How far across the aisle are we expected to reach?

I’ll be frank: I do not understand the ardent Trump supporters, and I think their vision for our country is devastating and destructive, and I do not think we should allow it to come to fruition. We can make arguments that they are misguided by fake news and propaganda, just desperate for job security and a better life, but they have made the decision that their better life will only come with the oppression of others, and that interference from a foreign power in our election is either something not to be worried about or something to just willfully ignore.

I assure you, Trump supporters, unless you are willing to work for pennies on the dollar, your job will not return to the US. I assure you, Trump supporters, that more unwanted pregnancies in your community will only result in a social safety net stretched too thin for you to take part in. I assure you, Trump supporters, that when your healthcare, Social Security, and Medicare is taken from you and your loved ones, your family will suffer and you will never, ever know prosperity.

On many things – putting Syrians (and possible more Muslims) into a database, overturning Roe V. Wade, beefing up the private prison system, denying climate change, refusing to protect the rights of LGBTQ individuals and more – I will not compromise.

How can we “come together” when there is such a stark difference in ideology? It seems impossible. Many Trump voters refuse to value the knowledge of educated people, refuse to believe real news sources (anything can be biased if you don’t want to believe it), refuse to even attempt to live in reality. I can’t work with that.

Van Jones is trying to address this. More noble than I, he is committed to expanding empathy and bridging the divide between our voters. What Jones says feels so, so comforting. I think it is so tempting to want it to be the solution.

I take a more cynical view here, though – my thoughts are actually expressed pretty well in this piece by Jezebel writer Kara Brown (note that she is coming from the perspective of a black woman, so the personal stake is moreso for her):

Jones’s plan is similar, albeit better branded, to the tired calls from Republicans, Trump supporters, and a handful of well-meaning liberals for us to now heal and come together as a nation under our new demagogue president who wants to reject Syrian refugee orphans and put Muslims in a database.

That said, it’s only a terrible idea if we compromise on our values. One thing I agree with Jones about is that many of the people who voted for Trump will be hardest hit by any damage he might do – like those guys still holding out for their manufacturing jobs to come back. And I truly believe we can’t turn our backs on the most vulnerable people in this situation, as frustrating as they are for having voted against their own interests.

I can support their right to prosperity, healthcare, autonomy, freedom, etc. without supporting their political agendas. And I will.

When I read this incredibly satisfying Tumblr, Trumpgrets, my cold heart is warmed momentarily. It also chills me to the bone, showing me what we’re up against: people who thought that Trump would keep Wall Street out of politics, people who are concerned about losing healthcare coverage when Obamacare is repealed, people who thought that Trump would fight for equal pay for women! These people don’t live in reality at all. Were they listening to literally anything anyone said?

And then the people who are so, so angry he’s not prosecuting Hillary Clinton – yeah, they’re correct about that broken promise but like, how do we prioritize THAT lunatic’s wishes? Their MAIN issue was putting a woman in jail who did literally nothing to them personally even when you believe the conspiracy theories. I don’t want them on my team. I want to beat them in the next elections. I want their delusion snuffed out of our government.

The truth is, I don’t know how to connect to those people, and for the foreseeable future, I’m not going to bother trying. There are not “two sides” to every issue, when one of the issues is whether to treat a certain group of people as human beings. I will not be told to hear someone out regarding my right to bodily autonomy, or my friends’ rights to not be discriminated against. At best, they voted against our human rights with general disregard of their importance; at worst, they want to actively oppress us.

Do we even need them?

Generally speaking, in a kumbaya sort of way, yes. They are part of this country, whether we like it or not, and we’re going to have to adjust our message and our attitudes to at least stop people from voting against their own interests. Ideological differences we cannot help unless we compromise our own, but there are ways we can adjust messaging and refocus to make a dent in it.

But really? No, screw ’em. You know why? This election, like most of them, was about turnout. Democratic turnout was OK but not great. It was particularly low in swing states. In terms of winning elections, ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS GET OUR OWN PEOPLE VOTING. That’s literally it. That’s a much easier task than trying to find common ground with someone who literally hates your guts because of the color of your skin, your vagina and willingness to use it sometimes, or level of education.

Here’s the problem with this: we probably hang around people like us, who vote when and how we vote. So preaching is largely to the choir. We need to not only branch out and try to widen our personal influence, but we need to pay attention to voter suppression efforts, support Democratic candidates through swing states (via donating to these states’ Democratic parties, phone banking for their candidates, or, in the case of a Presidential election, phone banking in their area).

So what is a productive thing we can change about our choir? Convince them to follow you in your efforts. We need everyone mobilized who isn’t hostile to our cause; there are tons of them. Tons.

We have the numbers.

Keep remembering this. Keep repeating it to yourself. Look at the popular vote numbers. Those swing states are SO CLOSE. Pennsylvania went to Trump by 68,236 voters (a margin of 1%). Florida went to Trump by 119,770 (a margin of 1%). North Carolina’s was around 2%, Wisconsin about 1%, and Michigan by 0.3%. You get the point. He won by the skin of his teeth. That is not some sort of unmanageable situation for us. They are saying that this election was decided by people who can fit in a college football stadium; we can handle that. We can handle those odds, but only when we energize people to vote in lower elections, to fight gerrymandering, and to be actively reaching out to their representatives – both with positive reinforcement and anger.

If we can make an effort to get Democrats to turn out in those states (and conservative states) for smaller elections, we can turn this nightmare around quickly over the next few election cycles.

We just have to focus on strengthening our alliances and keeping everyone motivated. Angry but hopeful, exhausted but motivated. Those hopeless people whose rhetoric terrifies us? We do not need their help. We do not need their praise. We do not need to get along with them. We do not need to accept their bigotry. We do not need to validate their resistance to truth.

Repeat after me: this is a manageable situation.


Action Items

  • Here is a collection of some Centrist Political blogs. I cannot personally vouch for the quality of any of these, but I am making a commitment to find at least two that I like and to read them regularly.
    • I am extremely leftist; to me, Centrist might as well be Fascist. In an effort to help form a unified front against Trump and his band of villains, I am going to try to consider the Centrist a possible ally. Wherever you land on the political spectrum, shift a little to the right and try to apply this to yourself.
  • While you’re motivated now, set some dates on your calendar for when we get closer to election time:
    • For all odd Novembers (2017, 2019, etc) set a reminder to check Ballotpedia to see who you can start supporting in your state, district, and other close elections around the country. Find candidates you support across the country, follow their social media, donate to their campaigns, etc.
    • For all even Augusts (2018, 2020, etc), set a reminder to sign up to phone bank for any close elections – you can do this for ANY CANDIDATE ANYWHERE. Also keep donating when you can.
    • For all even Octobers (2018, 2020, etc), set a reminder a couple days before the last day to register to vote and remind all your friends. Add more if you have more elections than that – even if it’s for school board or comptroller.
  • Identify moderate friends and acquaintances in your life. Start civil political discussions and hear them out. Make the goal be that you learn from each other, rather than convince each other. A moderate does not want to drive the country off a cliff either.
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Author: Melissa

Melissa is an artist and half-architect living in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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