I’ve always been befuddled by the way politicians choose to ignore the concerns of the constituents of theirs who do not belong to their base.
To that end, in 2019, I wrote an article wherein I asked then-Senator Gardner to “teach us, lead us, bathe us in truth… . Are we all freaking out about [the president] for no good reason?”
Gardner did not respond to my appeal. But I remain genuinely curious as to why this sort of thing doesn’t occur to politicians: if your policies/stances/votes are unpopular with wide swaths of your constituency, why not make a persuasive argument in your favor? Rather than exploit raw human emotions with fear-mongering (a boogeyman for every circumstance!), instead use facts, reasons, and examples to bolster a convincing argument.
In order to make an argument, one must know what one is arguing against. And to do that, one must listen to those with differing opinions. Politicians are experts at pretending to listen (See: “I feel your pain.”), but too often (always?) they choose to either ignore their non-base constituents or to communicate with them in the language of transparently phony sincerity (See: anything Ted Cruz has ever said.). Irrespective of intent, either approach comes off as an unhelpful mix of thoughtlessness, condescension, and arrogance.
Before one can offer comfort, one must first care about one’s detractors sufficiently to take interest in what they believe. Furthermore, I would argue that “what” people believe matters less than “why” they believe it. And you can only ascertain this “why” by listening. Listening, that is, beyond the talking points, the viral memes, the knee-jerk hostility, and the petty insults that we fling at one another (See: my dig at Ted Cruz two paragraphs above.).
Dear reader, I am not merely interested, but fascinated with your beliefs; there’s just so much I don’t understand. And so, I invite you — specifically those of you who are concerned about the new presidential administration — to please tell me what’s driving you crazy. Socialism, Covid-19, Antifa, Governor Polis, racism, guns, the weather, whatever. If you think America’s headed toward disaster, I want to understand why.
Please send me a message at [email protected]. Using your own words, share your concerns and perturbations. I’m not interested in reading a list of recycled talking points, I can find those on social media, and they’re universally unconvincing. The idea here is to, if not change my mind, then at least help me understand the moral/legal/sensible basis for your beliefs.
If I hear from you, I’m sure I’ll ask you some follow-up questions, as there will be some things I’ll need clarified. I will be persistent in this, but also — to the best of my ability — gentle and kind (my New Year’s resolution was to be more compassionate). And then, well, I’m not sure what I’ll do. Ideally, I’ll be able to use our conversation in a worthwhile column. Or, I might just leave it between you and me. It all depends on whether or not we can find a way to communicate.
If I don’t hear from anyone, I’ll have to go back to making gross generalizations about the state of right-wing America. Trust me, that sort of thing is just as tiresome for me as it is for you.