October 12, 2016

Liberals: We’ve been Operating on Mistaken Assumptions.

Donald Trump

I’m unapologetically liberal.

Sometimes it’s hard to live blue in a red state and social media doesn’t make it any easier. As you are aware, the entire internet is currently flooded with political posts. Personally, I don’t want to escape it, so much as I desperately need to understand why so many of my friends and family are posting non-stop Trump support.

It is no secret that Trump continues to make outrageously offensive comments regarding everyone from womento black people, Muslims to veterans, the disabled to the able-bodied, and people who simply don’t look like super models. No one is denying that he says these things, except maybe his Vice President nominee, but that’s another story.

Like many liberals, I’ve been unable to reconcile the loving, caring, kind, and intelligent people I know my friends and family to be, with the fact that they support Donald Trump. It seems to defy logic.

Did I somehow miss the racial undercurrents in years of conversations? Did they forget that just a few generations ago, our forebearers stepped off a boat onto a new foreign land?

Were all of the encouragements—to go to college, to believe in myself, to build a business—all fake and empty?

Had I been expected to do little more than marry, bear children and stand by my man?

Do my friends and family truly have no understanding of the U.S. government and lack the ability to use the internet to fact check?

Was I raised by and among racist, homophobic bigots who have been waiting all their lives for a man like Trump to come along?

It has been apparent to my friends, family and acquaintances that I have slowly been losing my ever-loving mind as this election year has progressed. Honestly, it all began after the Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention. Until then, I was focused on determining whether to throw my support behind Bernie or Hillary. Even then, I knew that whichever way the democratic cookie crumbled, I would be reasonably happy.

Once the two major candidates were named, the world seemed to be immersed in some alternate reality. I tried sprinkling my social media with posts I felt were non-abrasive support for Hillary Clinton. Later, I began to encourage folks to fact check. As the deluge of Trump support became ever more aggressive and ugly, I began to question the hearts, minds and moral fiber of my friends who insisted that Trump was their man. The comments on my posts became arguments. Insults were thrown. Insults were returned. I did not escape on either count. I began to worry that I would become the mirror image of what I dislike the most in Trump supporters. I feared I would not be able to continue “going high.”

Inspired by my friend’s gentle nudge, I did just as she suggested. I asked for Trump supporters to share with me the real reasons they believe him to be the best candidate. I asked them how they might convince me to change my mind. I had but one caveat: absolutely no “but Hillary” or “but Obama” arguments. I wanted legitimate reasons to vote for Trump, not reasons to vote against HRC.

Within moments, someone posted the following:

“….Trump says what no one else has the guts to say…and he is not a politician…he has the knowledge to put the right folks where they need to be to “Get er done”…and right or wrong he has done exactly what he planned…shock and awe…he is dinner time talk…appetizer and drink talk…Sunday morning coffee newspaper talk…not saying I agree or disagree…or who I am voting for…simply my opinion.”

As I read the response, it felt as if a lightbulb had just come on.

Suddenly, my anger vanished. I began to see exactly how good people could support this man and I am no longer filled with despair regarding the dark hearts of those I love and care for.

More and more comments affirmed this notion. One after another people told me that they don’t especially like Trump. Trump supporters see his comments and many of his ideas as unsavory but they like that he says them anyway. His speeches are viewed as big brainstorming sessions and no idea too wild to be given voice.

To put it on a more personal level, Donald Trump is that crazy, drunk uncle who shows up at holiday get-togethers. He spouts off, saying things that no one is allowed to say. Insulated by age and the deference we generally extend to elder family members, he tells off-color jokes and he tells them loudly. If anyone speaks up in opposition, she’s told to calm down. After all, he’s harmless, and by golly, he’s funny.

The children sit in awe. Racial epithets roll from his lips and not only does he escape admonishment, Dad is giggling. Everyone is laughing, shaking their heads and saying things like, “You ain’t right!” but still, they laugh. Being a showman, Uncle Donny feels emboldened by the attention. He “tells it like it is” and whether the other adults agree with him or not, no one bothers to correct him.

Many people feel like powerless adolescents in comparison to our government. It is so big, so complex. The law making process is so convoluted that it seems impossible that any change for good can pass without some horrible clause on some completely unrelated topic will squeak through as well. It’s always one step forward and two steps back.

By and large, we accept that our congress is bought and paid for. Lobbyists control our lawmakers. Everything from overpriced prescription drugs to cancer-causing pesticides go unchecked while government suppliers bilk our tax dollars; billing the government astronomical prices on everyday items like nuts and bolts, pens, paper, and on and on.

It only makes sense that this epitome of the crazy drunk uncle would resonate with so many. He represents to his followers a disruption of the system. A real chance to rebuild the broken systems and make things right. Every outrageous thing he says provides nothing more than entertainment value.

As they sit with the morning news, one spouse might call out to the other, “Oh my gawd! The Liberals are going to lose their minds! You’ll never guess what he just said,” and they both dissolve into gales of laughter.

It isn’t that they agree with him or even that like the things he says. They love that liberals don’t get it. They love that we are constantly sharing snopes and politifact. It makes them laugh. In one sense, perhaps we deserve it. We’re discussing issues, sharing our outrage at the insults but we’ve missed Trump’s essential appeal. Instead of assuming Trump supporters are a basket of deplorables, it’s time to admit that this man, who’s augmented his fortune by being an entertainer, has taken his knowledge of ratings and used it masterfully.

We are an entertainment-driven society. Think about it: we carry the whole internet with its cat videos, memes, news sites and online encyclopedias in our pocket. It is probably in our hand more often than it isn’t. We scroll through a vast array of family photos, news stories, archaeological findings, waterfalls, photos of food, recipes, music videos, pugs, rainbows and prayers with our thumbs. We knew why Kanye had left a stadium full of concert goers in a lurch even though he left with the barest explanation. I don’t even know one Kanye song, yet I know the tragedy that befell his wife a few days ago in a country across the great pond.

We deal with pop-ups, pop-overs, pop-unders, buttons that seem to imply we can “read more” but actually take us to some bizarre paid advertisement. The one thing every single business owner in the world wishes they could control is traffic to their website, to their message, to their product. Traffic equates to money and is pretty similar to television ratings.

The one secret ingredient in ratings or internet traffic is human connection. If you cannot form a connection with the viewer, they will be pulled away by something else, and this will happen quickly. You have less than eight seconds to lock them in.

If you’ve studied marketing, SEO or television ratings, then you already know all of this. You’ve probably dealt with it on some level. Trump has mastered this game. No, he’s not lovable. He isn’t even all that likable. Even so, a lot of people could imagine him as a blue collar man, sitting around the family table at a holiday gathering. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Hillary. Let me just say this now, I would be honored to welcome HRC into my home to break bread.

At the podium, Hillary lacks her husband’s magnetic charisma. Bill’s charisma is palpable in person. You feel his presence and you respond whether you mean to or not. I’ve seen him once in person and I can attest to the fact that nothing and no one seems to exists when he is in the room. President Obama is also incredibly charismatic. Both of these men make people feel as if every word, every gesture, every smile is meant for them alone. We’ve all met people like this and know from personal experience that very few people are immune to the power of real charisma, especially in person.

Hillary’s charisma is more subtle. She shines in one-on-one interactions. It is apparent that she truly cares about people when you see her in town-hall type meetings. What she doesn’t have is that mega-watt star power which is so very useful when delivering a speech at a podium. On stage, HRC is all business. She’s tough. She’s prepared. She’s informed. As vitally important as those qualities are to the job at hand, many voters cannot manage to sit still long enough to listen as she details her plans for the country. We’ve been conditioned to click away from anything that isn’t fulfilling our desire to be entertained or at least understood.

While I am in no way condoning a vote for Trump, I am relieved to know that his supporters are not all racist homophobes who want a wall around the country or gold stars emblazoned on the chest of our Muslim citizens. They know someone like him and they expect that his bluster is all for show and hope it is not the way he truly feels. On the off-chance that he really does feel that way, most of them feel sure that the Constitution will protect us from his most outrageous proposals. I’m not exactly sure how they think it would work and neither are they.

Armed with this new understanding, I think I am better prepared to fight the good fight. I’m better prepared to pull the uncomfortable topics no one wants to discuss out into the light. I’m better prepared to discuss racial tensions, LGBT rights, religious freedom and women’s issues with my conservative friends.

I felt like I was beating my head against a brick wall because I was. The way I have been attempting to encourage discourse wasn’t working. Now I know why.

Many strides have been made toward equality and our country faces an ever-challenging role on a global scale. Those who fight for the rights of all cannot give up. We must not give up. Our neighbors, coworkers and friends depend on us. Lives depend on us.


Author: Karen Kelly

Image: via Imgur

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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