing a smaller role. Which leads us to ...

Just grow a pair, already.

Appeasement has, for some odd reason, been a central part of Democratic strategery (thanks, Will Ferrell!) since the Reagan era. This is understandable in historical context ... during the 1984 election, Reagan won votes from pretty much everybody except Walter Mondale's immediate family4, and this complete and thorough drubbing left Democrats feeling rightly chastened. However, that was 35 years ago, Reagan is dead, and the era of pastels, popped collars, and overproduced synthesizers in pop music is over, people. Yet, for some reason, Democrats still try to placate the right.

This has to stop.

Democrats have tried the "I'm a big tough guy with guns and camo and a pickup truck and a dog and I like blowing the hell out of furriners" approach, and they have always ended up looking ridiculous5. They need to embrace their inner hippies and accept that the whole "gun-totin' he-man with a truck" persona just doesn't work, and they need to lean in to the idea that they are the kind of people that prefer, for example, diplomacy over military intervention.

Not only that, but they need to do so proudly. It' not enough to meekly accept that they aren't as militaristic as Republicans. They need to celebrate this fact by pointing out the benefits of this new approach in any given situation. In addition, they need to be able to defend their positions when challenged instead of folding. All too often I see liberals being outgunned by conservatives armed with more attitude than they ... regardless of who has the facts on their side.

Don't go completely off the reservation
There is a growing faction within the Democratic Party of ultra-liberal democratic socialists -- Berniecrats. Their basic message is that the country is turning into an oligarchy, that the rich are controlling everything and manipulating the media to keep the lower classes compliant. While there is some merit to some of their arguments (free in-sate tuition for college, for example, or a minimum wage that will allow someone to exist without needing government benefits), others are a bit out there. What the Democratic party as a whole needs to do is to welcome these far lefties into the fold, incorporating some of the more reasonable ideas, without alienating them by dismissing out of hand others (such as the legalization of all drugs).

The Blue Wave of 2018 will dwindle to a small puddle unless we start reaching out, welcoming trump supporters who might be becoming disillusioned with the outcome of their 2016 choice. If liberals and progressives continue down the road of constantly berating conservatives, all we will be doing at that point is energizing trump's base. As we have seen, that never works out well for anyone.

Except trump, of course.

I gotta lie down.

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1This actually happened. A woman in one Facebook group -- someone who had never met me, knew nothing about me, and had never even heard of me up until that point -- said I was a "triggered snowflake who spends all your time crying into your Twinkies. Go eat your Twinkies, little liberal piggy." This was accompanied by a gif of a pig eating.

2This is in the context of Federal elections. There are some state and local elections in which noncitizens are legally allowed to vote.

3There is a movement to allow convicted felons to have their voting rights restored upon successful completion of their sentence. As of this writing, these efforts have not yet yielded fruit.

4That we know of, anyway.

5Conservatives also look ridiculous when they do this, but for entirely different reasons.

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