A friend’s Facebook post this morning made me very sad. It offered up this article from a pair of liberals reflecting on their behavior during this latest election cycle with the comment, “A thoughtful article to consider our own behavior and how we can move forward in constructive dialogue.”
It’s not a bad article—that’s not why it makes me sad. It is thoughtful. It does offer some regrets about their behavior as well as some straightforward and reasonable suggestions for liberals to engage in a reasonable discussion with their opponents on the right in an attempt to move forward together. It’s certainly a contrast with today’s more common charge from the left that the election was a victory won by racists and misogynists. What makes me sad is that it was written way too late to do any good or reverse this nation’s course towards division.
Liberal ascendancy in America has long been making our political conversation increasingly nasty—and the stops were all pulled out for this election cycle. It was not characterized by meaningful argument or dialogue, but by a cavalcade of name-calling and attempted gotcha’s. We clearly reached peak-Godwin with all the “Trump is basically Hitler” rhetoric, and as Scott Adams rightly pointed out, that’s basically saying a person would be morally justified in killing the guy and attacking his followers. Beyond the personalities, positions that differ from leftist orthodoxy continue to be met with mere charges of bigotry, hate, thisism, and thatism, while those who hold them are dismissed as some variation of “deplorables.”
The left has also gutted our so-called fourth estate. Rather than a check and balance on our political powers and the corruption they necessarily provoke, they’ve freely opted to be the public relations arm of the Democratic Party. The Wikileaks emails confirm in black and white what every conservative already knew—that the media was in the tank for Hillary. Now that so much of the fawning, favoritism, deliberately leaked debate questions, and so forth are a matter of public record, no honest person can continue to use scare quotes for the term, liberal media. My personal favorite was the reporter who wanted John Podesta’s input on what questions he should ask “Jeb” in an upcoming interview. If his job were really to interview public figures, he wouldn’t need Podesta to tell him how to do it.
Worst of all, this river of vitriol has long been flooding outside out of the banks of rhetoric. Mayors of majors cities have declared that there’s no place for Chick-fil-A restaurants in their realms because of their own civil political donations. People are being fired from their jobs and losing their livelihoods for civilly disagreeing with leftist orthodoxy—folks like Brandon Eich, Baronelle Stutzman, and others. The recently released videos from James O’Keefe catch Democratic operatives admitting to inciting violence at Trump rallies and apparently conspiring to commit voter fraud. These sorts of things cannot be dismissed as words spoken in anger—these are deliberate and substantive attacks on the opposition.
All of this has been stewing for a long time, but the left wholeheartedly embraced it during this election. They went all-in against Trump and spewed every ounce of venom that they had stored up. And it didn’t work. They still lost.
It is only now, in that context, that I’m hearing the suggestion that liberals might need to reflect on their behavior in order to work together with the conservatives they’ve just tried to exile from civil society. It’s rather telling that the article actually has to remind their readers “to periodically seek out reasonable advocates of opposing views—and listen deeply to them.” They wouldn’t have to go out of their way to find us if they had been less eliminationist in their rhetoric and actions—so sure they were chosen by the future to supplant everyone else.
So, as a “reasonable advocate of opposing views,” allow me to provide something to which the left should listen deeply. Do you know how your suggestion of constructive dialog looks now? It looks like a man who fires every round of ammunition he has at his intended victim, fails to kill him, and then, when pulling the trigger produces nothing but clicks, says, “Hey… let’s sit down and talk this out like adults.” That’s not a man who’s looking for a civil conversation. That’s a man who’s looking for another opportunity, and the right must not provide one. The left has obliterated the kind of civic trust that serves as a prerequisite for constructive dialog. All that’s left is finding out who is stronger.
It makes me sad because I have no doubt that some liberals are quite genuine in their desire to reconsider their actions and look for a new way forward that’s more cooperative. Unfortunately, neither do I have any doubt that the time for such measures is long past or that their voices are far too small among those whose cooperative attitudes quickly whither away when they acquire power sufficient to their goals. Sometimes, when you cross a line, you cannot go back. That the left has done so is precisely why so many conservatives opted to elect a man like Trump in the first place.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m suddenly totally on board with our president-elect anymore than I’m going to pretend I’m not relived that Clinton lost. Nevertheless, as I’ve written before, Trump, for all his flaws, is a fighter who has already achieved some important victories that conservatives have never managed. Plus, the left (and the GOP establishment) hate him as much as they hate conservatives. I think there’s a lot more potential for cooperation with Trump and his supporters than there is with the left. We should be above much of what he’s done, but that doesn’t mean we have to be above working with him.