WHY REASONING WITH THE TRUMPETTES IS AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY


Daily Kos
Ian Douglas Rushlau
December 22,2016
This diary distills comments I’ve made in some recent discussions about the election, and the claim by a number of Daily Kos members that the concerns of the white working class were neglected by Hillary Clinton, and the Democrats more generally, so we ‘lost’ them to a bigoted autocrat. (As others have noted on Daily Kos, the notion we lost them ignores the reality that a majority of this group has never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act into law, which highlights the extent to which white racial identity and the politics of white domination, white fears and white resentment dominates national elections to this day, and makes it plain they were never Hillary’s to lose.)
What is familiar about the calls to ‘meet the WWC where they are’, and hear their concerns, discuss patiently with them the progressive message, is that this advice was apparently made repeatedly to Frederick Douglass as he worked for abolition— often enough he felt it necessary to rebut it in one of his most famous speeches: ‘What to the Slave is The Fourth of July’, which I excerpt below.
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The suggestion we need to listen patiently to the white working class, hear their concerns, and persuade them gently over time with evidence, and messages that they can hear and relate to— which of course sounds reasonable, mature, and thoughtful— assumes that bright, caring, determined progressives haven’t already been doing just that for decades: 
“Hey, why didn’t we think of this when we were fighting for women’s suffrage, or civil rights legislation, or abortion rights, LGBT equality, and every other darn thing progressives have fought for and achieved over the past hundred years?”
It’s both surprisingly dismissive of the history of progressive accomplishments, and disrespectful of those who have been working for progressive goals for decades. As if this thought— try respectful discourse— never occurred to anyone before. Please. Or maybe that isn’t precisely what President Obama was doing every day for the past eight years. He was met with insults and simple bad faith. 
Here’s how I said it in a diary three weeks ago:
We live in an era when fake news is now ‘a thing for news outlets to fret over’. For example, my hometown paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, ran an Op-Ed today, decrying it: “Fake news has become a threat to American democracy.” (No mention of the piss poor showing of journalistic responsibility they displayed over the course of the election, with uncritical front page banner headlines normalizing Trump’s candidacy, wall to wall emailghazigate, and no coverage of HRC’s actual campaign to speak of, but I suppose we should be heartened that the major newspaper for the eastern half of the state thinks factual reality might sometimes matter when covering the events of the day.) 
But this did not begin with Trump’s pathological lying, or even the introduction of ‘as first reported in Breitbart and Infowars’ into policy discussions.
Let’s be clear— it’s the GOP as a whole, and anybody who identifies themselves as conservative, who’ve dispensed with empirical reality and logic, long before Trump. In fact, it’s this shrugging off of any burdensome trifle like data or critical thinking that created the conditions for Trump, and for the sixty million people who voted for him. Trump is not sui generis. They built this monstrosity, one absurdly false statement at a time.
Here’s an article in the open-access journal, Journal of Social and Political Psychology, that addresses ‘climate change skepticism’, and related issues of ‘my superstitious, ideologically driven ignorance is as valid as your evidence based scientific conclusions’:
Public debate and skepticism are essential to a functioning democracy. Indeed, skepticism has been shown to enable people to differentiate more accurately between truth and falsehood (e.g.,Lewandowsky, Stritzke, Oberauer, & Morales, 2005, 2009). However, when medical researchers who investigate the adverse health effects of tobacco are accused of being a “cartel” that “manufactures alleged evidence” (Abt, 1983, p. 127), or when climate change is labeled a “hoax” that is ostensibly perpetrated by corrupt scientists (Inhofe,2012),or when an American corporate front group likens climate scientists to the Unabomber (an American anarchist convicted of terrorism) in a billboard campaign (Zwick, 2012), then those statements are more indicative of the denial of scientific facts than expressions of skepticism 
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 It is somewhat novel how modern conservatism has been able to contort the good-faith framework of scholars and researchers— reliance on criticism, counter-hypothesis, and reasoned debate to strengthen scientific claims, and discard faulty ones— to undermine faith in the scientific enterprise itself:
 A curious feature of these attacks on scientists is that they tend to be accompanied by public calls for “debate”; often the same individuals who launch complaints with institutions to silence a scientist are also proclaiming that they want to enter into a “debate” about the science that they so energetically oppose. (pg. 539)
If we are going to engage in productive efforts to defend progressive policies, and pursue progressive goals, we have no choice but to acknowledge the reality that Trump voters (at least 90% of whom are reliable GOP voters) do in fact have closed minds
And we can’t pretend that their leadership operates from good faith, mutual respect or shared interest in the public good. If that’s not obvious to someone, they haven’t been attending to the last eight years, or the last eighty. 
A lot of folks here, and in other conversations I’ve participated in, want to believe that deep down, most Trump voters, and conservatives more generally, are of course basically decent Americans, who will be open to shared efforts to make life better for everyone, if we just find that magically framed message, that somehow has eluded us since before secession.
Wanting this to be true, while I suppose laudable as a sentiment, is no basis for disregarding all evidence to the contrary.
Frederick Douglass makes this point about the absurdity, and pointlessness, of trying to engage those who have not shown themselves receptive to a progressive message:
I will not equivocate; I will not excuse;” I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just. 
But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less, would you persuade more, and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already…
Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively, and positively, negatively, and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. (emphasis added)
Frederick Douglass heard the same calls to ‘consider their perspective’ and ‘persuade them’, just as we are asked today with Trump voters and conservatives. He saw those requests for what they were— a dodge, a deflection, an insult to him. 
I’ll go with his insight and wisdom.




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