Three ways post-election liberals are terrifying me

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.

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.

I disagree.

Disagree all you want, but I'm right.

These two men are going to be side by side on the stage, 
answering questions. That's the ball game.

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.

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  1. Namjoon says:

    “Him directing the Justice Department to turn a blind eye to acts of violence by right-wing militia. ”

    I went to a Milo event in one of the universities he visited. I did not see any rightwing militias but I did see “Antifa” leftist thugs wearing black masks, waving flags and generally looking terrifying. The very epitome of intimidation. Very few liberals speak out on this.

    Here’s where I’m going with this. You saw the social media reaction to Richard Spencer getting punched in the face? Liberals had a good laugh over that one, sharing HILARIOUS Indiana Jones memes “Its the American way to punch a Nazi” among others. The left is normalizing violence saying its ok to beat up “Nazis” because they support Trump aka Hitler in their eyes. Now I’m firmly on Team Trump but I take a step back and as a American I’m very worried because you can see Trump supporters and the general right is now going to take getting beaten up (look it up on Youtube) any longer and one of these days something terrible is going to happen. It doesn’t matter which side starts it. That’s going to lead to the cycle of violence we saw in Northern Ireland or Palestine. We’re going to see domestic violence not seen in America sense the days of “Bloody Kansas” and the abolitionists vs anti-abolitionists pre-Civil War days.

    No doubt when this starts the liberal media is going to go “SEE! SEE! Rightwing death squads under Trump are acting!!!”. Fleming Rose the Danish editor of the newspaper that published the Muhammad Caricatures had a great line in his book. I’m paraphrasing but he said what allowed Hitler to rise of power wasn’t German society tolerating hate speech but it was Germans tolerating the Nazis (and German Communists) using violence to prevent communists and other rivals (and communists did this too) from having meetings, speaking engagements, etc. I see now the rule of law in America is broken when you have Trump supporters being beaten in broad daylight and cops do nothing but watch. THAT’s what’s going to lead to Rightwing millitias. Not irrational racists who just want to beat up people of color for no reason.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      I agree with the problem you’ve identified — the problem of both sides escalating rhetoric to the point where it’s “ok” to use force against “the others” because they obviously are too hateful/stupid/whatever to be reasoned with. I don’t think it started with Trump, or the liberal response to Trump… this has been gradually escalating for decades. There’s been a general degradation of rhetoric and escalation of violence and hyperbolic language on both sides for a very long time, whether we are talking about “second amendment solutions” and “liberalism is a disease” or “punch a Nazi” and “all conservatives are racist.”

      You correctly say “It doesn’t matter who started it”, although in your message it’s interesting that you kind of trace causality back to “liberals do X therefore conservatives react Y” without bothering to tell the longer story. Liberals escalated their feelings that conservatives are all stupid or evil in response to Conservatives saying liberals are all unAmerican, which in turn was a response to liberals demonizing conservatives before that, which was a response to conservatives demonizing liberals before that. This has been a “positive feedback loop” where what started as a small back-and-forth has been amplified to a wild vibration in which each side imagines that it’s protecting itself from a violent “other” that cannot be reasoned with.

      It’s a real shame. And it’s certainly not going to be fixed by pointing fingers and yelling “Well you guys did it first”…. which is in essence what your comment appears to be doing. (And is in essence what a lot of liberal rhetoric is doing, too.) The only question that matters is: what action can we all, as individuals, take now to fix it.

      This is what I tell everyone, liberal or conservative: if your answer to that question involves telling other people what they are doing wrong, without coming up with ways to change your own behavior as well, then you’re part of the problem.

  2. James Stewart says:

    Fantastically written article. A breath of fresh air in a country where both sides are speaking past each other.

  3. Lloyd Meeker says:

    I wonder if managing expectations in a political debate really carries over to an actual presidency. For one thing, no campaign debate shaped a Supreme Court. There are no physical financial or diplomatic consequences to a debate, only a shift in popular opinion. The lasting ramifications of actions of a president, to my sensibilities, are very different. The comparison is a bit OTT, but who really cares if Mussolini made the trains run on time? Trump might get one or two things right, but I suspect he will cause enough calamities at home and abroad that he will never be given a pardon based on getting one or two things right.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      When it comes to long-term effects, maybe you are right. I am concerned about public opinion in the short-term, however. The fact that Mussolini made the trains run on time, and Hitler gave women universal free child care, seem like a “who cares” to us now, but those are things the citizens cared VERY much about at the time.

      • Lloyd Meeker says:

        You’re right, and my example was inadequate to my argument. Perhaps it’s better to use inaction as an example, rather than action. The cabinet Mr. Trump has put together indicates inaction, or perhaps even rollback, regarding ecological stewardship will be a hallmark of his administration. Saying “Nobody knows if [climate change] is real” is a talking point in a political debate. Inaction for four critical years may have far more impact on US citizens than an advocate for fracking in some debate may be willing to acknowledge.