As I have said previously, I'm pretty much done with partisan politics. I'm skeptical of those who claim they're neither Republican nor Democrat, but in reality, they still see the world through one lens or the other. I won't try to tell the same lie: when I say I'm equally disgusted with both parties, I'm also making it clear that I lean strongly to the Right on most issues.
Believing in principles does not necessarily equate to aligning with a party and defending the actions of that party's leaders or most prominent officeholders. In fact, it's just the opposite. I have a lot more respect for someone who's not afraid to call out members of their own party when necessary than I do for those who cheer for their team regardless of principle and regardless of basic decency.
If that's you, then perhaps you think that by not calling the extremists out, you're protecting your party, but you're actually hurting your cause, and the ideas you believe in are losing credibility, particularly with undecided or swing voters.
A better way
A much better idea is for people on the Right to call out other ultra-right extremists when they're being so ridiculous that they risk losing swing voters with their antics. Likewise, left-leaning persons should be willing to do the same when it comes to self-proclaimed liberals who go off the edge of rational thought.
To be clear: I believe that most citizens who are Republicans are decent people who love their country, and I believe the same about most Democrats. Both parties have a rich history of important contributions to this nation, and it's vital that both ideologies be heard as the US faces new challenges.
Note that the list below contains nothing about Donald Trump. He's a special kind of lightning rod and, frankly, a distraction from the conversation; more important, the problems listed below were around before Trump announced his candidacy. What's listed below is much bigger, and more important, than any one man.
Without further ado, and in no particular order:
5 things making liberals look ridiculous
1. Over-the-top complaints about cultural appropriation One of many examples of this occurred in Portland last year. Two small business owners who wanted to sell tacos were shouted down and shamed for selling tacos while being white. They went out of business within a week of being featured in a local paper, followed by a barrage of criticism that made staying in business untenable.
America was built by people from other parts of the world, people who brought ideas and pieces of their culture with them. We all are better off when the best elements of those cultures are allowed to flourish here. To say that someone shouldn't be propagators of those elements because they have the wrong skin color is nothing short of racist.
2. Treating PETA as a legitimate animal rights organization There are some excellent animal rights organizations which do great things, but PETA is not one of them. No respectable organization would have its members throw paint, flour, or other substances on citizens for wearing fur or animal skins. When a legitimate threat to animals occurs, it's a shame to ask "what would PETA say?" Let's don't give these extremists any credibility.
3. University safe spaces, triggers, and microaggression The purpose of this item is not to make accusations about liberal bias in academic settings, but specifically about the growing practice of blocking free speech by insisting that schools regulate, or prohibit, even the mildest statements that most rational people would not have a problem with, or would consider to be mildly offensive, at worst. At Reed College in Oregon, students took it to another level.
The tone of these types of accusations often boils down to "agree with me or you're a racist"; any unwillingness to even allow people with different points of view to talk is going to alienate the majority of people, and will drive away potential voters who want to distance themselves from candidates or parties who associate with irrational people.
4. Not giving an inch on abortion. Even though the nation is roughly evenly divided about abortion, the numbers skew heavily toward protecting unborn life as the pregnancy in question approaches 9 months. The majority of rational-thinking Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of late-term abortions. Yet Planned Parenthood and similar organizations lobby heavily to keep abortion legal up to birth. Even more horrific, a few individuals have come out in favor of ending the life of a baby post-birth.
5. Refusing to dialog with those who see the topic of LBGT differently than you. As long as there are Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the world, there will be a large number of people who consider same-sex sexual relationships, and the related topic of transgenderism, as problematic. A few on the Left want to shout down anyone who falls into this category, and casts them as evil, bigoted, and hateful. As with all the items in this list, such attitudes only increase the division in our nation. And we're certainly divisive enough as it is.
And now let's take our focus from the port to the starboard:
5 things making conservatives look ridiculous
1. Gun Gloating. The argument is favor of keeping guns legal for individuals is that a person has a right, as well as a duty, to protect his/her family and home from those who would steal, kill, or destroy. However, as someone who lives in a state where individual gun ownership is highly regarded, I've noticed quite a few proud gun owners take it beyond the sober duty of protection and are ....let's say they're a little too proud. They gloat about how they will blow away anyone who's perceived as a threat. One doesn't have to go too far in Texas to see a bumper sticker proclaiming "Ammo is expensive; I won't give you a warning shot", or to see a sign outside a house with the phrase "We don't call 9-1-1", accompanied by a picture of a large handgun.
A rational person will see the difference between protecting your loved ones and loving the idea of blowing off the head of a bad guy.
This issue is particularly problematic for the evangelical Christian (a group I belong to), as we are taught on Sunday mornings how someone as dastardly as Saul, persecutor of Christians, became Paul, author of half the New Testament. We're taught about the thief on the cross next to Jesus, to whom eternal life was promised. In other words, we're taught that anyone, no matter how evil, can become saved. So it seems that if someone who was raised in such teaching had to kill a potential rapist, or home invader, they would treat it soberly. One would expect them to express sorrow for the eternal state of the attacker. Alas, in my church parking lot every Sunday, there's a pickup with a "God bless the Army, especially our snipers" sticker.
2. Not giving an inch on immigration. While it's very understandable that someone would want to secure the borders, and tighten restrictions on who can enter the US, many of the things said in defense of immigration reform, particularly since 2016, have been very disturbing, and seem to fly in the face of the very values that made our nation great.
3. Not distancing from the alt-right and the Nazis. According to raw data on a neutral website, there were 65 terrorist attacks in the US last year, and 37 of those were perpetuated by right-leaning groups or in line with right-leaning ideology. The best known, of course, is Charlottesville. To say that the incident at Charlottesville was disturbing is a massive understatement. Conservatives should have said, loud and clear, that we want nothing to do with the alt-right, with people who get in a car and drive into a crowd, and with race-based hate in general. Yes, it's true that the antifa was there, and instigated and escalated some of the negativity. But the point here is that in the ensuing days, conservatives were not loud enough in denouncing all that went on, and were not clear in their (our) opposition to and separation from neo-Nazis.
4. Not understanding, and not taking a stand, when kids were separated from parents at the Mexico border. Beginning in April of 2018, US authorities began prosecuting adults who were entering the country illegally from Mexico. In the case of families who crossed together, the adults were separated from their children while awaiting the judicial process, which looked to be weeks or months. Many conservatives responded with apathy, and some responded by acting as if this has been going on for years, under previous administrations, and besides, all criminals have their kids taken from them, so what's the big deal? Few bothered to learn the facts, and those who did chose that believe that this course of action was the right one. I won't bother here with a lengthy explanation of why that's problematic, but it's based on a lack of understanding of what really went on.
The short version: In April and May, the enforcement of existing law was stepped up. It was not like it was under previous administrations. Moreover, the families trying to get across the border were unable to do so legally because recent policy changes made it impossible to get processed legally at legitimate border crossing facilities.
Let's not get bogged down here about the rightness or wrongness of the policy or enforcement changes. The point here is that conservatives, by and large, turned the other way while families were being separated. This is unacceptable behavior by anyone, but in the case of the party which touts itself as pro-family, it was a denial of core conservative values.
5. Conspiracy Theories. If you are conservative, isn't the fact that you disagree with Obama's policies enough? What good does it do to spread the idea that he wasn't born in the US, or that he's secretly a Muslim planted in office to destroy all we hold dear? Who will hear those theories and change their mind about him or his performance as President? Claiming he's a Kenyan only makes you sound as silly as the person campus person who claims they need a "safe space" to protect them from triggers (see item 3 in the Liberal list above). I repeat: conspiracy theories will never advance your cause with a single potential voter. Focus on what's important. The list of important reasons to oppose Obama's work while President is a long one, and "where was Obama born?" is just a distraction.
Nobody is saying we all should be moderates or fence-sitters with no convictions about what's right, or worth fighting for. But the extremists are distorting the message, and doing a disservice not only to good-hearted, thoughtful liberals and conservatives, but to the nation. If you have a strong conviction about the issues (taxes, the economy, foreign relations, the environment, the rights of women, education), don't let your message get distorted by the extremists who grab all the attention with topics that aren't central to your message.