Politics

Triumph of the Feels

Logic ain’t gonna work in 2016.

We fact-checked. And researched claims. And corrected interpretations. And said, But actually… I’ve seen countless of these pass through the headlines of left-leaning publications like WaPo, NYT, CNBC, etc., each one of them proclaiming some statement by Donald Trump to not even pass for stretching the truth, as is the job of the press to call out candidates and political officials. But these media sources also frequently imply that therefore, no one in their right mind would support his candidacy. And yet, they and the many liberals who consume them are surprised each time Trump leaps ahead in polls or gets closer to the presidency.

He said Mexicans are rapists! He wants to ban an entire religious group from the United States! He has no coherent foreign policy! These are all facts. The problem for many of those who oppose Trump is their assumption that facts matter in this environment. No, in this environment, feelings dominate, as I meant to discuss earlier, but fortunately John Oliver got to the topic this past Sunday:

Conversations with Trump supporters, from what I’ve seen, tend to go like this. “Yes, I support Donald Trump,” says the voter. “But he said X,” goes the interviewer. “Sure, but he didn’t really mean all that, and he’s going to make America great again.” X is a fact, and X loses relevance in the context of voter frustration.

We don’t win anymore. We’re going to take our country back. These statements and calls to action are based on presumptions about reality, moreover an overriding sense of decline and ruin. And it didn’t start with Donald.

Another feeler might say, I’ve seen Obama in the pews, I am told there are churches he has attended, I am aware he says he is a Christian, and yet I choose to believe that he is a Muslim. There is a strange contradiction in the right’s criticism of Obama’s attendance of the church of Reverend Wright (“God damn America” guy) and its insistence that he is a Muslim. Is everyone in this America-hating church a secret Muslim?

I had a conversation in the early days of the Obama presidency with a conservative friend, definitely not unique, who said that Obama is the Antichrist but that it was okay because we’d all go to Heaven soon. I too am a Christian, and would also subscribe to Revelation’s depiction of the end of the world, but I would think that the devil could do one better than a Harvard lawyer who passed health care reform and generally can’t get Congress to do anything he wants.

All this said, I’m not here to call people stupid or to write off these feelings. Indeed, writing off these feelings is the left’s most serious mistake. A while back, I wrote about the importance of taking people’s feelings into account as an argument for political correctness. Now let me use that same argument to support the very people who typically are against PC (“political correctness is killing us!”). If the polls and primary votes are any indication, this is a sizable part of the population that is deeply dissatisfied with the government and has not seen much of the gains since the recession. Would you rather shut them down only to have them strike back again (Trump 2020, as one obvious vengeance), or would you rather help solve their problems? If the answer is the former, then maybe those of us who oppose Trump are as divisive as he says.

We have to stop throwing facts out and hoping that they will do their work. We have to take into consideration the outrage, whether it is truly justified or not. We have to not take the logical high ground, but find a place of emotional compromise. There will be a time for education to prevent this sort of thing from happening again, but for now, the time is to bridge the divide. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Donald said something quite true when he advocated raising the minimum wage:

“This is not very Republican to say, but you have to help people.”

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