Where do we go from here?
Last week Jeff did a marvelous job explaining much of what has led us to where we are today, a place I call The Great Divide. This nation is divided more than at any other time since the end of the Civil War in 1865. The divide is complex … not just white vs non-white, but Christian vs women, LGBTQ, & non-Christian, even once again male vs female. And perhaps most notably, conservative vs liberal. Those who are for smaller governments with fewer powers, for unlimited wealth, for uber-capitalism, versus those whose values are all about people, about using tax monies to help those in need, to reduce the ever-widening income disparity, to educate the nation’s youth, to provide such things as health care, housing and food for those who cannot provide for themselves.
Trump was able to rise to power largely because of those divisions. He played them, he pitted one against the other, he instilled in his supporters a ‘fear of other’. Since 9/11, people in this nation have worked to quell their fear of Middle-Easterners, and then along came Trump and fanned the flames of fear.
Today we stand at a crossroads, a place where we must decide to either accept the rifts, to allow a madman to divide and conquer, or to move past the things that divide us and search for common ground, to find ways to heal this nation.
So, Jeff answered the question, “How did we get here?”, and I must attempt to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?” My inclination is to answer with three words: to the polls. But, while that is obviously the short answer, there must be more. We must find ways to reach out to that 40% I mentioned in our introduction two weeks ago … the 40% who did not bother to vote in 2016. We must find ways to remind ourselves that we are all in this together and that if we don’t make some serious changes, we will all go down … together.
To those of us who are displeased with the corruption, greed, and lack of integrity in Trump’s administration, it is clear that we must vote him out of office. No doubts there. But, my friends, that is not the end of it, for Trump is not the entirety of the problem. I have long said, and I still believe, that Trump is but a symbol of a greater problem. Some 40% of the people in this country still, despite massive corruption and ineptitude among Trump and his cohorts, support him. Even if Trump leaves the White House on January 20th 2021, those 40% are still out there, and they are going to be mightily displeased.
So, the problem is multi-fold. First, we need to vote Trump out of office, for it is the opinion of this writer that he presents, as our friend Keith has often said, a clear and present danger to the future of this nation. But then what? How do we heal the ‘great divide’? How do we find a middle ground, some common cause? When I was doing graduate work back in the 1980s, one of my jobs was as a research assistant for a professor of Political Science, Joe Scolnick. At the time, Joe was writing a paper on conflict management, and I well remember the theme. According to his research, when the people of a nation are so seriously divided, often a threat from outside the nation is the only thing that will bring them together.
In our lifetime, we have seen how this works, albeit briefly. Remember in the days and weeks following 11 September 2001, aka 9/11? New Yorkers, notorious for their callousness and stand-offish personas (which is somewhat of a myth anyway) came together, they helped their neighbors, they volunteered both time and resources. All around the nation, people were kinder, more human. It didn’t last for long, but it was there … it was palpable.
I experienced this on a personal level. I live in a neighborhood that is comprised of about 30% Middle-Eastern refugees. They are all truly wonderful people, generous to a fault, kind and caring. A couple of days after 9/11, a woman from down the street, a Pakistani woman, brought me flowers, a card, and said that she just wanted me to know how sorry she was.
But back to my point. Governments have, at some points throughout history, created an external threat to bring about internal cohesion. Think about that one for a minute. Do we really need to have a threat from outside, whether real or perceived, to bring the people of this country together for the common good? I don’t think so, but if we don’t find ways to heal ourselves, we leave ourselves open to that very real possibility.
I like to think there are more things that we have in common than there are things that divide us, though sometimes it certainly doesn’t seem that way. For one thing, we are all humans with shared needs of family, food, clothing, shelter, jobs, friends … and love. This is our country, our home. All of those are basic human needs, far more substantial and important than the things that divide us. Among those things that divide us, I think there are three that rank at the top of the list: religious beliefs, income disparity, and bigotry.
So, our first goal must be the November elections, not only the presidential, but also the congressional and gubernatorial elections. And, in the interest of staying focused, keeping our eye on that ball, we will focus most of our attention in this project toward that end, but keep in the back of your mind, that the problem does not end when Donald Trump walks out of the White House.
Now, beyond going to the polls on November 3rd, we have other things we need to do.
Every day, states are working on ways to disenfranchise minority and lower income voters. Some of their tools are gerrymandering, voter ID laws, closing or reducing the hours of polling stations, purging voter registration rolls, making registration harder, and the list goes on. Most of this we have little voice in, but there are things we can do. The most important thing, I think, is … talk. We need to work toward convincing people how imperative it is for them to vote. And, we need to have conversations about the reasons Trump must be voted out of office. This is the tough one, folks, but … we have been going about it all wrong, I think. A few of you may remember my post from August 2017 about Daryl Davis, a black man who befriended members of the KKK by listening to them, talking to them, reasoning with them, and had convinced more than 200 KKK members to lay down their robes. He didn’t call them names, didn’t belittle them … he tried to understand them, and to help them to understand him. This, I think, is the approach we must take, this is how we will help some Trump supporters understand what it is we want for this nation.
We have our work cut out for us, my friends. There are just under 10 months until election day, just 286 days. Right now, if I had to lay odds, I would say that if the election were held tomorrow, Donald Trump would get another 4-year term, for he has played the victim card on the impeachment issue, and played it well. His fan base are typically single-issue voters, and the two most important issues to them are immigration and religious ‘rights’, including an abortion ban. Let’s put our heads together, let’s try to find common ground with those who view the world through a different lens than we do. In the long run, it will be worth our effort.
*Note to Readers: This project will be ongoing for … some time, we’re not sure how long yet, but we would like to keep up the momentum through election day, at least. In keeping with that, we will cover various topics once a week for (with an occasional break) the next ten months, including how to motivate voters, the lifetime appointments of the judiciary, where we go from here, the role of the U.S. in the larger, global world, and more. After the Democratic National Convention, when there is a final Democratic nominee, we will move more into the area of platforms and ideologies. We hope you’re enjoying this project as much as we are and really would welcome any ideas or suggestions you may have.
Table of Contents to Project Discord & Dissension
Discord & Dissension — Part I — Introduction
Discord & Dissension – Part ll – “How did we get here? – Part 1”
Discord & Dissension – Part ll – “How did we get here? – Part 2”