Finding common ground over the 2016 election

I probably have to say it up front in order to write this, so I will: I consider myself economically-conservative-slanted (but not dogmatic about it) and socially-liberal-slanted (but not dogmatic about it). Unfortunately, I don’t see my views well represented by either the Republican or Democratic party. If I did, I would align with them, but I don’t, so I don’t. That’s fine, I don’t lose any sleep over it, and I don’t judge anyone who feels differently. Overall I would call myself a greedy capitalist pig who doesn’t like politics. I’m trying hard to go back to being one. I didn’t much care when either Bush II or Obama were elected.

I’ve written things about the 2016 election that aimed to be neutral, and I’ve written things that used inflammatory rhetoric. I don’t use inflammatory rhetoric lightly. I use it to inflame my intelligent friends for a specific purpose. Anything less is wasting words and reducing their power.

If I’d accumulated any political capital I’ve spent it all by now, and I’m under no illusion that I haven’t really made a difference. I’m spending the literal capital I’ve accumulated on organizations that actually can and do make a difference. I’m going to keep complaining about things I don’t like, but this is the last time I’m going to be dramatic about the 2016 election.

Many people, including me, freaked out about Donald Trump being elected. I say “freaked out” meaning exactly what I say. It’s taken a lot of time and debate for me to understand why, and why other people didn’t. To me personally, I would say that Trump trafficked in “alt-right” skinhead slime. He still is to a degree, even though he’s walking it back now. He said a lot of things that I interpreted as tarnishing our democratic process at best, and playing with populist demagoguery at worst. And it’s hard for me to see how someone wouldn’t agree that he’s openly corrupt and dishonest. Sure, other politicians are too, and we can have a reasonable debate about the degree.

He also ran on a platform of hard-line social conservatism, which I don’t personally agree with but don’t freak out about. I’m not sure anyone knows what his economic platform will be yet, but I almost certainly won’t freak out about it either. I’m sure I’ll agree with parts of it and disagree with parts of it.

I freaked out about the irredeemable skinhead trash and the populist demagoguery and the corruption, and I didn’t bother much with the other stuff because of it. If someone else instead running on a left-leaning policy platform had played with those things, I would have freaked out in exactly the same way. Tactically speaking, that’s probably the wrong thing to do and we should keep that in mind going forward, all of us. I think some of my friends and family focused on the bad things about Hillary Clinton (there are plenty! I’d concede “kind” but not “degree”) and the socially conservative platform of Trump, and maybe overlooked or didn’t take at face value some of the things that freaked me out. Trump has already shown he was “exaggerating” (lying) about a lot of his bluster, and I’m happy to say that I’m glad about it even though that doesn’t excuse the blustering. People with different ideological slants can receive the same message very differently. It’s taken time and effort for me to understand how this played out, and I really honestly don’t judge. I’d usually call this a trope and mock it, but we’re all in this together, and all we can do is work to improve things going forward.

The time and debate has made me figure out where I “draw the line”, or at least “a line”. Here it is: if the “alt-right” skinheadism goes mainstream in my United States of America, I’ll go to war over it. It literally threatens many people I know and love. I don’t say that lightly, I’ve never said it before in my entire life even as a rhetorical device. I know exactly what I mean by saying that. My grandpa went to war over an extreme version of that which did include other ideological components, and I’m proud of him for it — I’m being dramatic and exaggerating somewhat by saying that, but I’m happy to tell you how and why. And I say that knowing my grandpa would have voted for Trump if he were still alive and I wouldn’t have judged him for it either. But if we can’t agree on disowning the “alt-right”, then we don’t have any common ground, sorry.

I’ll do everything in my power (very very little) to get rid of populist demagoguery and corruption, but I wouldn’t go to war over it as it stands here yet. That stuff doesn’t help anyone other than bad actors in the long run, it just corrodes our great country. There are plenty of legal means to deal with it. I hope we have common ground on that too, and we can lock that Pandora’s Box going forward. It would be pretty hard for me to understand how someone who calls themselves a proud American wouldn’t find common ground with me on that, but we could have that debate.

And there are probably many other issues where we have common ground. I would agree with the people who think that Hillary Clinton is an unusually dishonest and corrupt politician. Some might disagree and we could debate that on the merits. I think that Bush II and Obama have made the executive branch way too powerful and unaccountable, and I eagerly want to dynamite that (not literally, I’m using a rhetorical device). It’s a little bit harder for me to understand how people would disagree with that, but I’d also be happy to debate it on the merits.

I’d even say something that would leave most socially liberal people aghast: I think Antonin Scalia was the most influential jurist in at least 50 years, and I wish we could raise him from the dead and put him back on the Supreme Court. The two of us would have disagreed about a lot of if not most social policy, but he lived to defend the Constitution and ensure its processes stayed intact. If that’s not common ground I don’t know what is.

I write this knowing that I’m being trolled and played and that things like this help to normalize it. Even so, I think it’s more important for us to start coming back together and walking back the extremism that’s all too easy to indulge.

I’m literally tired, and I want to go back to being a productive person.


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