The inadequacy of the 2020 Democratic Party platform brings me to the failures of the progressive movement on a political level. Instead of speaking to the grievances of Trump’s base of supporters — many of which overlap with the grievances of other vulnerable groups — the Democrats have fallen for every ploy laid by Trump over the past four years. In playing into his traps, they have effectively pitted themselves against his supporters, allowing members of this group to be further manipulated by a demagogue.

The more liberal side of the media has been equally culpable. Instead of catering to all Americans, including Trump supporters, media outlets have staked out their camp, prioritized conformity in much of their reporting, and given relatively little attention to the life experiences of rural Americans in the stories they publish.

Trump has employed the classic strategy of a demagogue: divide and conquer. And the progressive movement has allowed him to do it.

And yet, I again must emphasize (as highlighted in Part IV) that the common cause for national economic justice between Trump’s supporters and other marginalized groups in our society should create the most powerful movement of our time.

Trump, however, has employed the classic strategy of a demagogue: divide and conquer. And the progressive movement has allowed him to do it, creating a profound loss for our country.

Ironically, the failure of the Democrats to earnestly pursue national economic justice has been rooted in a lack of empathy — what members of the anti-Trump resistance movement so often highlight as one of Trump’s deficiencies.

In fact, the elite in this country, on all sides, is out of tune with the realities of everyday citizens (while one side of the elite understands a section of the working class enough to brainwash many of its members).

As people cheered on Biden’s Democratic National Convention speech as the best speech of his career, the denialism and empathy shortfall could not have been more glaring. Lost in groupthink and proclaiming Biden’s speech as spectacularly compelling and powerful, Democrats continued to ignore the fact that about forty percent of the country held the polar opposite views.

They would have done well to practice empathy by asking themselves how Biden’s statements would be interpreted by this section of the country.

How would members of this group interpret Biden’s statements about lightness and darkness? Personally, when I engage in the basic task of standing in the other side’s shoes, I feel Biden casting me as being on the side of darkness; therefore, I perceive his statements as an attack, not as an inspiration. Especially when two large segments of the population have been driven to entirely different conceptions of what constitutes lightness and what constitutes darkness, such empathic thinking is critical.

How would members of this group interpret Biden’s statements about lightness and darkness?

Biden himself also could have dedicated a portion of his speech to Trump supporters by speaking directly to them. This gesture would have been a true expression of empathy.

While Biden did emphasize that he would be a president for all Americans, he made no direct appeal to Trump followers and made no effort to demonstrate genuine understanding of their livelihoods. Therefore, it is hard not to imagine that his statements fell on deaf ears.

Critics, of course, may note that Biden could never hope to convert the political beliefs of diehard Trump followers. But this perspective misses the point.

It is correct that many of Trump’s supporters appear to be too far brainwashed by this stage. The goal, however, should have been to at least reach out to the other side — to extend an olive branch — in an effort to defuse tensions, thereby helping to mitigate the serious possibility of violence that now exists in our country and is playing out. (More recently, I have written about the unique role Biden could play in a peace process by reaching out to the opposing side.)

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party is built only to focus on outnumbering its opponents through votes, which means that the party essentially writes off the diehard Trump followers as too extreme to be cared about. The party is not concerned with taking steps to address political extremism. This myopic perspective is to our peril, for the failure to constructively address the extremism in our society — along with the risk of violence — places not only the outcome of the upcoming election but the survival of our republic at grave risk.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party is built only to focus on outnumbering its opponents through votes, which means that the party essentially writes off the diehard Trump followers as too extreme to be cared about.

I have critiqued this strategic approach in several previous pieces of writing, as extremism poses an existential threat to the country that must be addressed. Indeed, as the QAnon movement now begins to enter mainstream U.S. politics, and as QAnon believers have begun organizing with white supremacist groups, the threat of extremism could not be more evident. Hate spreads like a virus, and, by failing to address extremist hate, we are only asking for another, far worse pandemic.

Because the Democratic Party only focuses on votes, its natural electoral strategy has been to target swing voters. A substantial portion of these swing voters consists of Never Trump Republicans, many of whom constitute the “old guard” establishment of the Republican Party.

Ironically enough, these tend to be the very Republicans who pursued policies over the course of several decades that helped give rise to Trump’s socially disadvantaged and fiercely loyal base. In other words, the Democrats have courted the former oppressors of working-class Republicans — the oppressors whom these rank-and-file members abandoned and replaced with Trump.

As the Democrats now team up with the former oppressors of Trump supporters, it is little wonder why Trump voters remain deeply skeptical of “establishment” figures. Again, while the alliance between Democrats and Never Trump Republicans can be attributed to rational electoral strategy aimed at maximizing the number of Democratic votes, it also indicates a lack of empathy: the Democrats can empathize with their fellow elites but not with Trump’s rank-and-file followers and have been unable to formulate a strategy to reach out to these citizens.

The lack of empathy in our society, on all political sides, is a profound problem.

Not only does it explain why the Democrats failed to even speak to Trump supporters at the DNC, but it also partially underlies the failure of the Democratic Party to put forth a concerted agenda of national economic justice, which would have benefited its own working-class supporters, let alone Trump followers.

All told, our country is beholden by an elite that is severely disconnected from the main populace. The disconnect explains both Trump’s appeal (whose appeal is deceiving) and the appeal of further left candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

On the Republican side, the masses abandoned their previous elite leaders in favor of Trump. On the Democratic side, the masses have not yet abandoned their status-quo leaders, although the options put forth by the Democratic Party have been less than appealing.

The disconnect between the elite and the populace speaks to a total system breakdown and serves as a common thread between the extremism that has arisen on both sides of the political spectrum. Total system breakdowns are what make revolutions.

The disconnect between the elite and the populace speaks to a total system breakdown and serves as a common thread between the extremism that has arisen on both sides of the political spectrum. Total system breakdowns are what make revolutions.

Many of these observations may be difficult for Democrats and progressives to swallow. It is always easy to point fingers at Trump for lack of empathy and any number of other character deficiencies. While that finger-pointing may be accurate, it has blinded progressives to their own deficiencies.

It is always more difficult to point the finger back at oneself and to exercise the humility needed to identify problems in one’s own character. But such humility is precisely what we need.

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse.

Josh Greenberg

Written by

Human, activist, scholar. Physician-Economist-in-training @UMich. CEO @proghealth. @FulbrightPrgrm Awardee. I work on anything that matters, locally & globally.

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical.

Josh Greenberg

Written by

Human, activist, scholar. Physician-Economist-in-training @UMich. CEO @proghealth. @FulbrightPrgrm Awardee. I work on anything that matters, locally & globally.

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical.

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