I’m extremely wary about what the Trump administration will do when it takes control, and I am bracing myself for the worst. However, there is damage being done to the heart and soul of our country right now, before January’s inauguration day, and a lot of it isn’t coming from conservatives… it’s coming from liberals.
These are the top three things that my fellow liberals are doing that don’t only make me cringe…. they make me frightened for the future:
1. Freaking out over Trump’s words
I know it’s really tempting to focus on Trump’s ignorance, bigotry, crassness, and spelling errors. For we liberals, they all speak to Trump’s character, so we want to highlight them as further mounting evidence that Trump is not the “type of person” who should be in power.
That’s how it sounds to us.. but it’s not how it sounds to anyone else. To the rest of the country, it sounds like we are losing our minds over… words.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who thinks “mere words” are “harmless”. That’s not my point at all.
My point is this: you are conditioning people to tune you out, because you have ramped your rhetoric and hysteria up to 11 about things that do not have direct, measurable material consequences.
Have you read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”? Please read it again.
If you keep howling at the moon, as though the world is ending every time he sends out a “dumb tweet”, people will be so conditioned to you bitching that they will have stopped listening by the time it matters.
In about a month, Trump will take office, and we will need to keep an eye out for some truly dark possibilities. Him implementing policy that is damaging to the safety of religious and ethnic minorities. Him dismantling the economic infrastructure of the safety net and the education system. Him directing the Justice Department to turn a blind eye to acts of violence by right-wing militia. Him encouraging local police departments to “crack down” on crime in impoverished neighborhoods, and suggesting that there will be no follow-ups on complaints of abuse of power.
These are all very real possibilities, and they are terrifying.
And if you’ve wasted so much steam between now and then yelping about him being racist, misogynistic, ignorant and crass… then nobody will be paying attention to you any more when it matters.
2. Knee-jerk criticisms
Let’s talk about Rex Tillerson, the Exxon C.E.O. whom Trump has selected to be Secretary of State. This kind of appointment has never been done before, and we (liberals, at least) feel concerned that there may be a potential conflict of interest.
But if you take two meditative breaths and think about it for a moment, you’ll realize: this appointment is not completely stupid. For one thing, the majority of politics around the world, and 90% of politics in the Middle East, is about oil. It shouldn’t be the case, but it is. Having a secretary of state who understands the dynamics of oil dependencies and trade around the world is actually very, very smart.
And even though many liberals like to imagine that all CEOs of large corporations are like comic book villains, I assure you they are not: they tend to be very smart, and very practical people. So this appointment may actually turn out to be an intelligent decision.
On the other hand, it may not. We will have to wait and see. But that is exactly the point: We should wait and see.
3. End-of-the-world rhetoric
Let me start by saying: I get it. You just watched the success of a party that essentially ramped up hysterical propaganda for the last 8 years. Even if you set aside possible Russian interference, possible treasonous actions by Comey, and everything else having to do with the election itself, the longer arc of the last decade look pretty clear: being pissed off and spreading conspiracy theories seems to work… at least with some portion of the population.
Thus, quite naturally, some of you are thinking: “Maybe we should do that too.”
As a result, I see more and more of my fellow liberals turning the volume up on the hysteria of the message: it will be the end of the world, it will be the collapse of civilization, it will be nuclear war!
But there is a problem with this strategy, namely: If the world doesn’t actually collapse around us within the first year of Trump’s presidency, you will look like an out-of-touch idiot.
Since you’re a liberal, I assume you’re familiar with the television show The West Wing. (If you aren’t… OMG what’s wrong with you??)
Go back and re-watch the episode called “The Red Mass”. In this episode, Republican Governor Richie is running against President Bartlet in the presidential election. Governor Richie is presented as kind of a stereotypical “dumb Republican”, and the Bartlet campaign is capitalizing on this: playing up that he’s stupid in press statements and campaign ads.
Then suddenly C.J., the Press Secretary, realizes that there is a problem with their strategy.
C.J. Toby, I'm absolutely terrified we're going to lose the expectations game. I can't believe how many times I get asked what would be a win in the debates. At this point I feel like if -- and only if -- Ritchie accidentally lights his podium on fire does the President have a fighting chance. TOBY I disagree. C.J. Disagree all you want, but I'm right. TOBY These two men are going to be side by side on the stage, answering questions. That's the ball game. C.J. If the whole thing is, he can't tie his shoelaces and it turns out he can tie his shoelaces, then that is the ball game.
If liberals spend the next several months hootin’ and hollerin’ that every choice Trump makes is stupid and every person he appoints will destroy America… and then it turns out that anything at all goes right, then the liberals have written their own obituary: you predicted the world would end, you were wrong, nothing you have to say is worth listening to any more.
Now I’m not trying to control what you do, and it’s not my place to tell anyone that the way they are protesting or reacting to the election is wrong.
But I will tell you this: As some point we need to get past the emotional reaction to this election and behave strategically… and that will need to start by taking a close look at ourselves.