Last Friday I read the news that President Trump and the First Lady have COVID 19. This has been such a surreal year! Even though I hate Trump, I hope Donald and Melania recover. The last thing that I want is for Trump to die and become a white nationalist martyr.
What I want is for Trump to lose in a landslide to Biden and for the Democrats to win large majorities in both Houses in Congress. And I’m hoping that moderate and sane conservatives retake the Republican Party from the Trumpists and the white nationalists of the Far Right. Progressives and moderates need sane conservatives with whom they can debate the issues in good faith, be willing to find common ground when the debate reaches an impasse, and be willing to compromise to tackle the problems this nation faces.
I support Joe Biden for the Presidency. But if Biden is elected, I’m going to support him when I agree with him on some issues and I’ll oppose him when I disagree with him on other issues. Since I’m a liberal Democrat, I’m going to support Biden far more often than I oppose him. But Biden is only human, as all our political leaders are, and it’s normal to support our leaders on some issues and oppose our leaders on other issues. Even if the leaders have the same political ideology as I do, it’s crazy to expect me or any person to have to fall 100% lockstep with any political leader.
This is one of the things that has really bothered me about the cult of personality that has developed around Donald Trump in the Republican Party. When I see how Trump and the Republicans punish and try to humiliate anyone who does not agree with them 100%, I see a political party that has gone off the deep end. This is a dangerous way for a major political party to think.
I think this has been a problem for the Republicans since the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House in 1994 and conservative Republicans began putting ideological purity tests on their fellow Republicans and began driving out the moderates from the GOP. Jim Jeffords and Lincoln Chaffee were the last true moderate Republicans in Congress and they both left the GOP in the early 2000s.
The groupthink that is inhibiting the Republican Party is a problem of human nature, and I think we’re all vulnerable to it if we’re not careful. Both the Right and the Left have had their moments of ideological extremism and trying to impose ideological purity. When I get too harsh on the craziness in the Republican Party, I remind myself of Mao’s Cultural Revolution or Stalin’s purges to remind myself of the Left’s moments of craziness.
My biggest hope is that a President Biden will be able to bridge the divide between the white blue collar communities that support Donald Trump and the minority communities that are threatened by Trump. Some people think that Trump supporters are irredeemably lost to right wing craziness, but I don’t share that view. Looking at history, liberals like Eleanor Roosevelt, Hubert Humphrey, the Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, and Paul Wellstone were able to reach out to both white blue collar communities and minority communities to fight for the economic interests of both groups. In the 1930s and 1940s, Eleanor Roosevelt spoke out for struggling white farmers and miners while simultaneously advocating for greater rights for African Americans. In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were trying to build a multi-racial coalition to advocate for both racial and economic equality through King’s Poor People’s March and Kennedy’s run for the Presidency. In 1988, Jesse Jackson walked the picket lines with striking factory workers, went to white farming communities to support farmers facing foreclosures, visited AIDS patients who were ostracized, reached out to inner city minority communities struggling through poverty and a drug crisis.
Though I think Trump supporters are crazy to support Trump, I do think these people have legitimate grievances that our country needs to address. During the 1980s and 1990s, the manufacturing jobs that used to provide these white blue collar communities a means to a stable middle class life were outsourced to other countries. The jobs that remained in these communities only paid half as much as the jobs that disappeared, and these jobs did not provide any stability or health benefits. These white blue collar communities became afflicted with the same problems that inner city minority communities were struggling with in the 1970s and 1980s: a steep rise in crime; rampant drug problems; a feeling of being trapped in areas of no economic opportunities; a loss of hope and apathy towards education, a rise in suicide rates.
If you look at history, unregulated capitalism often unleashes economic forces that overwhelm the ability of individuals and communities to cope. In the past half century, we’ve seen this happen in both white collar communities and minority communities. Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr,, Robert Kennedy, and Jesse Jackson hoped to build multi-racial coalitions that would ease racial tensions and fight for common economic interests. I’m hoping that a President Biden follows that same path.
I noticed that conservative Christians make up a large part of the Trump coalition. On issues like abortion and traditional gender roles, I think progressives and conservative Christians will have to agree to disagree. But there are areas of common ground between progressives and conservative Christians that can be pursued.
Both progressives and conservative Christians share a common interest in helping the poor and the downtrodden, and progressives can help churches that have programs to feed and shelter the homeless. Many conservative Christian of color have much more sympathetic views on immigrants and refugees than their white co-religionists. Progressives and sane conservative Christians can work together to fight the anti-immigrant prejudice that is currently afflicting both the Republican Party and white conservative Christian churches.
On the issue of LGBTQ equality, I think conservative Evangelical and conservative Catholic thinking on LGBTQ rights will evolve in the same way that Church thinking on antisemitism changed. For centuries, most Christian denominations held terrible anti-Jewish teachings that blamed Jews for the death of Jesus that lead to horrible pogroms and inquisitions. After World War II and the Holocaust, however, many Christian reformers saw that their church’s antisemitic teachings aided in Hitler’s anti-Jewish campaigns. Catholic reformers were deeply troubled by Pope Pius XII’s silence in regards to the Holocaust during World War II, and they led a 20 year effort to change Church teachings in regards to the Catholic Church’s relationship with the Jewish people. This effort bore fruit with the 1965 Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, which lead to a more respectful relationship with Judaism, Islam and most nonChristian religions. The Lutheran Church, Anglican Church and other Christian denominations began a similar effort to reform their churches of antisemitic teachings. Though I think the change in attitude will be slow, I think both the Evangelical and the Catholic Church will go through a similar evolution in their LGBTQ teachings.