By now, it has become, at an absolute minimum, a thrice-daily commonplace: "45" or his press spokesman Sean Spicer or his advisor Kellyanne Conway or someone else from the West Wing, will tweet, claim or give voice to an outrageously obvious lie (i.e. murders at their highest rate in the past half century; America is in dire danger of a terrorist attack; there were between 3 and 5 million illegal votes in the 2016 election). In other words, we are now living in a country where no more than 25% of the citizenry really, truly believe the most unbelievable, factually rebuttable things. And for those who wonder to what this figure - 25% - refers, permit me to enlighten you with a fact: 25% represents the percentage of the American electorate that voted for the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (or, to be honestly inclusive, against Hillary Clinton). Yes, you read correctly: about 1 in 4 eligible voters in the USA actually cast their ballot for "45." That's bad enough. But what's worse - far, far worse - is that this percentage - which amounts to just under 58,000,000 out of a total voting-age population of 231,556,622 in a nation of 326,474,013 people - also represents the only group "45" really, truly cares about. For he senses that no matter what he says or does will be just fine with them.
Now, truth to tell, most of the readers of this blog don't have all that much daily contact with members of the 25%. We all tend to live in our own concentric circles of interest, divided by income, demographics, education and a whole host of other factors. As such, most of us spend far more time surrounded by folks whose political outlook - not to mention likes and dislikes - are pretty close to ours rather than with people who will give you an angry earful about how great "45" is, how corrupt President Obama was, or how Hillary Clinton is shortly going to be moving from Chappaqua to Sing Sing.
For most of us, it is both clear and axiomatic that "45" is a pathological liar; a potentially delusional monomaniac who is woefully unfit to serve as POTUS. But having written all this, most of us also have a "crazy Uncle Bernie," an upstairs neighbor or a chappie at the gym (where, for reasons unknown, most locker room televisions are set to Fox News), who, as mentioned above, are rarin' to show you the error of your ways; to counter facts with fiction and heartfelt questions with toxic bromides. Indeed, for those who believe that the better armed with facts we are the greater the likelihood of "converting" a Trumpeter into a progressive, guess again. Many have been carefully tutored into "knowing" that the facts we counter with are mere products of the conspiratorial, utterly mendacious mainstream media.
For me, it has long been a daily must to spend almost as much time reading, listening or watching Fox, Breitbart, Limbaugh or News Max as it is the New York Times, National Public Radio or The Daily Kos. Why? Well, despite the fact that the former are frequently no better than bitter emetics, they do keep one abreast of how the 25% thinks, what they believe, or give one insight as to how to best deal - or not - with them.
(A hint: whenever you read an online pro-progressive, fact-checking op-ed piece, make sure to read a sampling of those responses which have the highest number of negatives. It's a real eye-opener. Case in point, an op-ed piece by Washington Post writer Kathleen Parker entitled "Trump's Two-Year Presidency." In it, Ms. Parker, who is politically right-of-center, makes the case that "45" just might face impeachment proceedings before too long. In one paragraph, Ms. Parker writes, "Once ensconced, it would take a Democratic majority approximately 30 seconds to begin impeachment proceedings selecting from an accumulating pile of lies, overreach and just plain sloppiness. That is, assuming Trump hasn’t already been shown the exit. Thus far, Trump and his henchmen have conducted a full frontal assault on civil liberties, open government and religious freedom, as well as instigating or condoning a cascade of ethics violations ranging from the serious (business conflicts of interest) to the absurd (attacking a department store for dropping his daughter’s fashion line). And, no, it’s not just a father defending his daughter. It’s the president of the United States bullying a particular business and, more generally, making a public case against free enterprise."
Ah, but the comments are well worth the price of admission. One writer responded with an attack on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "It was Hillary who lied. Remember "There was no classified info in the emails! Then when that was proven to be a lie it was "None of the email was marked classified!" which was a lie and irrelevant. Remember when she said "I only used one device for email." and that was a lie also." Another, which likewise didn't come close to defending "45" attacked Barack Obama: "It's funny to watch you Progressive Fascists run around like chickens with their heads cut off. Your pretending to be worried about our president, but you were happy to blindly support our worst president ever, Tyrant Obama the Liar. He violated the constitution, lied, failed at everything he did."
In total, this one op-ed piece drew more than 5,800 responses, about a quarter of which (yes, 25%!) were scathing denunciations, rather than heartfelt defenses. So what to do? How do we respond in our daily lives to people who are incredibly pro-"45"? People who will endlessly tell you "He is a tremendously rich, successful businessman; he knows what he is doing? Sorry friends, but facts won't cut it. Rational arguments cannot keep a charging bull intent on doing what comes naturally. In my experience, in political debates, the less one knows, the more certain they are, the more impervious they are to reason, and more likely to become angry, cutting and dyspeptic. (Sorry to say, this also goes for people reasonably well-armed with facts.)
So why even try?
Stone's first rule of politics has long been "Trying to convert a person on the other side of the political fence is akin to banging one's head against a wall. It's painful, damaging and can only lead to a potentially lethal concussion. So unless you're truly in love with concussions, don't even try." This is to say that instead of trying to disabuse Trumpeters of their prideful certainty that he is going to stand up to our enemies, bring all exported jobs back home, build a "beautiful wall" and make Mexico pay for it, etc., etc., etc., why not take that time, effort and energy to instead find new, heretofore untapped supporters? There are more than 90 million people who did not take the time to vote in 2016. These are the people we should be talking to - not those who are charter members of the "Don't try to confuse me with the facts" club.
Medically speaking, concussions are bad for one's health; just ask any number of former NFL players. Civically speaking, concussions - the kind which come from continually banging one's head against the wall of political argumentation - are bad for the nation's future. Engaging in us-versus-them debates and disputes won't change anyone's mind, and can regrettably make enemies out of friends and outlaws out of in-laws. It is far healthier to recruit from the roughly 42% who did not vote than from the 25% who think "45" is just the answer for what ails American politics.
So where do we find and engage the 42%? A couple of suggestions:
- Attend any of the rallies going on all over America and engage people you don't know in conversation. Ask questions; find out what upsets them and what they fear. Invite them to become even further involved.
- Find out who your local precinct captain is. If you don't have one, contact your local party leader(s) and volunteer for the job. Get to know your neighbors or the folks who live on the floor above.
- Listen more than you speak until such time as the people you're listening to are getting the notion that you're alright . . . then begin speaking so that they listen.
Many have erroneously suggested that what's happening in the country these past several weeks is merely a leftist version of the 2008 Tea Party phenomenon. It isn't: the Tea Party was created and galvanized by Koch Brother money and Carl Rove cunning. What's going on these past few weeks is a definite "people's movement." Become a part of it. No concussions here; perhaps a sense of giddiness . . .
Join the movement. Keep your cool. Do a lot of listening. And above all remember: concussions are both painful and potentially lethal . . .
23 days down, 1,437 to go.
Copyright©2017 Kurt F. Stone