Friday, May 13, 2016

Could The Transgender Bathroom Debacle Been Avoided?

Shocks And Aftershocks Rock Politics

The latest shot across the bow in the transgender bathroom access debate was the Obama administration telling schools and colleges nationwide that they must allow transgender students access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. This action, while in line with evolving social justice mores, doesn't appear to take into consideration any sense of empathy for those who recently experienced the social equivalent to a natural disaster.

In nature, tectonic plates generally move slowly and steadily, with little noticeable effect on their surroundings. Yet, when the shift on a fault line suddenly moves faster than expected, there are a myriad of effects including a violent disruption in the foundation and status quo -- an earthquake. If you happen to be close to that fault line, earthquakes can be incredibly scary situations: the ground that you once found safe and secure is suddenly moving right underneath you. And, as nature tries to settle in with the new normal, aftershocks follow as the fault line continues to adjust.

The recent spat consisting of laws and ensuing lawsuits over transgender people's access to public bathrooms in North Carolina is clearly an aftershock from the political earthquake created when the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015. This Supreme Court ruling was an unexpectedly robust achievement for the marriage equality movement. The speed of which gay Americans gained this right was nothing short of astonishing to all observers, detractors and advocates alike.

While progressives cheered and celebrated this sudden and abrupt social justice win, there seemed to be precious little concern -- nevertheless empathy -- in the progressive community for people who happen to live on that fault line who were shocked by the sudden societal shift. For these people, the ground under them shook hard, and the ideals they built up upon that fault line abruptly came crashing down around them. Yes, those on the losing side of the fault line did treat gay Americans like second class citizens with regards to marriage, but that doesn't change how it feels when a belief system -- wrong-headed as many may feel it is -- is overruled by sudden and clear national mandate.

Yet no one from the winning side of this social debate came to help calm fears or help make sense of the change for those whose foundations were rocked by this earthquake. Yes, in the arc of social justice, these people were inevitably going to feel the shock of social progress (they almost always do), but that doesn't change the real anxiety, fear and even anger that occurs when a foundation you've lived on has suddenly been so disrupted.

So it should be of no surprise that there are now aftershocks coming from those who experienced the earthquake. The transgender bathroom laws are just one of many aftershocks that will be felt in response to the initial quake.

In cases like this where social earthquakes occur, wouldn't it behoove the people on the winning side of the fault line to show some compassion and empathy to the losing side that took on the sudden and unexpected collateral damage? While it is understandable that the social progressives may not have much compassion for the views of social conservatives, shouldn't progressives at least feel compelled to have empathy for how these conservatives must feel now that they've lost a sudden, crushing defeat? Or is it all warfare now, where everyone's a soldier?

Would all of these LGBT-related laws and lawsuits transpired if more empathy and care were directed toward the social conservatives who were shocked and shaken by the gay marriage ruling? Probably. But if proper concern were given to the losers of this debate, the aftershocks may have been just a bit more muted, and the rationale slightly less justifiable.

Friday, May 6, 2016

No, That Anti-Trump Ad Is Not Brutal

Donald Gets Campaigns. Does Hillary?
Mother Jones recently posted an article entitled "Clinton Releases a Brutal Anti-Trump Ad." Take a look:

I can just imagine the ear-to-ear grins in the Clinton camp when they saw the Mother Jones headline, thinking, "yeah, we nailed it."

The problem, for Mother Jones and the Clinton campaign, is that the ad isn't the slightest bit brutal. Sure, Democrats who demonize Trump instead of studying him may get a thrill out of this and other similar negative ads, but a clear-headed perspective will lead to the real truth:

Hillary is not going to be able beat Donald Trump by attacking his weaknesses. She will only be able to beat Donald Trump by converting his strengths into questions and concerns. 

This is harder to do than it sounds, but it's the necessary work that needs to be done if the Clinton campaign is serious about winning the Presidential race.

This ad -- and the Mother Jones headline -- represents a microcosm of the challenge the Clinton camp is going to have running against Donald Trump in the general election: Mainstream media outlets like Mother Jones continue to see things through the blurry-cam lens of Washington establishment thinking, which re-enforces outdated thinking in the Clinton campaign -- the thinking that Donald Trump is anything resembling a typical candidate.

Let's be clear: If Donald Trump were a regular candidate, this ad would have indeed been "brutal." But the very fact that Donald Trump has said the things he has said -- and yet is the presumptive Republican nominee -- is a clear indicator that this particular candidate runs on charisma and cult of personality. With Trump, there is a relationship deal he makes with everyone he speaks to: "If you like what I say, then I meant it. If you don't like what I say, then don't worry, I didn't really mean it." This implicit "deal" may be a deal-breaker for some, but for many, it makes them feel special -- like they are in on the grand plan.  It's interactive, and, as we've seen, it can be contagious.

If the Clinton campaign doesn't soon come to grips with the fact that they need to first decipher Trump's appeal before using their (suddenly outdated) political instincts, they may be just as culpable as the 16 Republican presidential candidates in letting Trump waltz into the Oval Office, essentially unchallenged.