The Language of the Left is Trivializing Extremism
by John Frendo
The unhinged reactionary rhetoric stemming from Donald Trump’s electoral victory is a predictable response of many liberal constituents. In fact, they’ve been at it for the past 30 years. It’s part of the playbook in an attempt to marginalize political opposition. The problem with this is twofold: first, it’s an antiquated strategy that has lost its impact, but more importantly, the use of this irresponsible rhetoric actually will normalize extremists.
The first instance is fine. I am enjoying this aspect of the left wing meltdown. At this rate it will likely doom them to irrelevance for at least another election cycle or two if they continue to demonize and refuse to self-reflect.
There are many reasons for the election of Mr. Trump. One of the primary reasons is the repudiation of the politically correct smugness exhibited by liberals for some time now. Middle Americans are tired of having their values attacked (Christianity = intolerance; immigration enforcement = bigot, xenophobe; Middle America = redneck, hick) and they had their opportunity to fight back at the ballot box. Michael Moore had it correct when he explained to disbelieving Democrats that Trump was a legitimate threat to Hillary Clinton’s presidential coronation.
On the other hand, the language used to demonize Mr. Trump and his supporters can have unintended consequences. By calling every Trump voter, every Trump statement, every Trump policy a Nazi or racist in nature, the very idea of racism, anti-Semitism, or bigotry becomes normalized due to rabid overuse of the terms.
Let’s go back to where the rhetoric started getting ratcheted up, back in the Reagan era. It was a time when mainstream conservatism was at a peak. Most of the country was pro-Reagan, coming off a 58% popular vote tally in the 1984 election. The Democrat party was grasping at straws to stave off Reagan’s popularity. One straw they managed to grab that created shivers in the GOP was any accusations of racism.
At that time, the term racist was something any politician cringed about even though in almost every instance it was unjustified. Yet, despite the false accusations, the GOP figured it was better to back down to avoid a PR nightmare rather than fight and expose the fact these labels being used against them were incorrect. Thus, the liberal playbook was set and many legislative initiatives and executive appointments for much of the second half of the 1980s were abandoned as a result. A complicit press, at that time starting to place ideology over objectivity, did nothing to dispel the myths.
For the next 2 decades, the left used this strategy of linguistic demonization to great success with little or no resistance from their opposition. Those few who did fight back faced immense media blowback and political condemnation.
During the Bush 43 administration, though, something changed. After our entry into Iraq post-9/11, opportunistic Democrats, (most, who ironically supported intervention after looking at the same intelligence everyone did) sensing a longer than expected conflict, began to turn against the Afghan-Iraq campaign. Worse yet, in order to inoculate themselves from their hawkish votes and to endear themselves to their liberal constituents, they reverted to the over the top rhetoric that always worked well in the past.
Labeling George W. Bush a Nazi and war criminal endlessly was their plan. And remarkably, the administration refused to fight back. As a result, the narrative that Bush 43 was evil incarnate or at best, incompetent, sunk in among the general public. Rank and file GOP voters, frustrated with the lack of fight by the President, revolted against their party by simply not showing up in the 2008 election. Conservatives now vowed to fight against the slander of the left when the opportunity presented itself.
Enter Barak Obama. A doctrinaire liberal and the polar opposite politically of the right. With full control of the Congress, the unpopular Affordable Care Act was rammed through the legislature and enacted into law with virtually no support from the GOP. Opposition to this law was met with the predictable cries of racism from the left. The GOP opposition was based on the fact it was a complete government power grab and many aspects of the law curtailed personal and religious freedoms. As opposition mounted to this act and much of President Obama’s agenda, the familiar racist drumbeat continued. But conservatives fought back. Couple this with the left’s dependence on blaming almost any shortcoming on the previous administration (better known as Bush Derangement Syndrome) and there was total political war.
Conservatives began mocking these arguments. Accusing the left of finding a “racist around every corner” and lampooning Democrat attempts at pushing the “everything is Bush’s fault” narrative, a political level playing field was in place. This only emboldened more voters, frustrated with what they felt was an assault on their Middle American values. Mr. Trump tapped into this frustration and carried their votes last month into the White House.
Enter the current political climate. Protests in the streets, pro-politically correct campus rallies, and their ensuing intolerance, and the “Trump and his supporters represent nothing but hate” social media posts are an everyday occurrence. In most of these instances, there is one common thread. Trump is a racist. All of his voters are white supremacists or support the concept. A Trump administration is the same as Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy.
Most Americans see and hear this language with a collective yawn and eye roll. And that’s unfortunate. Not because most of the above is completely untrue (he did have racists and white nationalists vote for him, much like President Obama had black nationalists support his candidacy — but I digress). What is unfortunate and frightening is that this rhetoric is now becoming a punchline for Middle America. And that’s the issue.
How are we going to identify the true racists and dangerous hate-filled nationalists if the rhetoric overreach of the left has desensitized most to the language employed by them? When alt-right provocateur Richard Spencer gave his well-documented speech to a small gathering which resulted in Nazi salutes throughout the crowd, there was a lot of head scratching among normal Americans as they tried to disseminate whether or not this was typical liberal overreach or actual anti-Semitism. If the constant hyperbole continues, most Americans will ultimately shrug away real racism and hate, chalking it up to partisan rancor and nothing more.
The responsibility falls on both sides to tone down their language when commenting on their political opponents. There are real racist opportunists out there waiting for Americans to become apathetic about them. Our verbiage may just be what they are waiting for. Liberals need to know that by trying to empower themselves through overblown racial accusations, they may actually be empowering the racists themselves.