This seems so obvious. It should not require an entire article to explain, but the Democrats are clearly not learning from their mistakes.
A turning point in the 2016 Presidential campaign was the Clinton gaffe of deeming half of her opposition as “deplorables.” She further insulted these people by myopically defining this group as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, islamophobic…” and so on. This was the culmination of a series of attacks from the regressive left and establishment left, over the last three years, with the intention of shaming the opposition.
But the question is, why would anyone think shaming a person will convince them to vote for your side? It truly is an exceptional non sequitur. This perplexing strategy produces the absolute inverse of the desired intention. Instead of corralling major support to the Democratic side, instead it drives away moderates and further distances conservatives.
It should be noted that this article is not addressing the receivers of these attacks. It is irrelevant if the opposition truly is or is not deplorable. For the most part, the opposition to the Democratic Party is not a constituency of racists. The vast majority of these people disagree with the DNC’s priorities and harbor no bad feelings for different races, genders, orientations and so on. While various opinion pieces attempted to defend Clinton’s gaffe with tenuous explanations peppered with overblown inferences from mild bias studies, they completely miss the point; namecalling never appeals to your audience.
A History of Vilification.
Historically, the American authoritarian left has utilized the deplorable-shaming technique for decades. In 1964, then-President Johnson launched the now infamous KKK advertisements hoping to shock more votes to the D’s.
Of course Reagan endured attacks regarding racism especially following the Welfare Queen scandal, the War on Crack, and various other executive policies. Bush 2 was regularly compared to Hitler and targeted viciously. And who can forget the wordsmith Kanye West’s remarks targeting George W Bush over the fallout from Hurricane Katrina.
Even in 2008, Clinton surrogates defamed the Obama team over claims of “running a sexist” campaign during the primaries. Perhaps when combined with the gravitas of mainstream media, party dominance over independents, and lack of alternatives, these tactics may have worked to motivate the liberal base, cajole the moderates, and freeze the conservatives from a reasonable counterattack. But the tides were shifting in the early 2010’s.
Why beer can’t solve your problems.
While social justice roots are firmly planted in academia in the 1980’s, the tree did not bear mainstream fruit until the early 2010’s. This first germinated with the Beer Summit between Obama, James Crowley, and Henry Louis Gates. Considering that all legal segregation and oppression has been pruned out of statutory and federal legislation, the social justice movement needed something to stay relevant. The spark of police violence, inherent racism, and institutionalized bigotry was ignited.
Leftwing authoritarians spotted an opportunity. If historically they could mildly shame the conservatives, then perhaps with excessive pressure, they could stamp out bigotry all together. Unlike the days of the W presidency, American progressives were no longer mired in constant opposition to the Republican agenda; they could devote all their time to social justice crusades.
What they did not expect was, overusing the charge of bigotry would result in its dilution, and ultimately, its nullification.
Following the reelection of Obama, progressives tuned out of the egregious bipartisan authoritarian intrusion of American freedom. Instead of monitoring this evisceration of the Bill of Rights and rights to privacy, social justice and intersectionalism went mainstream.
Paradoxically, the movement inverted all its core polemics. Instead of championing freedom of speech, the “but-brigade” echoed throughout the mainstream and digital airwaves. Instead of depending on individual classical liberalism, college students called for increased scholastic supervision. Groups who originated on the basis of equality and inclusiveness were now calling for increased segregation. Regressives defied the principles of freedom of the press and aggressively threatened outside media.
For a movement fixated on the rejection of things like victim blaming, those very same people targeted the murdered comics of Charlie Hebdo. Colleges founded on intellectual diversity were now harboring crowds protesting and deplatforming conservative, centrist, and even liberal speakers. Feminist groups founded on female empowerment and equality, now are defending minority groups with the worst track records for female and gay oppression and assault. And most importantly, they have replaced the tenet of fair equal expression with the abhorrent concept of the progressive stack.
My male-tears cup runneth over.
The barrage of assaults overwhelmed the right, and even flooded into moderate and even classical liberal circles. Anyone not parroting the regressive narrative was immediately doxxed, targeted, and called out. This caused some initial consternation because no one really knew where to land. Anti-authoritarian lefties began to take note. Bill Maher, The Amazing Atheist, Thunderfoot, Dave Rubin, Gad Saad, Salman Rushdie, Sargon of Akkad, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and many others shifted their focus from their respective fields to direct their attention to this new threat on individual freedom. These players were endlessly derided and still have to devote time and energy to cleaning up the smears of people who lack the understanding of the nuance to their arguments. Also, at this point, new right wing media (especially online) reacted to counter these specious accusations, notably participants on Info-Wars, The Rebel Media, Breitbart, The Daily Wire, and so on.
The movement began to spin out of control. SJW’s went so far as to target well-known leftwing supporters like Ellen Degeneres and Bernie Sanders. With the pressure cooker at maximum, things seemed like they could not get much worse…
Somehow, Trump’s campaign realized early on that the social justice attacks would not hurt him, but instead shore up his support. There exists no evidence of this claim, but looking back at early campaign decisions it is now very apparent. This is not to say that Trump recognized his constituents to be unabashed or latent bigots; quite the contrary. The attack formalized which side you were on, regardless of your feelings over race or sex or orientation. By absorbing a weak SJW slam, the person is now a de facto Republican with the obligation to pull the lever for the GOP, or did not to pull the level at all. Aggrevated Social Justice attacks produce more opposition than they will ever recruit.
Trump amplified this by reinforcing the rhetoric to frame the left as these crybullies. He used the Trump protesters to his advantage, displaying their deplatforming attempts and regressive idiocy by putting them in a tacitly-understood undesirable box. The legacy media broadcast these spectacles as examples of why Trump was not presidential, but his supporters perceived it as all the more reason to resist the social justice movement. Even liberal intellectuals like Sam Harris warned that without proper courteous discussion on these topics, the general public will have nowhere to land but on the political right. And likely the Nationalist Right.
Trump secured the nomination and Clinton rigged hers. Initially, polling and public perception seemed to show Clinton winning in a landslide. For weeks, Clinton hid from the public limelight, hoping to run out the clock on the election. What little campaigning she did, it usually resulted in bad press. She admitted she was not an inspiring or natural politician.
And then, the “Deplorable” gaffe. Months before, her surrogates had alienated the diehard Sanders supporters with more social justice smears like Berniebros and sexists. Now the deplorables comment mobilized the moderates and conservatives against the DNC. This cheap comment in a democratic-friendly crowd was played endlessly by right-leaning media and even touted by Trump in his rallies to further paint HRC as out of touch.
With the election over, it would be prudent for DNC leadership to reduce this tactic as quickly as possible. Social Justice assaults do not work. But sadly, the Democratic Party is still banking on this smear campaign. Recently, California representative Maxine Waters (a noted Clinton superdelegate) went on several tirades calling Trump supporters “scumbags”, dishonorable, and to “go to Hell.”
Nancy Pelosi targeted Trump and his surrogates as “white nationalists,” and Harry Reid relayed similar sentiments. Various other Democratic defenders and pundits echoed the same smears. Anyone who was against the DNC was considered an Alt-Right troll.
If yelling and name-calling at the top of my lungs does not work, what will?
First of all, almost all of Trump’s voters are not racists, sexists, homophobes, or whatever. It is a fact. The aforementioned tenuous studies are not proof that they are statistically racist. The vast majority just did not like Clinton as a candidate, or they disagreed with her policies or the policies of the DNC. Or they did not find her inspiring or a representative of their principles. Most are average middle class people with the struggles of every day life at hand.
The best way to appeal to their vote is to stop yelling at them. Stop calling them things they are not. Most of them would have voted for a more reputable, a more honorable, a less nefarious Democratic candidate, over Trump. Even some of the Republican leaders were encouraging voters to switch parties for Clinton. There was a substantial population of life-long Republicans that were willing to switch sides for Sanders. Many of the Trump supporters had previously voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. If you want someone to listen to you, you need to be fair, consistent, and positive. If you want someone to vote for your candidate, you need to appeal to them with reason, logic, and courtesy. Badgering them with unfounded claims crystallizes their desire to avoid the Democratic side as much as possible. Who would want to be on the side that is portrayed as the joke?
Secondly, there may be a small faction of actual racists, sexists, and bigots residing in the GOP. While most on the left write off this population as unfit for rehabilitation, that is of course ridiculous. Bigotry can always be unlearned. It is not an innate immovable force.
If you peruse or google how to disable racism in someone, you get some awful suggestions. One of the most popular (and often republished) lists for interrogating bigots is from the Southern Poverty Law Center. The lengthy list titled “Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry” is probably the worst solution to appeal to genuine racists. The same can be said for the Anti-Defammation League’s list for “101 Ways You Can Beat Prejudice.” With suggestions like “Recite the A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute pledge, or a similar pledge against prejudice created by your student body, at a school-wide assembly,” “Initiate classroom discussions of terms such as anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, homophobia and bias. Then compose a list of definitions and post it in a prominent place,” and “Form a student-faculty committee to write “Rules of Respect” for your school and display the finished set of rules in every classroom,” this will further alienate the so-called bigot from entering into your environment.
Bigotry is learned, and to extirpate it from someone, it must be unlearned through positive experience. Regardless of all the contrived justice lists and pop-science suggestions, there exists only one way to deprogram prejudice: living, working, and being with other people. The longer they deal with people, the more likely they are to encounter good people who disprove the misunderstood stereotype, and the more likely the prejudice will fade. Alienation and isolation strengthens bigotry, so attacking a person will further force them into seclusion.
In a recent sociological study, they showed that a simple positive (non-argumentative) ten-minute conversation with an originally-opposed person can sway their perception about transgenderism. Vox reported an anecdote where canvassing individuals positively discussed homosexuality, even when the interviewee used slurs. Here is an excerpt:
In the beginning of their conversation, Virginia asks Gustavo how likely he’d be to support transgender rights legislation. Gustavo says he wouldn’t support it because he’s worried about predatory men using the law as an opportunity to enter women’s bathrooms.
Virginia asks why he feels that way.
“I’m from South America, and in South America we don’t like fags,” he tells her.
This next moment is crucial: Virginia doesn’t jump on Gustavo for the slur, and instead says, “I’m gay,” in a friendly manner. Gustavo doesn’t recoil. Actually, he becomes more interested.
Gustavo and Virginia go on to discuss how much they love their partners, and how that love helps them overcome adversity. Gustavo tells Virginia that his wife is a disabled person. “God gave me the ability to love a disabled person,” he says, and that taking care of one another is why love matters.
“That resonate a lots with me,” Virginia responds. “For me, these laws, and including transgender people are about that. They’re about how we treat one another.”
Now that Gustavo is in a place where he’s more open, Virginia asks him to imagine what the worst thing could happen if he used a bathroom with a transgender person. He admits he wouldn’t be scared. Then comes the breakthrough.
“Listen, probably I was mistaken,” he says of his original position on trans rights.
Virginia ask him again if he’d vote in favor of banning transgender discrimination. “In favor,” he says.
The same can be said about Dr Martin Luther King’s movement as well. He was able to sway public opinion his way via the routes of non-violence and a positive message. There are thousands of examples of historical situations where the outsider appealed to the bigot, but eventually won them over. And none of those times did insults or attacks work. Recently, a man named Daryl Davis showed how his gentile approach was successful in converting two-hundred avowed KKK members out of their prejudice.
Give them a platform. You challenge them. But you don’t challenge them rudely or violently. You do it politely and intelligently. And when you do things that way chances are they will reciprocate and give you a platform. –Daryl Davis
I’ll leave you with one last thing. In 2003, the documentarian Louis Theroux followed noted retired Neo Nazi leader Tom Metzger. In the conclusion of the film, Therous confronts Metzger over his racist hypocrisy. He was supposed to be “the most dangerous racist in America,” yet he enjoyed the fruits of multi-cultural southern California. Metzger’s lifestyle was a direct condemnation of the ideals he espouses. If he truly is the worst of all the bigots, then we as a society need to focus on more pressing issues than dull bigotry.
——— Nicholas Pisca is founder of 0001D, and can be found atTwitter, Facebook, and Youtube. Before you get all into a huff, he probably has less in common with you and even less with your enemies. So at least you got that.