In an Age of Trump: The Left’s Failure to See Past Labels

We all know the ins and outs of Republican Donald Trump’s political campaign. It was an ugly hurricane of dogged political incorrectness and down-right farcical policy-making, yet its wiles managed to seduce a terrifying majority of America. The popular vote yearned to be heard above the clamor of the politico-financial elite. Trump heard the popular vote. He presented an attractive alternative, a change, despite it being set against a terrifying and unorthodox arrangement of moral values.

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Clinton was the politico-financial elite, and her party failed to step down from its pedestal and engage with the Trumpist argument. The Left assumed that by branding all Trumpists ‘racist’ without any further discussion would somehow change their mind. Jonathan Pie stresses this point well, that we cannot and must not shy away from confronting political opinions that disagree with our own, otherwise we are simply permitting a space in which they can thrive. “How many times”, Pie asks us, “does the vote not have to go our way before we realize that our argument isn’t won by hurling labels and insults?”

Trump’s ideologies needed to be challenged, not simply refuted. The Left seem to have lost the art of rhetoric, the ability to hold an argument and react in more than just trigger words: ‘racist’, ‘sexist’, ‘homophobic’. Yes, these terms might be correct. But do they achieve anything? These Trumpists still exist, loud and proud, claiming these tokens as badges of honour.

Immense support for his campaign was received when it used the simple, unexplained rhetoric: ‘We shall make America great again’. An ominous and unpromising echo, that we, the Left, never made formal efforts to dissuade.

When Trump supporters were confronted with the opposition, Democrat Clinton, they were repulsed. To them, she was a woman with a sordid past. A woman who had stayed in a loveless marriage for political advancement, and a woman who had attracted an unwarranted amount of widespread distrust. The Whitewater controversy back when she was First Lady, the Benghazi attack of 2012, and, most recently, the email controversy which begun last year. She was no perfect candidate. But then, neither was Trump. He had made his disrespect for women shamelessly and repeatedly clear, with distasteful gags about incest and sexual assault. Let’s not forget, too, his attacks on Muslim Goldstar parents, or perhaps one of his most confusing statements to date:

“There can be no discrimination against gays. I’m against gay marriage.”

Such confident rationalising of inequality made him the perfect candidate for excusing hate crime, which has been on the ascendant since his election. The A. D. L released a report stating the exact figures of this rise in Anti-Semitic sentiment, totaling 2.6 million tweets with an estimated 10 billion reach between July 2015 and 2016. The tweets were mostly racist and anti-Israel, targeted mainly at journalists who were speaking out against Trump’s campaign. A rationale for inequality is vastly emerging. Trump, its poster-boy, endorsed by the KKK, is being used as the pretext to justify, and consequently veil, this entire White Supremacist Movement. But it is precisely our lack of interaction beyond name-calling with such arguments, which allows the abuse to breed and multiply unscathed.

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Protests across America have shown a large proportion of people engaging in this debate. Kurt Eichenwald, however, tweeted on the 13th November:

“Rage does not work as political opposition. Moral high ground, peaceful engagement, asking respectful questions of opponents. These work.”

All the while, we saw Trump supporters on the wake of Clinton’s loss cheering ‘ding dong the witch is dead’. It is a hard balance to strike. Each side offers ammunition for the other’s vehemence. We both want to cry out, voice our passions and our grievances in whatever way we see fit. Such phrases as “peaceful engagement” seem like a silencing tool used by a senseless percentage of the population, so numb to the stench of blatant inequality that they cannot smell it.

But it’s not. It’s a cry out for incensed political debate. Thought-out sentences which create a space for vigorous discussions, rather than back-and-forth hate. Donald Trump’s ‘locker-room banter’ tags a much more serious and extensive problem with the world today. This explaining-away of brazen inequality. He is merely the tip of the iceberg, and by ignoring him and the overwhelming population of people who voted for or supported him too, simply categorising them as bigots, sees us making our biggest mistake to date. Inequality is rife, whatever label we give it. Make it your mission to identify it, but then shut it down with words of reason, rather than underdeveloped, nonsensical hatred.

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