Saturday, November 12, 2016

Our Own Kind of Walls: Some Thoughts About the Election

Yesterday, I was on Twitter having what I thought was a courteous conversation with a conservative from a red state. We were exchanging our perspectives about Hillary Clinton, and while we didn't agree on much, it was nice to hear how people from other parts of the country feel.  But based on what I was reading from her, she believed some widely-disseminated conservative talking points that were not factual; so I tried my best to both refute those talking points and still respect her opinion.

I guess I didn't do a good job of either, because when I went on Twitter today to resume our discussion, I found she had blocked me.  I admit to being disappointed, but not surprised. I've found over the past few months that when it comes to politics, many people on Twitter prefer to only speak to those who agree with them.  I'm sure I'm guilty of this too, although I do try to be polite with anyone I talk to on social media.  But I've repeatedly found that especially when I'm talking to Trump supporters, as soon as I disagree-- even politely-- it quickly leads to my being called insulting names.  (I am not for a minute suggesting that Hillary or Bernie supporters didn't also seem insulting or condescending sometimes; I know it's difficult to speak about emotional issues without one side or the other feeling offended.  And that has happened a lot over the past few months.)

I will leave it to the pundits to discuss why Hillary lost and Trump won.  Meanwhile, reactions to Mr. Trump's election are as polarized as the country is.  Here in the blue states, many of us remain stunned that voters wanted someone with Donald Trump's many flaws and failings to be the president:  as we see it, his wrong-doings over the years (his bigotry, his crudeness, his unwillingness to tell the truth about how little he actually gave to charity, his refusal to pay taxes or release his tax returns, his bullying tactics, etc. etc.) have far exceeded anything Hillary was ever accused of.

But in the world of conservatives-- those who will talk to me, and those who won't, Hillary (no matter what she says or does) is diabolical and dishonest; while Trump (no matter what he says or does) is regarded with awe and admiration.  Millions of red-state voters see Hillary as untrustworthy, while seeing Trump as their champion:  she represents the status quo, while he represents change-- tough talk, positive action, and a new kind of politics that will get things done.  In the blue states, we believe he is a con artist and an egotist, who promises magic to desperate people. In the red states, they believe he is someone they can count on, someone who hears them, who understands them, who will make their lives better.

A long time ago, in 2004, a young and idealistic Barack Obama (then a senator from Illinois) gave a now-famous convention speech in which he said there are not two Americas-- there are not red states and blue states; there are just the United States.  I used to believe he was right, but now I am not so sure.  As Mr. Obama saw first-hand, during the entire eight years of his presidency, Republicans obstructed whatever policy goals he put forward, even those that were previously championed by Republicans.  As we in the blue states see it, President Obama tried his best to reach out to the other side, but they only wanted to deny him even the smallest of victories; and as a result, he was unable to move the country forward the way he wanted to.  In the red states, Republicans are praised for obstructing him-- red state voters believed Republicans in congress should be commended for stopping this president's outrageous policies and saving the country from disaster.  And ironically, the same voters who claimed they wanted change and that's why they voted for Donald Trump also returned nearly all of their senators and representatives to congress.  If the so-called swamp is going to be drained, it will be the same veteran politicians participating in the attempt, including some who have served in congress for many years and know how to protect their own jobs.

Forgive me for being skeptical, but I don't think there will be the kind of change Mr. Trump promised. He has already surrounded himself with lobbyists and veteran political figures, and the policies they want are the same conservative policies past Republican presidents tried to implement-- some to please the pro-business community (big tax cuts for the wealthy), and some to please the Religious Right (defunding Planned Parenthood, trying to overturn Roe v. Wade or stopping gay marriage).  Meanwhile, one thing won't change at any time soon:  red state and blue state voters will continue to talk past each other, talk about each other, and think badly of each other.  Truth be told, Mr. Trump doesn't need to build a wall.  With so much anger, frustration, and discord on both sides, I fear we've walled ourselves off from each other already. And the election of Mr. Trump will only make the distance between us even worse.


  1. Right now, it seems that way Donna. Call them bubbles, silos, walls, whatever, I think we've come to a point where the very social media that's supposed to connect us, does the opposite. Sure, we're connected with like-minded people, but that only reinforces long held prejudices people have. The echo chamber effect is powerful. Add to to that a profound distrust of "The Media" (writ large), and you have people who find websites that confirm their biases. Even the more established media outlets like the New York Times are seeing a lot of cancelled subscriptions because for months their Upshot page (which aggregates polls, does field reporting, and the like) had Hillary Clinton winning the election. Even Donald Trump's campaign said their internal data had it wrong. They were preparing for defeat, and the election turned in their favor.

    If the election had gone the other way, there would be a high probability that so-called militia people would be in the streets with guns -- as they were prepping for.

    Yes, I realize that I just posted something from the NY Times -- which some people do not trust. Still, it's a revealing look at the echo chamber effect FB has in reinforcing information that confirms bias.

  2. I think it's safe to say the vast majority of Canadian onlookers were as stunned with this election as many south the border. Being a dual citizen with a radio background, I have first hand knowledge of folks from all over America. I understand the frustration many feel but I don't understand choosing this man as their agent of change. I'm with you Donna. I hope for the best but I'm not holding my breath

    1. Your comment came through twice, Chris, so I deleted one of them. But I share your concern and am waiting to see how this all plays out. Radio is as polarized as the nation is-- 95% of political talk shows are hosted by right-wing conservatives, and in many cities, the other side is never heard. Progressives need to do a better job of getting their message out, so that voters do hear both sides and can make a judgment based on facts, rather than on talking points.

  3. Very clearly and accurately articulated, Donna. The reality of the office is going to come crushing down on Trump, who had no idea what he was bargaining for. By the end of his term, a course correction will be imminent

  4. Donna, I do agree that progressives need to get their message out. The Mic 92.1 in Madison, Wisconsin is gone and media consolidation means that most radio stations are owned by just six companies. I can now drive hundreds of miles from Chicago and not hear a progressive comment on the issues unless someone calls in to NPR. (Chicago still has the independently-owned progressive station WCPT.)

    Donna, I fear that we are now two separate nations. The violence in this nation and the hateful rhetoric concerns me. My rabbi touched on it this week, which was also the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht. I believe in treating others with respect, but I do not understand the support of Trump. I understand the frustrations of people who believe that the American Dream has become a mirage for them. I understand fearing change. However, I do not think that a billionaire surrounding himself with lobbyists, Washington Insiders, and many of George W. Bush's advisors will be a herald of positive change. I am not sure how we become unified as a nation. I would like to see it, but I am not sure how we truly become one nation again.

    I half-joked this week about wondering when I might have to flee the country. I fear that Donald Trump has brought out some of the worst aspects of the American character and I fear that a man who has sown the wind will reap the whirlwind. He may find that his followers will be furious if he cannot deliver on his promises.

  5. This was a major smackdown of so-called "progressivism". It is high time you arrogant folks admit that you have been wrong all along. I'll let the election speak for itself.Stop accusing folks of racism. Very intellectually weak. But then, that's what I expect on this blog. Drown in your tears folks.

  6. You dumb libs can't ever take the blame for anything. Obama was the pettiest of all presidents. We the sane American people saw through his socialist BS because we hated his policies. Now eight years later, you libs have been kicked to the curb.Get the message? Now shut up, get out of the way and let the grownups take over.

  7. I’m noticing that a lot of you aren’t graciously accepting the fact that your candidate lost.
    In fact you seem to be posting even more hateful things about those of us who voted for Trump.
    Some of you are apparently “triggered”.
    Because you are posting how “sick” you feel about the results.
    How did this happen you ask.
    You created “us” when you attacked our freedom of speech.
    You created “us” when you attacked our right to bear arms.
    You created “us” when you attacked our Christian beliefs.
    You created “us” when you constantly referred to us as racists.
    You created “us” when you constantly called us xenophobic.
    You created “us” when you told us to get on board or get out of the way.
    You created “us” when you forced us to buy health care and then financially penalized us for not participating.
    You created “us” when you allowed our jobs to continue to leave our country.
    You created “us” when you attacked our flag.
    You created “us” when you confused women’s rights with feminism.
    You created “us” when you began to emasculate men.
    You created “us” when you decided to make our children soft.
    You created “us” when you decided to vote for progressive ideals.
    You created “us” when you attacked our way of life.
    You created “us” when you decided to let our government get out of control.
    You created “us” the silent majority.
    You created “us” when you made BLM and hurt people that said all lives matter
    You created “us” when you called us “sellouts” for being black and supporting Trump
    You created “us” when we were forced to make cakes for gay weddings or get sued
    You created “us” when you said a tranny man could be next to my daughters in public restrooms!
    You created “us” when my kids couldn’t get into a class because they had room only for illegals
    You created “us” when my kids were the only American English speakers in their class
    You created “us” when you tried to make us believe “shout your abortion” was a cool hash tag
    You created “us” when my husband started teaching and he got told he made too much money when we tried to get help, even though we are struggling
    You created “us” when you said “lazy American women (stay at home moms) are what’s wrong with the economy”
    And we became fed up and we pushed back and spoke up.
    And we did it with ballots, not bullets!!
    I am tired of all the BS going on.
    The election is over, so take it like the adults you are suppose to be!
    I won’t argue with you over this post, so don’t bother trying.

    1. There is so much myth and misinformation and hate in your reply that I don't even know where to begin. But given that you posted anonymously, I get the impression you just want to gloat and make sweeping generalities, so please proceed. I don't think I wrote anything hateful or rude in my blog post, but evidently you are the one who was triggered, and what came out was a slew of stereotypes and false statements. I am sorry you feel so much hate towards those of us who are different from you, but I can't tell you how to feel. I also can't refute the many myths and untruths in the meme you sent, because you seem to really need to believe them. As Donald Trump (your hero) would say, "Sad."

    2. Are you aware that Ms. Clinton received over 2 million more votes than Mr. Trump? So....stop hating people who have different opinions & try to understand that we also have freedom of speech. Yes, freedom of speech is your favorite catchphrase these days but you don't like it when someone speaks out in opposition to what you think or believe. That's the beauty of this country, I have the right to disagree with you & say so. I have the right to criticize the government when I don't agree with what they do. And when you say things like, "if you don't like it leave" all I can say to you is this: this is MY country just as much as it is your country. I have all the same rights as you & I will exercise those rights just like you do, only with a little more class & a lot less judgements & name calling. If you want to live in a country where that isn't allowed feel free to leave, otherwise get off your high horse & deal with it. You say you want change but applaud those who blocked every effort at change over the last 6 years & vote them back into office. We just had the most people travel for the Thanksgiving holiday in 9 years & record breaking black Friday & cyber Monday purchases. I would like to hear how you explain that & still say our economy is in horrible shape because of President Obama. By the way, that is his proper title & name. Most people who agree with you on these things won't even acknowledge the proper respect for the office of the President of the United States. President-elect Donald Trump, yes I can afford the office the respect it deserves, has done nothing but cause the divide in this country to grow. You, my dear, are proof of that.

  8. Cop-out! Please address my points. Does my view mean anything outside of your constricted cult like belief system? Take each of my points and address them individually.

  9. ......Republicans obstructed whatever policy goals he put forward, even those that were previously championed by Republicans. As we in the blue states see it, President Obama tried his best to reach out to the other side, but they only wanted to deny him even the smallest of victories; and as a result, he was unable to move the country forward the way he wanted to. In the red states, Republicans are praised for obstructing him-- red state voters believed Republicans in congress should be commended for stopping this president's outrageous policies and saving the country from disaster...... Bullshit. Provide proof.

    1. I think you are reading my blog wrong-- but you've done that before, Tbone. I was giving the opinions that both sides have, and trying to show why each does not understand the other. I think you just proved my point.

    2. Don't you find it hypocritical of the left to accuse Bannon of anti-Semitism (which is false) yet Give Keith Ellison a free pass? I sure do.

    3. How are they giving Ellison a pass? There were numerous articles written about it. But consider the difference: Bannon has never changed. He remains a bigot, based on his own words and writings. Ellison absolutely did change. I know many folks in the Jewish community in Minneapolis (I used to do a lot of business there) and they say he is a major friend of their community and they support him 100%.

  10. That's funny alan dershowitz went to bat for him. I guess he is a liar huh? You are pretty weak. Everyone who doesn't agree with you is a bigot. STFU, you lost the election. Get over it. Pretty pathetic what is going on in the streets. Those are your fellow libs.

    1. Umm, you asked for my opinion, I gave it, and then you say STFU? Wow, that's kind of rude. I guess all you want to do is cherry-pick stories that support your point of view and not even consider that there's another side. Fine. I guess we're done talking.

  11. Exactly. Liberalism is a cult and you are hooked.

    1. So is right-wing conservativism, my friend, and so are you. Sad. (But I still like you, as long as you can be courteous.)

  12. Read this and comment:

  13. I promise to be courteous with you from now on as you have been with me.

    1. My reply is below. I welcome your courteous comments.

  14. So, this opinion article you asked me to read is (sad to say) another example of what political scientists and media critics call "confirmation bias": it mainly confirms what your side (conservatives) already happen to believe. It relies on one-sided generalities, and seems to mainly be a restatement of Michael Savage's view that "liberalism" is a mental disorder, or as this article calls it, a cult.

    I mean, I'm a center-leftie and I find the assertions bizarre: according to the author, I am supposedly somewhere between a Commie and a Marxist and I tend to be either an atheist or an agnostic. Totally false. (I am a former chaplain, who regularly reads the Bible, and I'll hold my patriotism up against anyone else's. Both of my step-daughters served in the military, my father was a decorated combat veteran in WW2, and I have never taught my students to hate America-- to question what its leaders do is not a sign of hatred, but rather, a sign of respect.) Further, not all liberals think alike, and pointing out the extremists on either side says nothing about what the average person thinks. I continue to insist that there are places where both liberals and conservatives can find common ground, but not if we continue to insult each other's differences.

    Not only do the author's generalizations not represent me; they do not represent any of the center-lefties that I know or work with. In fact, I know quite a few liberals who have served in our military, who attend church or synagogue or mosque, and who love this country deeply. I even know a few who own guns and enjoy sport-shooting. This article tries to reduce us all to some extremist stereotype, which is never useful; plus there are no reliable statistics to support the claims the author makes about what so-called "liberals" believe. It's just his opinion that only conservatives love the country or love God or have the correct political views, and that liberals are somehow the enemy of all that is good. That may make conservatives feel better in a changing world, and it's great for talk show hosts who love to rail against the mythical and dangerous lib-rull. But in the real world, we're people just like you, and I fail to see how stereotyping us and then demonizing the stereotype moves the country forward.

    Interestingly, we on the left see the rise of Mr. Trump as the same thing, but from the conservative side-- Trumpism is a movement with disdain for fact-checking, one that (as we see it) features authoritarian obedience to the leader (Trump), the willingness to harshly lash out at the other side because anyone who disagrees is seen as the enemy, and a refusal to accept any other points of view or allow any questioning of what the leader says-- even when what he says is demonstrably false. So if liberalism is a cult, then by that standard, Trumpism is just another example of a cult too. I don't expect you to accept my assessment, but I do welcome a chance to debate courteously-- although blog comments may not be the best place for that conversation. Anyway, I'm off to observe the Jewish Sabbath now. Much love to you.