I hope the previous installment, “Mueller’s Investigation Plus a Big “Blue Wave” Will Not Suffice,” persuaded readers of the necessity of addressing the problem of the “Trump 37%.”
It would take some effort to imagine a presidency less deserving of approval than Donald Trump’s: it could hardly be clearer that Trump’s wielding the power of the presidency is doing great damage to the nation.
Given the threat that Trump represents, it is essential, even urgent, that whatever is wrong with that 37% be addressed because: a) that this 37% sustains Trump’s power by keeping Republicans in Congress in line behind him; and b) even if the forces defending the rule of law were eventually to bring Trump down, the notoriously vindictive Trump would likely weaponize his supporters to wage a war of retaliation against the American system; and c) if the consciousness of these people has been darkened enough to give us Trump at this point, who knows how much darker what they might support could be if their left to the propagandists of the right-wing destructive force for another generation.
Nonetheless, as I said in concluding, despite the necessity of this task Liberal America has shown almost no interest in taking it on. As I asked previously: Why does Liberal America continue to concede the 37% to their deceivers and manipulators?
I’ve heard liberals give three main reasons for not engaging with the 37%.
One reason liberals give – and for the short run, this is the best of them, and one I entirely agree with – is that the most urgent task is to wrest control of Congress from the Republicans, who – in order to defend this President — have betrayed their oath to defend our constitutional order. (The recent disgraceful “report” of the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, and the still more recent threats to impeach an Assistant Attorney General for following established procedure, are proof enough of that!)
Any hope of an appropriate constitutional check on a flagrantly lawless President requires that control of Congress switch from Republican to Democratic hands.
So, in this perilous time for American democracy, this coming election does indeed need to be the top priority. And no “rescue mission” for the 37% — to bring them back closer to reality and to the better angels of their nature — should distract from that.
It should be said, however, that — even with the Blue Wave as the paramount goal for the moment — it is worth considering whether there is anything at all that might be done in the direction of the 37% that would enhance the strength of that Wave.
There are conservatives exhorting their fellow conservatives to use the coming election to vote out the Republicans– – in order to protect the most fundamental American values.
In a recent article in the Atlantic, conservatives Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes write that
- because “the rule of law is a threshold value in American politics,” and
- because “the Republican Party has proved unable or unwilling (mostly unwilling) to block assaults by Trump … on the rule of law,” therefore
- “the best thing Republicans can do for their party is vote against it.”
Although Rauch and Wittes have no love of the Democratic Party, they say that, unlike today’s Republican Party, “the Democratic Party is not a threat to our democratic order.” So they call for Republicans to “vote … against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).”
They are clearly right, but liberals will understandably be skeptical about how many in the 37% will respond to that patriotic call. Even lifelong conservatives who raise the alarm about today’s Republican Party often seem to be regarded, in the eyes of those they seek to persuade, as having gone over to “the enemy.”
And if sane conservatives are heard that way by many in the 37%, how much chance will liberal voices have of any quick impact?
The dogmatism that characterizes the Republican base makes it unlikely that minds can be changed in so short a time. (The goal whose achievement is most realistic to hope for between now and November is that the right sort of messaging will demoralize them, sapping their motivation to go to the trouble to vote.)
Hence, I see the social movement to go after the 37% as something for which preparations might be made now, but for which most action should come after the mid-term elections.
A second reason I’ve heard from liberals, declining to address the 37%, is that “They hate us, so why should we help?”
It’s true that the hostility from the right toward liberals has been palpable and disturbing. (We often hear that for many on the right, it is sufficient for something to be upsetting to liberals for them to be for it.) Nonetheless, we all — liberals and conservatives — share a country. Which means that we inescapably share a destiny. Which further means that liberals’ (enlightened) self-interest should provide sufficient motivation to bring our fellow citizens back to a more sane, more constructive frame of mind.
Another answer is that “love thine enemies” is more than a spiritual accomplishment. It’s also the key to overcoming enmity and turning conflict into some cooperative endeavor to make the world a better place. Divide and conquer has been the strategy of the dark force that’s taken over the right, and the nation’s well-being requires that the present bitter divisions be bridged somehow, someday.
When people hate us, how does one come from love?
It helps to recognize that our enemy is not the 37% but rather the destructive force which has victimized them. “Victimized” because they have had the misfortune that a destructive force that exploits their weaknesses arose in their lifetime —to their detriment as well as the nation’s.
In another time, their role in America’s politics might have been constructive. But, in our times, the force that has taken over the conservative side of America depends for its power on a strategy that uses propaganda to persuade them of a false picture of the world and to cultivate their hatreds and fears. Their (mis)leaders have brought out their worst selves, in order to gain and wield power for unworthy ends.
The spiritual space into which their deceivers have led them—a space where one’s fellow citizens are one’s enemies, where gratification is to be had from warring against “the other” rather than in joining together to move the nation forward – is not a happy one. Hence victims.
(The question of how to perceive the 37% in moral terms will be taken up in installment # 7, “The Role of the 37% in the Adverse Shift in the Balance Between Good and Evil in America.”)
And that leaves the third – and strongest — reason that liberals give for making no effort to engage people on “the other side”: that any such effort is futile. The political culture on the right, liberals observe, is impermeable. The people in that political subculture are deaf to evidence and reason.
This argument, supported though it is by a great deal of empirical evidence, has one major weakness: Liberal America has never made much of an effort.
During the quarter century that these Americans were being (mis)led into a state of thought and feeling in which Trump could seem like a reasonable choice for President, Liberal America hardly engaged their fellow Americans on the right at all.
Without having made anything like a truly powerful, concerted effort, how could anyone say for sure what’s possible? The seemingly impermeable right-wing shell that does not break from the tap-tap-tap of a ballpeen hammer might break when a well-swung sledge hammer is brought to bear. (More on this later.)
Righting what’s wrong now is doubtless more difficult than it would have been years ago. (“Stitch in time.”) But I suspect that the real reasons Liberal America doesn’t take on this task are the same as why they forfeited the battle for hearts and minds back when the darkness first started taking over.
And those reasons had to do with the defects on the liberal, not just the conservative, side.