Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Who Bullies the Bullies: An Open Letter to My Left-leaning Friends about Trump

 

What the Left Did to the Right, and What the Right Is Doing to the Left

Photo: someone still wearing genitalia on her head

You want Trump and his party to lose in 2020. I get it. Wanting your people to be elected, so that they can pass your preferred policies, is normal—that’s politics—and part of Trump’s pitch from the beginning has been that he’s unlikeable and outrageous: personally insulting and mocking his opponents, threatening unprecedented measures (killing terrorists’ families, shutting down news organizations that criticize him). So, of course, you don’t like him—totally understandable. You want to defeat him at the ballot box—nothing wrong with that.

The problem is that if the left doesn’t first understand how it helped create Trump, defeating this one solves nothing; the left will continue unwittingly creating more Trumps. If you don’t understand history, you are doomed to repeat it.

It may be difficult for non-conservatives to imagine how thoroughly our society signals to conservatives that we are not the in-group. From official and unofficial cultural leaders (Barack Obama, NPR, the biggest movies and TV shows) to individual interactions with people we know personally, over and over again we are jarringly told that we are “the other.”

The close friend who told me, disappointed, Oh, yeah—I forgot you were a conservative. I guess I’ve systematically cut all other conservatives out of my life. The (very liberal) friend in college who changed his Facebook profile to “very conservative” just to be funny, and said he noticed that people immediately started shunning him on campus. The extremely smart and educated, otherwise kind and generous close relative who responded to my mild and brief offering of a dissenting political view with Of course we’ll never agree, you’re just a Republican. The friend who felt the need to “out” me as a conservative to the rest of the nonprofit board we served on when they were making small talk about the upcoming 2016 primaries: Did you know that Edward is a Republican? (With friends like these…)

It would never even occur to me to talk this way about my left-leaning friends.

Perhaps you have had similar but opposite experiences with your conservative friends; I am genuinely sorry to hear that. It may depend a lot on the social circles we happen to move in. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

I suppose that making us feel like outsiders in our own country and our own families, however alienating (literally), does not necessarily mean mistreating us. Maybe ingroup-outgroup thinking or identity tribalism is part of human nature. Slate Star Codex suggests that the measure of a person’s character is how well he treats people in his out-group.

Unfortunately, in addition to “othering” us, the left has also made a habit of bullying us—not that every individual does it all the time, certainly, but it is surprisingly widespread and mainstream on the left.

The years-long Two Minutes’ Hate against the Koch Brothers, up to and including top-level official leaders of the left (the top Democrat in the Senate on the Senate floor; those most staid and sober voices of NPR). (If there has ever been an equivalent instance of a Trent Lott or a John Boehner publicly denouncing a big-spender donor on the left for exercising his constitutional rights to free expression and petition for redress of grievances, I would like to know about it.) People in the federal government and mainstream Progressive organizations illegally leaked required IRS filings containing the identities of individuals who donated to a pro-traditional-marriage organization so that they could be targeted and harassed and driven out of their jobs. The inventor of JavaScript and co-creator of Mozilla Firefox was forced out of his own company for having once made a pro-marriage donation. The Southern Poverty Law Center smeared mainstream conservative organizations as “hate groups” for their mainstream positions on issues that divide the country (such as the definition of marriage), and some of you continued to support the SPLC and praise it (one of you kept suggesting I go work for them), as if the SPLC were not seeking to silence dissent, actively making our politics more poisonous and divisive. The left treated every act of murderous violence by a Bernie Sanders volunteer or anti-Chick-fil-A activist as proving nothing (fair), every act of murderous violence by a conservative as proving that dissent is dangerous.

Again, by no means are all of our left-leaning friends bullies or complicit in bullying. Conversely, if your own views lean left, and if you happen to live or move in circles that are populated overwhelmingly by people who are culturally or politically conservative, no doubt you have experienced or are aware of bullying in the opposite direction. There has always been enough bullying to go around, unfortunately. One of the most universal features of human history is man’s inhumanity to man. But our left-leaning friends sometimes seem unaware of how widely accepted and mainstream this bullying has been on the left in recent decades, up to and including top leaders of our society. Another way to put it would be that there have been individual conservative bullies, or even particular places that have had a local culture of such bullying. But the practice of bullying conservatives has been part of our national culture.

And of course, there is the boy who cried “racist.” Wanting to enforce any immigration laws was racist. Wanting to reduce government dependency was racist. Being pro-Second Amendment was racist (especially bizarrely, given some of the actual history of gun-control laws). Opposing even more of a government takeover of health care (it was already far from a free market) was racist. In fact, any opposition to Obama was per se racist. As Jonah Goldberg puts it (I paraphrase), for a populist movement, the Tea Party basically did everything right, and they got called racist anyway.

So the right finally thought, why bother?

So the right decided to get their own bully. In effect, they hired Trump to bully the bullies.

I say none of this by way of excuse for any bad behavior on the right, past or present. It is no excuse. But it is a partial explanation. My goal here is not to judge or accuse but to help you understand. If we don’t understand history, we are doomed to repeat it.

The left’s response to Trump’s election has been to become even more disconnected from the perspectives of their right-leaning neighbors, and from any sense of perspective.

The left panics that Trump doesn’t care about the Constitution or other limits on his power—which is sometimes true, and I’m glad that the left has rediscovered the value of constitutional structural limits—but the left has never yet acknowledged, for example, that President Obama himself repeatedly declared that he had no constitutional power to change immigration law unilaterally (“I’m not the emperor”), then went ahead and did it anyway. The left deplores Trump’s demagogic attacks on opposition news media as “the enemy of the American People”—and they’re right, such attacks are demagogic—but it would help if the mainstream news media hadn’t spent my entire adult lifetime effectively (if perhaps unintentionally) running propaganda operations for the left in all but name. It would help if our left-leaning friends at least admitted that liberal bias in the media is a problem, as even the Washington Post and New York Times’ own spokesmen have agreed that it is. As Mark Steyn puts it, the news media ostentatiously make an effort to hire for every kind of diversity except the one that matters, diversity of ideas.

The Trump administration rolled back some EPA regulations to what they were in 2015 (i.e., the end of the Obama administration), and the left talked as if conservatives were the devil and wanted to make everyone breathe in poison. (There is a lot of “breathing in poison” these days, but I’m not talking about the air.) The Trump administration reverted to how the Obama administration had interpreted discrimination law until 2014, and the left talked as if conservatives were erasing their existence. The Trump administration reversed the “net neutrality” decision that the Obama administration hadn’t made until 2015, and the left talked as if it were the end of the world. Liberal activists threatened to bomb the FCC and kill the chairman’s children. I said at some point — Can we all at least agree that violence and intimidation against those we disagree with are not acceptable? — and some of you instead defended the bullies.

You literally responded to Trump’s obscene comments about women by pantomiming wearing giant genitalia on your heads. Some of you are still wearing them. If Trump had resolved to discredit his critics by casting a magic spell over them and ordering them to make themselves look ridiculous, the effect could hardly have been greater.

This is the point at which I think Jonah Goldberg would allude to Aesop’s fable about the scorpion and the frog: Trump is what he is. It’s what he’s been for decades; already aged 70 years old at the time of the 2016 election, at this point he’s not going to change. This is his nature.

In my line of work, we sometimes tell children, You can’t control other people’s behavior; you can only control your response to it.

Look, I get it. Trump is unlikeable, outrageous, infuriating. It makes all the sense in the world that you don’t like him, that you’re outraged, that you’re infuriated. Indeed, most relevant for our purposes here, he is truly a bully. So are many of his fans. But try to take a step back and see from a wider angle; try to understand that the irrational Trump fans you find yourself up against got to the place they’re at by being infuriated by other past events, fairly or unfairly. Many of them feel that they have been bullied. If it helps, treat Trump himself like Medusa: Refuse to look at him at all. Focus instead on the millions of ordinary Americans out there who have somehow become Trump fans and apologists; focus on your near friends and neighbors who you know share some of your own local cares and concerns and real-life hopes and dreams, but with whom you find yourself disagreeing on some things.

We can respond to the seemingly inexplicable events of recent years with righteous indignation and anger — it sure feels good sometimes, doesn’t it? — or we can try to understand how we got here. Work with me on finding ways to break this cycle of atrocities and counter-atrocities. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do know that the emotional reactions we’re tempted to have to our current politics seem to keep reinforcing some of the worst dynamics of those same politics.

There’s an old joke. An Englishman, a Frenchman, and a Russian are told that they will die tomorrow. They are asked, What will you do with the little time that remains to you?

Poignantly, the Englishman looks forward to spending the day taking one last walk with his favorite sheepdog over the beautiful Scottish moors.

The Frenchman says, I will spend the night in the arms of my mistress, whom I love.

The Russian says, I’ll burn my neighbor’s house down.

I would gently suggest that we have a couple of options. We can patiently and thoughtfully work toward making a difference, toward actually accomplishing something — political and cultural change, moving the country a little bit in the right direction, doing what we can within our little sphere — or, we can react emotionally, and have the (ultimately empty) satisfaction of burning our neighbor’s house down.

We can’t very well do both.

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  1. Bob Wainwright Member

    What would be preferable to a bully as president would be a conservative movement that figured out how to intimidate everyone the way liberals have. So that HR administrators and college deans and bureacrats truly feared the backlash from conservatives in the media and elsewhere whenever they said anything unpleasant to conservatives. There may be more Democrats than Republicans, but there are way more non-PC people than there are PC people. 

    • #1
    • May 4, 2020, at 10:18 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  2. DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… Coolidge

    I hope this goes to the main feed so I can share it on my Facebook page, and maybe some of my left-leaning friends who have spent years treating conservatives like something they need to wipe off the bottom of their shoes, will read it and maybe — just maybe — reign in their hate and bullying.

    Oh, who am I kidding? Of course they won’t.

    • #2
    • May 4, 2020, at 10:21 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  3. Columbo Member

    I prefer “Fighter” to “Bully”. There was a term in the GOP POTUS primary – the Fighter Caucus. And there were only two candidates within that subset – Ted Cruz and President Trump. And Cruz did not expand his appeal nationally. Too cerebral, too reticent, too boring, or something that President Trump did not suffer from.

    So, yes, it was time for the democrats and their sycophants in the main stream media, China and the status quo to be fought against for once. And President Trump was just the man to do it. After eight years of an anti-America President, it was overdue for one who loved his country and wished for it to be Great Again.

    And now that he has achieved that, even during some unprecedented health & economic challenges, he deserves to be re-elected this November rather than a return to some neo- socialist who hates America.

    • #3
    • May 4, 2020, at 10:45 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  4. Flicker Coolidge

    Trump’s not a bully. He only hits back.

    • #4
    • May 4, 2020, at 10:45 AM PDT
    • 18 likes
  5. Columbo Member

    President Donald Trump is a Sheepdog, not a Bully.

    • #5
    • May 4, 2020, at 10:51 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  6. Hang On Member
    Hang On Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “the other” – you’ve obviously bought into left-wing nonsense.

    • #6
    • May 4, 2020, at 12:34 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Chuck Thatcher

    Good observations – but here on Ricochet this is for the most part preaching to the choir. And for the rest, @drewinwisconsin nailed it in just the second comment.

    • #7
    • May 4, 2020, at 1:54 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Ed G. Member
    Ed G. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Trump’s not a bully. He only hits back.

    Agreed. In fact, he wants(ed) to make deals with everyone – win win all around. They hate him too much to share in that; they hate him too much to make things better for themselves if it means he will experience any benefit too. The ironic thing is that he could have been a centrist’s dream while guys like me might have grown disillusioned with all of the compromising. Who knows? He seems like he knows how to get a true win win instead of the right’s usual playbook of giving away half of our own loaf and claiming victory because we didn’t give it all away. 

    • #8
    • May 4, 2020, at 3:51 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Zafar Member

    Charity begins at home with AOC, Ilhan Omar and George Soros.

    • #9
    • May 4, 2020, at 4:06 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. JennaStocker Member

    “The problem is that if the left doesn’t first understand how it helped create Trump, defeating this one solves nothing; the left will continue unwittingly creating more Trumps.”

    Nailed it!

    • #10
    • May 4, 2020, at 9:43 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. James Lileks Contributor

    The problem is that a sizable portion of the people on the left have realized there’s just no arguing with bad people. Oh, once they held out hope. But that slender candle has gutted out. This was shared around on Twitter today because it is So Important:

    Some excerpts:

    She writes:

    Personally, I’m happy to pay an extra 4.3 percent for my fast food burger if it means the person making it for me can afford to feed their own family. If you aren’t willing to fork over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac, you’re a fundamentally different person than I am.

    There are no arguments against a minimum wage that come from a good place. There is only selfishness. 

    I’m perfectly content to pay taxes that go toward public schools, even though I’m childless and intend to stay that way, because all children deserve a quality, free education. If this seems unfair or unreasonable to you, we are never going to see eye to eye.

    There are no alternatives to public schools. There are no fair or reasonable arguments in favor of vouchers or school choice. There is no decent reason to investigate whether the public schools spend wisely, are over-burdened by administrators, or object to the curriculum. There is only selfishness.

    If I have to pay a little more with each paycheck to ensure my fellow Americans can access health care? SIGN ME UP. Poverty should not be a death sentence in the richest country in the world. If you’re okay with thousands of people dying of treatable diseases just so the wealthiest among us can hoard still more wealth, there is a divide between our worldviews that can never be bridged.

    There’s simply no other way to frame the issue. There is only her view on the health care question, or cruel selfishness. 

    By the way, I think she should pay most of her paycheck to ensure what she wishes, and that she shouldn’t be able to set whether it’s “a little more.” That’s not up to her. I’d really hate to think she’s one of those people.

    I don’t know how to convince someone how to experience the basic human emotion of empathy. I cannot have one more conversation with someone who is content to see millions of people suffer needlessly in exchange for a tax cut that statistically they’ll never see.

    She cannot talk about tax cuts.

    I cannot have political debates with these people. Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters.

    It’s a great relief to know that the people who don’t agree with you are not good people and do not know that goodness matters. It’s quite clarifying, and makes life simpler going forward.

    I don’t know what’s changed ― or indeed, if anything has ― and I don’t have any easy answers. But I do know I’m done trying to convince these hordes of selfish, cruel people to look beyond themselves.

    You might suspect she thought of them of “hordes” before she reluctantly gave up.

    • #11
    • May 4, 2020, at 9:50 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  12. Henry Castaigne Member

     

     

    Edward D. Hyde: We can patiently and thoughtfully work toward making a difference, toward actually accomplishing something — political and cultural change, moving the country a little bit in the right direction, doing what we can within our little sphere — or, we can react emotionally, and have the (ultimately empty) satisfaction of burning our neighbor’s house down.

    “You don’t know the power of the dark side.”

    Human beings were made to hate. The satisfaction of burning down your neighbor’s house is strong indeed. After all did not we humans destroys the Neanderthals and the Denisovans in order to claim their lands? The dark side flows through us. 

    • #12
    • May 5, 2020, at 7:54 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… Coolidge

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    After all did not we humans destroys the Neanderthals and the Denisovans in order to claim their lands? The dark side flows through us.

    Oh great. Now they’re gonna want reparations.

    • #13
    • May 5, 2020, at 8:17 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  14. Henry Castaigne Member

    DrewInWisconsin is done with t… (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    After all did not we humans destroys the Neanderthals and the Denisovans in order to claim their lands? The dark side flows through us.

    Oh great. Now they’re gonna want reparations.

    But they are so intermarried and part of the warp and woof of Caucasian and Asian genetics it would be impossible to figure out the the descendants of the oppressors vs the oppressed. 

    • #14
    • May 5, 2020, at 8:45 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… Coolidge

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin is done with t… (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    After all did not we humans destroys the Neanderthals and the Denisovans in order to claim their lands? The dark side flows through us.

    Oh great. Now they’re gonna want reparations.

    But they are so intermarried and part of the warp and woof of Caucasian and Asian genetics it would be impossible to figure out the the descendants of the oppressors vs the oppressed.

    That’s a dare!

    • #15
    • May 5, 2020, at 9:59 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Henry Castaigne Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    The problem is that a sizable portion of the people on the left have realized there’s just no arguing with bad people. Oh, once they held out hope. But that slender candle has gutted out. This was shared around on Twitter today because it is So Important:

    Some excerpts:

    She writes:

    Personally, I’m happy to pay an extra 4.3 percent for my fast food burger if it means the person making it for me can afford to feed their own family. If you aren’t willing to fork over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac, you’re a fundamentally different person than I am.

    There are no arguments against a minimum wage that come from a good place. There is only selfishness.

    I have a serious question about this lady. Does her left wing hostility to more free-market centered economics come from her love of the poor of the Earth or does it come from hatred for people who disagree with her?

    Milton Friedman liked to say that intentions don’t count. In terms of the short-term effects on policy, he is correct. Good policy leads to good results whether the voters and implementers of those policies have good intentions or not. But in terms of the long-term health of society, it really matters if your politics is based on hatred for the ideological other or concern for the least of us.

    • #16
    • May 5, 2020, at 11:34 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  17. Edward D. Hyde Coolidge
    Edward D. Hyde

    DrewInWisconsin is done with t… (View Comment):

    I hope this goes to the main feed so I can share it on my Facebook page . . . .

    We had some technical difficulties behind the scenes, but I believe we have worked them all out and the piece is publicly available again.

    Oh, who am I kidding? Of course they won’t.

    You can’t make him drink; all you can do is lead a horse to water…

    • #17
    • May 5, 2020, at 12:11 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. Gary Robbins Reagan

    There is another way to beat the bullies of the left. See Reagan, Ronald, the Greatest President of the United States who won the cold war without firing a shot, stopped inflation, and won 49 states, by empowering all Americans to their better angels and having an open and inclusive administration which was not engaged in a cult of self-adoration. 

    For other American Presidents, see Eisenhower, Dwight; Coolidge, Calvin, and Lincoln, Abraham. 

    For our British friends, see also Churchill, Winston and Thatcher, Margaret. 

    • #18
    • May 6, 2020, at 8:33 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge

    Excellent thinking.

    One of the big problems for the Left is that when they defeat Trump, the very corollary you mention, that his defeat will promote newer Trumps, is spot on.

    Right now, Trump has picked up many detractors due to the idea that only nice soft spoken people should be in office. He does possess a Don Rickles aspect, and sometimes I find it enjoyable as when he says “Fake New” unabashedly. Other times I find that personality aspect of his annoying.

    But you can bet your sweet lil bippy that the new crop of “Trumps” might well prove to be gorgeous, babe-o-licious and well spoken women like Candace Owens. Then the Left won’t be able to point to her locker room talk. She won’t call the emperor of North Korea a fat boy. Since she is a woman, the idea that she is part of the “Good Ol’ Boy” network will not flourish. Rather she will speak in sensible sound bytes, and possibly take the few remaining thinking Leftists over to the Walkaway side of things.

    • #19
    • May 6, 2020, at 2:17 PM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.