If the title of this article does not spook you, then nothing will. Donald Trump is on track to be re-elected president of the United States. Why? Because most Democrats are scared to campaign on our values, while a smaller percentage has always been the left rail of the rightward-moving track.
A few weeks ago I posted an article on my website by Jim Rigby titled “How to hear what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is saying” that included the following paragraphs about what Donald Trump understands that we don’t, not so much.
She speaks as a Person of Color: Rep. Ocasio-Cortez makes many white liberals and conservatives alike uncomfortable because they want racial justice but don’t want to understand that justice will mean a major redistribution of power in this nation. What is so bad about a young Woman of Color who has such a knack for making us white liberals uncomfortable enough to feel the pain our white privilege causes others?
She is speaking “inter-sectionally”: in other words, she thinks about how all the forms of oppression overlap. She is not fooled by a politician who claims to be feminist but will bomb women and children in another country or one that leaves Women of Color behind. She will not accept legislation that makes most healthy people comfortable but leaves out people with disabilities. She isn’t being divisive, we are the ones being divisive when our idea of humanity doesn’t include EVERYONE.
Those few paragraphs are the key to either our win or Donald Trump’s re-election. If we understand the core of those paragraphs, then and only then can we build a lasting coalition that is sure to win not only the presidency but the House, the Senate, and legislatures throughout the country.
Right now we look at polls of the people who feel they have some stake in voting. Imagine if we got most eligible people to the polls.
Republican think the voters who support them are stupid. They are not. Like most voters, they are either lazy or too darn busy or preoccupied with life to do any sort of deep dive into educating themselves.
Democrats are not unlike Republicans in that we do not think much of our voters. When a Democratic pundit makes a statement such as, “People like Medicare for All until they find out how much it will cost or that they will lose their private insurance,” it proves we think our voters are stupid. And by the way, our voters are not just Democrats. Our voters are the entire middle class and the poor, even those currently voting Republican.
I live in a very red Trump-voting Republican area. Over the years I have spoken to thousands of people both in person, on the air, and through blogs. I show interest in people, irrespective of ideology, and for most there is reciprocity in an honest conversation. I first do a lot of listening, even if sometimes I get my sensibilities offended. I have many discussions with people that, because I first show respect unconditionally, are impactful and turn out very well.
I do not think I have ever convinced a Republican to become a Democrat, though many have professed that they did so; but I believe in appeasing developing friendships. What I know I have done many times is persuade them to vote their interests.
The Democratic-progressive coalition is vast. It lends itself necessarily to identity politics. The one thing that Democrats profess but many times seem not to believe intrinsically is that we all want the same thing. For historical reasons, the path to equality and access to success has been unfairly weighted based on identities. We have an economic and justice system that can mitigate these.
The Republican narrative that has been successful is that mitigation occurs at the expense of endangered white people. In other words, the success of other identities is at the expense of white people. Unfortunately, it’s not only Republicans that feel that way.
Rigby’s most important statement in the article was the following.
And we liberals need to make damn sure that what most offends us … about Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is not that she is disrespectful and arrogant, but that she is who we pretend to be, but really aren’t.
Donald Trump campaigned not only on a pseudo-white-supremacy model, but also on what was seen as a reasonably progressive platform in the eyes of many struggling people. He just outright lied. But Trump convinced enough in the right places. Trump ultimately, in a carnal manner, understood that voters accepted hope from Obama and, to a lesser extent, they received it from him. The thing is, many are still hanging on to that hope even as the tax cut scam has robbed them, the tariffs are nothing but a tax on them, and deregulation will make them sicker.
Democrats and progressives must remember the definition of insanity. We must not continue to do the same things and expect a different result. President Obama won because he defied the status quo. He did run as a change agent. Most importantly, he engaged broadly and early. I remember going to the homes of many Republicans in my town who were having house parties because their children at Texas State University and the University of Texas had read his books. This country was not ready for a black man named Barack Hussein Obama. But what the American people believed, above and beyond their intrinsic prejudices, was that he could make their lives better.
Democrats and progressives must not be scared to make the leap. Republicans are scared that we will. That is why they are attempting to make Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and many of the progressive Democrats toxic, with the help of the Democrats Rigby speaks about. Should we lean in and make the case to ALL Americans fearlessly and in a respectful manner as we listen to their wants, we cannot lose. The problem is that we have a core that is resistant. And because of that, I can definitely see Trump 2020. So if we want to win, we’d better start leaning in now.