I have a lot of thoughts about the events of this weekend; Trump’s inauguration, the protests that day, the Women’s march the next day, too. I wanted to get them down now before we find ourselves full tilt into a Trump administration. Each of these items could have been made into its own separate post, but I honestly didn’t want to be writing about Trump or the Left all the time. There are things that need fixing, problems that need solving, and I think that’s a far better use of my time.
Still, I pose these questions and make these statements because I think we need to talk about them. We need to decide what we should do about the various problems and challenges we are facing or will soon face, and we need to think through what these things could do to the nation. We need to stop lurching from crisis to crisis, from pendulum swing to pendulum swing, and realistically plot a course for where we want to go. I’m tired of the Outrage Treadmill. I’m tired of the electoral tug of war. I’m tired of all the resources being focused on elections and reelections, rather than on solving the problems in front of us. And after so many years, most of all, I’m just tired, and even a little bit motion sick with the whiplash.
All I’m asking here is for you to read these items, take some time to think about them, and then join the discussion about them. I want to know what you think after looking at all these statements, and what, if anything, changes for you in the way you see them. I’m not looking for knee jerk reactions – we’re past that now. I’m hoping to resonate with the people who are prepared to thoughtfully navigate the next four years and beyond.
So in no particular order…
* The divide in this country is deeper than most people think, because the folks who engage in political action are usually embedded in one sort of bubble or another. Liberal enclaves can be formed by geography or within one’s own circles or media choices. And the same thing goes for conservatives. The trench warfare results in temporary victories, followed by crushing defeats, for both sides. The people in the middle who actually decide elections are merely being shoved back and forth across the partisan lines in No-Man’s-Land by whichever force is prevailing at the moment. As it’s happening now, there are no permanent gains, except a general trend leftward over the long haul.
* If your bubble is too ‘bubble-y’ you probably can’t see the divide clearly, and you think that many more people think the way you do than actually do. You should begin to fix that immediately, by finding people who don’t think like you and listening to them or following them online. If you don’t try to learn how others are thinking and feeling about current events, you will continue to get nasty shocks from election results, public protests, etc.
* Trump didn’t coarsen the culture by himself. If anything, he reflects what the left’s culture-boundary-pushers began ages ago. He is a by-product, or even the END PRODUCT, of what you get when you, say, give Bill Clinton’s sexual assault allegations a pass, or applaud Roman Polanski with a standing ovation.
* People who don’t remember history make hypocrisy easier for others. If you’re going to introduce some forgotten history to someone, be sure you have that history correct.
* If the protests, demonstrations, and riots this weekend disturbed you, think about how to present that to people who don’t follow politics. Have conversations about the difference between riots and protests. Show images in comparison. Compare media coverage, too. Talk about what the people involved are trying to accomplish, and whether their messages were clear. Ask them what they took away from watching such images and demonstrations. Use that insight to shape how you present your own messages in the future.
* If you find useful images, be sure to magnify them on social media. A ‘like’ or a ‘share’ is more than a tool to signal your interest or approval. For instance, learn to boost useful posts on Facebook like THIS.
* The visual elements of the Inauguration have been a topic of interest – how many people made it to which inaugurations, how many people marched in protest, and so on. These are interesting numbers as far as they go. But the strategic accomplishment of turning out voters in the required states to win the presidency doesn’t lend itself to visuals. It’s a much quieter, individual, and private effort. People made their decisions mostly out of the spotlight. Remember that as you see public displays going forward for one issue or another, one side or another.
* Are you really interested in getting active politically, or staying active? You should take this assessment and see where you are before committing to anything.
* In the past few years we have seen much attention paid to protesters and rioters. In Ferguson, Baltimore, and other places, we’ve allowed the two groups to be conflated for political expedience. While that’s understandable in the short run, it’s probably not the best strategy. Imagine if we redirected some of our scorn and reframed events this way: ‘We are outraged that violent rioters have sought to take advantage of the cover of peaceful protesters to destroy those protesters’ neighborhoods!’ It’s worth exploring ways to encourage protesters to distance themselves from the violent elements that they permit to invade their protests. What might happen if we help make it less profitable/ more costly for them to allow the rioters into their midst? Many of us on the right were concerned about criminal justice reform and policies that treat residents of cities like ATMs, but were unable to drive those discussions to the fore because of a flood of shallow digs at protesters, some of whom had VERY REAL CONCERNS.
* Speaking of protests and riots, we need to talk about what to do when police stand down in the face of riotous behavior. Regardless of the occupant of the White House, major cities are controlled mostly by Democrats. Police unions are mostly Democrat-led. When we see streets and bridges and interstates closed down by protesters, what should police do? How quickly do we expect those things to be defused? What tactics are appropriate in doing so? What penalties should be applied to people for disrupting public transportation, thoroughfares, buildings? What do we do with cities whose police forces take little to no action in defense of people or property? This is a conversation that we should have, and with as much of the emotional responses removed as possible. ‘Run ‘em down’ is a nice slogan, but think about where that actually leads. Also, keep in mind that professional agitators have a goal to provoke police activity, then cast themselves as the victims of police brutality, and thus indict the system. That’s ultimately what police have to deal with; more politics and political operations on top of public safety.
* Stop saying that celebrities and public figures you disagree with are ‘irrelevant’ just because you disagree with them. Especially if you live in a right-leaning culture bubble. Just because you don’t know who someone is, or don’t consume someone’s programming now, doesn’t mean they don’t have significant influence in the broader culture. Get. Out. Of. Your. Bubbles.
* The assault on white nationalist Richard Spencer, in which he was punched during an interview at the inauguration, was a bad thing, and you should denounce it. The attack on Spencer is the kind of thing that opens the door for YOUR views to be made punchworthy. More on this later, but there are already people advocating violence against people who disagree with them. We can’t afford to give an inch; thus, even Richard Spencer’s attack must be condemned as an attack on free expression, lest it normalize attacks on you for your views on abortion, climate change,…
* The mantra ‘This Is How You Got Trump’ has been circulating for weeks now, and I’ve seen it mocked as just a successful temper tantrum as well. It’s much deeper than that, and shouldn’t be dismissed so casually. People chose sides – or were pushed into corners – based on a lot of things, including respect for the law and tradition and propriety. Their views on those subjects might have differed from the prevailing culture, but shared values and a feeling of defensiveness for being attacked while they saw themselves as merely decent and hardworking people factored into it. People will only take abuse that they feel is unjust for so long. And as that period drags on, their ability and patience for exploring all options (or better ones) decreases rapidly.
* Most people can’t relate to or empathize with folks who throw cinderblocks through plate glass windows in broad daylight in full view of police. Or who set limos on fire. Or trash cans. OR OTHER PEOPLE. Or allow their children to set protest fires. Or block servicemen from entering an event. Or who toss water (we hope, but it’s still assault) onto people walking in to a party. I can’t reiterate it enough, share these incidents, ask people their views on them, drive home that those who perpetrate those things don’t deserve to prevail. Most people look at these incidents and immediately wonder ‘What would happen to ME if I did that? I’m angry too, but I’ve never done THAT. Why do THEY get away with that?’ Regular people don’t understand those actions, or that fundamental unfairness. Use that.
* In a related note, when given a choice between arguing about or describing bad behavior as listed above, or showing the behavior without editorial comment, always try showing it first. Show it, and let people react unaided to it. When you can turn the words the perpetrators use back on them (like with the hashtag #LoveTrumpsHate) do so. Help demonstrate the contrast with words and actions of the bad actors. This is simply the same Alinsky tactics used daily against people on the right. Serve them right back to them, but not necessarily directly to them; just put the contrast in front of persuadable people. That’s much more effective than a debate or argument. Allow them to show themselves.
* Back to setting other people on fire (!!!!!) think about this. What does an incident like that tell regular people who might want to start expressing themselves politically in public? It tells them DON’T. Because bad things, very bad things, could happen to you if you do. You don’t always need to censor people to shut them up. You can place some compelling examples of the price paid by other people who DO speak out. They’ll do the work for you. That’s heinous, and it’s why protecting speech and prosecuting assault – YES EVEN WATER TOSSED ON OTHER PEOPLE – is so important. Don’t downplay incidents like that. They escalate to things like this:
* Are you asking what the Women’s March was about? Are you baffled by a lack of clarity in their message? If you are, make sure that you are diligent about your own messaging. Message clarity isn’t just for marches and rallies; it’s for every communication you have about your values. It’s easy to do better than the messaging coming out of the Women’s March, but only if you have done your own preparation, only if you’ve seriously thought about the values and issues you champion, only if you’re consistently applying those views.
* As to consistency – if you thought procedures were cool under Obama, but the same procedures are THE END OF THE WORLD under Trump, you should be mocked heartily. And I will be doing that. Conversely, if you thought procedures that were offensive and unconstitutional under Obama are suddenly awesome and wonderful under Trump, you should be mocked heartily. And I will be doing that. In the service of undoing damage done, that’s one thing. I can see the temptation there. Even though all that gets you is people worked up enough on the other side to push back harder next time. But unless those on the right use this next term advocating for – no, INSISTING ON – rolling back executive power, I’m going to be calling people out.
* A lady I know reported that during her trip to DC her hotel went on lockdown while rioters tossed bricks through the windows. Imagine yourself in the midst of that. Imagine you’d come to DC to see the sights on a historic weekend, and access to monuments and the capitol and certain streets was blocked. Imagine that there was a plan to do just that, to jack up your experience because someone else didn’t want you to enjoy the day.
* Also, for people who keep talking about paid protesters and Soros money: if you’re afraid of Soros and what he is able to accomplish, you had better start applying yourself to developing a response. The right doesn’t have this kind of infrastructure to be professional protesters. Why is there no infrastructure to at least support people willing to advocate for issues on the right? Why are there think tanks and policy foundations and action associations on the right, and yet so little cross-support and amplification of talent, so little agreement on how to proceed and which values to uphold? It’s a miracle the right has been able to hold so many elected offices in the face of these challenges. And it’s also no wonder that once in office, there’s so little accomplished in so many areas.
* For that matter, why are the loudest, most divisive, most red-meaty voices the most profitable on the right? I’ve said it a hundred times, the reason you don’t have a ‘Right Leaning Daily Show’ is because there is a huge element of the right that would reject anything less-than-hard-right as a venture worth supporting. The minute that an actual competitive Daily Show clone appeared from people on the right, it would be blasted by profiteers also on the right who would apply a purity test to it and deem it ‘insufficiently conservative’ – which would translate to ‘leftist’ or ‘sellout’. But dangle a regular diet of outrage and frustration – sans solutions – in front of the red-meat right, and you can make a killing, without the messy business of having to work to appeal to a broader audience. Again, it’s a miracle the right has achieved anything. And I’m saying it now, it’s only due to some stunning missteps on the part of the left that it happened.
* Beware of the ‘it’s just property’ defense of riotous behavior. People are always more important than property. However, other people should not be able to destroy property, then hide behind ‘you value things more than people!’ accusations. The right needs to point this out every time it comes up, and force the people in the middle, the bystanders, to hear what the riot defenders are actually advocating: zero protections for private property if they want to destroy or damage that property.
* If this weekend is any indication of what Trump protesters are willing to do to disrupt his administration, what will they do when he actually DOES something that they don’t like? I mean, besides breathe. What protest options will they have left after what they did this weekend? Where do they go from here? What will they do to make an even greater impact the next time? We should be war-gaming that. And getting on their lists so we’re informed ahead of time.
* I’m really struggling with the conflict between ‘What’s Good For The Goose’ and ‘We’re Better Than That’. It’s a difficult line to walk. I need people to understand ‘the shoe is on the other foot’ and I also need to differentiate how I behave with how those on the other side behave. It isn’t easy to have principles.
* You need to understand how things work in extreme left politics. On the right, we often see people on the left as wrong or misguided. On the extreme left, they see us as evil. This is an important distinction, and it’s becoming more clear every day. If you’re opposing someone for being wrong, your action level is focused around educating them, or demonstrating to people that are bystanders to the debate that the person on the left is wrong. Meanwhile, the extreme left, seeing you as evil, will be focused on destroying YOU, not merely your argument. This explains how we go from ‘assaulting a person is wrong’ to ‘punching Nazis is an American pastime!’ And it’s how we go from ‘freedom of expression!’ to ‘we’re going to sue you for having the wrong opinions on climate change!’ Once someone is convinced that you’re evil (and the extreme left is telling the middle that daily), then people can be convinced that opposing you is a righteous act. Further, they can be convinced that doing ANYTHING to you – up to and including violence – is acceptable in the pursuit of righteousness and justice. Busting up your property is FINE in comparison to the evil you’re perpetrating! Terrorizing your children is NOTHING in comparison to the women you’re oppressing! BURNING DOWN YOUR HOME IS AN ACT OF DEFENSE OF OPPRESSED PEOPLES! This is how you got domestic terror bombings in the ‘60s and afterwards. This is what some people believe might be about to happen again. And these people will do it WITH THE APPROVAL OF THEIR OWN CONSCIENCES.
So that’s a sample of the things running around in my head. I hope it spurs you to think about what you intend to do over the next few years as the Trump presidency unfolds. And I hope it helps you to remember this: whatever you do to fight, remember who the real enemy is.