The current political climate, in the third week of the Trump presidency, is a little, um, overwhelming. I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about the constant political discussion on social media, and retreating from the conversation.
I get that.
But at the same time, well, this is not a normal time. I’m trying to figure out how to navigate this new not normal. I think we all are.
The Era of Fake News & Alternative Facts
It’s frustrating because as much as Donald Trump complains about the media and “fake news,” hasn’t he been one of the main perpetrators and benefactors of fake news?
He stoked the birther movement against Barack Obama. He questioned the legitimacy of a sitting president, refusing to believe that the son of a black, Muslim immigrant could rightfully be president.
It was the epitome of fake news.
And where did it get Trump? The oval office.
We’re also facing an age of obstruction that feels unprecedented. Now politicians are always holding things up and complaining about the tactics of the other side, which are generally the very same tactics they used themselves.
But it seems to have gone to a crazy new level last year when Senate Republicans refused to even vote on Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.
Our democracy reached a new level of partisan divide when Republicans declared Obama a lame duck with nearly a year left in his presidency.
The tactic defied logic. Yet Republicans went with it, and worse, got away with it. So everything is fair as long as you win? That feels like a dangerous precedent. Especially when Republican Senator Mitch McConnell declared that denying Obama another Supreme Court appointment was the greatest accomplishment of his career.
And now that Trump has nominated his Supreme Court pick, how are Senate Democrats supposed to respond? Using Republican tactics and obstructing at all costs seems ridiculous, yet what else can they do? Roll over and let these crazy tactics win?
How do we move forward from here?
Let’s Be Reasonable
I think we all want politics to be fair and reasonable. Well, maybe those of us who aren’t politicians. But all of that fake news and obstruction history makes it very hard to be reasonable.
I think it’s vital that liberals don’t give in to the same kind of tactics. I don’t think it’s worth winning that way. But it’s still so hard to know how to be reasonable.
In the midst of the fury over Trump’s refugee ban, some were calling out “hysterical liberals.” I can see being surprised at the sudden response, the airport protests—but really, the response came from all sectors. When John McCain, the National Association of Evangelicals and World Relief are all speaking up for refugees and against Trump’s ban, it’s clearly not mere liberal hysteria.
But there have been moments when liberals do seem to ignore logic and succumb to liberal fake news. There’s a danger of losing our credibility.
Last week I tweeted a link about Republicans repealing a law that stops the mentally ill from buying guns. It seemed like an bizarre move. But digging into the issue, I could see where Republicans were coming from. They were objecting to the way the law was enforced and questions about who was being impacted (“mental illness” is a pretty vague descriptor). Even the ACLU criticized the law.
I still maintain that the intent of the law is good, and I’m disappointed that Republicans aren’t repealing the law and replacing it with a better executed version. The fact that they’re not willing to do that is telling.
But still, it’s an example of how we need to be reasonable. Freaking out over every headline isn’t productive.
So how do we find that common ground?
I think part of it is understanding context. Don’t complain when the tactics your side used are used against you. Think about how this action compares to a similar action in the past. We know the Women’s March was a historic moment when we look to the past and don’t see any comparable protest to a presidential inauguration.
Another part is thinking through things critically. Is that really a reasonable complaint, or are you just frustrated?
Sometimes it’s easy to be trapped in our own echo chamber and lose any sense of perspective. It’s easy to laugh at the latest thing Trump did, and overlook the fact that we’re just being mean. That’s when it helps to talk to people who disagree with you. Listen to their perspective. How do they see things? There are legitimate things to voice dissent about, then there are just things that show how much you dislike the person.
I think finding this kind of common ground is our only way forward. It’s hard to do. It requires patience and listening and setting aside your ego (things many of our politicians are not good at).
You Do You
As this political climate continues and this not-normal becomes the new normal, I think you need to do you.
Find a way to get involved that works for you.
Embrace art and humor. Create something. (Even U2 is reevaluating their new album in the light of Trump and Brexit.) Take some time away from social media if you need to. It’s OK to unplug, take care of yourself, and come back to the fight refreshed.
And maybe thinking of it as a fight is part of the problem.
We will probably always disagree with political rivals, but let’s at least try to find common ground and be reasonable about it. I think that’s the only thing we can do in the face of the unreasonable. At least, I have to hope that reason can win out over lies.