I had this exchange on Twitter yesterday, not for the first time and almost certainly not for the last: I decried the policies of our racist President and his bigoted, Nazi-adjacent Administration, and was chastised by a Trump supporter because my words wouldn’t “resonate with a lot of people to help me win in November.”
Not long after, I read this thread from WaPo columnist Megan McArdle, in which she asserts that anyone opposed to Trump should be “laser focused” on winning the 2018 midterm elections, and the 2020 Presidential Election. And listen, I fully recognize the importance of those two elections. Of course I want Trump out of power.
But if getting there requires me to reframe my reality in a way that least offends Trump supporters — in hope, I guess, of carving off some sliver that will put Democrats over the top — then no, I’m not willing to go that far.
There is such thing as objective reality. Words like “fascist,” “Nazi,” and “white supremacist” are not merely insults, they have specific definitions and, when those definitions are met, become appropriate descriptors. Yes, I recognize that fascists, Nazis, and white supremacists rarely appreciate being labeled as such, but my life is not tailored to appeal to the maximum number of demographics.
Perhaps its a consequence of the social media age, in which every individual is a brand, that so many people find this premise reasonable. The United States is building concentration camps, yanking children away from breast-feeding mothers, and putting babies in detention centers. The President takes to Twitter to refer to immigrants “infesting” the US, and frets about immigrants “changing the culture” in Europe; he stands at a podium beside so-called “angel families,” victims of “illegal immigrant crime.” These are tactics taken directly from 1930s-era Nazis, but I’m not supposed to say so because the people who support those policies might be offended?
Maybe they should be more offended by the policies.
I’m not running for office. I’m not a brand. Yes, I want the Democrats to win in 2018 and 2020 — more because we need to strip aspiring fascists of authority, than because I’m a great lover of the Democrats — but I’m not so devoted to my political team that I’ll keep quiet as my country violates human rights and slides toward totalitarianism.
The owners of the Red Hen in Virginia aren’t running for office, either. Yes, they have a brand, but they also have employees, actual human beings to whom they are accountable. When faced with a decision, owner Stephanie Wilkinson took action. She later told reporters, “This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”
Uphold their morals. Not win more votes for the Democrats. Not “appeal to the white working class.” Uphold morals.
Because it’s easy to abandon morals in deference to political strategy. It’s easy to stop viewing people — like, say, indigent people arriving at your border seeking a better life — as actual human beings, and treat them as the abstract consequence of political controversy. To think another vote for Nancy Pelosi is more important than the crying children who might never see their parents again.
You might, for instance, forget how much courage it takes to walk up to a White House spokesperson and her family, and tell her she isn’t welcome in your establishment. You might focus solely on the political implications, and the strategy of it all — and argue that a family business, and a staff of immigrants, should keep quiet and serve dinner to a villain threatening their safety, rather than risk a victory in November.
We aren’t just cogs in some political machine, we are human beings with morals and beliefs. It should be the politicians trying to appeal to us, not us trying to tailor our message to boost our politicians. Not everything serves the damn political machine. For one thing, there’s no guarantee that such tactics would even work — and if we give up our beliefs and still lose, what do we have left then?
So I’m not going to be courteous or civil to people violating human rights, and I hope you won’t either. I’m not going to stop pointing out when US policy is taking pages from Hitler’s Germany, and I’m not sacrificing my humanity or my morals in the interest of winning an election.