So I spent the past five days in Northeast Wisconsin — The Land of Trump and No Weed.
It was brutal.
Between the ubiquitous Trumpies; the cheese, butter, and bacon scattered on every marginally edible thing in sight (I’m vegan); and my mom listening to Fox News on 99 volume pretty much constantly, it proved a formidable test of my Zen training. I mainly coped by taking advantage of the fact that alcohol is apparently cheaper than tap water in Wisconsin, listening to Cake’s “Nugget” on an infinite loop, and sneaking away to write a few Daily Kos diaries.
(Actually, before flying back to Oregon yesterday, I spent most of the day in Madison, like a deep-sea diver chilling in a decompression chamber to prevent the bends.)
The occasion was a somber one — the funeral of my 84-year-old uncle. We weren’t super close, but he was a good and decent man, and I had a ton of respect for him.
He took over his family’s manufacturing company after my grandfather died suddenly in 1970 and did a great job of not just maintaining it as a going concern, but also building considerably on its success.
Aaaaannnnndddd … he was a lifelong Republican, like nearly everyone else in my family.
So what my cousin — who has taken over the reins of my grandfather’s and his father’s company — told me at the funeral reception left me gobsmacked.
My cousin is one of the few outspokenly anti-Trump members of my family, and so I was eager to discuss the ocher abomination and, specifically, his trade wars, which have presumably affected my cousin’s company more than most.
He said he’s definitely seen a slowdown in business recently, and he fears a coming recession. But he also said my uncle — again, a lifelong Republican — had recently conceded that the economy performs better under Democratic presidents than under Republicans.
You could have knocked me over with a feather — mainly because there was nothing for me to eat at the reception except for carrot sticks and celery, and I was weak from hunger. But also because it was so surprising to see a diehard GOPster acknowledge stark reality like this.
The reason my cousin gave for his dad’s stunning admission is a simple one, and well known: If you make sure the 99 percent have money in their pockets, they spend it, goosing and strengthening the economy; if you siphon it out of the economy and give it to the 1 percent, they just sit on it, to the detriment of everyone but them.
So on the one hand you had my mother watching Fox propaganda and still believing in trickle-down voodoo, and on the other you had my uncle — her brother — seeing the effects of Trump’s policies up close and apparently having something of a come-to-Jesus moment.
Of course, saying that the economy performs better under Democratic administrations than Republican ones isn’t just partisan posturing. Under almost any measure, it’s verifiably true.
So why are we so bad at conveying that message?
Why do people like my mom think Democrats are a disaster for the economy and Republicans are golden (that is, when they’re not literally orange)?
I don’t have an answer. The only (admittedly partial) answer I have for winning the messaging battle is, well, we’re right and they’re wrong — and we can prove it.
And if the example of my uncle (RIP, my good man) is any indication, we can win the hearts and minds of more Americans. It would sure help if they pulled the plug on Fox News, but hey, we have the truth, and that’s a powerful tool.
Let’s be sure to use it wisely.
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