Don’t Panic

Trump is using the same tactics that failed so badly in 2018. It’s not some stroke of genius. It’s all he knows.

I know. I felt it too.

When that crowd in North Carolina started chanting “Send her back. Send her back.”, it was like watching the videos of the Nazi book-burnings, when the flames shot into the sky, and people kept tossing more books onto the pile with a look of revelry on their faces.

The world just goes crazy sometimes. And once it starts, why should it stop? Why won’t that wave of insanity just sweep away everything in its path, leaving behind a country forever changed into something dark and unrecognizable?

Don’t panic.

The news coverage didn’t help. Pundits of the left and right alike were telling us that Trump had seized control of the narrative, and so the 2020 election won’t be about health care or climate change or anything Democrats want to talk about. It will be Trump against “radical”, “socialist” women of color. You may want to discuss democracy and corruption and the rule of law, but the only response you will get is to be asked why you hate America so much.

Don’t panic.

This isn’t some masterstroke of political genius. It’s a one-trick pony performing his one trick.

It’s frustrating, because there’s no immediate way to prove to ourselves that this appeal to America’s darkest impulses won’t work. It’s tempting to want to lash back somehow, but the election won’t happen for another 16 months, and that’s the response that really matters.

There are immediate things we can do, of course: Write a check to candidates with a healthier vision for America, or to organizations that do good work on issues we care about, or to any group that makes us feel hopeful. Volunteer. Organize. March. We can show our courage in public. (My hat is off to the 150 or so constituents who greeted Rep. Ilhan Omar, the target of the chants, at the Minneapolis airport. “Welcome home,” they chanted.)

I grant you: None of that will strike the decisive blow immediately. But what we need isn’t to lash out. It’s to be determined. Figure out what kind of determined mindset you can hold for the next 16 months, and get there as soon as you can. Battles like this aren’t won with flashes of anger. They’re won with day-in, day-out effort.

And don’t panic. Laugh, if it helps. Here’s how Trevor Noah handled the racist tweets that led up to the North Carolina rally. I found it hilarious.

And don’t forget: We’ve seen this before and it didn’t work. In the lead-up to the 2018 elections, Trump similarly seized control of the narrative. He turned the focus of the news towards immigrant caravans that were “invading” America, and painted the Democrats as the party of MS-13 and open borders. The result was the most decisive popular-vote total in a long time: Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats won 53%-45% nationwide. (Only gerrymandering stopped the Democrats from having the largest House majority in decades.)

2018 proved that Trump’s one trick could firm up his support among his base. That’s probably why Democrats lost Senate seats in North Dakota, Missouri, and Indiana. But it’s also probably why they won in Arizona. Trump’s base is not a majority of the country. It’s not even the 46% who voted for him in 2016. Chants of “Send her back” won’t just bring Trump’s followers to the polls, it will bring the marginal voters Democrats need in states like Michigan and Wisconsin.

We’ll get through this, as long as we don’t panic, don’t get intimidated, and don’t lash out. Channel your anger into determination.

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  • Jeff Diver  On July 22, 2019 at 10:16 am

    Are there additional concerns? You bet! (see But racist actions cannot be excused, ignored or minimized. In this instance, a good “lashing out” is called for. Just ask John Pence, son of the President of Vice and Dirty Donnie’s Worship Service chant leader, who gave the “section leaders” in Dirty Donnie’s recent Worship Service their instructions: “Whose idea was it to chant ‘send her home?'” He will know the answer.

  • Joshua Blackstone  On July 22, 2019 at 11:00 am

    I really needed your message of hope, “fear and loathing” were dominating my psyche!

  • Anonymous  On July 22, 2019 at 11:22 am

    Thank you!!

  • John Pharo  On July 22, 2019 at 11:54 am

    “That’s probably why Democrats lost Senate seats in Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, and Indiana.”

    Jon Tester won reelection in Montana. Florida is the 4th Senate seat Democrats lost.

    • Anonymous  On July 28, 2019 at 8:51 pm

      The loss in ND also involved voter suppression. Heitkamp won the previous election partly because of high turnout from people living on the reservation(s). So ND passed a voter ID law that required an ID that most people living on the reservation(s) don’t have.

  • katekav  On July 22, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    Thank you!

    I LOVE it 🙂

    Flying about the mountains in Montana right now. I still find our ability to do this to be surreal!!!


  • coastcontact  On July 22, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Best check the definition of racism. From the American Heritage Dictionary
    1. Believes that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
    2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

    “Send her back” may be nasty but is it racist?

    • George Washington, Jr.  On July 23, 2019 at 6:45 am

      Is it a coincidence that Omar is an immigrant, and black? I haven’t heard anyone on the left chanting “send her back” about Melania. And it never occurred to Trump to tell Hillary Clinton to go back to where she came from. One privilege of being white (which Doug discussed in his other post) would include the implicit assumption that you belong here; that whatever your opinions, you’re still a “real American.”

  • sigfuss1  On July 28, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Your statement above “Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats won 53%-45% nationwide” I don’t think these seats were won primarily because of anything Trump said or did, I think it had a lot to do with the so called collusion narrative pushed by the Democrats and the Democrat controlled Main Stream Media and the so called Mueller investigation. The Democrats saw how they could win by pushing the collusion narrative onto voters. Now they are going to try to push the obstruction narrative all the way til the 2020 election thinking they can win again with lies.

    • George Washington, Jr.  On July 28, 2019 at 10:11 am

      I disagree. The 2018 blue wave was the liberal reaction to Trump. People didn’t so much vote for Democrats as they voted against Republicans, to send a message. The midterm elections have always been a referendum on the sitting president. If Hillary Clinton had been president, we would have seen a record-setting red wave.

      There’s a lot of enthusiasm on the Democratic side, and this will continue through 2020. Meanwhile, I’m hearing a lot of disillusion from conservatives, who are seeing lack of progress on the border wall, and Trump signing a budget with a record deficit, and how this is making them want to stay home next year.

      The collusion narrative is just one minor aspect of why liberals despise Trump. It’s more of a big deal to people on your side, who view it as how your savior is being persecuted for no reason.

    • weeklysift  On July 29, 2019 at 8:35 am

      The Democratic majority depended on flipping suburban red districts, and in those places Democrats mostly ran centrists who didn’t want to talk about impeachment or Russian collusion.


  • By Radicals | The Weekly Sift on July 22, 2019 at 11:17 am

    […] This week’s featured posts are “The Privilege of Being Normal” and “Don’t Panic“. […]

  • […] The thing is, none of this behavior should be surprising, given his history. We CAN wonder, though, what it means to the future of the United States. Does his race-baiting evokes the Nuremberg rallies? Or should we not panic? […]

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