What Do We Do Now
At a certain point last night I went from shock to mourning to asking myself, what do we do now?
Now, a few hours later, I’m starting to piece that together. One thing has become painfully clear. We can’t move America forward in a progressive direction without moving all of America forward including rural America, America’s non-college educated whites, evangelicals, the inhabitants of coal country, and the midwest. The challenge has never been greater and that is why the need to be inclusive is greater than ever.
Embrace The People Who Elected Trump
I’m not suggesting we rush to embrace the prideful white nationalist or the self-sequestered white family in the exurbs beyond our reach and unwilling to meet us. I’m talking about embracing the small town high school graduates that never left home. I’m talking about the aging church going couple who are tired of politics-as-usual who are afraid for their grandchildren’s future. I’m talking about the coal miner who has served in combat and whose retraining as a truck driver has left him just as underemployed giving him lots of time to watch the heroin epidemic decimate his already suffering home town.
We need to embrace these people because we must understand what pushed them away from progress and into the arms of an authoritarian demagogue. We need to understand their pain and we can’t do that by talking over them on Facebook or by feeling superior to them or writing them off because they’ve demonstrated what happens when we do.
What Do We Do Next?
We need to listen to these people because they’ve spoken and even if they don’t understand the full extent of what they’ve done they’ve done so with purpose and for reasons we need to understand. We must meet them with understanding and genuine concern. We must listen and we must understand their fears, their anger, their reasons for voting for Trump. We need to know who they are as individuals. We must understand them as people with hopes, dreams, needs, and concerns, fears, anger but not as a voting bloc or in the abstract. We can no longer view them from afar.
We need to listen so we can understand. We need to understand so we can build a relationship. We need to build a relationship so we can help them ease their fears, quiet their concerns, speak to their anger, find ways to meet their needs, and to realize their hopes and dreams.
It is critical that we act now. Embracing, compassionate listening, and genuine understanding creates friendship and bonds us together. It also gives us the opportunity to share our stories, our concerns and our needs. It gives us the chance to educate each other about who we are and what we must do and it ensures that we will think of each other and consider each other when we make choices and choose candidates for office. It gives us a chance to make our argument for moving the country in a progressive direction while forcing us to understand how to apply that progressive vision to the world that our new friends inhabit and within the framework of how they see the world.
To be clear, I’m not talking about compromised vision. I’m not talking about abandoning the movement towards social justice or moving towards the center. In fact the most radical among us should be the ones leading this coming together or at the very least participating because it’s fear of the most radical among us that drives the wedge deeper and separates us more and more.
The Future Depends On Us
This matters because the future depends on us and the longer we wait to do this the longer we fight alone. The future of so many people, of the climate, of humanity rests on our shoulders. We can mourn and cry today but tomorrow we must begin this work. We must go to these people where they are and hear them. We must become friends.
Only then can we begin to show them how we can address their problems with small progressive solutions that can still be implemented even under the absolute Republican control we’re going to face for the next two years at a minimum. Only then can we bring them into future with us as partners, countrymen, and friends. Only then will we be able to start a fresh progressive movement that is radically inclusive and large enough to move America and the world in the direction that we all know it must move.
Why This Works
We know that Trump is a snake oil salesman, a shyster, a grifter, a con artist. We also know that he has made promises that he can’t keep even with total Republican control. Most of those promises were made to these people and it won’t be long before they begin to feel the sting of those broken promises. That will not be the time to say “I told you so” but will be the time to engage our new friends in a sustainable movement towards progress. It will not be the time to tell them that we knew this would happen. It will be the time again to listen and to find progressive leaders in their districts, their states, etc. who have progressive but more importantly workable ideas about how to solve their problems.
If we can do this in two years we can take control of Congress and in four we can take back the white house and we can do it with a coalition of working people, college educated people, radical leftist, new urbanist, rural and small town whites, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans. We can do this, we must do this because the future depends on it.
The alternative is that we lick our wounds, talk disparagingly about rednecks, hillbillies, white trash, etc. in fly-over country. We make fun of these folks and call them backwards, we unfriend them on Facebook and feel smug and superior all the while the world burns. We lose more and more ground, the ACA, SCOTUS, LGBTQ protections, medical marijuana and stem cell advancements, climate change goes unaddressed, and time will drag on and on while more and more progressive gains of the past are lost.