Reaching the Other Side?
It is simplistic to say that Donald Trump is “the problem”. If he was “the problem” his actions and words would not bring nearly a majority of the popular votes in the recent election. Trump’s margin of victory over Biden was huge in quite a few states: (43% — WY 39%- WV, 36%- SD, 35% — AL and KY, 33% — ND and OK.)
Is racism the problem? Certainly it is a huge part of the problem. Saying that it is “The Problem” is, however, simplistic. During much of the 1950’s communism was a scapegoat and weapon used to squash millions of peoples’ desires for economic and racial justice. Poor white people were played against poor Black people for the benefit of wealthy white people.
Racism is a huge problem! Often we white people resist our perceived fault for how important racism is. “I am not racist!” and “Why are you saying that I am racist?” are common feelings we hold. Many people react to any incident of physical confrontation, such as window breaking/thievery or police/protester confrontations, with horror, speaking of anarchy or the alleged Antifa plot(s). Such reactions minimize the predominance of peaceful protests, and speak to fears of a massive (united) anarchistic opposition which does not exist.
Covid-19 speaks to a much larger problem in several important ways. The denial of the medical realities is very troubling! The denial of basic scientific facts, totally politicizes things that should not be political at all. Scapegoating medical providers and actively opposing necessary things such as wearing masks is frightening.
It is quite clear that a lot of white people are facing a basic issue that BIPOC and others without privilege know and have known all their lives. We face the basic unfairness of a virus and pandemic which takes away seeming “freedoms” we’ve thought we had all our lives. Black People have faced unreasonable incidents and reactions to them, based solely upon their perceived skin color and race and increasingly face them as the pandemic ravages many Communities of Color.
The economic realities of today are huge issues that tie in greatly with racism and Covid-19. The economy is a great boon to a limited number of wealthy people and monied interests. It often is not greatly helping or hurting many middle class white people. It is ravaging people who are out of work. It is ravaging restaurant and bar owners, as well as the owners and workers in many industries such as the hospitality industry. Poor BIPOC are both disproportionality victims of Covid, as well as financially impacted by its effects.
Harvard and Stanford Universities have endowments that can take the hit, without major loss. Much less affluent colleges and universities are struggling with huge increases in expenses, while their revenues are drastically lower.
Far too many Evangelical Christians and other religious conservatives are strongly allied with attempts to end the legality of abortions. A lesser, but still significant, number of people are strongly opposed to the basic idea that all people deserve affordable medical care. The fact that huge medical costs are the largest cause of personal bankruptcies is either not known, or minimized as being important.
The word “socialism” is used by many as a weapon against those who do not support Donald Trump. With Cuban-Americans it is a weapon related to their distaste for the former Castro Government in Cuba. It has a strong link to the emotional reactions many Americans have to the word “communism”.
We have “socialism” in part as an accepted, normal part of our country in having centralized, shared things such as government funded: highways, schools, police and fire protection, paying the exceptional expenses of many elderly and disabled people who need medical and custodial care, the military branches including their flyovers of The Blue Angels at many sporting events (pre-Covid), as well as paying for extra-ordinary medical expenses, particularly for children.
The word “socialism” is used as a weapon, when there are attempts to have wealthy people pay a higher percentage of taxes than they currently pay. In Illinois, for example, recently, one billionaire led the effort that successfully fought off an attempt to change Illinois’s state income taxes. The status quo is a rate of 4.95% for all, with state/federal retirement pensions excluded. The proposed changes would have had brackets:
4.75% — 0–10,000
4.90% — 10,001–100,000
4.95% — 100,001- 250,000
7.75% — 250,001–350,000 (500,000 — couples)
7.85% — 350,001- 750,000 (individuals) and 500,001–1,000,000 — (couples)
7.99% * — 750,001+ individuals and 1,000,001+ couples
* — tax applies to net total income (not marginal rate) — all the brackets below the top bracket — were marginal rates
The income level where tax rates would go up with the proposed change was with incomes slightly above $250,000/year for individuals or couples. If our billionaire had yearly net income of $10,000,000/year — his tax liability would rise from $465,000 to $799,000, a $304,000 increase.
To me, this is NOT socialism! To me having slightly lowered tax rates for individuals and families whose incomes are close to our under $100,000/year and increasing the tax rates (above the rates of people with lower income) for people with income over $250,000 is entirely reasonable.
The monied interests won! They scared people, indicating that if the flat rate was eliminated, that future government leaders would lower the rates where rates would be higher below the $250,000 level. It should be noted that the median Illinois family income is $63,575, significantly less than $250,000.
Republican leadership including Donald Trump talk significantly about tax reductions, not increases. They talk about helping all people, while their actual proposals, marginally help lower income people, while substantially helping very wealthy people. Ironically, may people whose incomes will never be significantly helped by Trumpian/Republican taxation policies are core Trump/Republican supporters.
The problems go well beyond Trump and his fellow Republican politicians! Democratic politicians do not listen to the voices of people who are not living in major urban areas and are .often not upper-middle class. If they really listened, they would understand that LatinX people are not a monolith that Democrats can take for granted. If they listened, they would learn that white women don’t vote as a bloc. Their interests shaping their votes often go beyond the obvious sexism of Donald Trump and many Republican politicians.
I believe that many people are “beyond the pale” in their political beliefs, and will only be reachable down the road. There are, however, a good 10–20% of the American population, who could dramatically shift the political scene, giving Democrats a substantial majority.
We need to recognize that the voices of Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, and major Republican Party leaders are being heard, and not routinely being discounted, by many American people. Social media, such as Facebook, respond to our preferences, and feed us with content that supports our “right” or “left” or “inbetween” beliefs, though they probably are poorest in the middle area.
CNN and MSNBC — are profit seeking networks, not seekers of “the truth”. They do not deeply care about us, though they seemingly speak to us. They do not dig into the issues dividing us, listening seriously about the concerns that many people have. We can not rely upon them to do our work for us.
We can build a better United States! To do this, we will need to do a lot of work, healing the damage done by Trump and his “flunkies”. Republican politicians will continue to support the lies and rhetoric, as long as we continue to complain to our allies, and avoid doing the serious work to build positive change.
We need to work within existing organizations: political, religious, personal and to create new groups when helpful. We need to learn from our children and grandchildren and both share with them and hear their voices deeply.