Ultimatums to Unify the Party, 208 Days Out

Yes, the Republicans are worse. Yes, they’re actively trying to cut us out of society, whether it be by disenfranchisement, cutting healthcare, or just plowing ahead with dismantling the social/economic safety net.
Yes, 45 is bad, and it’s easy to sell short just how many ways this administration’s policies are evil. It feels like a decade ago that we melted down at his re-institution of the global gag order, and I’m sure you could bring up at least 50 terrible policies I couldn’t possibly recall on my own.
Yes, this feels like war. Because it is war, in some ways. We’re seeing the effects all at once right now, but roughly 1 in 830 uninsured people dies every year from a death that would have been preventable had they had proper insurance. And of course, the uninsured rate has ticked up since 2016; by most estimates, about half of Obamacare’s effect has been reversed, even before people who have lost their insurance due to job loss in the last month.
And yes, it’s easy to feel like this is the opportunity to do more than what we did in 2016 in order to ensure a win.
But the number of people who have found it imperative to scold people into voting for somebody with substantial flaws, ones that I think merit real and honest discussion, is disheartening.
For some perspective: We have almost seven months before the general election. The last time the Democratic Party had a presumptive (non-incumbent) nominee this early in the race was 2004. In the two contested primaries since then, 75% of 2008 Hillary primary voters voted for Obama in the general, and 88% of 2016 Bernie primary voters voted for Hillary in the general, despite the conventions happening in August and July, respectively. There is no reason to think that the number this time will be significantly different than it was four years ago.
What is so urgent that you need a commitment from every person before they’ve processed their feelings?
Even setting aside disagreements on policy AND the allegations out there right now, do you understand what my longterm structural concerns are about running a campaign on a return to normalcy? Do you understand why my ultimate goals are frustrated by this choice of nominee?
Do you understand what my longterm goals are? Do you want to understand? What are your longterm goals?
“Are we in this together?” is a question we can’t answer until we define what “this” is. Are we trying to build a society radically different than the one we’ve had? Or are we trying to recreate a setting where the injustices felt less immediate? Or is the difference between these something you haven’t worried about before? I would talk to each of those three people radically differently, even if I had no interest in persuading them of anything.
I live in a swing state—or, at least it’s one on paper. My vote is not in doubt because of the Supreme Court, even though I feel queasy making it.
Consider that. I’ve literally never voted for a non-Democrat in a partisan general election before, and yet the prospect of voting for a Democrat in this presidential election currently makes me queasy.
If your theory of persuasion is that this is exclusively a problem with me and my worldview, you’ve given me no reason to consider what you say. This is especially true if you don’t seem to want to understand my worldview. I’m personally still listening, since I’m eternally curious about theories of persuasion, but you’re not going to change my mind. And at this point, plenty of other people have already tuned you out.
There’s this odd undercurrent in American political conversation that negative feelings MUST be channeled in order to be valuable. I’m extremely guilty of feeding into this at times. But I think there’s an important distinction between channeling anger productively and allowing people the ability to react to bad developments.
And I think this is parallel to the “have a beer with” dynamic, which is part of why we are where we are now. People want to vote for somebody they feel can connect with them. They’re more likely to listen to them. They feel like they’re being heard.
And yes, that dynamic is wrapped up in all sorts of unconscious biases regarding gender, race, and more. But I do think it at least raises the idea that the candidate is at least, in some part, able to listen in addition to speak.
Democrats claim to be the party of empathy. And sure, as a whole, relative to Republicans, that’s likely accurate. But you can have empathy for suffering populations and fail to empathize with the viewpoints of the person sitting across the table (or, right now, Zoom call) from you. And if you’re trying to bring leftists along, that ability to understand our goals, our situations, and our reactions is important.
Can you sit with our feelings and see why yesterday was difficult? Can you see what our concerns are moving forward? Will you allow us the space that we need before we consider what needs doing? And will you understand the decisions we make and have confidence that we’ve arrived at them with some consideration and thought?
Or do you want to yell at us about the stakes while we’re still processing? Most of us have a pretty good idea of what those are. It’s why we are where we are on the political spectrum. I’d love to talk with you about it sometime. (That 1 in 830 number applies to the 20 million fewer uninsured folks over the course of Obama’s presidency, but it also applies to the 28 million folks still uninsured at the end of his presidency.) 
I don’t want you to stop advocating, especially if our goals are shared. And if I understand that from the beginning, I’ll be way more likely to take your forcefulness the way you likely intend it.
But if I don’t understand that we’re working from a similar starting point, then what reason have you given me to listen?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s