I still remember the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in January 1981. It was not Reagan himself that made the day memorable, but the thrill of seeing the incompetent Jimmy Carter leave the White House.
I had spent my mornings during my 1979-80, 1980-81 high school years driving to school past a gas station which posted the number of days that the American hostages were held in captivity in Iran. Each day the sign would update the count, and my anger would rise along with the revised total. But on January 20, the day of Reagan’s inauguration, the hostages were finally released, just as the embarrassment of a president vacated Washington, DC.
On that day, my liberal high school classmates chose to wear black armbands, in protest of the election of a Republican. They had convinced themselves that there was nothing so terrible as capitalism and free markets, and they opted to show the world their disgust at Reagan’s ascent. While the country celebrated the release of hostages and dawn of a brighter future, these liberal teenagers saw a dark day.
I would see the silent liberal protests again. In January 2001, liberals would claim that George W Bush wasn’t really their president. I saw bumper stickers all over town that had a “W’ with a slash through it. I read about how Bill Clinton’s staffers removed all of the “W”s from the computer keyboards in the White House. Real mature.
This year’s election of Donald Trump has brought yet a new wave of liberal protests. Some schools cancelled exams after the election. Family celebrations which had once included a wide range of divergent political views began with declarations “No political discussions!” before anyone had a chance to say hello. Now we are hearing that many elected Democratic officials are going to boycott the inauguration. Some liberal rabbis have even said that they will mark the day by fasting – I kid you not.
I don’t know what kind of president Donald Trump will be at this moment in time, any more than predicting Reagan 36 years ago. I do know that I am glad to say goodbye to eight terrible years of foreign policy, and am not surprised at the immature liberal cries of anguish I have seen for decades.
The silent protests don’t upset me. Free speech is an American right, and everyone is allowed to express themselves.
Granted I do not know any non-liberals that carried on in such a fashion over the past eight years. I never met someone that placed a “Nobama” sign on their front lawn or fasted at Obama’s election. I couldn’t catch any black armbands when Bill Clinton asumed office or any Republican officials boycotting the ceremony. No matter.
The problem with the liberal actions are not the protests themselves. It is the withdrawal from reality and debate.
For the last eight years people debated issues ranging from transgender bathrooms to the use of drones to kill Americans to Obamacare. People accepted the presidential election results and engaged in a discussion about policies.
Yet now, liberals claim “he’s not my president” and shout at friends “no talking politics!” when they dislike the results of their democracy. After eight years of a constant comfortable exchange while the president echoed and enshrined their worldview, will people discuss important matters with people with whom they disagree, or just rely on the liberal mainstream media to attack Trump?
President Obama saw the problem in his own party. In his farewell address, he asked people to get out of their bubbles and engage in a healthy debate with people with different opinions:
“For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste – all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.
This trend represents a third threat to our democracy. Politics is a battle of ideas; in the course of a healthy debate, we’ll prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.”
I strongly disagreed with Obama on many of his policies, and I made my case to people of all political persuasions. But in this instance, I agree with him. Healthy debate is critical for a healthy democracy. I wish Obama would have followed his own advice during his presidency, and not walked out on people, such as boycotting speeches (as Democrats did to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), or supporting Democrats when they fled the Wisconsin state house, or the Indiana state house. Or as Democratic officials now plan to do in boycotting the inauguration of President Trump.
I don’t care about your armbands, your fasts or your walkouts. If you have a coherent argument, make it. Engage in the debate and understand your fellow Americans without name-calling. Our democracy will be better off if you left your liberal bubble.
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