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Whom Should We Fear?

We have just elected a president who, during his campaign, recommended restricting immigration based on religion, registration and surveillance of Muslims, greater emphasis on “law and order” in our criminal justice system, mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, a wall between the U.S. and Mexico,  repeal of the health care reforms in the Affordable Care Act., and removal of environmental regulations on industry. His choice of a running mate was an evangelical Christian governor who had tried to pass a law that would discriminate against gays and lesbians and who has opposed gay marriage and abortion rights. He used ads that hinted at racist and anti-semitic sentiments. His supporters included the KKK and other White supremacist groups.

People are frightened by Trump’s election. If he enacts many of the policies he proposed during his campaign we will have a very different country. It will be one that limits freedom based on religion, that breaks up families of immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for years, that hastens climate change and pollutes the environment, and that supports a criminal justice system that often violates the civil rights of minority groups. Millions of Americans will lose health insurance, and abortion and perhaps gay marriage will once again become illegal.

The fear engendered by the Trump victory has incited people to take to the streets and protest, shouting “not my president.”  Other voices, most notably President Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, have urged a wait and see attitude, asking to give the new President Trump a chance before making a judgment or throwing up opposition to what he might potentially do.

No one predicted a Trump victory and the national raw vote actually favored Clinton. Post-election analysis has indicated that there are large, regional differences within the U.S., with the Northeast and West being liberal and the South and center of the country being conservative.  Another way to divide the regional differences is between urban and rural. Urban voters tend to be liberal and rural voters conservative. These differences, as well as those based upon age and race, are cultural and attitudinal and translate into political support for either Republican or Democratic candidates.

Perhaps because many of the attitudinal and political differences in the country reflect regional, age or racial differences, Americans mostly live around and socialize with people who agree with them on cultural and political issues. Those who oppose them live elsewhere and are not likely to be part of their group of work or leisure colleagues. This situation makes it particularly easy to feel that those with different opinions are members of an “other” group with which someone has little in common. The preferences of the other group are demonized, the character or intellect of the members of the other group are denigrated. Groups that oppose each other politically become not just opponents, but genuine enemies. Neither group understands what motivates the other, nor do their values seem legitimate.

Whichever political party controls the White House has tremendous political power within the U.S.. If that party also controls the houses of Congress, the party has even greater power—enough to make major changes in our economy our environment, our criminal justice system, our immigration system and our healthcare system. The half of the country that supports that party will have its way and the other half will be faced with enduring a loss of much of what it values. This is a situation that favors a further entrenchment of the “us” vs “them” mentality and leaves those who are not in power desperately searching for methods outside of the mainstream political system to oppose the policies of the majority that has come to power.

Many liberal and progressive Americans now feel completely alienated from their more conservative fellow citizens who supported what appeared to be a racist, misogynist, reactionary candidate who represented what had previously been thought to be an extreme of political opinion. They feel they have no allies in that half of the country that supported Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. In fact, they fear those who supported Trump, who are seen as just as ready as their candidate implied he was, to take away both freedom and equality among all Americans.

Despite Trump’s victory, virtually all polls of American attitudes over the last several years have suggested that most of what liberals regard as dangerous attitudes espoused by Donald Trump during the election season are not shared by a large majority of Americans. In February of this year, the Mellman Group conducted a survey of American’s attitudes toward the criminal justice system. Both Democrats and Republicans felt that too many Americans were being jailed, particularly for drug-related offenses. They also  opposed mandatory sentences and favored reduction of sentences and opportunities for parole for people already in jail. A Gallup poll conducted in March of 2016 found that 64% of Americans were worried “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about global warming, one of the highest levels in recent years. In May of 2015, 72% of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research center favored illegal immigrants having “a way to remain in the U.S. legally.” In June of 2016, Gallup found that of various proposals to combat the threat of terrorism on U.S. soil, less than 40% of Americans favored any restrictive or special conditions placed on Muslims either by registering them, restricting their immigration, or requiring a religious test on those who enter the U.S. In May of 2016, the Pew Research Center found that only 37% of Americans opposed gay marriage.

People voted for Donald Trump because they were fed up with government by the insiders in Washington or because they disliked and distrusted Hillary Clinton. Only a minority, although a vocal one, of those who supported Trump also supported his draconian policies on civil rights and the environment.

In 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama’s margins of victory over popular, mainstream Republican candidates were the highest in U.S. Presidential elections since Johnson beat Goldwater in 1964 and before that, going back to the landslide victories of Franklin Roosevelt. His supporters included more African Americans and more young people than did Clinton’s in 2016, but they also included many of those same Americans from those same regions of the country, who supported Donald Trump this recent election. These are not racist, bigoted Americans with nothing in common with their liberal counterparts.

Those on the left who oppose Donald Trump’s freedom limiting and environment destroying proposals have a large number of allies among those who supported Trump in the election. These allies see themselves as mainstream Americans. They don’t support Trumpian policies that are outside of the mainstream. But they need to see that they, too, have allies among Trump’s opponents.

The mainstream of America is not so bigoted, ignorant, racist, or hateful as the election of Donald Trump has implied to many people. They are not to be feared, they are to be courted as potential allies in continuing to promote a country that values progress in civil rights, that believes in Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religious expression, that is concerned about the environment and what humans are doing to the planet, that is willing to be generous, not punitive, toward those who illegally crossed the border to seek a better life in the U.S., that no longer worries about sexual orientation as signaling anything other than a private matter in people’s lives, and that is worried about the large number of Americans, mostly minority Americans, who have been incarcerated for minor crimes in the U.S. These are all common concerns of the majority of Americans.

It should not be hard to forge a community of common values among Americans. What will make it hard is the refusal of people who may share some underlying values to speak to each other because they seem different on the surface, because they call each other derogatory names filled with ugly accusations, because they refuse to try to work within the system because one or the other side believes the system is filled with people they can never respect or agree with.

We are not each other’s enemies. Anger toward policies that discriminate or endanger the environment is justified, but anger toward those who supported a different political candidate or who don't agree on every issue with you or who favor an approach different from yours on tax policy or bank regulation or how to provide health care, or how to trade with other nations, is not only counterproductive, it, as we have just seen, leads to the victory of those who build their support on the anger of Americans rather than their good will toward each other.

There is a broad, well meaning majority in this country, which, if it can come together rather than fractionate, can save us from the dangers looming on the horizon and put us on a path toward humane and inclusive progress. There is a minority that was attracted by the extreme rhetoric of Donald Trump and who, if given the power, would take away freedoms that we cherish and curtail efforts to reduce global warming or save our natural environment. This is whom we must fear. But when powerful minorities gain power in democratic countries, the time-honored method of defeating them is to form a coalition of those who espouse a different view. Coalitions are, by definition, alliances formed between groups who don't agree on everything, but do agree on a few major principles. No group or individual who insists that its allies agree with it on everything is going to form a coalition with anyone else. No one who says “my way or the highway” is going to be a partner with others. No one who refuses to compromise will work successfully with others who have differences with him or her.

It’s time we got over our fears and hatred of each other. As a nation, we’re more alike than most of us realize. As a nation, we need to come together.

Reader Comments (3)

Wow...that first paragraph was hard to get through. AND highly disingenuous. First of all, Trump does not want MASS DEPORTATION. This idea of going from house to house, with force, rounding up people, and shipping them off in buses headed to Mexico is an insane and fear mongering narrative. Did Trump say he wanted to deport illegals? Yes, but not in the way of "rounding them up" as so portrayed by the left. In all reality, Illegal immigrants are here against the law. Yup, that would mean, ILLEGALLY. And if they are found out, they should be exported back where they came, stand in line, and get legal to come here. Wow! What an insane idea...you mean follow our laws??? Shocking and highly unreasonable. (Insert sarcasm) Every other country would do the same. Just try to go to Mexico and break a law. See you in about 15 years. This notion that families are going to be split up and torn a part is, again, fear mongering and playing with people's emotions. First of all, it is their own fault that they are here illegally, breaking the law. The chance at getting caught is always there. It is called, breaking the law and there needs to be consequences. Just like if I go through a red light, I have a consequence of getting a ticket. Will I always be caught? No, but I take that chance. Second, why would an illegal leave his or her children/partner/grandma here? Wouldn't you take your family with you??? So, isn't breaking up your family YOUR decision? Wouldn't it be highly irresponsible not to take your kids with you? So, whose fault is this in the first place? Donald Trump's? No! Take responsibility. They take a risk coming here illegally. There are consequences. Deal with it! We have planned to build a wall since Bush era. In fact, we have budgeted money that Janet Napolitano never has implemented. Every country has a wall to protect their borders. Hell, Mexico has one in the south of their country. Every country has strict immigration laws. And ILLEGAL immigration is WRONG. People coming her should submit to the process of legalization. Why does the left insist that people should be able to break laws???? Coming to American is an honor, not a right. Illegal immigration is not accepted in any other country, yet liberals seem to scream at the rooftops that this is somehow immoral to demand people coming here obey OUR LAWS. You wouldn't accept your neighbor committing a crime...why would you accept a stranger to your country to be above the law? ILLEGAL Immigration is not anti-immigration. Is is pro-law. And that is what Trump is advocating. Shameful concept, I know, that Americans should want their laws followed. Does Donald Trump want to VET refugees coming form the Middle East? Yes. Is doing so discriminatory? It may seem that way, but what is our reality right now? TERRORIST EXIST. PEOPLE, WITH A MUSLIM FAITH, FROM THE MIDDLE EAST ARE THE PRIME TERRORIST AROUND THE WORLD. Don't see too many Italians running around claiming to kill Americans. BUT, when you have a few countries KNOWN for terrorism, and you have been threatened by the terrorist that they will come in through the refugee process to kill Americans, any RATIONAL person would think that an EXTREME VETTING process would be wise to KEEP AMERICANS SAFE. Is this process because we want to hate on the refugees? Really???? We Americans are one of the most loving nations on the planet. We will help out anyone and any time. This policy is not out of hate, but for mere practicality and safety. Trump is not saying he wants to keep Muslims out for religious reasons, or to keep them out completely. He has suggested a better and more thorough vetting process before they come in. To keep us safe. Again, insert sarcasm here when I say, "The horror!" I believe those were the same suggestions from Hillary. As far as Mike Pence is concerned and his "prejudice" against gays. You and I both know, he is a Christian. Christianity does see homosexuality as a sin according to the God and the bible. You may not agree or like that, but you can't condemn them for their belief. Just like Mormons don't believe in drinking. I may not like it, but they have a right to their belief. Does that mean they hate on me for having a glass of wine? Do I think they are prejudice of me for drinking. Nope, we can coexist. They many not serve me wine when I go into their house, and I don't think the government has a right to make them to. I just go to another friends house to get drink. See, religious beliefs can coexist with kind and respectful behavior to those that don't believe the same. It's called a Christian attitude. Something about 'love thy neighbor.' That does not give any Christian the right to hate gays, or treat them unkindly. And it doesn't automatically assume that just because one believes it is sin makes that person hateful or prejudice. But Christians can still treat a gay person with love and honor...and 98% of the population does treat gays as they do all people...as fellow Americans. Mike Pence is not hateful or vindictive to gays. In fact, his law was a protection of religious freedom to think freely and not be burdened to be persecuted for religious beliefs. It did in no way encourage hateful acts to gays. If gays are to be protected, so are Christians and all religions for their beliefs. If actions are against the law and discriminatory, that should be dealt with. Can action be hurtful to people? Sure. But hurtful is subjective and should not be a means of federal regulations. You cannot regulation feelings...although liberals seem hell bent on this notion. But that is a topic for another day. Mike Pence did support a law about protectionism of religious beliefs. It was not an anti-gay law by any means. Only labeled as one by the liberals to promote an agenda. But when he got feedback and protests, he made the necessary adjustments to correct it so that it was clear that his policy was NOT ANTI GAY, but a protection of religious freedom. Mike Pence is not a hateful man, nor an unking person. To start labeling him as this right wing, hateful person is highly disingenuous. You couldn't ask for a nicer person. He does believe that Marriage is sacred and a religious institution. So does half of America. For God's sake, California overwhelming voted to keep marriage between a man and a woman. The most liberal state EVER! And it was overturned by the courts. So, stop with the broad brush strokes, and liberal narratives on these two people, and start looking into the real deal of what these two men really represent. Then maybe I will get past the first paragraph to read your very logical, well thought out perspective! (See, I got a compliment in there for you.)

November 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Torphy

Reading this exchange, makes me more convinced than ever, Casey, that what you're proposing,
a coalition of those who espouse a different view, is almost next to impossible, and it makes me extremely sad.
I cannot see where that intersection of ideas exists. Tell me and I'll join. I cannot fathom the "political coalition" that I could form with my neighbor who views the world from an extremely different vantage point than I do. Other than dogs and flowers, and maybe a movie that's innocuous enough, there is nothing to discuss without one of us becoming utterly frustrated.
One of the only organizations I can think of that might actually bring us together to work for change is the Sierra Club. Members of that group do see a correlation between politics and protection of recreational waters at least. Perhaps the League of Women Voters that studies BOTH SIDES of legislation n depth would be a group we both could join? I don't know. It certainly couldn't be the Orange County Democrats or the Black Lives Matter protests, and I doubt my neighbor is going on the Million Woman March to Washington on Inauguration Day. It certainly couldn't be the economist Richard Wolff's coalition or even Bernie Sanders volunteer organization. So tell me, Casey, what coalition do I join where someone with a world view so opposite of mine would join as well? I can't figure it out. So, until I do I'll talk about dogs and flowers and how we both liked "Sully" and that's it. (PS, I was going to add weather to that list, but I think I can't go there with my neighbor.)

November 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBillie Kelpin

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, was interviewed on Mitch Jezzerich today, and talks about similarities of views of both sides. The interview starts at 0610 on the audio, so you have to skip past the news in the beginning. https://kpfa.org/player/?audio=246144 She has some interesting points although several that I don't agree with. She does list where intersection of beliefs may reside.

November 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBillie Kelpin

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