We are, in very real sense, in the midst of a civil “cold” war in this country. The far right has seized power either through manipulating the public to vote for them or by manipulating the elections themselves with help from Russia. Progressives are not the masters of violent behavior, we’re not the ones who have been storing caches of guns in our basements and bomb shelters for the last eight years, we are, as a group, far more civilized, more educated, more compassionate and more forgiving. It’s easy to forget those qualities sometimes, especially when you’re marching in demonstrations or battling trolls on the internet, but it’s those qualities that will turn the undecided voters to our cause, and those qualities which we want to use as the foundations of our country in the 21st century.
The last year has been a tumultuous one to say the least. There has been a lot of passion and anger from all sides of these debates and it becomes very tempting to hate everyone who voted for the opposition. I confess, it still boggles my mind that over 58 million people voted for Trump, I honestly expected him to lose by the biggest landslide in US history. But 58 million people did vote for him, and the bottom line is, most of these people aren’t really evil. Misguided, ignorant of their own biases, sure, but not necessarily evil. Many of them will become disillusioned over the next four years, hopefully within the next two. It will take patience, reasoning and most of all, kindness to win them over to our side and not have them reflexively vote Republican again.
There are of course the virulent racists and homophobes, who will be constantly on the attack and as unlikely as it seems, sometimes even they can have a change of heart. These transformations won’t be accomplished with taunts and insults, those are the weapons of the opposition; we have to be better than that. President Obama was a great role model for responding to critics, he made his points without resorting to insults. The trick is to stay calm, stick to the facts, and if the person is open to it, show them compassion.
Every statement we make has a ripple effect. You’re not only speaking to one angry conservative, you’re reaching their family and their friends, some of whom didn’t vote in the last election, these are voters we want to win over to progressive causes, if they perceive us as no different from our conservative counterpart it will only deter them from getting involved.
Many Trump voters are about to lose their healthcare, or see their Medicare benefits slashed. It’s tempting to be smug, to say “serves ya right” but that will only cause them to dig their heels in harder and vote for the next Republican tool who comes along. Right wing media such as Fox News have been demonizing the left for years. So even though we’ve had 6 years of congressional gridlock due to the Republican majority, somehow it’s still “Obama’s fault.” Having their insurance either stripped away or the premiums skyrocketing until they’re unaffordable is the kind of wake up call that might shake off the media hypnosis. With Republicans running all three branches of government and trumpeting (pun intended) their repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it will be hard for even the most uninformed voter to blame that one on the democrats.
There will be other opportunities as well. As Republicans strip Medicare, Social Security and every other part of the social safety nets they can dismantle, more and more people will realize that they were duped. So many of these people said they wanted “change” but this was not the sort of change that they bargained for. In two years every congressional seat and 33 senate seats will be up for re-election. If we want to win those seats, we need to bring these voters over to our side. We need to sympathize with them when they realize they were conned. We need to extend a hand rather than pointing a finger, and help them realize that progressive causes are for the benefit of the entire country rather than just the select few. Perhaps some of them will feel less threatened by the idea of a homogenized America, where we are all equal regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or belief system. This is the America we should be creating in the 21st century, hopefully it’s the America we will see emerging four years from now.