With Trump riding the electoral college into office and the political Left in a bit of disarray, what happens next? We can protest to our heart’s delight, but unless it influences actual policy, naught will come of it. Preaching to the choir means the Left sings louder, but a popular vote win means little to the electoral college. We, as progressives, must find ways to regain more of the red votes out in Middle America, but how? And who shall we throw under the bus in order to capture those votes?
As former Navy chief Jim Wright opined recently at his blog Stonekettle Station, the Left has some work to do on their outreach to the Sea of Red in Middle America. These voters, he reminds us (in summary), are steeped in fear. Fear that immigrants are going to take their jobs or, worse, pull off terrorist activity that kills Americans at home. Fear that gay people will force churches to perform their weddings or force Christian bakers to provide the cakes. Fear that inner-city miscreants (we all know what this means) will soak up their money as welfare or take it directly as criminals. These fears have been stoked by their news media, their echo chambers, their chain emails, and their winning Presidential candidate. Wright’s point: what has the Left offered to convince the swing voters in the heartland that these fears won’t come true?
Very little indeed. Last week, Guinean immigrant Boubah Barry, riding the subway in Queens, snapped a photo that would soon go viral. A drag queen and a woman in niqab, sitting together in peace. Barry tweeted the image as a symbol of diversity and tolerance, but not everybody saw it that way. The image made its way through cyberspace, as they do, until it was picked up by /pol/ News Network and retweeted with the caption, “This is the future that liberals want.”
This is the future that liberals want. pic.twitter.com/QwterpqQbH
— /pol/ News Network (@polNewsNetwork1) March 1, 2017
Reaction was swift. From a Left-leaning perspective, the image appeals to the same values of tolerance and diversity that Barry perceived, not to mention the value of effective and affordable public transportation. Variations on the theme filled social media, with images like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Captain Planet also pictured as the future liberals want. But these do nothing to quell the fears that our Right-leaning American neighbors, fed upon a diet of panic and distrust spooned out by the likes of FOX News and WorldNet Daily, feel in their guts. Not even the image of a veiled Muslim woman peacefully co-existing with a flamboyant drag queen could convince them that Muslims can and do live in peace even with those that may not agree with, or be accepted by, their ideology.
If only that could also be so among the punditry of our American Right.
So, to echo Jim Wright’s question, how can we compromise with the Middle Americans in the sea of red states that reliably show up for the GOP? Who shall we throw under the bus to convince them of our sincere desire to avoid Civil War v2.0? Do we shun the immigrants? The transgendered teens? Do we roll back civil rights legislation, allowing “No Gays” or “Whites Only” signs to pop up in businesses? It seems unlikely to me that their bottomless fears could ever be assuaged. The Left, after all, prides itself on reaching across the aisle, while the Right’s show of strength lies in moving ever rightward as the Left approaches. Remember, Republicans opted to throw under the bus their own healthcare reforms when passed by a compromise-minded Democrat. And economically speaking, Democrats today are more like Republicans from a generation ago than either wants to admit.
Author John Michael Greer reminds us that the platforms of our two major political coalitions change through time. As different goals become more or less politically expedient, movements embrace or reject them in ways we might not recognize today. Gun control, environmentalism, Prohibition, and extending rights to various minorities have all been traded back and forth between liberal and conservative interests. It’s a matter of faith to modern American liberals that “consciousness evolves” through time and that history “moves forward” (presumably towards a more liberal agenda) but this is not always so, especially during hard times. Since we’re headed, likelier than not, to a future of hard times, inevitable anyway but made likelier by Trumpian policy, it behooves us to consider who we shall throw under the bus if we want the Left to win more elections, and whether that turns us into the people we criticize.