What Did You Call Me?
In playgrounds around the country children of all sizes, shapes and genders play games. The games vary widely but one thing is common, every game has its own specific set of rules. When a rule is broken, as invariably happens amidst the chaos, tiny fingers point and children shriek, “Cheater!” It’s a serious charge. Fighting words.
Combat is risky business so humans invented warnings. The accused, in our example, may step forward, stare intently and say, “What did you call me?” That’s not a game rule, that’s a playground rule. Playground rules are important. They help keep the peace. In other words, reduce the number of times we beat the crap out of each other. That said, provocations happen, sometimes through our televisions.
Across the street from the playground, a couple sits quietly watching cable news. Asked if Trump is a racist, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), replies flatly, “Yes.” Next, fellow Democrat presidential hopeful, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), tells a crowd Trump is “a white supremacist or a white nationalist.” The couple flips off the TV. They look at each other, pain and anger are etched on their faces: “What did they call us?”
Common Sense, Politics and Picking a Team
Generally, Trump supporters are taking a common-sense approach to the recent controversies. President Donald Trump has been in the public eye for forty years. If he were a “racist,” we’d know. In 1986 Trump won an Ellis Island Medal of Honor, along with Muhammad Ali and Rosa Parks, in celebration of “patriotism, tolerance, brotherhood and diversity.” Jesse Jackson praised Trump two years later as a “friend” for helping “underserved communities.” The latest racism kerfuffle, however, is troubling for other reasons.
First, calling another person a “racist” is unsettling. Second, while identity politics has had some success in the past, in practical terms it is often divisive. It is built on the premise that groups, tribes if you will, vote monolithically, by ethnicity and/or race. That approach flies in the face of reality. Today’s family structure is far too diverse and nuanced to follow that ethos.
For one, who belongs in which block? Was President Obama part of the disadvantaged black community or the privileged white one? Kamala Harris is a woman of color who has no doubt had challenges. Having a Stanford professor as a father, a cancer scientist as a mother and attending the best private schools are not, however, on the list. Many voters are 40 percent this and 35 percent that, something else. Blocks are losing their appeal.
What To Do
In Washington D.C. they say politics is a full-contact sport. That’s true. The stakes are incredibly high, enormous actually – money, power and world peace. Amateurs and idealists play at the edges but at the presidential level, neither side plays nice. The Democrats try to brand the Republicans as evil and racist. The Republicans slam Democrats as lunatics and Communists. See, not nice. No wonder we’re in such a pickle.
The Democrats name-calling President Trump may be making another mistake, however. Accusing the president of racism or white supremacy implies his voters, about half the country, harbor similar beliefs. Guilt by association is an old political ploy. The Democrat campaigns are all working tirelessly and spending millions of dollars to gain new voters. Will voters respond positively to a candidate calling half of their country “racist?” Seems odd.
Trump voters, in particular, reject the inference that there are racists on every corner. They scoff at claims our current economy is anything but historic. Inaccurate assertions damage credibility, much as some of President Trump’s comments and tweets do for those on the left. The fact is average Americans, on both sides, love their fellow citizens and want the best for them. So the discussion needs to shift to: “What’s the best way to promote the common good?”