The political left and right in America today have sharp differences of opinions, but we share a couple of things. First, we love the country and want to improve upon it. Secondly, we are operating out of fear and anxiousness that the opposite will happen unless we say something.
We argue on social media about current policy debates, such as whether to launch a national effort to deport all unauthorized immigrants and whether to place new restrictions on gun ownership and abortion. I’m trying to remove myself from those often unpleasant back-and-forth conversations where we are pretty much talking AT each other instead of TO each other.
I think I can be most productive producing content the rest of you can use to win hearts and minds instead of arguing with someone on Facebook who doesn’t care what I think.
Another thing we seem to agree on is that social media amplifies these voices as people on competing sides of the political spectrum seek to win the hearts and minds of the moderates in the center, those folks who have not yet made up their minds, do not follow the news closely and simply want to make a living with a minimal amount of fuss.
The debate of the moment within the Democratic Party concerns which strategy is best for denying Donald Trump a second term. Should the Dems choose a “safe,” moderate candidate to win back voters who rejected Hillary Clinton in 2016? Or did they lose that last election because Clinton was too much of an establishment candidate who lacked the charisma to close the deal?
Are Democrats in a Gambling Mood?
Clinton’s husband won as a moderate in 1992, effectively stealing many of the GOP’s positions out from under them. The Democrats took back the White House after a long drought, but liberals compromised a lot of their principles in the resulting restructuring of social programs.
Fast forward to 2019, when Joe Biden holds a strong lead among a crowded field of candidates with 15 months of campaigning left to do. I personally like Joe and think he would make a hell of a great president. But some wonder if he’s the fighter they can count on to beat an incumbent who will sink to any depth to stay in power. His age and some of his past policies are also a little problematic after decades on the public stage.
Political primaries on both sides are about surviving ideological purity tests, and the trick is to get past them without giving the General Election too much ammunition for criticizing you as an extreme choice.
Republicans chose Donald Trump out of a large field of choices despite hardly being the best choice for the poster boy of “family values” and fiscal responsibility.
His advancement against Clinton, in theory, should have given her an easy target. This raises the question of whether Democrats would wipe the floor with Trump, regardless of who the nominee is if they stay united and are able to overlook their nominee’s imprefections.
Clinton’s 2016 primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, attracted a tremendous amount of grassroots support, while several of the candidates now sharing the stage with Sanders in this cycle share many of his progressive views.
So, what should Democrats do?
- Scale back policy ideas so they don’t scare those moderate voters?
- Or advance the most popular ideas and ignore the inevitable narrative the GOP will work overtime to put forth, smearing them as “extreme socialists” no matter how moderate the Democrats actually become?
Democrats have been forced to watch Trump dismantle much of what the Obama Administration built over 8 years in office. To now be forced to water down their proposals in order to reverse course would be a hard pill for some liberals to swallow.
But you know what would be even harder to swallow? Four more years of having to listen to Donald Trump on our television sets.
How to Beat Donald Trump
Too many Democrats, myself included, have fallen into the trap of giving him far too much real estate in our brains. The best way we can attack Trump is to deprive him of the one thing he needs almost as much as food, water and oxygen: Attention.
If Trump’s secret weapon is his shamelessness, his kryptonite is not being the center of attention.
You get the feeling that he revels with every despicable thing he says and Tweets to control the news cycle. He is such an extreme narcissist that I can’t help but imagine him pleasuring himself while using the TV remote to flip between news channels.
He tries to mask it, but his bravado is just cover for deep insecurity. It’s a flaw that foreign leaders have learned to exploit.
I have this recurring fantasy Like in that episode of Star Trek when Kirk and those Klingons laughed at that energy alien that fed off negative emotions and it just disappeared.
Focus on his policies instead of him as a media personality. Deprive him of the chance to see how upset he is making you. That’s what drives most bullies: A desire to see if they can affect you.
Trump supporters love to watch Democrats get worked up and kept in a perpetual state of outrage. They may not give a shit what he’s doing for America, but they LOVE how he gets under your skin and drives you nuts.
They learn from the Bully-in-Chief mocking a disabled reporter, so they feel as if they have cover to call you a “Libtard.” Because making fun of mentally retarded persons is so mature and dignified, right?
You see, these folks HATE liberals. They think liberals are annoying know-it-alls and entitled, naïve brats in need of a good ass-kicking. Your outrage and tears are like cotton candy to them. They gobble it up, cheer jubilantly and ask for more when Trump suggests (falsely) that liberals want to have open borders and let illegal aliens flood the country.
Liberals are despised because of a tendency to practice “virtue signaling.” That is, publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate our good character or the moral correctness of our position on a particular issue.
I’m a Democrat, but it rubbed me the wrong way when I got scolded by some woman who felt it was her business to tell me that one of my Facebook posts had offended her.
She told me that she would share it with others and make it viral if I did not take it down. It all seemed rather silly over something that was just a dumb joke about society someday having androids like the Fembots from the “Austin Powers” movie and asking if the ladies would like theirs to look like the Hawaiian hunk who played Aquaman. I obviously offended her, but issuing an ultimatum threatening to hurt me, instead of just minding her own business and going on about her day, greatly offended me.
I removed the post because I do not seek to offend or hurt anyone. But as the day went on, I just got angrier and angrier thinking about how stupid it was — and I am on her side!
Some Democrats need to seriously lighten up and not get so triggered. Appointing yourself as the thought police is not a great look.
I had a fascinating talk with my buddy this afternoon. He’s a wise man, someone I trust to give it to me straight, even though I might feel grouchy to hear it. He’s no Trump lover, but he gets tired of people on the left always preaching at him.
“It’s not unreasonable to expect tolerance of other points of view if you are going to claim to be a tolerant person,” he said. “Screaming at a Republican when they are out having dinner, what could go wrong with that mentality? Getting in their faces and calling them ‘racists’ or ‘bigots’ isn’t how you win. Stop trying to show that you are open-minded and tolerant by taking the most extreme positions. That doesn’t always prove your point. Sometimes being tolerant and open-minded isn’t easy. The entire point of ‘tolerance’ implies that it isn’t easy. Use some balance in your approach and some common sense. Attacking someone does not help them to see your point of view, but punishment is easier than persuasion.”
I nodded to acknowledge that I took his point, but I wondered how Democrats are supposed to counter the stream of misinformation being put out by Trump supporters and foreign powers trying to manipulate public opinion ahead of the 2020 election. Those Russians don’t mess around…
Don’t the Dems have an obligation to correct misleading stories told on right-wing websites or from Fox News?
“Expressing opinions is fine, but what’s happening in the age of social media is people form their opinions based on what will make them look good on social media,” he said. “They don’t form their opinions based on what actually will work. People don’t want to change the world. They just want to be able to go on Facebook and look like they’re doing something to change the world. They want to post a picture in their pussy hat or Make America Great Again hat. Everybody is posing.”
He senses a lack of authenticity from “people acting like idiots on both sides.” He is particularly annoyed by the tendency of people to appropriate moral positioning, like when “sanctity of human life” is used to defend abortion or to criticize the death penalty.
“The stuff that drives me nuts about the left is how they want government healthcare, but then all of the women said that men shouldn’t be making decisions for women’s healthcare? Who the hell do they think is going to be making their decisions if we get universal healthcare? Those exact same people. It’s talking out of both sides of their mouth.”
Relentless criticism of the president, as deserved as it may be, risks appearing hateful at any cost. It can be perceived as rooting against the president and wanting him to fail at the job. Which we certainly don’t want to happen if that harms our fellow Americans. If the stock market were to crash, for example, it would cause Trump’s support to quickly evaporate, but it’s not good optics for Democrats to look as if they want our 401ks to empty.
My friend said he is worried Democrats may nominate a candidate whose ideas are too ambitious for voters in the center. He also feels fatigued by the non-stop attacks on Trump, even as he prays Trump will lose for the good of the country.
“Trump-hate is not the answer. Vote against him. Work for whoever you want to go against him. It doesn’t mean you have to be spouting and screaming hate. If the man says ‘white nationalism is bad’ you could agree. Instead, we have to find a way to be critical of everything Trump does or says. It makes it disingenuous. In one breath, we complain about his words saying one thing, but then when he says the right words, we act like words are empty.”
I said as much on my Facebook wall yesterday after Trump made a public statement to address two gun massacres in less than 24 hours.
News Flash: Trump is Not Hitler
He’s a deeply flawed human being, but I give him credit for bringing attention to the plight of average Americans and advocating for us to achieve a higher quality of life. Question Trump’s motives or assign a lot of the credit to Obama if you want, but it’s a fact that the unemployment rate is at record lows. Trump has secured the release of Americans from foreign captivity.
Legislatively, his administration has achieved some success with criminal justice reform and a new “Right to Try” law giving dying Americans access to experimental medications. He went after militant ISIS fighters. We’ve avoided a nuclear confrontation with North Korea up to now. He’s raised awareness of the financial burden that the US faces as the world’s dominant superpower.
And his biggest achievement has been getting a record number of judges confirmed, including two Supreme Court justices (which is a positive if you think it’s a good thing to have activist judges who’ll rule in favor of conservative ideology for decades).
Trump has told a lot of lies and broken a bunch of promises (has Mexico paid for that wall yet?), but from the point of view of a rank and file evangelical Christian, he has won enough favor by doing things like moving the US Embassy in Israel to elude critiques of his many moral failings.
It’s important for Liberals, Progressives and Democrats to avoid the temptation to get down in the mud with Trump and the Republicans. It isn’t helpful when Joe Biden or Cory Booker say in public that they’d like to punch him, when celebrities joke about assassinating him, when performers like Kathy Griffin do photoshoots posing with the fake decapitated head of our president. That just feeds into their narrative that Democrats are the ones filled with hate, which gives Trump greater license to do his worst.
Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls?
My buddy thinks the worst thing Democrats can do is try to reach too high when the most important thing to accomplish is getting Donald Trump out of the White House. You don’t start getting plastic surgery when you’re lying on the operating table hemorrhaging from a gunshot wound.
“There are Republicans like Mitch McConnell who are so dishonest and so corrupt that my mind just fries when I think about it. Like the attorney general. But why would it be so wrong for someone to come out and say ‘Look we Democrats have some long-term goals, but right now, let’s make some progress. Let’s take these steps…’ Things changed too quickly under Obama. That’s why I say, slow down a little bit. Don’t offer to wipe my ass like Bernie Sanders does. I don’t need that. Let’s let some folks catch up and then keep moving forward instead of screaming at them that they are white nationalist, privileged racists.”
Looking back, we can see that support for progressive issues builds when we have patience and work to grow a consensus of opinion.
My buddy’s final words of advice for liberals:
“Turn down the volume and act less outraged. Step back and look at the landscape honestly. Don’t act offended by every little thing that’s said that we disagree with. So many people on both sides talk about Trump almost exclusively on Facebook. Either supporting him or attacking him. This country is about more than Donald Trump. I don’t agree with most of what Donald Trump says, but I don’t have to run around like a chicken with its head cut off screaming ‘The sky is falling!’ Democrats need to slow down on the progressive agenda. I’m not saying I disagree with it – things like universal healthcare are probably inevitable — but I’m saying you can’t get it all done and not expect backlash or confusion.”
What I Think Will Happen (And Needs To)
Personally, I feel that Democrats would be wise to choose a nominee who may be safe, even if he’s not perfect and won’t give them everything they want right away. A lot of good can be done with four years of Democrats in charge.
Given Biden’s age, I feel that the Vice President spot may become more important than previous elections, reserved for the person most likely to represent the future of the party and the country. Pete Buttigieg or Kamala Harris come to mind, although the party suffers from an abundance of riches. If advanced age were to become a factor, God forbid, Democrats would have a competent, tested person to step up and take over.
My other friend, Nick, disagrees with me, by the way. He thinks that progressives will be turned off if Biden gets the nomination and not show up to vote against Trump. That just seems nuts to me, but anyhow, he argues that Bernie Sanders would be more formidable against Trump by highlighting the fact that the president has no plans of his own to tout. Maybe he’s right. As Trump likes to say, “We’ll see…”
With Donald Trump safety out of the White House and presumably fleeing indictment, then a President Biden could incorporate some of these dynamic progressive ideas into his Administration (can you imagine Elizabeth Warren in charge of the Commerce Department?) and possibly add some of the people sharing the stage with him to his Cabinet positions in the same way Obama selected Hillary to be on his team despite their bitter differences.
Let’s Get to Work and Elect the Good Guys
We still have a long election ahead of us, and my friend’s thoughts are food for thought when Democrats strategize how to best use this time to their advantage.
Once the Dems have their candidate, Trump will either have to double-down on the racist attacks to drive turnout among his base or moderate his rhetoric to avoid looking like a maniac. I hope Democrats make a wise choice and not choose someone who will give Trump the license to do his worst.
Please channel the energy you would put toward arguing on Facebook toward something that’s better for your mental health.
Don’t sit watching hours and hours of programming about Trump’s atrocities, it will only get you riled up and encourage the networks to milk coverage of Trump for higher ratings.
Replace negativity with positive activities like creating something that allows you to vent (I blog), go for a walk, give someone a compliment, be kind and create good karma, visit someplace beautiful, etc. Don’t give Trump and his proud deplorables the satisfaction of knowing they are affecting you.
Instead of posting comments attacking your neighbors for supporting him, share video clips laughing at Trump’s expense while he’s mocked by the brilliant people at SNL or Colbert, Seth Myers or Samantha Bee. Comedy at his expense is an effective way to get under Trump’s skin.
And if you really want to see Trump defeated, write letters or call the Congressional district offices and town hall meetings of lawmakers to send a message about your rage at the Trump agenda. To call your U.S. member of Congress or Senators in D.C., dial 202-225-3121 (or 202-224-3121 if busy). It’s even better to call their direct line. For Senators, find each of their numbers. For the direct line to your member in the House of Representatives: http://house.gov/representatives.
You can help us to Register New Voters. When the turnout is high, Democrats win. That’s why Republicans are using voter suppression tactics targeting groups most likely to not vote for them.
You can also do some of the things on “Michael Moore’s Easy-to-Follow 10-point plan to stop Trump”:
- Donate time or money to Democratic candidates for local, state and federal offices in 2020.
- Recruit 5 to 20 friends and family members to form your own personal RAPID RESPONSE TEAM to leap into action by sharing links to good investigative stories and TV news items.
- Support liberal organizations like joined Planned Parenthood, ACLU, and ERA Action.
- Participate when there are events like protest marches.
- Run for office, not just Congress and State Houses, but also school boards, city councils and county commissions.
Imagine the celebration on the night of November 3rd, 2020 when the election results come in and cheer as sore-loser Trump vows to sue. Imagine us dancing in the streets as the Trump supporters crawl away with their messiah vanquished by the overwhelming will of the people…
Blog 2019 Steven Stiefel | Stiefel Creative