The Left really did a number on themselves. This was not supposed to happen.
The thing is, as I’ve written elsewhere, while conservatives at their best tend to view their liberal foes sympathetically (healthcare for all isn’t a bad idea, but you can’t implement it that way), the Left at its best views the right as either stupid or sinister. The Left’s contempt was there before the election. Their terror is here now that Stupid has won.
As the dust settles, Trumpians begin to raise their hands to be counted and conversations have begun. The Left is still mad, but they’re beginning to listen, a bit, I think. Still, as one liberal coworker put it to me after I gave a rousing defense Trump: “How are we friends?” Amazing what being stuck in a carpool with someone ten hours a week will do to a person.
But that’s not a flippant aside. It’s the point: as a conservative, I’m friends with numerous liberal colleagues and on social media I interact with even more folks from the Left. These friendships and acquaintances have a way of breaking down stereotypes and making people listen to the other side. My coworkers and I laugh in the car and over beers about work, students, school administration, and culture. I’m conversant in their lingo and know their concerns and political passions. We talk about politics, but I’m also diplomatic. Part of this is self-preservation (no need to rock the boat too much). Part of it is my desire give them a window into the other side. Part of it is that I can’t help myself (you know, before going off on Trump’s deportation schemes, Obama has deported more people than any other president?). And they listen, sort of. Either way, at the end of the day, we know how to put those differences aside and laugh about that obnoxious kid from Brazil that plagues us all.
The Liberal Bubble
The problem is that until now it’s been a very one-way street in the national media dominated by the Left. If your opponent is stupid or sinister, what point is there in talking or considering their position?
This is where friendships have a way of opening up the conversation. One friend on facebook commented that I was literally his only window into the pro-Trump position. That’s good news, but also demonstrates how solipsistic the Left has gotten. Speaking with Argos (see his pro-Trump profile here and relief after the election here), both of us were somewhat befuddled by the comment:
Argos: I have lots of liberal friends on facebook that were pulling their hair out.
Bellewether: Me to.
Argos: he said “literally” you were the only one?
Of course, the media’s immediate reaction was to go on and on about how sexism and racism won this election (never mind that Trump won States that Obama won twice) but this doesn’t surprise me. The big city-media-Left-wing bubble is real. It’s as if a gigantic one way mirror surrounds these “thought centers” full of “thought leaders”: the rest of the nation can see in, but the city has a hard time seeing out. In a weird way, people in middle America have a better grasp on the whole picture.
Liberals, Do You Know Us? Who’s Paranoid Now?
I’m not surprised, then, by liberal befuddlement. As it happens, the conservatives I run with are pretty good at talking things out and opening up an intellectual vista for our liberal colleagues: here, this is what the midwest looks like; this is what Middle America looks like. And we’re glad to do it. We don’t think liberals are the spawn of Satan (except when they are) and always find it amusing when Lefties squinting at us are confused to discover we aren’t veiled versions of the KKK.
Just today a fellow teacher dropped by my office and said that his wife really enjoyed talking to me at the bar during the staff Christmas Party (I know, it was a bit early). He mentioned to her that I was a Trump supporter, to which she replied, “Well, that’s a surprise! He’s the only one I’d ever talk to!”
But here’s the problem. Her sentiment is not unusual for those on the Left, but how is it in any way reasonable?
There are intractable differences between Left and right on a whole host of issues, no doubt about it. But we are all still Americans. Liberals and conservatives being stuck together in a carpool has a way of humanizing the other side.
Ronald Reagan, the ardent Cold Warrior facing a far more intractable problem than we find between Left and right in America, reached out to his dire foes the Soviets with this anecdote:
Just suppose with me for a moment that an Ivan and an Anya could find themselves, say, in a waiting room, or sharing a shelter from the rain or a storm with a Jim and Sally, and that there was no language barrier to keep them from getting acquaintedWould they then deliberate the differences between their respective governments? Or would they find themselves comparing notes about their children and what each other did for a living? Before they parted company they would probably have touched on ambitions and hobbies and what they wanted for their children and the problems of making ends meet. And as they went their separate ways, maybe Anyway would say to Ivan, “wasn’t she nice, she also teaches music.” Maybe Jim would be telling Sally what Ivan did or didn’t like about his boss. They might even have decided that they were all going to get together for dinner some evening soon. Above all, they would have proven that people don’t make wars (Gaddis 360-361).
That’s good rhetoric. It’s also true in many ways: my carpool was that shelter from the rain. I’ve seen it happen.
Another case in point: a Trump acquaintance of mine on facebook wrote a long post describing a nice two-hour conversation she had with an African-American Hillary-backer while waiting at the airport. At the end of the conversation, she said they both agreed that they wanted the best for their country and that the freedom of ideas and expression are what (would) make America great (again). Of course, the rub comes over how that is to be done, but the Hillary-backer was listening.