Friday, November 11, 2016

Liberal Attacks on Free Speech Cost Us the Election

I try not to talk about politics much on this blog, but like a lot of people I have some concerns about Tuesday that I need to get off my chest. For the past couple years, I've been concerned about the direction liberals have been going. I knew that their chickens were coming home to roost, I just didn't think it would be this year, in this election.

First of all, Clinton lost because she failed to shore up her base, particular in the Rust Belt, where we now know her campaign was underfunded and understaffed. Millions of voters decided they'd rather stay home than vote for a hypocrite who voted to put a wall on the Mexican border in 2006, shilled for her husband's tough on crime bill, and defamed every woman who accused him of sexual harassment, then had the nerve to campaign as a feminist committed to criminal justice reform and immigrant rights. All the polls were wrong because they presumed Clinton would have the same turnout rate Obama did, which was a fallacious assumption. Trump didn't sway many voters with his message. People who were likely to vote Republican voted Republican. Liberals who couldn't stand the thought of voting for someone so blatantly against their interest just didn't vote for her. And I'm not going to blame them. Clinton was a bad candidate and deserved to lose. But the country doesn't deserve to have every branch of the federal government controlled by Republicans.

But my concern isn't primarily Hillary Clinton, who hopefully will finally take the hint that she's not wanted in national politics, it is the silencing tactics and language policing that are so common in liberal enclaves like universities. Students being suspended for private Facebook comments, employees being fired for misinterpreted Twitter jokes, university speech codes and blacklisting speakers have all been in the news a lot the past couple years, and for good reason. These are terrifying attacks on free discourse. Liberals have been told time and time again that these tactics alienate a lot of people, most especially blue collar whites, but they haven't listened. I believe reaction against what is broadly called "political correctness" might have been a factor in some of the states where Trump only narrowly won. I'm less concerned about what Donald Trump will do in the next four years, though I'm sure that will be bad enough, and more concerned that in the face of such resounding failure, liberals will double down on all their mistakes, and thus continue to lose federal elections.

Just days after the election, there were already reports of the University of Louisville suspending a cheerleader for saying on Twitter that she was tired of hearing about sexism and racism. Now I don't agree with her statements, but this isn't the way to bring her over to our side. This is the way to harden her beliefs. This is a way to convince her, wrongly I might add, that whites are the primary victims in this country, or heighten that belief if she has it already. This isn't an isolated incident. Every few months there is a story like this in the news. All it does is feed the alt-right narrative that whites are discriminated against and liberals are totalitarians who want to control speech and thought. Banning certain words, phrases and ideas doesn't stop people from thinking the "wrong" thoughts, all it does is make them frustrated and alienated.

There have already been endless hit pieces decrying racism as the cause of Trump's rise. I won't deny that it's a factor, but it doesn't explain why Trump did better among people of color than Mitt Romney. It doesn't explain why numerous counties Obama won went for Trump, or the individual voters who chose both candidates. We need to go deeper, and the only way to go deeper is to have free and open discourse.

We also need to take a hard look at the language we use to discuss racism and admit why it is alienating to so many people. I'm not telling people of color how to act, as there is certainly a place for their righteous anger. My frustration is aimed at smug white anti-racism allies, who should be the ones listening the to frustrations of working class whites and assure them that their economic concerns are valid and don't conflict with the aims of anti-racism, but they'd rather burn down bridges at every turn, most especially those well-educated, middle class whites who use "white" as an insult. It is a form of virtue signaling that does nothing but drive potential allies away.

The revelation that Clinton's campaign had conspired with journalists to promote her agenda can also be seen as an attack on free discourse and a violation of the supposed independent nature of the press. Her supporters are probably correct that she would have won the Democratic primary regardless, but that doesn't get her off the hook. Nixon would have trounced McGovern even without Watergate. He still had to pay the price for it. Clinton's actions weren't criminal, but the price she had to pay was the loss of trust among young people and blue collar workers who supported Sanders. I'm going to repeat that I don't blame these voters for staying home, voting third party, or leaving the presidential slot blank. Clinton failed them and didn't earn their support. If she was really concerned about the horror of a Trump presidency, she shouldn't have run such a corrupt and incompetent campaign.

Like a lot of people, I took it for granted that people would vote for Clinton despite her corruption, endless scandals, hypocrisy and robotic personality, and despite the well-published liberal attacks on free speech. I voted for her when I turned up at my Massachusetts ballot box, though I made my disdain for her clear to everyone I know. But I didn't campaign for her. If it was Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker or, yes, Bernie Sanders running, I would have made election calls in swing states every weekend because I could honestly say I would be excited to have them as my president. I'm sure I'm not the only one in that position.

I'm very sorry for the millions of immigrants who now risk deportation and brutal human rights violations from our immigration authorities, I'm sorry for the working class people who are now at risk for losing their healthcare, and I'm sorry for all the other oppressed people who are unsure what the coming years will bring. I wish I had done better for you. I wish our political advocate had done better for you. I wish the discourse had done better for you. We need to regroup and do better next time or the consequences will only get worse. Only two years until midterm elections.

EDIT: Right after I published this piece, my friend sent me the following image. These dumbass campaign managers should be ashamed of themselves. This is exactly what Thomas Frank's latest book was about, Listen, Liberal: Or What Ever Happened to the Party of the People. The Democratic party is systemically ignoring the concerns of the working class in order to attempt to sway Rockefeller Republicans.

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Fiction "The Blue of the Sky, the White of the Waves," Everyday Fiction : February 2018 ( read online ) "Alone in this Fai...