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Hullabaloo


Sunday, October 16, 2016

 

Jumping safely from a runaway train

by Tom Sullivan


Photo illustration by Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t, overduebook, vagawi / flickr via Creative Commons.

Already Democrats are worried what Trump cultists will do when Dear Leader loses. Their unease is enhanced perhaps by his positioning himself ahead of November 8 as either victor or "a victim of one of the great political smear campaigns in the history of our country." Nobody has yet accused Trump of not being histrionic.

But it is a real concern, one E.J. Dionne addresses in the Washington Post. Trump supporters are not all "delusional bigots," Dionne contends:

Technological change has undercut incomes and living standards for a significant share of our fellow citizens. An influx of immigrants has shocked certain communities, leading them to experience a genuine sense of displacement and powerlessness in the face of change they cannot control. There are struggles for power as new groups gain political ascendancy and older groups, once a majority, become minorities. There are also battles over material resources as newcomers are perceived as taking jobs (sometimes for lower wages) from groups that once dominated particular fields.
In short, they are scared, unsettled and threatened by the kind of rapid change Toffler suggested could make one physically ill. One reason (besides white nationalism) Trump's message connects with his followers is his dispensing with technocratic solutions to their grievances (as if offering those was an option for him). He connects with their unease on an emotional level that Washington's more technocratic style does not. Intellectual arguments miss the emotional component of people's sense that the world they knew is slipping from their grasp:
Progressives and moderates alike also need to recognize that arguments can be sensible as far as they go but still send signals of indifference to those who are losing out. Take a group we might call the “schoolers.” They say again and again that there’s nothing wrong with our economy that can’t be solved by giving more education and more training to more people. The core insight here is certainly right: We must do far better in preparing workers for the economy as it exists.

But especially for older white workers, a lot of this talk sounds like a put-down. They can be forgiven for thinking they’re being blamed for following the rules that applied when they first entered the workforce: A high school degree and hard work would be enough to allow them to live well and their kids to live even better.
Trump is exploiting their resentments for his own glory but at least he gives voice to them.

Deepak Malhotra writing in the Harvard Business Review (h/t Sara R.) examines how the country might defuse the hate after Election Night. Malhotra begins with what others have been saying about what's needed regarding the final vote count:
If this ends up being a close election, it will allow hate to retain the foothold it needs to survive. That is why, for the first time in U.S. history, Americans need one candidate—in this case, Donald Trump—to lose decisively. A loss of historic proportions is the only way to ensure that future candidates are never again tempted to consort with the politics of hate. It is the only outcome that will allow Americans of tomorrow to peer into the reflecting pool of history and say “that is not who we are.”
To (in my geek terms) "bring balance to the Force," Malhotra suggests approaches that draw on skills in negotiation, deal-making, and conflict resolution: "If you want people to change course, you have to create an 'exit ramp' for them." A nudge is more effective than browbeating. He offers several tactics that rely more on emotional intelligence than on debating skills.

Malhotra offers seven recommendations for helping neighbors change course. His second is perhaps most challenging for progressives more inclined to argue their opponents into submission:
2. Provide information, and then give them time. When dealing with someone who passionately disagrees with you, a more effective approach than debating is to provide information without demanding anything in return. You might say (or post on Facebook) something along the lines of: “That’s interesting. Here’s some information I came across. You might find it useful given your interest in this topic.” Or, “when you get a chance, I’d appreciate you taking a look at this.” You’ve done about as much as you can for now. If they can consider what you’ve said without carrying the additional burden of having to agree with you, it is more likely it sinks in a little bit. This is why, over weeks and months, polls do change. Trump has lost ground as additional information about his behavior and temperament and weak grasp of issues has come to light. But the change doesn’t tend to happen during a heated argument. It doesn’t happen immediately.
It's good advice. I like to employ a simple, three-word southernism, shake my head, and leave it at that: "He ain't right." Let that sink in.