Ask Uncle Ed 3B

This is a continuation* of Uncle Ed’s response to Sad Singer regarding continued participation in a Church choir full of Trump voters. In Part 3A Uncle Ed considered the possibility of leaving.

Dear Sad Singer:

Uncle Ed knows that leaving may not be possible and it may not be what you want to do. Here Uncle Ed offers ideas out what to do if you decide to stay.

Uncle Ed suggests that you first rethink your definition of “friends”. Before the 2016 election, you probably considered as “friends” most, if not all, of your co-workers, the people you know at Church, the people you work with on civic projects or in community groups or Little League. The connotations of that word made it possible to ignore aspects of people that you didn’t care for or even accept. Cooperating on a project, just like being on a team, smoothes over significant differences. In our minds, we distinguish this kind of friend from the categories of close friends, or personal friends.

Uncle Ed thinks that’s not a good definition now. We aren’t friends with people just because we have to work with them. You might decide to cooperate with choir and church people you don’t like or respect. But they will never be your friends. You have to keep them at arms length to protect yourself.

You mention that you wish you had talked more to people before the election. Uncle Ed is certain you are not at fault. There are norms of behavior in your church and in your choir, and talking about politics is almost certainly off limits. Uncle Ed has 25 years of experience in choirs and choruses, and each has its own unspoken rules. For example, in one singing group, arguments about politics were common. No one’s mind was changed, but the exchanges gave Uncle Ed insights into the thinking of conservatives and fundamentalists that Uncle Ed would not have had in his workaday life. In other groups, the conversations were more mundane, and more fun. Raising politics would have bored Uncle Ed’s friends (and these people were friends) stiff. If Clinton had been trailing in the polls, you might have felt forced to act differently, but there was no reason for you to think she wouldn’t win, and thus no reason to even consider violating the norms.

In the prior post, Uncle Ed urged you to get together with like-minded choristers and others from the Church to talk about what to do. That’s the first step if you decide to stay, too. Here are some things to consider.

1. Sane Republicans knew before they voted for him that that Trump is a bully, a narcissist, a racist, a misogynist, an anti-Semite, that he is bad at business and that he is vulgar and ignorant. They must have come up with reasons to vote for him in spite of this knowledge, and Uncle Ed is pretty sure those reasons begin with Democrats are evil, and Hillary Clinton is the Devil. It might have been emails, or some other fake scandal, or her slight turn to the left during the campaign. Maybe they didn’t think Trump could win, so it was safe to vote for him. Maybe it was some Republican policy position like lower taxes on themselves, smaller government, fewer regulations, abortion, guns, who knows.

Now they see him flailing in surreal press conferences, all his neuroses on display. They watch him installing Dr. Strangelove characters and white nationalists and other dregs of society into high government positions, instead of the nice Republicans they respect. They see the ridicule heaped on him around the world, and the way other nations respond to his incompetence and boorishness. They must be experiencing a sickening case of buyer’s remorse. Your goal is to figure out how to exploit that buyer’s remorse and persuade the sane Republicans to vote for Democrats in the mid-terms, or at least not to vote for Republican legislators. That would create a check on the worst instincts of Trump, and keep him from wrecking the country.

2. Do not discuss Clinton. Don’t say she would have been a better choice, don’t explain her policies or talk about how foolish she made Trump look in the debates. If someone else raises her, say something like: You would never have had to defend her intelligence or her knowledge or her mental stability. She would have done things you didn’t like but she wouldn’t embarrass you like Trump does.

3. listen closely to the things about Trump they make them nervous and push those ideas harder than they do. For example, many Republicans are worried about Russia. Don’t rant. Agree with them with short sentences that they can hook onto and expand. If they don’t expand, then you do, again with short sentences. If you read Emptywheel you know more about this than they do. Use that information to increase their concerns.

Mention the Saturday Night Live skits with Trump and Putin. Talk about the late night mockery of his stability in minor things like losing the first round of the lawsuit over the travel ban, or Nordstrom dropping Ivanka’s line. Ask how he will deal with the Russians if they provoke him. Mention the unknown relations between Trump’s businesses and Russian banks and Russian partners. Eventually point out that If we had Trump’s tax returns we’d know for sure. Keep your side of the conversation short.

4. There are many rich Republicans who viscerally hate liberals. For them, Uncle Ed suggests a different approach. Don’t talk to them at all. If you can’t avoid talking and can’t avoid politics, use words like vulgar, tasteless, boorish, common. Say those words with the sneer your mother used when she caught you picking your nose. Sneering puts them in the position of defending him, which they won’t, and should end the discussion. Don’t leave. Make them walk off.

5. Any effort to act on these ideas will violate the norms of the choir and the Church. It has to be done. Normal people cannot pretend that Trump is a normal, and that this is just a routine change in government. He isn’t normal. This isn’t a normal government. Nothing can be the same including personal relationships. And they are at fault, not you.

======

* This is one of an occasional series in which I try to come to grips with the Age of Trump. Sad Singer’s letter is based on my personal experience in a volunteer choir at a PCUSA church, and other singing groups that included a substantial number of conservatives. By extension, it applies to other groups where sane people have to deal with Trump voters.

Notre Dame undergrad (math); JD, Indiana University at Bloomington; 1st Lieutenant, US Army.; private practice in corporate and securities law; Assistant AG in Tennessee for consumer protection and securities; Blue Sky Securities Commissioner, Tennessee; private practice, bankruptcy and corporate law.

I have had a lifelong interest in economics. For most of my career, that interest was practical, focused on the problems in front of me. Lately I have been more interested in economics as a theory, especially its impact on the lives of people like those I met in my bankruptcy practice, and on the politics of money in the US. I also enjoy reading philosophers, starting in college and steadily expanding my reading ever since. I wrote at FireDogLake for a number of years.

Generally, I think the problem facing the US is the dominance of neoliberal discourse. I think it clouds the vision, and limits the kinds of problems that can be identified and solved. For example, the existence and danger of climate change can easily be identified in a scientific discussion. However, the problem does not fit the neoliberal discourse because science insists that the pursuit of individual and corporate self-interest will lead to devastation. In neoliberal discourse, the pursuit of self-interest always leads to Eden.

The neoliberal project has two prongs. One is the police function of crushing dissent and alternative views. The police function is provided by government agencies and private and institutional actors. The counterpart is the economic system , which is operated by government and by private and institutional actors. Some of these actors operate in both spheres. I focus on the second prong.

19 replies
  1. Karl Kolchak says:

    Your description of “Trump voters” doesn’t sound at all like the several I know.  They would all be what you would describe a “sane Republicans” and “normal people,” not Christian extremists or gun nuts or racists or tea partiers.  They are each professionals, and I’ve heard at least one say how much he likes SNL’s depictions of Trump.  In each case they voted for him because they thought Hillary would be worse , they don’t believe any of the Russia nonsense (on this point, I as a Sanders supporter totally agree), and they do not feel that Trump is all that far outside the “norm,” especially since the stock market has been booming since his election.

    Saying they are “at fault” is a reflection of exactly the kind of stridency the will cause Democrats to continue losing elections.  My hope by staying home this past November and doing my little part to help Hillary lose (yes, I’m “at fault” too–proudly so) was that it might actually make the party do some serious soul searching and remake itself as a true party of the left.  By your reaction and those of so many other liberals I can see that sadly it is never going to happen, partly because you will never wrap your head around the fact that you have far more in common with the average Trump voter than you do any of the millionaires and billionaires that run today’s Democratic party.

    • Ed Walker says:

      There are several points in this post. One is that the norms of behavior in social settings cannot remain the same in the Trump era. One of the norms of Church Choir is that we leave politics outside the door. That norm explains why Sad Singer didn’t want to talk politics with others before the election. The fact that this norm is outdated is the fault of Trump voters, not Sad Singer.

      In the broader perspective, perhaps Uncle Ed is too strident for your taste. But Uncle Ed didn’t think it was a good idea to have a president who only recently learned from a briefing that uranium is nuclear weapons, and bad things can be done with it, and that a nuclear holocaust would be like no other. http://www.vox.com/2017/2/16/14640772/president-trump-quotes-presser

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Voting for someone, expecting them to be like you, to promote your views and priorities, despite a decades’ long career that demonstrates the opposite, is irrational, not insane.  It puts tribalism above rationality, which is the standard of the authoritarian follower.  Institutional churches have more than their fare share of them.  But they haven’t a monopoly.  A lot of voters voted against an inheritance tax, for example, that they would never pay, on the off chance (1 in 375,000,000) that they might win the lottery.  Humans are nothing if not optimistic. While a necessary survival instinct, it is a trait easily manipulated by the predatory, a portion of the species that seems to be expanding like mold in an unwashed toilet.

  3. katie Jensen (Peacerme) says:

    I never go into Clinton. Irrelevant at this point. I simply say, “she’s not the pres, that’s a deflection, let’s stay focused on problem at hand.”

    I admit where I disagreed with presidents past. Why? Because we do have an oligarchy and while I miss Obama, I did not like the fact that he failed to have a criminal investigation regarding banking and finance, torture, and lead into Iraq war. I didn’t like his drone program or that he quietly deported 2.5 million immigrants. What’s interesting to me is that smart?? republicans know the hypocrisy of this. Admitting to where I disagreed with Obama has actually allowed some real discourse and info exchange. One republican thought Obama had been soft on immigrants. Truly didn’t know how many he deported. Stopped the whole thread with links and all. I look for any opportunity to educate, always with links, always checking sources, watching my judgements and hyperbole. In my opine, that’s our best chance!!

     

    • Ed Walker says:

      Uncle Ed thinks you are in the right place with this line of thinking. In an early draft of this post, Uncle Ed suggested talking about how we disagree with positions taken by Dem Presidents and candidates as a way of opening the door to more candor from others. The problem is, as you say, that this deflects the discussion from the noxious Trump, and how to restore balance to government, which seems like the most likely avenue of approach to the sane among Trump Voters.

      One problem is that most of Uncle Ed’s differences with Obama and HRC were from the left, and thus even farther from the views of the Rs. Uncle Ed thinks that magnifying existing concerns people have is a better approach than offering his solutions.

  4. harpie says:

    Uncle Ed suggests that you first rethink your definition of “friends”.

    The words “acquaintance” and “colleague” really come in handy.

    • Peterr says:

      I blame Facebook for ruining the word “friend” by turning it into “someone I want to share something with.”

  5. lefty665 says:

    Dear Uncle Ed,

    Thank you so much for drawing an explicit picture of the arrogant, corrupt, Wall Street toady, greedy, blindly ambitious, neocon warmongering, Dem elites who have (tragically) destroyed their party as an effective political force both nationally and at the state and local levels.

    Hopefully you can help some of the less deranged see the error of their ways and begin the rebuilding of the Democratic Party into an institution that embraces its New Deal roots and the American people they abandoned with the takeover of the Party by the right wing, triangulating, DLC, corporatist, Dick Morris toe sucking, “New Democrats” embodied by the Clintons in ’92.  Perhaps they will one day be able to re-embrace the plain spoken, stubborn, populist donkey as a mascot rather than replace it with the Cheshire Cat, for on the present course soon nothing will be left but the smile.

    Keep up the good work, and best wishes for helping to bring the Dems back to reality.  It is, as Duhbya used to say, “hard work”, but if we are to have a future, someone has to do it.

    Regards,

    Lefty665

     

    • John Casper says:

      lefty,

      Did you read Uncle Ed’s post?

      If so, how did you miss, “They must have come up with reasons to vote for him in spite of this knowledge, and Uncle Ed is pretty sure those reasons begin with Democrats are evil, and Hillary Clinton is the Devil.”

      Did you intend to insulate Republican elites from responsibility?

      Is there affirmative action for elites? Are there as many Democratic elites as Republican?
      How does the net worth of Democratic elites compare to Republicans?

      Regards

      • lefty665 says:

        Uncle Eds caricature of people who voted Repub is so wildly overdrawn in both these posts (A and B) that he can only reasonably be viewed as holding up a mirror so the more deranged Dems can see their own massive dysfunction. I was slow, and it took reading posting B for the light bulb to come on.

        This wild swing of an election was a message from people who have been screwed (no real wage increases since the late 70’s for around 80% of the nation) for a couple of generations.  If they don’t get relief, and the prospects of getting it from Trump, despite his promises, are slim, the next election will be even uglier. Unless that is, the Dems get their heads out of their butts and vigorously re-embrace their roots.

        You miss it entirely. The issue is not hard core Repubs, they are beyond hope, but Dems who have been sickened with the “New Dem” disease that has laid the party low and threatens to be fatal unless recognized and treated. Time’s a wastin’, and the times they are a changin’.

         

        • John Casper says:

          lefty,

          “Did you intend to insulate Republican elites from responsibility?
          Is there affirmative action for elites? Are there as many Democratic elites as Republican? How does the net worth of Democratic elites compare to Republicans?”

          “Rust never Sleeps.”

          • lefty665 says:

            Dear John, You are clueless. The Repubs are what they are, focusing on them is a mugs game. The Dems are responsible for their own denouement. Hope lies with Dems recovering from their sickness by purging the “New Dems” who have brought them to irrelevance over the last 25 years.

            Reality therapy is that the Dems have lost National offices, both houses of Congress, State and local offices.  There are only 5 states where Dems hold both the Executive and the Legislative branches.  Dems lost almost 1,000 state Lege seats during Obama’s tenure. If Dems re engage the nation they can recover (A) National offices – prez, and veep (B) Congress – House and Senate (C) State exec offices (D) State Leges (E) Local Offices. But, it ain’t gonna happen with more of the same, trying that is the definition of insanity.  Railing at the Repubs will not do it, that only reinforces their frames. Dems have to offer an alternative.

            • John Casper says:

              Dear lefty,

              “Did you intend to insulate Republican elites from responsibility?

              Is there affirmative action for elites? Are there as many Democratic elites as Republican? How does the net worth of Democratic elites compare to Republicans?”

              “You are clueless.”

              Both parties “are what they are,” both “are responsible for” where we are. Ignoring “the Repubs is a mugs game.”

              “Hope lies” with re-discovering democratic capitalism; the dangers of pre 1929 levels of income inequality, monopolies/oligopolies; the real economy;  the public good; natural capital–stuff we can run out of like drinkable water, safe food, sustainable energy–the need for diversification, pluralism, and shared sacrifice.

              “Reality therapy” is “it ain’t gonna happen with more of the same, trying that is the definition of insanity.  Railing at” Dems alone “will not do it, that only reinforces their frames.”

              Sanders poll numbers proved his currency with Trump voters.

              When’s that apology to Uncle Ed?

  6. PG says:

    Uncle Ed is banging his head against a wall.  The presidential election and the rise of “Agent Orange” is a symptom of our malaise, not the disease.  Choosing to focus on one’s friends and neighbors as The Problem, performing psychological gymnastics in order to tolerate them as you blame them, perpetuates despair all around and solves nothing.  Focus instead on unraveling the gordian knot of corruption that is our political system and thank the madness for making it impossible to ignore.  Maybe then we’ll get somewhere.

  7. John Casper says:

    PG is “banging her/his head against a wall.”

    Where’s your evidence that the “madness” is “impossible to ignore?”

    “Performing psychological gymnastics in order to tolerate them as you blame them, perpetuates despair all around and solves nothing.”

    “Focus instead” on “unraveling the gordian knot of corruption” that the elites–who are not a harmonious union–control the media which controls our political system.

    “Maybe then we’ll get somewhere.”

    • PG says:

      John Casper,

      Uncle Ed’s advice column is opinion.  I commented in kind.  And yes, I am banging my head against a wall, too.

       

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