Why I Don’t Believe In Cancel Culture

There is nothing in humanity so debilitating than a refusal to keep talking.

In the history of my family, there was a time when my father refused to talk to his mother for ten years. He in turn refused to talk to his own daughter, and my sister, since as long as I can remember — I think more than 30 years now. I don’t really even know what these fights were about. Life is so short. Is it really worth it to just stop talking to someone over some trivial disagreement?

In social media, I’ve met people who have blocked me over a disagreement in politics. I’ve seen people unfriend others over politics. I have a relative who told me that she has had some liberal friends. At least they were friends until that relative told her friends that she voted for Trump. Then those liberal friends stopped talking to her. They ignored her. They won’t even look at her if they see her.

I don’t unfriend people just because we disagree. I don’t stop calling people just because we disagree. I don’t block people. I don’t tell you you’re wrong. I just say that I disagree and explain why. I am willing to listen to other people when they disagree with me to check my own assumptions.

Cancel culture is toxic. It’s about punishing other people just for disagreeing with you. As if there were any truth to the idea that if you punish people, you can force them to agree with you. But in my life, I have never seen that work in practice. I’ve never seen anyone change their minds just because they were punished for having a difference of opinion. Never. That’s not how you win elections, people.

The left has been triggered by Donald Trump and it’s going to cost them at least the White House unless they figure out how to talk again to the right.

Triggered. It’s the point of the entire Trump campaign and the Trump Administration. By triggering the left into a rage Trump and his followers can continue to win. As the left continues to writhe in rage over losing in 2016, they lose sight of the goal: to unite the country again.

Every time the left calls Trump stupid, depicts him in diapers, calls him inept, points out his faults and failures, the left fails to see what the right and the center see in Trump. Ad hominem attacks are not persuasive arguments for a different public policy outcome.

And if you insult Trump, you insult all of his adoring fans and followers. With every insult, you only fortify the unity of the people who support Trump. Even with impeachment, as deserving as you might think he is of it, you only increase the solidarity of his base.

The way to win elections is not to punish your adversaries for disagreeing with you. The way to win elections is to find common ground that you can agree on. I know it is possible to find common ground with even people I disagree with. How? I didn’t stop talking to the people I disagreed with.

You know why Bernie Sanders is so popular? He doesn’t stop talking to the people he disagrees with. He’s willing to show up for a chat with FOX News viewers. He’s willing to reach out in bipartisan support of a common goal. He demonstrates that he’s willing to compromise, and he doesn’t put the adversary down for their compromise or chalk it up as a win at their expense.

I’ve been reading too many reports of Bernie Bros harassing others for their support of some other candidate. I’ve been reading too many reports of people committing violence against someone else just for political disagreements. I’m not really impressed with someone who thinks that it’s OK to punish someone else just for having a different point of view.

Punishing someone for having an opinion that is different than yours is like punishing your opponent after losing the game to them. You both want to win. You are both trying to win. The problem is that we think that if the other side wins, we lose.

Yes, can you feel the dark side now, after more than 3 years of Trump? Let the rage rise up in you! And ask yourself…can you think straight now? Can you engage in political discourse and persuade the peanut gallery? Or are you too addled by Trump to formulate coherent arguments in a debate?

It is also worth checking our assumptions about the adversary we see in Trump. Is it really possible that Trump has only bad intentions for the country? Probably not. Is it really possible that he wants to punish liberals for just being liberal? He does want to win the next election, so maybe not. I’m sure he wants to prove his points, and if that happens at the expense of liberal policy objectives, he doesn’t seem to mind.

Trump seems to genuinely believe that what he proposes will actually do some good for the people of this country. Now we may disagree with him about his opinion, but that doesn’t give us license to insult him or demean him. OK, we could, but does that win over any converts? How many minds will you change if you insult the president?

All I’m saying is that if we want to win elections, and we want to win this next big election, punishing Trump supporters, especially the people we know and love, just for supporting Trump, is not going to win the election. Giving them the silent treatment, engaging in arguments in family gatherings and otherwise abusing them, will never, ever get them any closer to reconsidering their position on Trump.

I have found that even if I offer what appears to be solid evidence of corruption, malfeasance or some other problem with Trump or his administration, it will be quickly brushed aside for all of the good that Trump supporters see in Presiden Trump. To them, he’s a hero. So respect that. Be willing to have an honest disagreement with them, without abusing them, insulting them, or trying to change their mind. Just speak your mind with neutral factual points, and leave it at that.

And then start looking for common ground. Trump signed an executive order for greater transparency in health care pricing. I like that. Trump and Pence have expressed some enthusiasm for space exploration. I like that. A fair number of judges confirmed by the Republican majority in the Senate were originally nominated by President Obama, and they were renominated by Trump. I’m OK with that. Most of the good that Trump has done hardly even gets a mention in the news.

I may disagree with a lot of what Trump has been doing, but I will admit that he has done at least some good things. It’s OK to admit that Trump has done some good things. Admitting that doesn’t mean you support everything else you disagree with Trump on. But at least it shows you’re willing to see that there is some good that Trump has done. That kind of attitude can be a bit disarming. And we want to disarm our civil discourse to keep it civil.

Let me tell you why that’s important. If we don’t at least acknowledge some of the good things that Trump has done, then we begin to look like the mainstream press. We begin to look like the LA Times, a newspaper that can’t bring itself to publish any good news about Trump. Failure to acknowledge even the slightest good in Trump will only serve again to fortify his supporters.

Trump thrives on bad press. He’s lived with it all of his adult life. He’s comfortable with bad press and knows how to turn it around for his own advantage. He knows how to present bad press as persecution press, further solidifying his supporters around him.

The only way to defeat Trump in the next election is to talk about the good your nominee will do for the country, without mentioning anything negative about Trump. This is how Bernie Sanders wins elections. He doesn’t do negative campaigns. And he is very well aware that Trump is a master of bad news. Trump is the ultimate bad news bear. This is one reason I support Bernie Sanders over the other candidates. Short on Trump criticism, long on “with your help, here are a few things I can do to make America a better place to live, raise a family and be happy.” And we all want that.

If you “cancel” your conservative relatives and friends, you forfeit the privilege of talking to them. You lose any influence. The same is true in social media circles. Canceling, blocking, insulting, demeaning, belittling or otherwise abusing other people online WILL NOT WIN converts. That WILL win you adversaries who will be motivated to vote against the candidate you support.

And if you “cancel” your friends and relatives over politics, you could also lose a lifetime ally who may already have helped you out of a jam numerous times. As The Beatles once said, “life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.” So try to see their way if you want them to see it your way. You just might find common ground.

Write on.

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