Facebook. Whether you love it or hate it, it's been woven into the fabric of our lives in a very real way, and while some people have resisted the urge to put themselves (or some version of themselves) out there for the world to see, I'm not one of those resisters.
I sometimes find it interesting to click on the "memories" that Facebook shares with me--past posts on the anniversary of their posting that I can choose to once again share with my Facebook friends.
I'm home from my regular teaching gig as a new wood stove is being installed (props to the crew from The Energy Shop in Green Bay, Wisconsin!), and as they're crawling on our roof and positioning the unit on our granite pad, I clicked on today's Facebook memory.
Today's memory goes back to 2016: the day after our last Presidential election. The post I'd shared on my timeline was the text of a response to a question posed on Facebook by my pastor. Pastor had asked whether it's possible that some voters who cast votes for Trump weren't motivated by racism, xenophobia, or misogyny and instead were motivated by disagreement with Hillary Clinton's policies. He'd posed this question because he's wondering if people are deliberately trying to drive wedges between each other at the expense of finding areas where we may find common ground.
Pastor's query got me thinking--and writing--and I'd felt compelled to share my response with my Facebook friends. In looking over that memory today, I still feel those thoughts are worth sharing. They're worth our consideration in light of the tenor of the mid-term elections that took place this week, in light of the more-than-comfortable relationship that exists between the White House and fear-mongering groups, and in light of President Trump's bold declaration of his embracing Nationalism.
With those things in mind, I'm sharing my response to my pastor's original question. Here it is:
"I do believe that, for some voters, the choice was purely a matter of policy, just as I'm certain some felt emboldened to vote for Trump given his willingness to say things that would be frowned upon in polite company. And while I do believe some of Trump's votes came from people who'd have been unlikely to vote had a more conventional candidate been the Republican nominee, I don't think it's fair for anyone to make broad generalizations about all of his supporters being xenophobic/homophobic/misogynistic in general. You're right, Pastor, in that some of his supporters simply didn't agree with Hillary's positions.
Ultimately, however, I believe the biggest motivations for Trump voters weren't "-isms"; rather, their choice had to do with shaking up the status quo. And here, for me, is the place where progressives and conservatives might find common ground.
Trump tapped into the same vein of discontent that propelled the Bernie Sanders candidacy. I want to be very clear here, however--I'm not saying that Sanders and Trump were offering similar policy solutions; I am saying that both men were attuned to disaffected Americans who hunger for radical change. Hillary Clinton was the insider's insider, and nothing she or any of her surrogates could say or do could cast her in the light of a genuine reformer.
One thing I admired--and continue to admire--about Bernie Sanders is that he can and always has very sincerely advanced his positions from a moral high ground. He's not claiming he's "better" or superior to anyone. Far from it. He brings homeless people to shoe stores to buy them warm boots for the winter. He makes us confront the fact that in a country that is so wealthy, we're willing to allow people to hunger and thirst and make the tough decision between paying for gas to heat their homes or prescription drugs to treat illness. He can go to Liberty University to advocate progressive solutions to a host of problems and have conservative evangelical students walk away from the experience stating their respect and admiration for him.
Ultimately, I think all Americans want to find solutions to the same problems that plague our nation--we have that common ground--and we all need to be honest about what hasn't worked and why it hasn't worked in solving these problems.
That comes down to the necessity of change--that elusive something we want, and which Mr. Trump managed to make trump any of the frightening things he said and did."
And here's an additional thought: while I do advocate radical changes--both to the way our government governs and to the manner in which the major political parties conduct their business relative to the American people they claim to serve--my hunger for change did not lead me to vote for Donald Trump. I do believe his words and actions were motivated by reactionary hate and lack of respect. But insofar as he is willing to bring about change that will improve the lives of Americans who have suffered, we have an obligation to work with him to affect that change--just as we should, should his rhetoric or policies reflect hate or hurt anyone, vehemently stand in opposition to such rhetoric or policies."
This response did elicit comments from Facebook friends, and the discourse that followed--their thoughts and my responses--is, I hope, the kind of discourse we can once again have in our nation: that we can disagree without screaming, that we can have civil discussions in an effort to arrive at solutions to the problems that plague us. Here is the resulting conversation (I'm using only initials for my Facebook friends):
KM: You think it might have been the economy? Or is that too simple?....Look at Obamacare bills that have come out, not really that far-fetched....Real people, real bills....
Scott Winkler: I think we've disagreed in the past on matters of economic policy, Kevin. We've tried trickle-down for the last 35 years and look where it's gotten us. And I'm certain we disagree on matters of healthcare, as well. From my perspective, healthcare should not be driven by profit (for insurance companies, for big pharma, for anyone). I believe healthcare in a nation as wealthy as ours is a birthright. The premise of insurance is spreading the cost to make it more affordable and streamline the system. Medicare for all would be the ultimate "insurance" policy in this regard.
KM: Still the problem is the cost...doesn't matter if it's in my mailbox or the government's...same problem...We don't have an economy that can make your idea work...There's a reason they call it "utopia" and there's a reason we've never traveled there...
Scott Winkler: But pure capitalism is based on competition--not a bad thing in and of itself and not a bad thing in every context--but competition ultimately means there will be winners and losers. And in recent history, the "winners" are doing so by larger and larger margins, leaving more and more people on the outside looking in. The concentration of wealth in the hands of the few doesn't trickle down; rather, they put it to work for themselves at the expense of others, even though others are the foundation upon which they've built their empires.
Scott Winkler: Compete in sports...compete in business, too (but know where to draw lines, i.e., Wal-Mart shutting down mom-n-pop stores isn't good for anyone but the Walton family)...but competing for profit in healthcare? We're killing ourselves, literally and figuratively, because of the cost of healthcare, and that healthcare cost is being driven by the insistence of insurance and big pharma that they line their pockets unreasonably.
KM: Not a zero sum game...the economy grows, more good happens...We have a better chance with Capitalism, then we do counting on gov't that doesn't produce/grow anything...
Scott Winkler: I, too, like capitalism, but we need rules to make it fair for all. Countries that many on the right like to brand as "thisclose" to communism are, indeed, capitalistic. The governments of countries like Denmark and Sweden and Germany are democratically elected, but rules are in place to make capitalism a "fair game" for all--and generally, residents of these nations enjoy a higher standard of living than we do and share in the benefits of collectively footing the bill for things like healthcare, post-secondary education, and paid family leave.
KM: Utopia doesn't exist on Earth, so let's get realistic...Capitalism/competition will provide a better opportunity for most....Gov't can't do anything without Capitalism/competition...but I might be missing something....
KM: PS:...The countries you sited do not come close to comparing to the USA in most areas...
KM: Good talk Scott...Happy Birthday buddy! Love the discussion and expanding of thought!!...Sincerely!
Scott Winkler: You, too--and thanks for the good wishes. It's too bad more people can't converse reasonably. What too often passes itself as discourse is little more than people yelling, with the winner being he who does it louder and longer. Take care!
MN: The two things I think put him over the edge was the second release of the FBI investigation of the emails and the release of the Affordable Health Care premium hike. Furthermore, I feel that AHC did in many democratic senators as it did in the past. AHC has been a thorn in the side of Democrats with the middle class workers.
Scott Winkler: That's a good point, though I ultimately think the second FBI investigation didn't influence enough people to change their minds; I suspect that anybody who would be swayed regarding email security was swayed long ago.
MN: As I was watching some polls, the race really started tightening up after the announcement of the FBI reopening the investigation. Like I said at lunch on Tuesday, I was worried and I guess rightfully so. Hopefully the DNC learned a valuable lesson as well.
Scott Winkler: I hope so, too. That the DNC learn a lesson was really the thrust of the long post I made just before hitting the hay around 1 o'clock this morning.
Marty Nowak: I too wouldn't mind seeing a socialistic approach to healthcare. I think the private insurance companies hiking the rates killed a lot of democratic momentum.
DAC: Amen, Winks. I agree with many of the things you've said. Hillary just wasn't for me. Heck, if a write-in would have meant a thing, I'd have chosen Jill. Heck, if Bernie wasn't so flippy-dippy, he'd have been on the ballott (and I certainly would have voted for him). In this country, a write-in is basically considered a non-vote. Bottom line is -- PROGRESSION. All this hate comes from nowhere, basically. It's up to us to stop it - not one man. Quite frankly, I was surprised Trump won, and I think he reacted quite maturely compared to what Americans were used to. It is still up to Americans to grow up and start working together though.
DM: Scott, I love your belief in the American people but I am far less certain of our collective goodness. I think Trump won because his make American great again stirred a desire in whites to be masters if this land in various ways. By nature, most people don't like change , and Trump promises to make America great again, coupled with getting rid of Mexicans and other races may have awoken a sleeping fear of other races and of change. There has been news coverage that supports this idea and some of those spouting these ideas are very young. History shows us that many stood silent when the Jews were punished for being the problem. Perhaps the real problem and what we are really afraid of us change and the many faces it has. And because we as a people can't really name what we are afraid of, we simply choose some one to be the problem. Trump stirred this hornet's nest to get elected. Now I hope he can contol the swarming hornets. Wow - a real downer message. But that's sort of what I've been thinking is a big reason he won.
Scott Winkler: I don't disagree with you. I think a sleeping something (I don't believe it to be a giant) has been stirred, just as I believe that certain unsavory elements of our population have been emboldened. These things do warrant vigilance on our part so that those to which you allude do not go on a destructive rampage. And I agree with your point about people not liking change insofar as it applies to themselves--but as it applies to their perceptions of our government and governance in general, I do think they want change, or what may easily be perceived as change. It's always that perception of others, i.e., Congress is full of a bunch of worthless sorts/let's clean out the place/we end up re-electing our own representatives because "I/mine" is not the problem. As wealth and power continue to fall more and more in the hands of so few, more and more Americans feel dispossessed, and in turn disaffected, leading them to hunger for some nebulous notion of "change." In terms of dealing with our President-Elect, I'll defer to the stated position of Bernie Sanders--that Donald Trump tapped into something that millions of Americans, who are working more for less on every level, are feeling; to the degree that he will advocate policies making a genuine difference for these Americans, we should work for him, but that we cannot and will not anything from him that smacks of sexism, racism, or hatred of any sort. For these things, he must be held accountable. At the end of the day, I don't think Trump is terribly intelligent or sophisticated. The more that I've read and heard about Trump the man is that he actually has some flexibility with regard to policies (BBC Newshour on WPR yesterday was tracing his evolution with regard to the ACA--he yesterday stated that it needs to by modified, not thrown out with the proverbial bathwater as his bluster had indicated); the danger lies in what Trump perceives as attacks on him personally. But coming back to Trump voters and their reasons for voting for him, the Washington Post yesterday ran an interesting piece by a 51 year-old Muslim single woman who wears a head scarf and voted for Trump. For her, it came down to change. The last exit polls I saw showed 30+ percent of Hispanic voters backing Trump; I can only think it comes down to change for them as well. The only certainty, I believe, in moving forward is uncertainty, and in such an environment, I'll stick to two principles: caution/vigilance (we cannot allow anyone to be hurt) and kindness (as it ultimately engenders more of the same). Thanks for your response!
I hope that you've found food for thought in this post--and I hope that you'll seek to extend to and engage with your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers in genuine discourse marked by civility and a sincere desire to both understand others and to make yourself understood (not merely "heard"--big difference).
As always, please feel free to share your thoughts with me and to point anyone who might be interested toward my blog, my website, and my work.