What then, the price of civilization?
"Jim Wright you said we need to compromise with those [who] voted for Trump. How? If they are truly okay that Trump lied where are the grounds to start?"
-- Margaret B. Munday, from comments under a post in the Stonekettle Station Facebook Group
How do we compromise with those who voted for Trump?
Not just those who voted for Trump, but especially if those conservatives don’t honestly care that he’s engaged in deliberate falsehoods?
Particularly if they themselves know President Trump’s statements to be false?
This question was prompted by two things, the previous essay here on Stonekettle Station, No Man’s Land, and a Facebook post I wrote regarding an article by Daniel Dale at The Star which detailed Trump supporters who openly believe Donald Trump is deliberately lying as part of some elaborate chess game.
In No Man’s Land (and two previous essays, Bug Hunt and Red Sea) I suggested liberals will have to compromise with conservatives in order to win back not only the White House, but Congress and the Supreme Court.
Daniel Dale’s article interviewed a number of Trump voters in economically depressed Newark, Ohio, who say they know the president is lying, for example about being “wiretapped” by former President Obama. They know Trump’s claim is a lie. They know it. They don’t think Trump was mistaken, they think he lied on purpose. And they think that’s great. They think Trump is deliberately lying as part of a larger strategy to shake up Washington and send liberals and the media (both of whom they regard as the enemy) into some kind of tizzy. A sentiment summed up by retired factory worker John Tolliver,
“What he was wanting to do was keep things stirred up so it was all confused. He said he was going to do that from the time he started running for the election. That’s what it’s going to take. When they’re confused, they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re going to make a mistake, and he’s going to grab them.”
How do we compromise with people like that?
Margaret isn't the only person to ask this question.
I've got hundreds of emails, hundreds of comments on Facebook and here on Stonekettle Station asking the same question or some variation of the same.
You said we need to compromise with those who voted for Trump. How?
Well, that is the question, isn’t it?
But that's not exactly what I said.
Though I do acknowledge that since a rather large number of people took it that way, perhaps I could have been a bit more specific.
So, let me be more specific.
First, let's start with three basic goals:
1. We want to win back the White House
2. AND after we win the White House, we'd like to get something done
3. AND after we get stuff done, we want it to be a foundation for further advancement instead of being erased next time we’re out of power.
Good so far?
I'll assume none of you have any major issues with those goals.
1. WIN THE WHITE HOUSE
To win the presidency, you have to win the Electoral College.
No. NO. Stop. Focus. We're not going to argue, here, now, if the Electoral College is a good idea or not. It is what it is and you have to win it to be president and vice president. The popular vote is nice, but it won't get you into the Oval Office. To win the White House, you need to win the Electoral College. See Trump.
After you win, you can talk about Amendments to the Constitution, but first you have to win big enough to even have that discussion in the first place.
To win the presidency, you have to win the Electoral College – I repeat myself since many Americans don’t seem to know this.
To win the Electoral College you need to win the state governments who appoint the Electors.
Which means you need to win back some of that sea of red in the middle of the county.
Which is why I use the map I used in the previous essays.
Now, many of you want to argue about that map.
You want me to use a map of voting districts instead.
Ok, here you go.
Image attributed to Daily Kos
The thing is: no matter how you look at that map, country, voting district, state, whatever, the whole damned middle of the country is red.
Now, you tell me that’s not really what’s going on. You tell me it’s not really just red or blue.
But you're wrong too.
It might not be that cut and dried at the people level, but it actually is either red or blue when it comes to Electoral College votes. See Trump et al.
The Electoral College picks the president and vice president and there you have it, right there.
However, if you're right and when you look at people instead of maps it really is more purple and not nearly so binary, then it should an achievable goal to win over enough of those people to swing the balance of the state. Reagan did it. Obama did it.
You need the states.
You need the red ones.
You need the states for two reasons: (A) to win the Electoral College, and (B) (see below).
Now, for (A) some of the people you need to win over, ALREADY CAN'T STAND DONALD TRUMP.
Yes, they’re conservatives and they voted for him, but they really, really don’t like him.
Maybe they voted for him because they always vote for the Republican no matter what. I know many people just like this. They hate Trump, but they are mortified at the idea anybody would think them anything but a loyal Republican. If the GOP ran Robot Cannibal Hitler's Head in a Pickle Jar, they'd vote for it because they're Republicans. To them the idea of being called a liberal is … disgraceful.
Maybe they voted for Trump because they didn't think he'd be this bad. Those people are fools, maybe, but that’s human nature. And being a fool isn’t a capital crime – or it shouldn’t be. Sometimes being a fool is how you learn not to be a fool in the future.
Maybe they voted for him because while they don't like him, they purely hated Hillary Clinton (Don't. Just don't start with the Bernie bullshit. Neither Sanders nor Clinton is ever going to be President. Move on)
Look here, there are plenty of decent conservatives who voted for Trump for whatever reason who are now suffering buyer's remorse.
A lot of them didn't want to buy Trump in the first place but they felt they had no choice.
They’re not “decent?”
Okay. Whatever. You know, a whole bunch of liberals were ready to embrace Glenn Beck a few months back when he pretended to turn over a new leaf. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Any ally in the fight, they said. So, let’s not argue about decent, shall we?
Here’s the really funny part: some of those people voted for Obama last time.
Think about that.
It should be possible with the right candidate (don’t start) and the right message (I mean it) and a willingness to listen (you may read that as compromise) to win those people over. To get some of them to change parties or cross party lines. It's happened before, both ways. It can be done.
Some conservatives didn't bother to vote at all.
Many are disgusted with the GOP (and the Democratic Party too). As I noted in the last essay, those town halls that Republicans refuse to show up for? Those are opportunities for liberals, for progressives, for Democrats. But you have to show up, even if the Republican congressman doesn't -- especially if the congressman doesn't.
So, again, it should be possible to win those people over.
And here’s the real kicker: if you can't win those people over now then you never will and you might as well just give up. Get used to it. Get used to losing your rights, get used to war, get used to the rich raping the rest of us, get used it.
Or, you can try to find common ground.
The fanatics? The nuts? The howling stormtrumpers with their KKK hats and Nazi salutes? The evangelical zealots who are right now trying to convince themselves that Trump is some kind of Christian loved by their insane drooling genocidal freak of a God? No. No. NO. Of course you're not going to win over those people, you're stupid to even try. And why the hell would you want to in the first place? I don't want Nazis on our team. You can't compromise with those people, they're assholes, and I suggested no such thing.
But if you can't win over some of that red in the middle of the country, if you’re not even willing to try, well then you'd better get used to Nazis in the White House.
2. GET SHIT DONE
Now, once you do win the White House (we’re being optimistic here) you want to get stuff done. You want to pass laws and fix things and generally make life better for everybody.
Otherwise, what's the point, right?
To do that, it's not enough to just win the White House.
Anybody who was warm and breathing during the last six years of the Obama Administration should know that it’s not enough to just win the White House.
Hell, Trump is learning that lesson right now in a very painful fashion.
To get shit done, you have to have a Congress and a Court and state governments willing to at least listen, hopefully cooperate, be willing to compromise, participate in active governing, and who will hopefully not try to fight you at every turn out of pure cussedness.
So, again, you have to win over the the states (and you thought I’d forgotten about (B) up above).
You can't keep ignoring those people in the middle of the country. Our federal government is designed – specifically designed – so that we are not subject to a tyranny of the majority. That means California doesn't get to push around Idaho either in elections or in federal government. That's why we have an electoral college and a senate and we are a republic instead of a democracy.
You've had eight years to get this lesson: It's not enough to win the White House.
If you want to get shit done, you have win the states. YOU HAVE TO WIN CONGRESS.
You've just seen this in action.
Trump just got handed his own ass by his own party.
Republicans voted 52 times to repeal Obamacare when Obama was in the White House and they didn't have a chance of it passing.
But when everything was in their favor, when they couldn't possibly fail, they failed.
Because the sons of bitches are so habituated to obstruction, they obstructed their own agenda.
They have broken government.
If they can’t make government work when they control the entire government, they have broken government. Quod erat demonstrandum.
And if government is broken, the country is broken.
So, it's not enough to win the White House and it's about more than winning elections.
It's about getting shit done.
It's about a functioning government.
It's about a functioning country.
It's about civilization.
Listen to me: Fanatics tear down civilization, always. It doesn’t matter if those fanatics are left or right, liberal or conservative, fanatics destroy civilization every time. Fanatics thrive on chaos and disorder and war and destruction. They revel in it. Fanatics are the howling barbarians at the gate.
Fanaticism is the enemy of civilization.
Fanatics be they political, religious, ideological, or whatever their particular bent, you can't reason with them, you can't compromise, you can't negotiate.
But if you can't find common ground with those who can be reasoned with then you end up with a nonfunctional government, which in turn means you get a nonfunctional country.
Which means civilization shortly begins to fall apart.
When government is nonfunctional – and thus the country, society, civilization – that, that right there, is when it happens.
That’s when the fanatics seize control.
That’s how you get communism, or fascism, or a feudal oligarchy, or an emperor.
That's how it happens. Every time.
The only thing – the only thing – that keeps fanaticism in check is a functioning, stable government supported by a functioning stable society.
So, how do you compromise with the fanatics who simply refuse to see reason?
How do you compromise with those who believe every loony conspiracy theory?
How do you compromise with people who just don't care if Trump lies to their faces because they like the idea of chaos and disorder and riot?
You can’t. Obviously. But we had better find a way to meet the reasonable people somewhere in the middle. We had damned well better find a way to offer those people something better than Donald Trump or whoever comes after him.
And that's why Goal #3 is the most important one of all.
3. ADVANCE OR DIE
For a nation, for civilization itself, to flourish, it must go forward.
Winning the White House isn’t enough.
Winning Congress isn’t enough.
Winning the states isn’t enough.
Winning isn’t enough.
Civilization has to evolve.
Our country and our society must advance.
We can't keep going back and forth, swinging between liberals and conservatives. We can't keep going over the same ground. For civilization to advance it must build on its successes and learn from its failures. We can’t keep fighting the same goddamned battles over and over.
Civilizations that don't advance?
By fire or by stagnation or by fragmentation, they die.
And the only way we go forward from this place we find ourselves at, is if both reasonable liberals and reasonable conservatives can find common ground, can compromise.
Which takes us at long, long last to the original question: How?
That's the rub, isn't it?
That's what you've been asking me for three months. How?
How do we find common ground?
Well, you start here: You find the people, whatever their politics, who believe civilization is better than the alternative.
If we can agree on that, the rest is just details.
Some of you want me to give you a detailed blueprint. A road map. The Big Answer.
I don't have one.
Because there is no single big answer.
There are just a million small ones.
And we’re going to have to find them together.
But the greatest menace to our civilization today is the conflict between giant organized systems of self-righteousness—each system only too delighted to find that the other is wicked—each only too glad that the sins give it the pretext for still deeper hatred and animosity.
- Herbert Butterfield, Christianity, Diplomacy and War