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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Liberals Should STOP RANTING, Seek Out Silent Trump Voters
I am an urban, millennial woman, and I voted for Trump. Now, I'm afraid to explain my reasoning to an angry, vitriolic left that will not listen to me.
I’m a graduate-educated, millennial generation, urban-dwelling white woman. Not just that, I’m also a women’s health nurse practitioner and I’ve cared for women of many different religions, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.
I’m also a silent Donald Trump supporter.
I admit, I have enjoyed indulging in some schadenfreude as I watched the aftermath of the presidential election implode on social media. But that wore off quickly. Now, the fearmongering and widespread terror plaguing my Facebook news feed just makes me sad.
I haven’t posted a thing on social media. For that matter, I don’t intend on disclosing my vote to others anytime soon—first and foremost because I think it might jeopardize my career, and I sincerely fear people would not listen or seek to understand my rationale. I hope I’m proven wrong.
Liberals Don’t Even Try To Understand Trump’s Supporters
I don’t claim to speak for all urban white women who voted for Trump. But I’m sure I’m not alone in my astonishment at the allegations thrown around the social media echo chamber, accusing us of being racist, self-hating misogynists.
I understand many of you opposed Trump and feel afraid and frustrated, or just saddened and confused. I know it is easy to lash out right now. But I don’t want to be subjected to vitriolic tirades by people who claim to practice tolerance, then project fury whenever their worldview is challenged.
To quote William Buckley Jr., “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”
So I hope you will be so kind as to allow me to keep my anonymity while trying to shed light on some of the questions and claims made by adamant anti-Trumpers that have populated my news feed for the last few days.
The Left Doesn’t Really Understand Or Practice Tolerance
Some anti-Trumpers say, “Don’t tell me to be tolerant of Trump and his supporters. Tolerance is accepting that someone doesn’t like vanilla ice cream. Not that someone doesn’t like black people.”
But the allegation that Trump supporters do not like black people is a straw man argument. I understand that tensions are running high right now, but describing all Trump supporters in this way is analogous to claiming all Muslims are terrorists. Both are asinine allegations.
Tolerance is not padding your social circles with people who look different from you, or who have made different life choices. You may have black friends, Muslim friends, and gay friends. But I suspect these differences are only skin deep. How different from each other are you really? Do you have the same hobbies, enjoy the same sort of media, and work in similar industries? Do you expose each other to uncomfortable ideas, or do you by and large agree on political matters?
To put it succinctly: do you ever find yourself in the company of people who find goodness in completely different things than you do? Are you ever tempted to judge them for the values they abide by and choices they make? If not, it’s unlikely that you actually have to “tolerate” anything about these people. If you’re not tempted to judge, you are not practicing tolerance.
Tolerance is about existing in a place of discomfort and disagreement. Much like other qualities like courage, patience, or fairness, tolerance is a virtue. But for so many issues out there—gay marriage, abortion, immigration—there is a subset of liberals (the illiberal left) who believe there is a right and wrong way to view such issues. Those who hold the wrong view are deemed undeserving of tolerance. May the gods of progressivism have mercy on their bigoted souls.
Many of my left-leaning friends don’t see how other people could have valid rational reasons for opposing gay marriage, abortion, or open-border immigration policies, and still be good people. This is not tolerance.
Holding Liberal Views Is Often a Sign of Privilege
I understand that the liberal worldview is very compelling. I, too, used to strongly identify with the left-wing agenda. But now, I think it distances us from what it truly means to do good deeds and be good people. I have come to the conclusion that for many, possessing liberal views is sign of privilege.
I remember feeling I was doing my civic duty just by changing my Facebook profile picture to a Planned Parenthood emblem or the Pride Flag. I was supporting policies I believed were for the greater good—but was able to do this without making any personal sacrifice. I could pat myself on the back and march off to spread awareness, a crusader for social justice and humanism out to convert the infidels. I never asked myself whether the policies I promoted might make some people’s lives quite difficult. I never considered the fact that these “infidels” might have different, yet equally valid ideas of what it means to be a good person and live a good life.
Over time, I’ve realized all policies have tradeoffs. Take immigration: in most big cities, liberal immigration policies may not directly affect many of us all that much. By supporting open border policies, we get to feel good about America’s role in being a global sanctuary for people everywhere.
But in communities where immigrants compete for jobs with working class Americans just trying to get by, immigration can drive wages down, reduce the quality of public education, and otherwise make people feel alienated from their own communities. The sentiments that many liberals construe as racism and nativism do not come from a place of hatred, but from a place of hardship, or at the very least sympathy for our fellow countrymen.
Indeed, studies show that many of Trump’s diehard supporters are not victims of these dramatic social changes themselves, but are people who live in proximity to them. They oppose policies that they see benefitting strangers at the expense of people they know and love. In their minds, this makes them loyal patriots who stick up for their fellow citizens: nothing more and nothing less. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt does a brilliant job explaining this phenomenon.
It worries me when social justice warriors swirl their $15 glasses of wine in swanky urban restaurants and talk condescendingly about the backward hatred of rural, working America. There is nothing progressive in leaving half your country behind.
Liberals Like Their Relativistic Echo Chambers
Some anti-Trumpers are asking, “Where are the reasonable Trump voters? If they truly are not racist and misogynist, why aren’t they defending themselves? And why haven’t they spoken out more condemning the violence against minorities occurring since Trump’s win?”
Understand that for many of us, this is essentially analogous to asking us to jump into a pit of vipers. The anti-Trumpers are revved up and ready to rip us to shreds in an emotional tirade if we try to explain our perspectives, or otherwise question the dominant liberal narrative. Thanks, but no thanks.
We met academic peers so entrenched in culture and moral relativism, most had lost the capacity to make actual arguments.
Besides, being conservative in a sea of liberals has taught us the art and power of nuance. We endeavor to get our points across by subtly questioning our opponents’ assumptions, while letting them take things to their logical conclusion if they are open-minded enough to do so. We often find that there is no other way: our left-leaning peers prefer to make their points through indignant grandstanding, bitter accusations of moral failure, or dramatic expressions of personal offense.
This is not a new phenomenon. My husband and I both have spent the last several years in graduate programs at top tier universities, and found ourselves in yet another echo chamber—this time in academia—where students were taught not how to think but what to think, guided by faculty with blatant liberal agendas.
We met with academic peers so entrenched in culture and moral relativism, most had lost the capacity to make actual arguments. They adamantly resisted passing judgment on anything (save those who did not share their relativism). When confronted with absolutist views and moral objectivism, they resentfully claimed the challenger was at best unenlightened, at worst some type of —ist. They had come to believe that the strength of their argument was directly proportional to how offended and indignant they might feel.
It’s Not Fair To Paint All Trump’s Voters As Racist Bigots
Both in her timely 2015 book, “The Silencing,” and in an article pertaining to the election, Kirstin Powers articulates the insidious nature of limiting intellectual dissent on university campuses. She recounts one debate with liberal commentator Sally Kohn, who claimed, “If [conservatives on campus] feel like they can no longer speak against positive social change, good.” The richness of a diversity of ideas—and the possibility that progressive social change is not always positive—is clearly lost on Ms. Kohn.
So while my husband and I had much we wanted to say on campus, we both agreed that in-depth conversations were best conducted in person—not by overtly sticking our necks out in public forums.
Of course I don’t condone the violence that seems to be running rampant since last Tuesday night’s verdict. The language and actions of these people is very hateful. But it seems to be coming from both sides. And it appears that some of the most disturbing acts have actually turned out to be fabrications or misunderstandings—like the man who hung the Nazi flag over his San Francisco estate as an act of anti-Trump protest (I’d kind of like to know why he had a Nazi flag in the first place?).
We want to stop feeling silenced and condemned for having alternative viewpoints.
These actions scare me, because they indicate that people are deeply invested in a narrative where a Trump presidency automatically means intolerance, racism, and misogyny. It suggests that whenever something appears to support this narrative, people will spread rumors or point fingers without bothering to get the full story. Moreover, the violence and civil unrest in many cities—including Portland and Oakland—seems counterproductive on every level.
This is not to suggest that there aren’t people who do intentionally racist, hurtful things. Over the past few days, some may have felt legitimized in telling themselves “Trump won, now I’m going to throw my weight around,” and this is never okay.
However, I fear that many delude themselves with pre-cooked narratives about racism and bigotry, and unfairly use this brush to paint all those who voted for Trump. The vast majority of Trump’s supporters vehemently condemn racist and sexist acts. Most of his supporters don’t even like Trump himself all that much—according to RealClear Politics’ last analysis before the election, Trump’s average unfavorability ratings were sky-high: 58.5 percent of Americans found him rather unsavory, while only 37 percent appear to actually like the guy. But Trump has put political correctness on the defensive, and this was the greatest factor in my choice to vote for him.
Liberals Are Wrong About Political Correctness
Some anti-Trumpers have said, “You want PC culture to end—that’s why you voted for Trump? But political correctness makes minorities safer from people in this country who would target them.”
Let me be clear. We don’t want to end political correctness so that we can say hateful things. We want to stop feeling silenced and condemned for having alternative viewpoints. We want to articulate thought-provoking, uncomfortable truisms, and not be told, “you can’t say that,” without even a modest effort at explaining why.
This includes receiving society’s blessing to pass judgment on people who behave in hurtful ways. Social judgment is not wrong. We’ve all been given the human capacity to pass judgment, and it can be a powerful motivator in encouraging tolerance. Instead of constantly fearing the Liberal Thought Police, we want to build societies with strong institutions that produce people who can see and value the dignity in all human beings. Among the many salutary results: men who respect women, a societal rejection of bigotry, and the promotion of human behaviors that lead to happiness and success.
Political correctness cannot do this.
The danger of political correctness is that it serves as a meager surrogate for human decency. It enforces broad, superficial rules that silence people with differing opinions about human nature. It enforces the status quo, without providing any moral framework as to why.
Political Correctness Doesn’t Cultivate Decency
When political correctness rules the day, people are not taught that it’s wrong to behave in offensive ways on civic or moral grounds. We respond to the person who screams racial slurs on the bus by clutching our pearls and crying, “you can’t say that”—but we refuse to discuss the substance of why it is wrong in the first place. You could program a robot to abide by the all the rules of political correctness, and it would be quite a polite robot, but this does not mean it would be fundamentally moral or good.
We need to confidently appeal to the values that undergird this great nation—liberty, equality, and the dignity of all people. We should be unafraid to judge that these are superior values, and denounce hurtful behavior that is inconsistent with these values. Silencing people does not change minds; it only creates the façade of a civil society, while deep resentment festers under the surface.
We need to confidently appeal to the values that undergird this great nation.
The solution? Let people say what they will. Shame them publicly for cruel, offensive statements that are inconsistent with American values. We cannot come together and fight incivility if it is shrouded in PC’s cloak. We need to dig deeper and challenge ourselves to understand the moral foundations of why this behavior is wrong.
When confronting people who disagree with you, the best tactic is to prove why they’re wrong instead of shutting them up. Have enough faith in your own arguments to welcome dissenting opinions; if your ideas are truly superior, it will show. No need to get emotional, indignant, or defensive. As John Stuart Mill stated much more eloquently than I:
“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
So please seek out people who feel as I do. Seek out the silent majority off of social media. Ask those who are silent—in person—what they think, if you really want to understand. But make damn sure you are prepared to listen.