Monday, October 24, 2016

October 24, 2106--A Progressive's Dinner

At a gathering of a group of friends the other night we were talking about . . . what else.

It was after the Billy Bush tape had been in wide circulation and the consensus in the room of progressives was that this would be the end, finally, of . . .

No one was even comfortable pronouncing his name.

And then we slipped into our own not-really-that-funny version of Saturday Night Live where all of us played The Donald role. No one took on Hillary.

After a few more drinks and lots of satirical laughter one of my friends turned to give me a hard time about some of my blog postings. It didn't take long for a few others, equally well fortified, to join in.

It seems the problem is that they feel in my efforts to "understand" the reasons so many are supporting Trump, in spite of his many outrages, I was lending credibility--one said "legitimacy"--to his candidacy. By taking them and, by association, him seriously.

"He doesn't deserve to be taken seriously," another said.

"What should I be doing?" I asked, a bit agitated, "Turn my blog into a platform of support for Hillary?" This came out hotter than I intended.

There was some indication that some thought this was in fact what I should be doing. The stakes were that high. Fascism was threatening. It was not time for nuance or analytics. There would be time for that after the election. What's called for is partisanship. Every vote counts. I should be helping to bring out potential Clinton voters.

At least that's what I thought was being implied. All hands on political deck until he is defeated, gone and forgotten. So we can settle into four more years of what we have had for the past eight. Not perfect, but better than the alternative. Then there would be time to tweak Hillary's agenda. But only after a few more liberals are appointed to the Supreme Court.

"But shouldn't who are about to win recognize that Hillary will not just be our president but Trump's people's as well?"

"They're bigots, homophobic, Islamophobes, misogynists, white supremacists. You really want to have anything to do with people of this kind?"

"In many ways, I'd prefer not too," I confessed, "But since they're Americans too and there are apparently almost enough of them to elect a president--though I've also been writing that there are lots of Trump people who are none of these things--shouldn't we, who call ourselves liberals, who pride ourselves on understanding life's subtleties, shouldn't we be making an effort to understand more about what is tearing our country apart so that maybe we can help heal some of the breeches and distrust."

"It's a waste of time," a friend said. "These people are not interested in changing. They're dug in in their beliefs."

"I know, Hillary called them deplorables who are unredeemable. That may be what she thinks--those were her words--but I don't. I believe in the possibility of change for almost everyone. But that can only come, I feel, from a deep and empathetic understanding. It may be unpleasant and messy but that's what my definition of being liberal--minded means--being open to even listen to ideas we hate. Especially that. And if we don't take a step in this direction we shouldn't expect those who have very different views will take the initiative."

"This all sounds good but is too unrealistic to make anyone feel optimistic."

"Let me try out one more idea. How many of us have contributed money to Clinton's campaign?"

"Does giving money to Bernie count?" Everyone laughed but only two of ten indicated that they had contributed to Hillary.

"What about active electioneering? Like planning to go to a purple state and canvassing or making phone calls?" No one had done or planned to do that.

"That goes for me too," I said, "I haven't given her any money and I haven't been making phone calls to undecided voters. I'm not proud of that. But I've tried to read everything, talk to people like tonight, and I even to communicate with Trump supporters. But that's all pretty passive considering what's at stake. Having fessed up to that, it's hard for me to feel good about my open mindedness. But one final thing and then let's get back to having fun."

"As soon as possible," one said.

"So you have nothing but dismissive and disparaging things to say about Trump voters?"

"Don't they deserve it? Have you looked at who shows up as his rallies?"

"I do look at who they are. And that's my final point--they also look like those who show up at military recruiting offices. You're not OK with them as voters, but how do you feel about them as soldiers in our volunteer army?" Silence.

"How many of us have friends or family members who signed up to go to Afghanistan, Iraq, or just to be in the army?" More silence. Eye contact had broken off.

"Sorry to bring you down," I said. And to lighten things up again asked, "How do you like Alec Baldwin's Trump?"

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