Accusations, arguments and demands have been swirling around on the Internet, between members of two groups: Hillary or Centrist Dems vs. Bernie or Left Dems. I wouldn’t be surprised if much of it were coming from GOP bots and trolls, trying to do a Divide and Conquer program on Democrats.
However, at least some of it is coming from real Centrists and Leftists, who are at each other’s throats. This reminds me of rats in experimental psychology experiments where the researcher shocks the rats. If there are two rats in the box, they’ll fight each other. In the face of uncontrollable pain, even animals often take it out on each other, as if the other animal is to blame. How about if we all start acting better than rats though?
All or almost all of us on the Left are in pain from all the destruction that the current GOP government is wreaking on our nation. We need to find some ways to release our distress and/or to target our anger in ways that make things better, not worse.
The Resistance has done some constructive channeling of anger e.g. through demonstrations against Trump Care and against Trump’s immigration policies. Many of us have also come up with our personal exercise routines or social support networks, or whatever else we need to release stress.
Even if none of the Democratic party feuding is coming from the GOP, it still needs to be a concern. There’s no good that will come from Democrats dividing and conquering ourselves, saving the GOP the trouble of doing it. We can end up splitting ourselves into fragments, each too small and weak to accomplish much.
Here are the two of the least inflammatory examples of some of these arguments that I could find, just so you know what I am referring to.
Why leftists don’t trust Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Deval Patrick
“Sanders Democrats” Don’t Own the Left
These are fairly civil arguments above. By contrast, sometimes Internet interactions seem to be about being right all the time, defending one’s point of view and “owning” other people, as if they are what? Our slaves? That doesn’t sound like a great formula for finding ways to cooperate on shared goals.
Making accusations or tossing around insults, while demanding respect from the accused, is also a popular move. All day long, people make demands of each other, that basically amount to: “Admit that you are the evil/stupid/wrong one and I am the moral/smart/right one.” Unsurprisingly, no one is admitting that their own side, or their own leader, is evil, stupid or wrong.
This method of interacting is as old as human history. However, it has been pushed hard by the GOP in recent decades, because it has successfully won elections for them. It does this by isolating Republicans from Democrats. Currently, the same behaviors are being practiced within the Democratic party, keeping it divided within itself.
Below is a description of how bashing politics works for the GOP. It can work because Republicans, when splintered off from Democrats, are still a big enough group to win elections. The same is not true of establishment Democrats vs. Left Democrats, neither of whom seem likely to defeat both the other faction and the GOP, and thus to rule the nation on its own. Dominance/submission power games only win in American politics when the winner can dominate Congress and perhaps the presidency too.
Fragmentation of the Democratic party is one reason why our government is currently controlled by the GOP. This article describes the Right Wing bashing of liberals by Fox news pundits, and the feelings of power and dominance that it gives to people. There are numerous other TV, radio and Internet news outlets besides Fox that also use such methods.
FEAR & UNbalanced: Confessions of a 14-Year Fox News Hitman
How Roger Ailes & Fox News Got Rich Scamming America’s La Z Boy Cowboys and Selling Out America’s Soul
Here is a description of the longer history of GOP attack politics in recent decades.
The political scientist who saw Trump’s rise coming
In the summer of 2015, most of the political world still thought Donald Trump’s candidacy was a joke. Norm Ornstein…
Getting back to Democrats, I’ve certainly participated in the current Democratic party feud myself, in ways that I later had to admit were not helping me to reach my goals. If your ways of discussing this aren’t having the desired effects, maybe you should re-evaluate what you’re doing also.
Perhaps this Democratic party feud will only be resolved after the 2018 Democratic primaries, when we’ll know which candidates the public prefers in various states — Left Dems or the Center Dems. After that, we’ll see whether the public prefers Democrat or Republican Congress members, in the general election. In politics, you don’t get a chance to be right in the legislating of policies, unless you are right by winning at the polls.
In the mean time, those of us who are willing, can certainly continue to work together across groups, at town halls, demonstrations and drives to contact Congress members on issues. We can resist destructive policies, just as we resisted Trump Care.
The insults, arguments about who’s right, and demands for respect from people to whom we may not be showing respect, aren’t changing any minds. No one seems to have persuaded a Center Dem that Bernie would have won. or that Hillary was a terrible candidate. No one seems to have persuaded a Left Dem that Bernie would not have won, or that Clinton was not a terrible candidate. I’ve participated in those arguments myself, and watched them go nowhere.
Some of what is done is done unconsciously. For example, some people argue with facts and believe they are being objective and rational. But facts can be — and often are — carefully chosen to trigger or reinforce bias for or against a certain candidate or group.
For example, obsessively pointing out only Hillary’s or Harris’s real or perceived flaws, or only Bernie’s or Stein’s, is bound to rankle those who see those people as visionary leaders.
Also, labeling the other candidate or group as evil, corrupt, greedy, stupid or hopelessly naïve and ignorant — that’s making a value judgment. It is doing so, regardless of whether you find facts that you think support these labels or not. The other side can find facts that they believe support labels just as negative about your candidate or group too.
It’s going to be easier to notice the other side doing these things than your own. So feel free to make a study of people on the other side doing these things, before you set out to stop doing them — before you set out to focus on common values or areas of agreement. If someone on the other side does it, think of how your side could do the same behavior, make the same mistake. But no there’s no need to be like Trump and spend your time on insult wars. Just note the mistake, and then shift to looking for how to focus on constructive vision.
I can’t blame anyone for defending their side against e.g. Hillary or Harris bashing, or defending their side against the charge that all Left Dems are racist and sexist. However, that is preaching to, or defending of, the choir.
It’s not a bad idea, to shore up your group by defending it. Doing so may help your group to feel good and to move forward with goals, rather than feeling demoralized and stuck. Maybe it will help you find and promote like-minded candidates. Maybe it’s a good stress release — a way of venting frustrations with Trump, or with the other faction. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that defending your own side is persuading anyone from the other side. At least I’ve never seen it happen.
We have a better chance of getting to a constructive place with the other faction, with conversations about visions of what we would like to see for our nation, and about values and goals. Those people who share similar values may be the best ones to focus on and join together with, to make constructive policies happen.
Hopefully, once the primaries are over, Center Dems and Left Dems can find ways to to work together on behalf of Democratic candidates chosen in the primaries — just as both Hillary supporters and the vast majority of Bernie supporters, all voted for Hillary in the general election. Of course, most Hillary supporters would likely have voted for Bernie, had he been the nominee. For some, probably most, people, the Congressional candidates chosen in the primary are going to be a compromise, rather than representing 100% of what they want.
Here’s a good book that discusses well how to communicate on the basis of values and possible shared goals, rather than talking instead about areas of disagreement, as is most often done on the Internet.
The Little Book of Revolution: A Distributive Strategy for Democracy
The direction of change in the United States over the past 40-50 years has been decidedly in favor of wealthy…
George Lakoff has also written about this. Here is an article by him.
Berkeley author George Lakoff says, ‘Don’t underestimate Trump’
If you like the article and want to read more about his work, here is an excellent book he wrote: The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate
I like the idea of sustainability — not just with regard to the environment but with regard to human relationships. There are times for short conversations. Sometimes, however, conversations are prematurely cut off, when something might be learned by one or both parties if a different approach is used. Focusing on areas of agreement, rather than disagreement, and on values more than on facts, are two such promising approaches.
I’m just starting to try to switch my focus myself. My attempts at this are very imperfect so far, and my results are varied. Varied results are better than what I got before though. The results of focusing only on defending one side or the other have been pretty much uniformly negative.
Since I was for Bernie in the primaries and for Hillary after she became the nominee, I am actually really on both sides here. So I have felt the pain of being bashed by both sides. This is part of what motivates me to make a shift in communication strategies.
I’ve been told that this is not about hurt feelings. To me, it is totally about hurt feelings on both sides — because they could get in the way of people being willing to cooperate across Democratic party factions, in order to achieve common goals and defeat the GOP agenda.
Although we shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around one another, it can pay off in cooperation and achieved visions, for us to sincerely attempt to act considerately toward each other. Trying that seems far more promising than acting like some Trump supporters do — going around bashing people and yelling labels like “snowflake” at people who get upset.
I invite others to give this a try and to let us all know in the comments section below, what your results are. What do you have to lose? If you decide you don’t like talking about values, goals, visions, possible areas of agreement and/or ways of cooperating toward common goals, that’s fine. You can always go back to bashing the side you are not on, complete with lists of facts that you believe back up your side’s point of view, just like almost everyone else on the Internet.
No matter how this turns out, there are going to be some on the Left who won’t choose to work together with Democrats. That certainly is their free choice to make. Some Leftists and centrists and others will end up working with Democrats, to take back Congress in 2018. If we make our case for our political values, if we appreciate and support and try to have some fun working with those who choose to work with us, I think that’s the ticket to success here.
By the way, the Internet is not the ideal forum for communicating and uniting. Marches and other projects for common purposes are better. Although some constructive political communication does happen on the Internet, it may be the exception rather than the rule. Much of the Internet is far too tribal and troll filled, to lend itself to constructive communication.