Americans rejected extremism. Voters rejected MAGA Republicans, election deniers, and former President Donald Trump. This election was not a wholesale rejection of the Republican Party or a ringing endorsement of the Democratic Party. Sane Republicans won, and Florida, Texas, and large swathes of the country remain deep red. America is still deeply divided.
Just as Trump doesn’t have to reach the majority of Americans to take over the Republican Party, grifters and other propagandists needn’t appeal to the majority of Americans to raise money, spread lies, and build a movement. It doesn’t matter who their propaganda alienates as long as they make money and collect people.
It’s up to us to ensure that we do not allow extremists to undermine our ability to win elections just as Trump undermined the Republican’s chances of a red-wave election.
There are five lessons Democrats must learn from the Republican’s flirtation with extremism.
1. The first is obvious. Socialism and “wokeness” are political labels that kill us in Florida and across the country. Democrats should reject these labels and the ideologies they refer to.
2. Democrats must not tear down the foundational documents of our democracy. Critical race theory is highly negative toward the Constitution and our founding fathers, but we need people to believe in democracy and to defend the Constitution if we are to save our democracy. Our constitutional democracy has been a model for countries around the world. We need to build upon our democratic institutions, not tear them down.
3. Democrats must not push identity politics in our schools. Polls tell us that parents feel schools have become too political. Anti-racist educators told us they were teaching history, something schools have always taught. Come to find out they are conducting anti-racist, identity training, too. Parents are being confronted with pronouns they don’t understand and ideologies they don’t care for. Nothing could anger parents more than receiving a letter from their child’s school telling them that their handsome 13-year-old son is now their lovely 13-year-old daughter. The expensive, heavy-handed, and intrusive approach to teaching identity politics in our public schools is divisive and unnecessary.
4. Democrats must not put Christianity on the ballot. Christian nationalism is an ill-defined threat. Discussions of Christian nationalism quickly devolve into critiques of all of Christianity. Is any Christian whose faith informs their politics a Christian nationalist? When and where does Christian nationalism end and Christianity begin? The “threat of Christian nationalism” appeals to those who already hold negative attitudes toward Christianity. We risk alienating Americans when we appeal to anti-Christian sentiment and call Christians “Nazis.” If we think they are wrong, we should do more preaching and less demonizing.
5. Finally, Democrats must not aid and abet fascist dictators like Vladimir Putin. In a display of hypocrisy, some on the left have sided with Putin, spread his propaganda, and called for an end to military aid for Ukraine. We cannot defend democracy at home and be unwilling to defend it abroad.
If Democrats can avoid these five propaganda pitfalls, we may be able to actually attract the majority of Americans to our democratic ideals. But if we promote Marxist ideology, attack our Constitution, push identity politics in our schools, call Christians Nazis, and support dictators, we will and should be voted out of office.
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