Best ways to speak to The Others: In this morning's Washington Post. E. J. Dionne discusses the ways liberals and Democrats might approach those Trump voters who are potentially persuadable.
How many such voters are there? How should they be approached? We think these remarks make sense:
DIONNE (3/13/17): Liberals who rightly condemn demeaning stereotypes of African Americans and Latinos must also oppose stereotyping Trump’s white working-class supporters. The Trump camp was not monolithic. Many of Trump’s ballots, after all, came not from blue-collar strongholds but from precincts dominated by well-off conservatives who routinely back Republicans.In our view, those remarks all make sense. By the way:
And the decisive votes for Trump were not cast by the passionately committed. The media exit poll found that only 38 percent of those who participated in the 2016 election had a favorable view of Trump. That’s the base. The contest was settled by those who viewed both Trump and Hillary Clinton negatively. These pox-on-both-houses voters made up 18 percent of the electorate, and went 47 percent to 30 percent for Trump over Clinton, with most of the rest opting for third-party choices. These are the Trump agnostics. They are central to our political future.
Moreover, an important minority of white working-class Trump voters in the election’s three key states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan) favored Obama four years earlier. They are not right-wingers. For example, in 2012 in Erie County, Pa., Obama prevailed over Mitt Romney, 68,036 to 49,025. But in 2016, Trump carried the county, 60,069 to 58,112 for Clinton.
According to that presentation, almost nine percent of the electorate (47 percent of 18 percent) voted for Candidate Trump even though they didn't have a favorable view of him. They just disliked Candidate Clinton more.
Twenty-five years of demonization played a key role in that part of the story. For the record, Dionne is one of the many major journalists who didn't resist that demonization down through the many long years, when it was aimed at Clinton and Clinton and when it was aimed at Gore.
In the beginning was the end! The remarkable notion that Clinton was a bigger liar than Trump was several decades in the making, permitted by relentless group silence on the part of many liberal journalists.
Other such journalists played active roles in building the narrative according to which Clinton, Gore and Clinton were history's biggest liars. Twenty-five years of story-telling put Donald J. Trump where he is.
Past failure to serve to the side, Dionne makes a a good point at the start of that passage. We liberals need to stop turning to "Those People" and "Them" when we picture Trump voters.
Those 63 million Trump voters aren't all exactly alike. Nor are we encouraging you to try to imagine what percentage of Those People really are deplorable after all.
Dionne's comments made us think of something we saw yesterday on C-Span, live and direct from the Tucson Festival of Books.
A genial woman from Wisconsin posed a question to Wisconites David Maraniss and John Nichols, who seemed to know her. After some initial jesting, this is what she said:
WOMAN FROM WISCONSIN (3/16/17): I just remember the gut punch, the terrible evening that the returns came in, and I'm increasingly concerned that people get their news from people who agree with them only. I've had friends cut me off on Facebook, I would never do that to anybody, because of political discourse.This woman was well-intentioned, and very upbeat. She wanted to know how we can start to talk to each other again.
To resist is important and maybe there are enoiugh people to resist, but to resist evokes counter-resist. What is the game plan to talk to one another again? What is the game plan to talk to people who vote against their own economic and, at best—interest? How have we lost the discussion about what's good public policy? Why is our politics all about "get power and maintain power at all costs?"
Can we start talking about a game plan here to repair some of this?
That said, we were struck by the first thing she said after that. We'll simplify her construction:
"What is the game plan to talk to one another again? What is the game plan to talk to people who vote against their own economic interest?"
We liberals tend to be like that! This woman wants to talk to people who voted the other way. But she almost seems to start with the assumption that she, not they, is the best judge of what their interests are.
That may not be the best way to start that discussion. It seems to us that we tend to be like that Over Here in our own liberal tribe. We tend to be prepared to instruct, perhaps not so much to listen.
That woman is very well-intentioned. She poses her question right at the end of this C-Span videotape.
We always recommend this poem: "No people are uninteresting." Or so Yevtushenko said.