Old white people elected a person who ran on a racist, xenophobic, misogynist platform as president of the United States. That’s us baby boomers. That’s me. How did this happen? Maybe we need to stop pointing fingers and wringing our hands and get honest about how this happened and what we’re going to do to take back our democracy.
An effort was started in 1971 by those fearful of the progressive movements, all those sixties hippies and campus intellectuals. What tactics did they use?
First, they said government was the problem not the solution. Who started the evil government narrative? We did, during the Vietnam War protests. And what was the result? Progressives came to believe that being a politician or engaging in the political process from the inside was dirty. We only wanted to protest as if it wasn’t really a government of the people. That left a convenient void for the right-wing to fill which they did very effectively, starting at the local and then the state level, creating organizations like ALEC.
Then the right-wing took to painting progressives as evil socialists. The public debate became increasingly nasty with no one listening to anyone else’s point of view. Where did that come from? I would propose that it was started by 60 Minutes. 60 Minutes “reporters” perfected the double bind question. The classic example is “When did you stop beating your wife?” but it also took the form of things like “Why did you pollute the water?”. This is not a question designed to get information or start a dialogue, but to attack. Watch Fox News and you’ll see it over and over.
The right-wing put their money into professorships and think tanks to support their views; they had a long-term strategy. In the meantime, progressives were scrambling to fix the world’s problems. “Bleeding heart liberals” was the name. We put our resources into short term “helping” not long-term structural improvements. The right-wing has taken over almost every institution in this country. We need to take them back.
We need to put our money into training the next generation of politicians starting at the local level, especially school boards, especially in rural and middle America. We need significant networking throughout the country. We need to think long-term not just about climate but about people and the values that will sustain us in difficult times, working together. We need to listen to each other, really listen without right/wrong good/bad thinking blocking our view. We need to learn to let go of some ideological stumbling blocks and focus on core values and be really inclusive. We need to include in our circle the hunters who are afraid the government will take away their guns, the struggling farmers and loggers who are suspicious of the environmentalists, the business people suspicious of government regulation, the evangelicals uncomfortable with pro-choice and same-sex marriage. We need to embrace everyone if we really want to work together to take back our democracy.
– Kate McClellan, Palo Alto Friends Meeting (PYM)