What it is

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In all our declarations and discussions of how terrible Trump is, or how “broken” our democracy is, or how oppressive the “Establishment” is, let’s not forget the doubly metaphorical elephant in the room: the fact that roughly half of our fellow voters cast their ballots for Trump, and that even now, after the disaster his presidency has been so far, a significant number of them still support him. This doesn’t excuse him, of course. Nor is it necessarily a blanket condemnation of them. What it is, is: what is.

It’s important to remember what is, because if you don’t, if you begin basing your activism on what isn’t, you can waste a lot of time and energy and end up doing no good. As long as well over half the electorate can be categorized as conservative (Republicans plus a surprising percentage of Democrats) any gains we make in health care, economic justice, gender and racial equality, and so forth — though we absolutely need to keep fighting every electoral and legislative battle — can only be incremental and will always be at risk of reversal with the next shift in the political winds. The next Trump could always be just around the corner.

Does this mean things are hopeless? No. “Is” is a present tense verb. What is, is at the moment, but it can change in the next. But how, in this case? The aforementioned electoral and legislative victories are one way, because they do affect the electorate, in either a virtuous or vicious cycle in which every step to the left or the right makes the next step slightly more possible, but they’re very slow, and subject to reversal. Is there a way to alter the balance of this game of tug-of-war itself?

I don’t know, but I think it’s worth exploring.

What is it that causes people to develop into liberals or progressives? What causes them to turn out conservative? Is it possible to persuade or enlighten or educate a person after their initial course has been set? If we do know some things about this, we need to pour more resources into whatever organizations or societal structures or educational efforts are doing that work effectively. If we currently know nothing, or don’t know enough yet, then we need to study the problem more. (Even as we continue pulling on that rope!)


This has been a “Politake,” a brief take on politics by Freeman Ng.