Democrats Can Make Their Voices Heard Without Sacrificing What We Stand For (Guest Voice)
by Kate Harveston
You’ve been watching the news and following current events online. You’re angry. You want to ruin somebody’s day or burn something down. It’s so easy to feel helpless — and even easier to act carelessly or cruelly because of it.
President #45 is what happens when we lash out blindly and leap without looking. One thing Donald Trump is good at is riling people up and convincing them they’re victims — but reactions like that don’t happen in the head. They happen in the gut. They’re spiteful rather than deliberate.
Trump learned to speak the language of the disenchanted and the disappointed. He never promised reasonable solutions, but he did make people feel listened-to.
Have We Been Listening?
You there, Democrat. Smartypants. Likely college graduate and possible atheist. How have you handled your disappointment lately? Do you feel your voice has been heard? Do you feel your government works for you? Do you feel you have a real stake in the future of this world, or are you scared like hell that we’re all gonna die?
And what are you doing about it? It’s clear that progressive thinkers are more vital than ever before if Democrats want to take back the government and the country.
But what do they stand for? Their platform must be built on something other than adversity, on something more substantial than Us vs. Them. That’s the thinking that landed the country in this situation in the first place. What’s needed now is for Democrats to commit completely and unflinchingly to:
• Making sure each deed serves the cause of love
• Working each day to build a more perfect, and more equal, world.
Sounds easy, right? Actually, it is — and it all starts with being nice for a change. Just as, in times of war, victory usually goes to whichever faction practices savagery most efficiently, political victory usually goes to those who most proficiently use hatred to their advantage. It’s time to find different tools.
Just the Facts
Listen, liberals — the goal is not to beat Republicans. The goal is to craft a better world. You get that, right? If Democrats spend their time convincing Republican voters to vote Democratic, rather than voting for what’s in their or the planet’s best interests, they’ve failed in their responsibility to maintain a reasoned discussion.
The solution? Forget party entirely. Quote the facts, and nothing but. Don’t fling accusations — instead, ask the conservatives in your family and social circles if they’re aware of the following problems:
• Opportunity inequality in the U.S. is the worst it’s been since the Great Depression.
• For the most part, being born into poverty is a life sentence. Upward mobility is increasingly a pipedream for working Americans.
• There is no state in America in which a single-bedroom apartment is reasonably affordable to a person working 40 hours per week at minimum wage.
• Healthcare prices have quadrupled in the last 50-plus years and were rising faster than inflation since long before Obama or Trump took office. Most industrialized, civilized countries have universal healthcare and state-negotiated drug prices, resulting in vastly lower costs for everybody and far cheaper prescription drugs.
• The decades during which wealth and opportunity were shared most fairly, and during which the economy grew most consistently, coincided with very high corporate taxes and high taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
• Every single climate scientist of consequence agrees that climate change happens, humans influence it, and the point of no return is either quickly approaching or already behind us.
You can believe in the idea of government even if you don’t believe in some of the people currently taking part. Why? Because anarchy is not an option.
As these trends have worsened with time, the tax burden has weighed more and more heavily on the middle class than it does on ultrawealthy Americans. If trickle-down economics ever worked, they certainly aren’t working right now.
How Democrats Can Make Their Case
What you just read isn’t an attack on Republicans. It’s not even a political platform — it’s a series of facts about which reasonable people should be able to agree if they have all the information in front of them. If one of your political discussions has included name-calling, you took a wrong turn. If it ends with a testy, “Let’s agree to disagree,” you’ve done something wrong.
A Is A and Facts Are Facts. But how we communicate facts is everything.
Say This, Not That When Communicating With Those in Other Parties
There are people in government who lie compulsively and then retreat behind phrases like “alternative facts” so they don’t have to account for their dishonesty.
How to gain back the ground lost as liberals, progressives, humanists and socialists, without lowering ourselves to the current level of political discourse? We’ve just covered what we need to say — but how do we say it?
To begin with, don’t call the president a sociopath and don’t talk about his hair or his fingers or his several wives. Instead, kindly point out any number of facts that needn’t rely on colorful language or denigration, such as:
• Trump is violating the Constitution in at least four different ways — some of them since the moment he was sworn in.
• Trump is helping push a healthcare “plan” that could send up to 43,000 people to their deaths each year so each of the wealthiest Americans can get a tax break totaling $7 million per year. Wouldn’t just one death be too many?
• Trump has said something objectively untrue to the American people, on average, once every five hours since taking office. He also said any healthcare plan he signed on to would cover “everybody.” Arguing whether these lapses are due to corruption or incompetence is not constructive — the fact is, he lies on a regular basis.
Again, these are facts that can be easily communicated without stooping to name-calling. They’re also facts very closely related to one of the unmistakable points of overlap between Republican and Democratic voters — the pursuit of a more accountable government. There is enough information publicly available — most of it absolutely free — that anybody who wishes to learn may do so. No matter the color of your hat or the party you identify with, it’s plain to see our government is in the wrong hands if a government for the people is what we’re after.
Be Confident Enough to Play Devil’s Advocate
There’s one more step to take, Democrats, if you want your voices heard. But you’re probably not going to like it. You need to play devil’s advocate.
Just a little bit. Give some ground that’s easy to give. Admit that no political ethos, no politician and no voter is above reproach or incapable of making mistakes. You’re going to hear liberals and Democrats and, yes, even specific politicians like Obama and Hillary called crooks, liars, incompetent fools or worse.
C’mon. We all know Democrats failed in 2016 as completely as Republicans:
• President Obama attempted to stem the flow of corporate money into the Democratic Party. Party leadership said “no.”
• The Affordable Care Act improved the lives of tens of millions of Americans. But it’s deeply imperfect, leaves many uninsured and still gives for-profit corporations too much power over public health. Democrats are too busy glorifying the man Obama and not nearly busy enough pointing out common-sense fixes for the law he helped birth.
• The Democratic Party is currently helmed by Tom Perez, who has a foul mouth and comes across as desperate. He fended off a challenge from a real progressive as narrowly as Hillary Clinton in the primaries. If you want Perez and the Democratic Party to take a hard turn toward the left, understand they’re not going to do it on their own.
Seeing Beyond Party to Ideology
And that brings me to my final point about why liberals need to be so careful about how to take part in the political discourse. They are fighting a battle on two fronts. Trump and his appeasers have made themselves preposterously easy to pick out of a lineup and keep an eye on — but liberals are also fighting against a less obvious Democratic incumbency that has resisted change nearly as desperately as the GOP has, and for almost as long.
If you’re still reading this, faithful Democrat, then for god’s sakes also remember not to pretend the DNC is America’s last and only hope. That isn’t remotely true, and things won’t get better until Perez and his inner circle admits it. When talking with conservatives about politics, prove that political allegiance really doesn’t matter these days — not when so much bad judgment and so many bad ideas have been pouring from both major political parties for more than a generation.
We’re All in This Together
At the end of the day, though, you can pick up all the facts and book learning you want, but there’s really only one language we need to speak right now — compassion. Even if you can’t muster up honest-to-god empathy, remember all of our deeds and all the words we choose to speak serve either love or something else.
Everybody knows we’re divided, so don’t make it worse. Be kind. Be patient. Remember how to listen much and say little. Everybody’s pretty tired of the roaring static, so let’s take a step back and stop adding to the unhelpful noise.
Kate Harveston is a freelance writer with a passion for social change and human rights. Kate holds a bachelor’s degree in English and minored in Criminal Justice. She enjoys all things related to law, politics, and the written word. If you like her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.