A conversation

Over the next few days, weeks, months and years there will be a conversation covering one very important question. Depending on the answer that people come to accept, the belief formed will have far reaching implications.

That question is: “is liberalism no longer a viable political ideology in a democracy?”

Many people will tell you that Brexit and Trump became a reality because liberals ignored the interests and views of the “white working class”. This explanation is attractive because it is simple. But simple explanations are dangerous, especially when we consider what some of those interests and views are.

The reality is that in some sense, the “silent majority” who voted to put Trump in the White House and the Republicans in the Congress and Senate must have, at some level, believed that you could do anything you wanted to a woman if you had power and money. They must have at some level believed that the country you were born in determined whether you were a rapist, a criminal or ‘perhaps a good person’. They must have at some level believed that your faith and the community that you grew up in is a reason to prevent you from interacting with some subset of 300 million people in the world, despite the fact that such a subset might want to include you.

We can say that Trump voters had these beliefs because it would take an astounding level of self deception to not hold those beliefs and still vote the way they did. Perhaps how they reached those beliefs involves a degree of moral blameworthiness. Perhaps it involves a degree of socialisation.

Regardless of the source, the question for liberals now is whether those beliefs, views and interests should be catered to for the sake of electability. Be very weary of this.

In a representative democracy elected representatives are not just a mouthpiece for the majority states, or the majority of electorates or the majority of people. They are also there to act on moral principle. We elect representatives because we trust them to make the hard decisions for all of us on our behalf.

One only needs to look to Australia to find out what happens when this principled outlook is lost. Our own politicians figured out that they could make themselves more electable by accommodating racist and xenophobic beliefs. But they quickly found out that racism and xenophobia begets more racism and xenophobia. Australia now runs one the most, if not the most, cruel and inhumane offshore detention schemes with a large degree of bipartisan and public support. And it was only last week that we heard it was to become more cruel. Real people are suffering and even killing themselves as a result.

If you find that liberals are unelectable because because of a racist, xenophobic and sexist silent majority, change the silent majority. We could all (myself included) do a much better job to call out intolerance when we see it.

Silently accepting it is so much worse.

2 thoughts on “A conversation

  1. Thank you for your considered analysis on our current political climate. You are absolutely right- is important that progressives/liberals/left come together and take a stand against immoral and inhumane politics even if it’s against the will of the majority.

  2. “The reality is that in some sense, the “silent majority” who voted to put Trump in the White House and the Republicans in the Congress and Senate must have, at some level, believed that you could do anything you wanted to a woman if you had power and money. They must have at some level believed that the country you were born in determined whether you were a rapist, a criminal or ‘perhaps a good person’. They must have at some level believed that your faith and the community that you grew up in is a reason to prevent you from interacting with some subset of 300 million people in the world, despite the fact that such a subset might want to include you.”

    People keep repeating this, but it is completely wrong (in my opinion — but that should go without saying).

    On political strategy: everyone I know who voted for Trump, by and large, does not stand with him on those principles. They disagree, wholeheartedly and in no uncertain terms, with his sexism and racism. They merely _accept_ those things as the price they had to pay to keep Clintion, in very particular, out of office. To them, it was a crisis of conscience that boiled down to a simple question: “Who would you rather in office, a buffoonish *ist of a person, or a murdering, lying cheater?”

    Never mind how *correct* that data is. Never mind that Clinton has been investigated (for multiple things) and always let off the hook. To that voting base, this is like the Bill Cosby scandal: he didn’t go to jail either, but where there’s smoke, there is fire. It doesn’t matter if its wrong, it matters that this is by and large the perception of her that is what was understood by the Trump voting electorate. At the end of the day, they did what most of us do most elections: they voted not _for_ a candidate they _liked_, but *against* the candidate they perceived to be the greater of the two evils presented.

    It doesn’t help that the DNC’s obvious corruption was obvious, alienating even fellow liberals. The DNC leaders backed a barely-left, dyed-in-the-wool establishment candidate that would help them keep their cushy jobs, instead of an honest actually-liberal candidate that would vote in the people’s best interest (likely by cleaning their organization out).

    Secondly, and perhaps more importantly? The every day behavior of our fellow far-left liberals and it’s emotional impact on… well, anyone who isn’t also a far-left liberal. The outright and overtly hostile, intolerant, anti-empathetic, *othering* neo-liberal beliefs and behaviors, repeated over and over and over again, for _years_ in a row now, is directly to blame for this catastrophe. Yes, I refer to the latest wave of “PC” culture – say, the last 10 years of it – that at the end of the day, treats with bald-faced contempt not only every *opinion*, but every *person* who offers anything other than full-throated support to every far-left liberal party line on Tumblr.

    There are only so many times an intelligent but dissenting voice can be dismissed as nothing but unrealized *ism. There are only so many times you can tell people that they are incapable of forming a cogent, non-biased opinion about race or gender — and, in fact, shouldn’t even be *allowed to try* — because the color of their skin is white or the plumbing between their legs is male. There are only so many times you can dismiss someone’s deeply held religious principles as “oh look, they still believe in Angels, isn’t that quaint” nonsense. There are only so many times a person can be dismissed as “phobic” in one sentence because they dared express an alternate way to deal with social issues.

    There are only so many times one can conflate a bad argument with a bad *person* before that shit catches up. Only so many times one can be compared, literally, to Hitler because they don’t _completely and totally_ agree with a certain stance, before it begins to become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Right now, I’m so angry at us that I could spit. I want to grab everyone who ever ended a dissenting conversation with “you’re just wrong, and it’s not my job to educate you” by the lips and scream “how’s that working out for you?” I want to slap across the face everyone who stuck their head in the sand, blocked someone who didn’t agree with them, and just tried to get on with their lives by ignoring their fellow countrymen — creating the very echo chambers that caused the (now) very deep, perhaps irreparable, rift that separates us. I want to throttle everyone who thinks that “safe rooms” (translation: rooms without white people in it) is a cool, progressive, not-at-all-racist idea that couldn’t possibly cause a negative backlash. I want to key the cars of the owners of Reddit, Slashdot, and every other similar site that basically equated conservatism with trolling, said “you can believe that, but not _here_,” and then made them all go away.

    Well, “away” they went. Turns out, though, that “away” happened to be right to the polls, and I wouldn’t be surprised if each and every Trump supporter uttered “how’s _this_ for ‘deplorable,’ you smug, over-educated, judgmental sack of shit” as they pushed the button in favor of a narcissistic maniac who at least hasn’t killed anyone that we know of.

    You wanna change the silent majority? *Befriend them*. Be cool to them. Give them the same kind of benefit of the doubt as we give each other. Recognize their basic humanity, first and foremost. Stop branding them as *ist every time they express an opinion that isn’t 100% completely in line our own. Find the common ground and work from there (and, yes, there is quite a lot of common ground).

    Maybe if they were treated like neighbors, they’d begin to act like neighbors. Stands to good reason, as we all just found out what they act like when we treat them like enemies.

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