In no way do I claim those who voted for Trump are innocent. In fact, they are the ones who are guilty. The thing is, liberals can either take the low road and emulate the Republican party’s behaviour over the last 8 years, or we can take the high road and find a way to restore left-wing influence in government by fixing our flaws without abandoning our principles.
This list are just my thoughts on what mistakes the left made this election. I would hope these ideas would be useful in improving the discourse of politics and the effectiveness of politics. Sorry if this rambling is incoherent in places– it’s not any kind of professional think piece. Please feel welcome to discuss this in the comments.
I think all of these don’t just apply to the left. They would also apply to the right too. However, the right won the election partly because these principles were abandoned.
1. Focus on issues. EXPLAIN why people are wrong.
Many have noted on seemingly unjustified usage of ad-hominem attacks. Labelling the other side was common, and certainly easy. “Racist”, “sexist”, “homophobe”, etc. Sure, these may actually be true, but we often failed to explain why someone is given that label.
The vast majority of people know these are negative labels and attacks. Obviously, they don’t like it. Most of the time, though, nobody explains why a label is given. It’s certainly not uncommon for people to even avoid explaining why. Without explanation, it’s simply a confrontational attack on them, perpetuating the baseless left vs right war.
Simply attacking people, not ideas, is what alienates those people further away from our community and/or movement.
There’s no doubt the right does this, with their attacks of “SJW!!”, “libtard”, etc. It would be nice if they stopped too.
2. Address everyone‘s anger and fear, not just the typical disaffected
One of the leading forces behind Donald Trump’s victory was the disaffected rural white male vote. Their fears and concerns appear to have been lefty largely unaddressed by the left, who focussed largely on the issues of more unfortunate minorities. While we can recognise who is affected more, it doesn’t help the situation of those who are also struggling. They certainly don’t see the world the same way we do. Their own personal experiences are different. They aren’t as exposed to the struggles of other groups. When they see the attention given to those other groups, they feel ignored and rejected, for they aren’t getting the same help. Of course, they don’t need quite the same amount of aid. Maybe not anywhere near as much. But when their issues are ignored, that simply builds anger at those who do get aid.
Fear and anger is okay. It should be avoided, but it is still okay. What isn’t okay, and I build upon my last point here, is hate. By not addressing their concerns directly, their hatred grew. Trump was able to share and exploit this hatred of the ‘other’. We can’t let people feel ignored or rejected.
3. Listen to the people, not the powerful
This also builds upon my previous point. What the people want is important. Whether those people are poor, rich, left, right, gay, straight, male, female, black, white, rural, urban, or whatever. What they want changes who wins entirely. We need solutions that help as many people as possible. People who wouldn’t normally support left wing politics. Now, this doesn’t mean abandoning our principles and adopting free-market pro-life hogwash. It means ensuring our policies are shown to solve the issues people have, or we ensure we quell their concerns through understanding and explanation. Democrats failed to listen to the rural whites.
For better or for worse, Trump brashly exploited this same technique. We saw how throughout the campaign he expressed so many different policy positions. We saw how he exploited the disaffected white communities, and simply disaffected right wingers in general. Look at the Republican primaries. Every establishment tool was cut down by Trump. None of them had the enthusiastic support of the large number of disaffected voters.
Somewhat similarly, we saw how the DNC actively favoured Clinton over the populist Sanders. While Clinton still won the popular vote (55.2% to 43.1%), there is the possibility that without DNC influence, Sanders may have won. Clinton After the primaries, the Clinton campaign failed to win back some of the disaffected lefties Sanders had supporting him. Many Sanders supporters refused to support her after the perceived collusion between the DNC and Clinton. He had an enthusiastic support base, like Trump, which Clinton didn’t have. Sanders, free of controversy, railing against the same establishment that Clinton unfortunately represents, would most likely have had a greater chance of beating Trump. Clinton failed to attract the disaffected voters. Trump, with his helpful anti-establishment position, was simply not enough of a threat for Clinton to build support.
It’s also notable that both Sanders and Trump performed better in open primaries. In open primaries, more of the people help select the best candidate, so more people will support the candidate in the election. There’s little doubt that Clinton supporters would haver supported Sanders, and it’s clear that most Cruz supporters (and the others) supported Trump. If the Democrats increase the number of open primaries, there will likely be more support for the winning candidate.
The people decide the election. If they have little to believe in or little to fight back against, they will not vote. Obama ran an inspiring campaign. Sanders ran a hopeful campaign. Unfortunately, Clinton ran a campaign focussing on what happens otherwise. It just wasn’t enough.
4. Restore faith in facts
I have no idea how. The mainstream media must be encouraged to focus on issues, not controversies. The market must put more value on facts and issues than controversies and comforting mistruths. Why did the media put so much focus on Trump? He was entertaining and thus he brought in views. Hold the media accountable. Value non-partisan sources, especially sources not driven by profit, like PBS or AP.
This election was so filled with lies and the willingness to believe them. Lies repeated so much and so conveniently that everything that they didn’t like was a lie. Part of this, of course, is because of the huge divisions created between the left & right, and establishment & the people.
It’s amazing how the fracturing of the media into so many different fringe ideological websites. Everything was easier when the majority of information came few the same few channels. Now, everyone can have a totally unique and often warped interpretation of events, depending on what helps your ’cause’ and what you want to be the truth.
I think the most important thing to do is try and put any hatred of Trump and his supporters aside. Fear and anger is justified, and will be useful if used positively. If we’re lucky, he’ll disregard more of his campaign rhetoric. Apparently his Middle East policy is different. He’s already filled his administration with the establishment that he campaigned on throwing out. Maybe his policies on immigrants, muslims, women, and gays will be different too? Though with Pence at his side, that may be asking too much. Just don’t let go of that anger. Don’t let go of that fear. Don’t let go of your principles. Listen to everyone’s perspective. Understand each other.
Use that fear and anger to build a strong progressive movement. Use that fear and anger to hold the Trump administration and the Republican congress to account. Use that same fear and anger to make your ideas heard, whether by protesting, organising, writing, or whatever. Use that fear and anger to change the government.