Acute toxicity. That’s the best two-word answer to the question “What is the effect of the current state of American national politics?” We’re not even two weeks out from one of the most divisive election cycles ever – certainly within my lifetime – and the discourse has gone from being one of derision for the opposing major=party candidate to out and out nastiness of supporters of one candidate to those of the other.
TLV-C: ceiling exposure limit or maximum exposure concentration that should not be exceeded under any circumstance
Here it is less than two weeks out, and I was actually battling it out online with someone whom I am convinced shares a similar position on social issues as do I because he felt it an acceptable stance to take to simply silence – “disenfranchise out of existence” – voters who would vote for a certain candidate that neither of us supported.
The Vice-President elect was treated to some impromptu commentary by the cast of the play “Hamilton” on Friday night – straight political commentary, which while perhaps not expected in a theater the subject of the chosen play was political after all – and apparently he was unaware that his status as VP-elect changes his ability to attend a play with his family. He was asked to keep an open mind to diversity. On Saturday, the President-Elect demanded an apology.
The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
Sometimes, even the best of us have to suffer through rudeness. It kind of comes with the territory when you share a ticket with a divisive candidate, whether or not you yourself deserve it. This is politics man, get over it. Everything you do from this point forward is about the politics. Sorry – there are no more simple nights out with the fam.
Clinton supporters are racist. Trump supporters are racist. Hillary is a criminal. The Donald is a crook. Clinton voters can’t seem to understand people could possibly have had legitimate reasons for voting for Trump – he’s a pig, racist, and bigot!! – and Trump voters can’t seem to understand people could possibly have legitimate reasons for voting for Clinton – she’s a criminal, liar, and duplicitous thief! People talking – screaming – past each other without giving themselves a break to do a little introspection and analysis.
Donald is going to have a task in front of him to repair these fractures in the American politic, and frankly I’m not sure Steve Bannon is the guy to help him do that. I’ve voted for President now in 8 elections. I’ve voted for the winner exactly once in all those times, so I’m not exactly unfamiliar with being on the side that doesn’t win, but in almost 30 years of voting, I’ve never seen the electorate so polarized.
In 2008, David Duke if he didn’t “endorse” Obama for President, he came close to doing so. The thinking being that a man of color becoming President of the United States would incite white supremacy to rise up (note how Duke enunciates “Barack”). I submit that Duke may have been right: the Obama Presidency has simultaneously emboldened groups such as Black Lives Matter to stand up and identify social injustice as they see it, and those predisposed to see them as thugs and anti-law.
Trump has emboldened the “alt-right,” white nationalists. More than 8 years after interviewing David Duke, NPR interviewed Joel Pollak, one of the framers of the alt-right and got lit up for “normalizing” racism and hate speech. It’s the liberal left that’s now responding to a Trump electoral victory in the same way Duke imagined neo-cons rising up about the Obama victory. They suggest censorship over critical thought, criticizing NPR for talking to Pollak, because clearly the great unwashed can’t think for themselves. Presenting the ideas is somehow equivalent to “normalizing” them. [As an aside, I love the fact NPR had Michel Martin interview Duke, perhaps an important piece missing from the interview with Pollak].
What we need now is conversation, yet we’re distinctly unable to engage one. Polls projecting a Clinton 4% lead in the popular vote and political sites projecting a 99% chance Clinton would win failed to take into account the rural votes, inadvertently answering the question why they would be so inclined to vote Trump: Trump paid attention to them while the media and the Clinton campaign failed to. Folks, this is the conversation that’s been happening all the long, it’s just that now you’re hearing it for the first time and it’s shocking as hell to you. You made the same mistake the media did – you haven’t been listening.
Rule #5 of Franklin Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People – Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Let’s listen to each other just a little bit, before we decide the other is a bunch of racists, or bigots, or anything else. There are legitimate reasons a person of good faith and fair dealing would vote for Trump that aren’t that they don’t like the LGBT+ community. There are legitimate reasons a person of good faith and fair dealing would vote for Clinton other than that they don’t care about improprieties and opacity.
Most Trump voters aren’t out to overturn civil rights and most Clinton voters aren’t out to take all of your money. Maybe we should listen more to each other because in reality these two candidates are about as alike as the election would suggest: Trump 47%, Clinton 48%. Spend your time being angry, and you’re just a reactionary – whether your candidate won or not. If you really care about the state of the country, you’re engaging conversation, not antagonizing it.