Trump completes the circle

My conservative friends have abandoned all hope for me long ago, and with good cause. My liberal friends, at least those under the age of 40, may also have their doubts about me. The 2016 U.S. election gives me an opportunity to complete the circle, so let me take a few moments to drive my liberal brothers and sisters crazy.

First, my thoughts on Trump in brief. My hunch is that he will be a terrible president – ill-informed, reckless, and easy manipulated (despite the outward braggadocio) by people who actually understand politics and world affairs. But I understand why many, including some of my friends and family, voted for him (albeit a mistake in my view). They were sick of politicians, sick of political correctness, sick of the climate in which everyone must parse every word and self-censor before every comment. To them, Trump’s showy disregard for political correctness had its appeal. And the white working class people who had worked hard all their lives and were now struggling were perhaps tired of being told to shut up and appreciate how privileged they were. (To my liberal friends, I am not commenting on the truth value of “privilege” claims, but only on the perception by this segment of voters.) This predicament left them easily swayed to vote Republican and vote Trump (against their own economic interest).

Am I saying that liberals are to blame for Trump’s victory? No, conservatives who have created the alt-right through talk radio, Fox News, and other media arms of disinformation carry most of the blame. But I do say that liberals do not get out of the blame scot-free. At least some self-examination may be helpful. The tendency in the past few decades for liberals to build walls instead of bridges has perhaps contracted their sphere of influence outside of academia and left them all too often preaching to the choir. It was not always this way. In the 1960s and 70s, hippie liberals were out to bust it all wide open and eliminate restrictions on what to do, what to say, on living and loving arrangements. They were the rebels against cultural policing. Today’s liberals, on the other hand, have become the cultural police. I understand the good intent – to stamp out racism and xenophobia and toxic speech and ideas – but the practical result is counterproductive. Forever warning people that they can’t do or say or wear this because of their demographic identity, scarlet-lettering everyone who disagrees with you as racist or misogynist, shuts down communication. Sure, official members of the KKK needs to be scarlet-lettered. But in this case, branding 47.2% of the U.S. population, burning that many bridges, has no practical value. If you’re lumping in half the population with the KKK, you might revisit your metric because you’re giving way too much to the KKK.

I live in a conservative part of the country (when not in Germany). Although my inner-city neighborhood in New Orleans tracks liberal, the metro area in general tracks conservative. I have friends and family members who voted for Trump. They did not do so because they hate women or minorities or immigrants. When Trump made his comments about the border, they did not hear, “He hates all Mexicans and Muslims.” They heard, “He has no problem with legal immigrants or Mexicans in general; he wants to better control illegal immigration to serve those who are here (including legal immigrants). He believes that stable, successful Mexicans are less inclined to jump the border, so the ones who come, although some are good people, tend to include more of the criminal element … He has no problem with Muslims in general; he believes the world has an Islamic terrorism problem and we need to address it at our borders.” Etc.

You can argue until you’re blue in the face that what you heard was more accurate than what they heard, but that doesn’t really get us anywhere. That’s just wall-building, getting both sides to circle the wagons. Since my own ear tends to track liberal, I could conclude that they are racist xenophobes and effectively shut down all communication. I prefer to conclude that they are wrong on the policy and on some of the social assumptions, but that they are essentially good people. I prefer to keep communication channels open. I prefer to hear any crazy theories they want to put forward and to haggle them out over a beer. I prefer to build bridges. May they learn a little bit from me, and may I learn a little bit from them. We should be celebrating conflicting voices at the table. The only way forward is through dialectic, not monologue. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Especially now. There is too much at stake with the impending Trump presidency, which does not bode well in my opinion, for the 47.2% (Trump) and the 47.9% (Clinton) to each construct their own walled citadel.

Thus Trump may complete the circle for me. Conservatives wrote me off long ago and perhaps my liberal friends may do the same, pushing me off the existing spectrum and one step closer to my own post-political wonderland. Then again, maybe i’m not the only one heading that way.

Caveats

  1. Do not misread. This is NOT an argument against passionately opposing Trump and Republican policy proposals whenever you find them unacceptable.
  2. I know I might have to eat these words one day, but until then I’m sticking to the idea that we’re all on the spaceship Earth together, like it or not.
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22 thoughts on “Trump completes the circle

    • Hahaha. Thanks, Mike. I know you feel a little more strongly than I do about the Trumpets. I don’t finally know if my orientation or yours is correct. I do know that we need to hear each other and think about it instead of just saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have been talking people off the ledge since the election. Lots of fear. And with the appointment of Bannon as his chief strategist more grist for the idea that it will be a hate filled administration. Yesterday they said he was going to appoint a climate change denier as head of EPA, a guy who opposes enforcement of the Clean Air Act etc. And the rumor is Giuliani for secretary of state, another recent nut job. So you and I may still get to protest in the streets and reminisce about the age of Aquarius yet, while being water hosed for doing so.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree these are bad choices. I think they will be partly tempered by other choices (Priebus should be from a more stabilizing side of the party, no?) and structural restraints. Still, I agree that it looks bad. And that we need to keep talking about it to our friends (conservative or liberal) who are coming into this with different views.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hopefully Priebus is a restraining influence (assuming Trump listens to anyone). It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, on the Republican side stands up to Trump if he proposes something wacky or discriminatory. I’m not hopeful. The discussion with those who support Trump is sometimes problematic. I spent a long time with folks in a suite at the LSU game over the weekend who were and are Trump supporters (Oil field workers). This group denied Bannon has any discriminatory history and say this is all made up by the media. They deny Trump ever groped anyone. They want all 11-12 million illegals deported. They think a registry of Muslims would be a good thing. They seem perplexed why anyone would have fear over Trump’s campaign comments. They do believe climate change is a hoax and a global conspiracy. They feel the rights of whites have been marginalized. They think if DNA shows you killed someone you should be executed—no appeals. They believe Obama is/was a Marxist. Its difficult my friend to have that conversation you envision when we cannot agree on the underlying facts.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Of course, I disagree with your friends, but believe at least a few of their comments are expressed wrong-headedly but contain valid concerns that are shared by many people. We need to figure out which is which and at least listen for where the valid concerns are embedded. Otherwise, we’re back to “everyone who disagrees with me is a racist.” Your friends, in particular, seem more extreme than my Trump-voting friends. In your case, maybe you really do need new friends 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Another thought. Some of the folks you speak of may really be unredeemable but I’m not convinced, even from your description, that they are all so. Some of such people are not so intransigent when you get them one-on-one and might listen to arguments of compassion. Of course, you have to listen to them too, to see what grievances are underneath the surface clutter. Consider Nelson Mandela, who reasoned with his white guards on Robben Island for years, figuring that no matter how vicious their beliefs, his (Mandela’s) occupation of the moral high ground gave him a chance to win some of them over, which in time he did. The problem is that liberals have ceded the moral high ground on some of the issues at point (race and gender) when they abandoned the “all in this together/shared humanness” approach of Wollstonecraft and Douglass and M. L. King and switched to “separateness” and “you can’t know how I feel” and the shaming tone directed at whites and males, many of whom could be allies if not for that tone (https://shakemyheadhollow.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/how-the-left-ceded-the-moral-high-ground/). Perhaps this new segregationism on the left was inevitable with the rise of women’s and ethnic studies as institutional fixtures in their own right. The sad truth, though, is that it leaves those of us who call ourselves liberals less well-positioned than Mandela to make our case in dialogue with the Trumpets.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Sad that you have to qualify your opinion with a disclaimer. And yet I don’t understand the idea of how one side is more correct then the other. Why can’t we just listen to people who are different from ours? I’m talking about myself because I’m a liberal minded person. Also, very anti-mainstream media. Their only concern is with telling a story that will get more views and ad dollars. It’s not about objectivity. They’re very twisty. I do not like celebrities telling me what to do and I am very much against corruption in politics. People getting an unfair advantage when they already have an unfair advantage because of their social class? Of course blood is going to boil. That doesn’t make me conservative it just makes me a person who can think for herself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You did a good job of summarizing the situation. I voted, but not for either one. I do think though that it would help if people would stop their protesting and just see what happens, and then act accordingly in a civil manner via grass root effort (does not include protesting or burning flags or any destructive behavior or name calling). For example, I agree with putting in better border controls and deporting the illegals who committed serious crimes here. I don’t think they add value to our country and they should go. On the other hand, I disagree with letting up on improving the EPA’s and food agencies’ efforts to ensure our water is potable and we know if we are eating GMO food or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said. I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Clinton or Trump either, but now that the campaign is over it’s time for a break from the protesting. There are plenty of reasons to be wary of our would-be president: his ideas, temperament, and fondness for men like Vladimir Putin are but a few. Still, I’m willing to take a step back and see if Trump can prove himself better as president than he was as a candidate; to see if he can jump-start the economy without starting a trade war.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Karina and batousan. Let me distinguish between Trump and his supporters. My main point is that we need to keep talking (and listening) to the 47.2% who voted for him, and work through some of our differences moving forward. I am less hopeful about Trump himself. My one thread of hope was that, because he is less ideological than someone like Cruz, he might be better at reaching across party lines, making deals with anyone he damn well chooses to solve problems. Unfortunately, it looks like he is reaching beyond traditional Republican lines to bring the alt-right and “global warming is a hoax” people in from the fringes, and not to bring in any moderating voices from the center or scientific community. So I am still hopeful that we can work together with our friends with whom we disagree in the 47.2%, but less hopeful about Trump himself at present.

        Liked by 2 people

        • As one who tracks libertarian/conservative it’s nice to see a blogger willing to listen to, and consider, the other side. I’ve run across plenty of arrogant dismissives elsewhere; they’re deadly serious and near impossible to communicate with. Blah. True, the Donald is less ideological…but he has a bigger problem: even if he were treating politics like a series of trade-offs and the “build that wall,” “lock her up” stuff was a starting point, Trump is trapped by his own words. There are millions of people — like Steve Bannon and his followers — wandering around this country who took him seriously.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Let me start with quoting You, my Dear DL.

    ‘they are essentially good people. I prefer to keep communication channels open. I prefer to hear any crazy theories they want to put forward and to haggle them out over a beer. I prefer to build bridges. May they learn a little bit from me, and may I learn a little bit from them.’

    In my opinion, people are good. And We should listen to them too. But.

    With exceptions, the world is all too full of people who are talkers, and ‘hearers,’ (that too – if at all), but Very, Very few ‘Listeners.’

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so glad I read this. I’ve been trying to understand the disconnect since November 9th, and no Trump supported seems able to explain it with any clarity. Also, I totally agree about liberals. I just told a colleague that America had never really become less racist or sexist, it’s just that we’d shamed those people into not saying anything and they got madder and madder and madder. Silencing someone is never the answer. Anywho, thanks for this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Kathy. I agree with you 100%. I also add that I’m less worried about the racists who were shamed into silence, and more worried about all the potential allies who are white, male, and alienated by a liberalism that says they must endlessly apologize for their “privilege.” (See the link to black moderate John McWhorter’s op-ed in my “The End of Civil Rights” post.) I miss the late 60s, when the liberal/hippie emphasis was on inclusivity and integration — white, black, male, female, — no shaming, no walls, no rules about reaching across demographic lines — everyone all-in together in the chaos of building a new social vision — much more radical in my opinion than today’s liberals guarding their turf. (Your book and blog look great. Can’t wait to read more.) Gary

      Liked by 2 people

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