Liberal Chick Tracts

The two basic tasks of political activism are 1) energizing your team and 2) depressing/diminishing the other guys. #2 means either convincing prior enemies to join you or at least getting them to stay home on election day.

#2 is hard to do, since engaging with your opponents is unpleasant work almost by definition. In an ideal world these people wouldn’t even exist, much less demand your attention and time, but they have to be dealt with all the same in order for you and people like you to lead a better life.

#1 can be easy and fun. It feels great to affirm the basic, obvious, intuitively-valid truth of everything you and people like you believe; that instinct is just a basic part of what it means to be human.

Can you do both 1 and 2 at the same time? Jack Chick tried, or at least seemed to. His literally-cartoonish evangelism ostensibly set out to save souls through decrying the many depravities of modern society, assuring Christians of their correctness and moving non-believers to conversion by confronting them with the obvious terrors that await them should they continue in their sinful ways.

Really, though, all Chick’s cartoons did was absolve him and the like ten people who agreed with them of responsibility for the problems of the world. What make non-Christians irredeemable is that they’ve heard the message and consciously rejected it; no matter how it’s presented or argued, once you’ve heard it at all then you either have to accede to its merits or burn in hell for eternity. So all you really have to do is assert your position, even in a wildly shitty and cruel and unconvincing way, and the burden then shifts to your enemies to convince themselves of the truth of what you say.

This is obviously a pitifully bad way of doing activism, but it’s what a lot of people do these days. Bringing new and necessary information to people is the name of the game, not saying “I’m right” while you point at them and laugh.

That’s what liberals did during the 2016 election, and the effect was about what you might expect. Like Jack Chick cartoons, a mountain of memes were pumped out about Trump’s obvious evil that were designed to appeal to the already-convinced and to make them feel absolved about having to spend any more energy convincing the irredeemable. If you heard the message and didn’t immediately get on board, then Fuck You.

This isn’t to say that all of Trump’s voters were actually good people — a whole bunch of them supported Trump *because* of his sexism and racism and xenophobia, not in spite of it — but to say that *all* of them are irredeemable is to guarantee that the ignorant and innocent members of his coalition stay over there rather than consider coming over here.

To me, this means retooling the Democratic Party to be, well, democratic — to represent and appeal to the working class as a whole, the people who actually get things done and who realize all the lofty visions cooked up by people comfortable enough to read and write all day.

This doesn’t mean trying to meet racists, sexists, and fascists in some fictional middle-ground — it means giving the innocent Trump voters a positive alternative, and helping the isolation of the evil people take care of itself.

As I’ve said elsewhere, shaming people only works when they care about what you think, when they want to have status and presence in your community. Racists love provoking angry attention from mainstream society, but they still have to have someone show up and vote for their candidate. Giving innocent working-class people a place to go is the way to do fix just that.

But, of course, people don’t want to change, and a lot of liberals are perfectly content to lose as long as they get to feel superior and snarky about it. These media structures won’t go away unless we stop paying attention to them and do something else.

What that something else is, however, remains up to you.

John Oliver, here holding a Chick-analogous hat before throwing it in the trash like he should