Striking Back

“Anytime you have a group that feels as though it’s headed toward generational demise, it lashes out. It puts up a fight. It refuses to give up what’s theirs.” Those are the words of David Brooks who currently writes an opinion column for the New York Times. I must admit I have only read one of his books and usually do not read his column. Perhaps I should.


I ran across this when reading Tim Alberta’s new book, The Kingdom, The Power And The Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism. It got me thinking. (Isn’t that what non-fiction books are supposed to do?) The only amendment I might offer to Mr. Brooks’ statement is I would amend the “What’s theirs” part to what they perceive as theirs.

I’m one of those progressives who doesn’t want to dismiss the far right wing (which is largely old white people, mostly guys) as just a bunch of crazies. I’m interested in their motivation. Who cares if they are right or wrong; their vote counts the same as mine. There is a substantial portion of Americans who were brought up to believe that if you are white, particularly if you have a penis, and kept your nose clean, you were entitled to a piece of the American dream.

Over the last several decades it turned out to be a little more complicated than that, but I can see where many of them feel cheated. To compound their tribulation, most of the younger generations don’t feel the same way and the oldsters are dying out. They feel that what they deserved has been taken away from them and they are understandably angry about that.

Of late I’ve written a lot about reaching out as one electoral strategy to gain voters. This group is going to be one of, if not, the hardest nut to crack. In fact, where the effort is made – and I feel it should be – it will meet with very limited success. Right or wrong, they blame their plight mainly on the Democrats. If you get into a discussion with them don’t fight them on their perceptions. The last thing you should do is tell them that they are wrong. That is the surest way to cement them in their position. Remember the most important element in communications is perception. What you can do is outline the stances Democrats, including President Biden, have taken on issues and programs that have, can and will help them. If they are retired stress that Biden and the Democrats have been the defenders of Social Security and Medicare. If they are still working, (then they are probably nearing retirement age which makes retraining and new, good job prospects very dismal) they were probably among those most economically hurt during the Pandemic. It was Biden and the Democrats that got them the extra unemployment benefits and child care checks. Almost to a person the Republicans opposed those programs.

This is an engage but be prepared to quickly disengage situation. There is nothing to be gained by alienating the other person and if they are your friend you don’t want to lose them as such. To me one of the beauties of American democracy is that we have the right to disagree about political and policy issues. I sometimes feel like a member of the clergy but with American democracy on the ballot in 2024 we all need to be missionaries at some point(s).

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