Opinion | Morgan Liddick: The people in the debate vs. the people in the audience
On Your Right
Last Wednesday, I watched the first installment of the gang of 20+ Democratic presidential wannabes while in Kearney, Nebraska. I didn’t want to, but one must try to be informed.
I was driving up the Platte River valley, which is always a visual pleasure: wide and shallow, the valley is lush farmland from just west of Lincoln, rich with soybeans, maize, corn and field corn. Further on as the low hills at the valley’s edge pinch in, forage crops begin to dominate. The landscape becomes a lighter green and tan. The river zags away and one emerges onto the savannah that stretches away more than 100 miles to the bustling cities of the Front Range.
Kearney is one of the small towns dotting this landscape at a distance of about 40 miles, a pattern typical of 19th century agricultural settlement. It’s not large, and it is full of a variety of people doing things appropriate to folks in farm country. I grew up in a town like this.
That thought came to mind while watching the debate. Simply put, the principal reason Donald Trump will be reelected is the contrast between the people in the room with me and the people on television. The former are women and men who make things, grow stuff or make it possible to do both. They love their country, want better lives for their children, work to be self-sufficient, help their families and neighbors, and understand that the phrase “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you” is often a bad joke, not a mission statement.
The people in the room may disagree strongly with one another on details, but they all agree on one thing: The people on TV want to control our lives, right down to how we buy our eye care and what sorts of cars we will drive. They have plans for everything and everyone, and some of them don’t mind admitting it. As someone who has lived in the wreck of a country that suffered the bad effects of central planning for seven decades, the idea freezes my blood. And there was more.
There were accusations of racism. Oodles of them, like Sen. Bernie Sanders slamming Trump’s “racism and xenophobia.” Even the moderators got into the act, with Don Lemon suggesting that Trump voters shared his “racism.” Perhaps the party has finally found a description to replace “basket of deplorables.”
Wednesday evening, there was the amusing irony of leading members of the party who celebrate openness and curiosity trying to evade inconvenient questions by dismissing them as “Republican talking points.” Aside from the schadenfreude of watching the squirming, there was more than a little annoyance. Implicit in this deflection tactic is the shared view that ideas coming from outside the charmed circle of Democratic cognoscenti are worthless at best, a mere diversion or annoyance from the real business of making plans — again, for everyone.
Between the two — the easy smearing of Trump supporters and the vigorous disdain for any but party-approved ideas — can be found the reason Trump will probably continue to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on Jan. 21, 2021. Simply put, the more Trump supporters are maligned — the more they are berated, insulted, belittled and ignored — the more likely it is that they will continue to support him and work to bring others along.
It’s very odd. Currently, the “Vanguard of the Party” vying for the Democratic nomination for president seem hell-bent on pushing the oldest political party in America so far to the left that it will be unrecognizable, while clearly showing a very large number of American voters how thoroughly they are despised. And that’s not the worst of it.
This sort of behavior spreads. In the political world, in media, in the academy and throughout society, we are drifting away from the ability to see each other as people. Instead of seeing one’s intellectual or political opponents as men and women much as ourselves — as fellow-citizens with jobs, children, dreams, pets; people who love their country and wish it the best; people who differ with us only in the details of our politics or solely in opinions about which are the best methods to realize joint goals — we increasingly see each other as somehow mortal enemies or as evil. If we persist, it will be the end of us and of our country.
And no, “but Trump!” is not a remedy. Not even close.
Morgan Liddick’s column “On Your Right” publishes Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. Liddick spent 27 years working for the U.S. Foreign Service, primarily living abroad. He also spent 12 years teaching U.S. history and Western civilization at community colleges in Colorado and Texas. He lived in Summit County as recently as 2015. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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