Gotta wonder how righties and lefties can stop talking past one another and join in order to start solving some of our vexing challenges. Here’s a key piece of what has to happen if we are to progress. First, some context.
The pundits have consistently been either wrong or clueless about the reasons for Donald Trump’s success at conniving support. Actually, he and all the Republican candidates (with the possible exception of Rand Paul) get righty support for some solid and important reasons.
There are millions of Americans who feel disrespected and forgotten by their government and their country and they are largely correct. For example, we are decades into supply side economics that has abandoned them and stolen their American dream. They have had catastrophic lies shoved down their throats and nobody in power is listening to them. The Republican presidential candidates play up to their anger, telling them they are right and mouthing various forms of “screw you” at government, which is pretty much what all those people want to say to our government. These folks are supremely angry and, like most people who have been wronged, they want to hit back. Here’s a metaphor for that.
Think for a moment of the people you know who have gone through a messy, painful divorce. They lash out irrationally and meanly at the same person they posed with in loving wedding photos just a few years earlier. They run up horrendous expenses and drain the savings just so that it hurts the other, even as their actions hurt themselves. They feel wronged and want to “hit back,” regardless of the price they themselves must pay. Think: people voting against their own interests.
The far right has spent decades demonizing government. Reagan campaigned and won telling us that government is the problem. That Big Lie lives on and now millions more Americans hate their own government and want to cripple it, so they vote for candidates who shut down the government, which curtails services righties themselves want. The Republicans go googly-eyed over national debt and screech their demands for lower taxes and small government (“small enough to drown it in the bathtub”). Then they enlarge government and either raise taxes, increase debt or both. Government isn’t the problem; lying, disingenuous, self-serving politicians are, and righties are way past being fed up with them. Think: hate for insiders and support for outsiders.
These emotionally charged righty voters do not and will not respond to logical arguments because they are consumed by fight-or-flight messages overwhelming their brains. That’s what causes Trump rally attendees to assault protesters, chant “Seig heil!” and wave Confederate banners. Forget about appealing to these folks with talk of compassion. They have to be approached with a message they can hear, so the first step is to find a way for us to hear one another.
We humans make decisions emotionally and justify them rationally. (Read Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence for more on that.) That’s critical to know, because those angry righties are incensed and, like everyone in such a state, reasoning doesn’t exist for them. It’s not that they don’t want to hear or that they are tone deaf. It’s that they cannot hear.
Perhaps righties can hear that they are being lied to by righty politicians, being sold out yet again. Maybe they can hear that their kids are the ones who are going to die in the desert when the next Republican president decides to invade yet another middle-east country. Tell them that will happen while the politicians’ kids are partying, playing X-Box games of world domination and ignoring those poor and middle class kids bleeding in the sand. That inherent lack of fairness is a powerful message that angry people can hear.
It’s possible righties will respond to hearing that if the Republican politicians have their way and revert healthcare to the way things were, that when these righties get cancer nobody will care. They’ll get minimal help and they will die in pain and way too young. But the pharmaceutical and insurance companies will have made billions off their suffering because the politicians have set it up to work that way.
They’ll really hate it when they learn that Republicans are trashing our education system through funding cuts, so now their kids won’t get an education that helps them to succeed in a vastly changed world. Their kids will live in the Chinese century, because there will no longer be exceptionalism in America. That’s a gut-wrencher for righties.
They, like every human being, make decisions emotionally and justify them rationally, so we have to speak to their gut, first, last and always if we are ever to stop talking past one another.
Just be clear that, because we’re human, you and I function with the same limitations. And we all need to adjust and connect if we are to stop the insanity and begin to fix our problems.
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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