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December 2016

January 2017

276--Answering Jenny

I wrote a post in reaction to the election of Donald Trump (see it here) and cross-posted it to Facebook.  Generally that's where I get comments, especially since I am careful not to allow comments directly posted to my blog.  (After that unfortunate time someone posted links to Japanese porn sites.)

My friend, Jenny, responded with a lengthy response.  I thought it was worth capturing her comments here, and responding in turn.  So here goes.  Jenny's original post is in italics.

 

As our worldviews inform our interpretation of events in our culture, I understand why your observations expressed here bring you some measure of comfort. Even so, I think you miss the point – we’ll get there. Full disclosure: my worldview is that of a Bible-believing, fundamentalist (horrors!) Christian and a limited-government conservative. For those reasons, of course I could never have voted for Hillary Clinton, and of course (The “of course” in this sentence fully recognizes that I am but one of a very small group that held this conviction. I’m good with that, too.)  I could never have voted for Donald Trump. Also for those reasons, my interpretation of the election will be through that prism. I just want to acknowledge that up front, and while I will argue against your conclusions, I understand there are points I may be “missing” as well, because you and I see the political landscape very differently.

 I’m glad to engage in this discussion.  Conversing (arguing?) with people who hold different viewpoints is one way to make sure we’re seeing life from outside of our particular “bubble.”

I remember well the sinking feeling of watching Barack Obama win the presidency not once, but twice. I know that many on the left need that to be because of his pigmentation level, but that had nothing to do with it. The policies he advocated were not the policies I support. I also found those that had major influences in his life objectionable. That simple. So, I’m not gloating; I know how you feel. But, while I am more than a little skeptical of the president-elect, I am thankful for Republican control of the House and Senate, and very thankful that Hillary won’t be president.

So far, so good.  I didn’t mean to accuse you of being racist, if that’s how you took my comments.  For plenty of people, the election of Barack Obama was disappointing primarily because their candidate didn’t win, and their political ideology was no longer ascendant.  But I’m stuck on something Brian said to me.  We were talking about Washington and the relationship between Congress and the President.  I asked Brian why there was such animus toward Obama.  Was it just because he is Democratic? After all, there was a tremendous amount of that with Bill Clinton, but at least it seems like he was able to get things done.  In Obama’s term(s), it seemed that the only objective of Congressional Republicans was to block anything and everything Obama wanted to accomplish.  Brian’s answer to me was at once simple and shocking:  “Dad, it’s about racism.” 

Racism is a “card” is something I am reluctant to play as a first explanation for anything.  (My typical reaction to such a claim is, “bring me the statistics!”)  But the more I thought about it, the more I kept returning to that explanation.  I don’t have any statistics to share (violating my own dictum) but consider this: has any President been treated as poorly, with as much disrespect?  Yes, Congress flirted with impeaching Bill Clinton, but there at least was an act of impropriety on the President’s part to work from.  Plenty of Congresses (is that a word?) have worked to block or blunt the President's political agenda, but it seems there has historically been some level of cooperation.  But in the case of Obama and Congress, it seems to have been taken to a new level.  I believe Mitch McConnell was quoted early on as saying that the only congressional agenda was to block Obama from achieving anything.  This was something new.  Maybe it aligns with the emergence of the Tea Party.  Or maybe it aligns with race; I can't say.

I don’t know that you’ve missed this, but it is omitted in your blog: Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate. So terrible, in fact, that a moral reprobate won. My response: Ew! that he is in but, Yay! that she is not. Apart from the fact that she is a woman (which, I fail to see a valid argument in, and which I thought wasn’t such a “fact” anymore, right?), what did she offer that was worthy of the presidency? She presents as entitled, above-the-law, and beyond scrutiny because of her lady parts. And this coming from the side that demands that I accept that boy/girl parts are irrelevant to who a person is! You even make that case here, “We had the tears, especially from women who must have thought they were about to experience what black people felt eight years ago when Barack Obama was elected President--only to have that moment ripped from them.” Why? Why would her election bring me – as a woman – some sort of euphoric experience? This woman actually stood on the debate stage and attempted to argue the virtues of scissors to the skull of a mostly-born baby for the sake of Women’s Rights. You used to keep this part quite. And how was it “ripped” from us? There was an election and the ideas that have been rejected for the last 3 elections were rejected again. In spite of Obama’s re-election in 2012 (He is a charismatic figure; she is not.), the country has rejected his platform again – at least for now. I vote on character and policy, not on genitals. To suggest that women as a group lost something on that basis alone is actually pretty insulting (though, I’m not insulted and I know you didn’t mean that, but that is how it reads).

So there’s a lot going on here.  Let me take things in turn.  First, there is a narrative that Hillary didn’t give voters a reason to vote FOR her.  And I can agree with that.  In fact, I remember reading something that said the Clinton campaign was going to continue to focus on Trump, holding him and his actions (and utterances) out as the best reason to vote for Hillary—you don’t want THIS GUY do you??  That was a sound strategy, until it wasn’t.  Hillary didn’t have a “vote for me because” story, at least not one that was easy to digest.  That story is probably there, deep in some of her policy proposals, but if that’s where to find it, then it’s buried way too deep for the average voter to find.  Remember Reagan’s “are you better off then you were four years ago?” statement.  That’s the sort of litmus test voters respond to.  And, as it turned out, there was at least one group of voters who had a clear “no” answer to that question: displaced manufacturing workers.  These workers saw their middle class incomes gashed as work was shifted to China or (mostly) automated, and no one was there to help them adjust to changed economic circumstances.  Likewise, coal miners have seen their livelihoods ripped away with the decline of the coal mining industry.  While I attribute this to a permanent decline in global demand as (in turn) the US, India and China have moved away from coal and toward cleaner alternatives for electricity generation, the narrative for some has been that this has happened due to policy choices that could be reversed.  It didn’t help Hillary when she went on about killing off coal (one of those open-mic faux pas moments) but it doesn’t change the facts on the ground.

I didn’t see Hillary as a terrible candidate, for three reasons. 

  • Compared to Bernie Sanders (another populist) I felt that Clinton would actually be able to get something done with Congress if she were elected.  After all, the last Democrat to accomplish something as President was also named Clinton.  Bernie made people on the left feel good, but I never felt that he had the agenda or the political support to cause change to happen. 
  • I don't buy into the “crooked Hillary” narrative.  I hear the accusations but I don’t see the facts.  If you’re likening Hillary to the “Washington establishment” and saying that you didn’t want more of the same, I can appreciate that thought.  In fact, that is apparently what some segments of the voting populace felt.  (It is ironic how often candidates run for President on a platform of being an “outsider”.) 
  • I see Hillary as something of a “policy wonk” to use the Washington term.  I was looking forward to seeing her bring her ideas forward and trying to implement them.  Maybe she was too nerdy to connect with voters.

And I didn’t see Hillary as a good candidate just because she’s a woman.  I also didn’t mean to say that women did (or should have) vote/ed for her because she’s a woman.  I’m with you in thinking that talent, competence and fit for the job are the reasons that I want to matter when it comes to selecting the right person for the job.

You’ve argued that this is a last gasp of the defeated-but-not-going-down-without-a-fight white man, and I think that is where you miss the point the most. You view people as voting blocks, not as individuals, as evidenced by:

  • And I thought about the demographic shift happening in America, where white men are quickly on their way to becoming a minority population. (I exclude white women because they, like all women, are already a minority.)
  • It feels more like a last stand, like the last gasp of a group trying to hang onto something that is inexorably slipping from their grasp.
  • The tide is shifting, and railing against it isn't going to slow it down or alter it in any way.

First, correct me if I’m wrong, but I see an assumption in these statements and in the liberal platform generally that somehow being a white male is inherently wrong and something to be beaten into submission. That there is some virtue in being “a Somali woman...elected as a representative” or “a woman…elected as the first Latina Senator” ABOVE or SUPERIOR to that of being a white male that would have accomplished the same. But this argument never flows the other way from the left. So, while you claim to support minorities in positions of influence, you really don’t if they have the audacity to think outside of the allowable lines liberals have drawn for them based on their skin color. Look at the field of candidates offered this primary season on both sides and ask yourself where “diversity” was reflected most. I see people as individuals made in Imago Dei, all with their own stories to tell, their own life experiences, and their own dreams. This is why I am a conservative. I believe government should get out of the way and allow people to pursue those dreams, not put barriers up or actively try to destroy people who refuse to conform.

I’m not saying that there’s something inherently wrong in being a white male (or white, or male, or… anything.)  What I was trying to say is that the world I have experienced as a white male is not the same world experienced by black males I know, or black women, or white women.  It’s hard to expand on this without getting too general too fast.  I’ll just say that I see racism and sexism in our society, and these “ism’s” have benefited white men at the expense of others.  I don’t see the playing field as being level which is one reason why I’m in favor of efforts to help make it more level.

I’m not celebrating a Somali woman elected to office as being ipso facto (hey, you broke out the Latin first) better than a white man.  My point is that this is happening, and it's unusual enough to notice.  People other than white males are being elected to posts those non-white, non-males haven’t held in the past.  Nowadays, it’s not unusual to see a black baseball player.  But before 1947 it was a big deal.  Black men were segregated into their own units in the Army through World War II; now they’re not.  Women weren’t eligible for combat roles; now they are.  What I’m celebrating is the beginning of something not being a big deal anymore.  It’s a slightly less big deal that the US could have a black President, now that we've had one.  There are plenty of countries that have had women as heads of state; the US isn’t (yet) one of them.  Someday that will happen.  And when it does, it will be because that woman was the best person for the job.  And it will be a big deal.  After it happens for the 40th time… not such a big whoop.

Which brings me to…second (and finally!). The last 8 years have been characterized by major federal overreach and severely divisive rhetoric from the top. Americans have been hammered with accusations of racism, homophobia, and sexism NONSTOP. Christians have been targeted and financially destroyed for their faith – not for chasing down and burning homosexuals at the stake, but literally for not wanting to make pastry. NUNS were sued for not wanting to violate their faith and their conscience. Our rights that have defined us as Americans have been under relentless attack – the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, and the Tenth Amendments specifically. The enumerated powers of the federal government have been violated repeatedly. The Pen and the Phone were elevated, which doesn’t seem so exciting when the rabbit has the gun now, does it? We have been told we are bigots if we don’t want creepy dudes in the restrooms with our daughters. Our police forces have been targeted and demoralized – this one, particularly personal to me as the wife of a deputy shot in the line of duty (side note: you know what never comes up when we talk about the shooting and all we’ve had to go through since? The shooter’s skin color. After the initial, “oh really? He was black?” conversation, it’s never come up again.). Obamacare has skyrocketed insurance premiums, but we’re told it’s the “Affordable Care Act,” so we must accept that, in spite of what we see happening in our own finances. Industries have been targeted and told they were going to be regulated out of business. What you see as heartwarming demonstration, I see as vandalism and violence. I see an entire generation that simply can’t handle life. I think the left has done an enormous disservice to this generation by the coddling, the “safe-spaces,” the promotion that they should never have to hear a contrary opinion. Damage has been and is being done when these students have to face the real world without understanding how to lose; they can’t think critically. I could go on.

I can’t meaningfully respond to most of this, as it would require taking your examples one by one and reviewing the facts of each.  But I do want to speak to the item that I know strikes home: the discussions about police-involved shootings of minorities.  I'm not a (willing) participant in culture wars.  And the back-and-forth about whose lives matter is not really helpful to anyone.  Yes, there’s been plenty of over-reaction to police shootings of black men.  One cop shooting one black man doesn’t by itself constitute racism.  But there have been a lot of officer-involved shootings reported, and some of those cases are hard to explain outside of a racist context.

These are people’s livelihoods. These are people’s families. The left pushed the pendulum too far, and now we are seeing it swing back. I don’t see this as a last gasp at all. I see this as the people bringing a bigger bully to the fight to stand up to the bully we’ve been dealing with these last several years. I don’t like that part, just to be clear. A strong-man is not our answer. I believe the common ground you say you are ready to look for was already masterfully laid out in the Constitution – in Freedom. Hillary Clinton didn’t represent that, as I see it. I really want to believe that the people rejected her positions and voted against those (I do not see the authoritarianism represented in many of DTs words as the road to freedom, either, but my hope does not lie in government. Plus, my own blinders prevent me from seeing how anyone could have actually voted in support of him.). Still, I do not view these results as a last gasp of a dying breed, but as tired Americans who are thankful for the freedoms they have enjoyed not wanting to continue the erosion of those rights advocated by the left. I understand we see that differently, and that’s ok. That’s freedom.

And here we agree.  To the extent that what’s happened is the pendulum-swing of ideas and policies—too far this way, now back that way—I am OK with that.  That’s how progress occurs.  Pick your favorite example of something that happens now that didn’t use to happen… or the opposite. Trump didn't win by a landslide; in fact, he didn't win the popular vote.  But Republicans did gain overall in the election.  So that would support the pendulum-swinging-back idea.  But as always, it’s a mixed bag.  As one small example, California legalized marijuana but did not strike down the death penalty.

So we will see.  Thanks for being willing to challenge me and for sharing your point of view.  This kind of dialogue is good for weakening all of our bubbles.

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