Reeling from a Trump Presidency, some liberals are further alienating the very voters needed to swing the country left.
A couple of weeks ago, Josh Barro wrote a kick-ass piece for Business Insider, “Liberals can win again if they stop being so annoying and fix their ‘hamburger problem’”, which in short, posited that one of the primary reasons middle Americans have drifted from the Democratic Party is because so many of its representatives give them a hard time for not being good enough.
He uses what he calls the hypothetical “hamburger” example:
Suppose you’re a middle-income man with a full-time job, a wife who also works outside the home, and some children. Suppose it’s a Sunday in the early fall, and your plan for today is to relax, have a burger, and watch a football game.
Conservatives will say, “Go ahead, that sounds like a nice Sunday.” (In the Trump era, they’re not going to bother you about not going to church.) But you may find that liberals have a few points of concern they want to raise about what you mistakenly thought was your fundamentally nonpolitical plan for the day.
Liberals want you to know that you should eat less meat so as to contribute less to global warming. They’re concerned that your diet is too high in sodium and saturated fat. They’re upset that the beef in your hamburger was factory-farmed.
They think the name of your favorite football team is racist. Or even if you hate the Washington Redskins, they have a long list of other reasons that football is problematic.
I’ll take his example further to say that this football, burger-loving American and his wife recycle. While they haven’t gone electric or hybrid, their last car purchase was more fuel-efficient. Dad makes an effort to support his daughters’ interests and education as much as his son’s and tries to be mindful of not repeating some of the misogynistic cultural parenting lessons he was raised with. And while he loves his burgers, he doesn’t eat meat every day and his wife has even managed – to his surprise – turned him on to quinoa.
Got that picture in your head? Sounds like a good guy, right? Really trying. Trying to be a good husband and father; trying to be a thoughtful, environmentally-conscious American. Trying – but not good enough – for the annoying liberals described in Barro’s piece and many, many more that I know personally.
It’s not that the issues raised by the annoying liberal aren’t important things to talk about. It’s the way the annoying liberal talks about them. Here’s the rub: no one likes to be told they’re not good enough – especially, especially – if they are really trying.
Think about it from his perspective: even if he’s in his 30s or 40s, he was raised in a mostly patriarchal white society which is undergoing dramatic changes around him. He’s trying to keep his head above water and balance the culture that was programmed in him with ever-changing norms and messages. He’s trying to be open-minded, to see where he has privilege, to do the right thing. And dammit, it’s just not good enough. Wouldn’t you be pissed? Wouldn’t your reaction, after the umpteenth scolding, be to say ‘screw’ to the Party representative of this shame-culture of never good enough?
Take Robbie Tripp, who tripped into a not-good-enough-to-even-talk-about-feminist-issues minefield. The Washington Post has a great breakdown. He posted a photo of he and his wife in bathing suits and opined on how beautiful he sees her – as she is – and how his, and male society’s, view of what is sexy has been unduly influenced by mass media.
Yay! We’ve been telling men for years that a woman doesn’t need to be Twiggy to be hot. Here is a guy who gets it and spreads the gospel of the curvy girl. Great, right? HuffPost did a piece praising him, then a few more did. Maybe some went overboard, because not too long after, some annoying liberals on Twitter conflated the “hero” praise with the message of the original post.
Allure’s Sam Escobar takes the annoying liberal criticism to the extreme:
“There’s nothing sexier to me than a woman who is both curvy and confident,” he writes, blissfully unaware that he is still telling women how to look and feel.
“Guys, rethink what society has told you that you should desire,” he commands. “A real woman is not a porn star or a bikini mannequin or a movie character. She’s real.” Weird — last I checked, porn stars are real human beings, and comparing them to literal mannequins or fictional characters is actually really, really offensive! Mr. Tripp, it’s time to rethink what society has told you about female sexuality and autonomy.
And now, a message for the lay-dies: “Girls, don’t ever fool yourself by thinking you have to fit a certain mold to be loved and appreciated. There is a guy out there who is going to celebrate you for exactly who you are, someone who will love you like I love my Sarah.” Aside from the heteronormativity here and the assumption that all women are attempting to find a committed relationship in general, this simply oozes with the sentiment that he is the perfect partner, that he is everyone’s Dream Guy.
As a life-long, die-hard liberal – with well-over 15 years of credentials in politics actually working to advance liberal values – I say this with all due respect: Please, shut the *#@& up.
Shut up because you’re killing the cause with your self-serving superiority. White, middle class men – who, whether you like it or not, will remain a sizable voter chunk in this country for the foreseeable future – are running from the liberal cause because of people like you. Men who voted for President Obama but also voted for President Trump did so – along with economic frustrations with the Democratic Party – because being criticized and spat on for trying to be a good person is really, really alienating. How many liberals have had the experience of being told or made to feel you’re not good enough? Was that ever a winning strategy or did you just end up hating the messenger?
Shut up because you’re wrong! This guy isn’t saying porn stars are less than human or telling everyone they should be in a hetero committed relationship. He’s being thoughtful, retrospective on society, and introspective – all things we ask him to be! He’s evangelizing the message we gave him (albeit a bit late, but it takes time for a message to sink into a population)! He’s doing what we asked him to do and you’re giving him sh*% for it!
Shut up because we have bigger issues at stake than your wounded sensibilities over a stupid beach photo and a hamburger. This country is on a very dangerous track. And the only way – the only way – to get it into sane hands is to persuade white, middle-class men to vote for our values, perspective, and candidates. That’s the ballgame, folks. So if you really care about having an America that embraces a woman’s right to be whatever she wants to be; an America that is sensitive to sexual & gender identity; an America responsive to climate change; an America that actually gets that the middle-class white male experience is not representative of everyone else’s experience: stop treating white middle-class men as the enemy. Particularly when they’re trying.
The way to win over this rather large voting block is to keep our eyes on the prize – electoral wins across the nation in the mid-terms and the next Presidential win. And before an annoying liberal goes there, let me spell it out: it doesn’t mean putting up with unacceptable behavior or sacrificing your values or your voice to win. It just means putting on your big girl panties, looking at the big picture and treating people the way you would want to be treated.