I appreciate the thoughtful approach Doug Berdie utilized in his examination of how liberals might connect with Middle America (“Seven ways liberals must realign with Middle America,” April 9), but I believe he has overanalyzed the operating dynamic.
For an ever-growing segment of the electorate, a presidential election (and many other political office elections) is nothing more than a pageant in which the candidate who can most convincingly advocate for a given pie-in-the-sky agenda will have the upper hand. The “agenda” must embrace only the most tried and true clichés and pandering. Once the candidate has established his or her superiority in transferring the excellence of his or her “agenda” to the public conscience, said candidate becomes the “shiny object,” and is — barring a catastrophic revelation of bestiality or mass murder or some equivalent disqualifying heinous behavior — a shoo-in.
Narrowing the discussion to recent presidential elections: 1984 and 1988 — shiny object: Ronald Reagan; 1992 and 1996 — shiny object: Bill Clinton; 2000 and 2004 — no shiny object (elections with no shiny object are often, if not always, “close,” and the Republican candidate will always win); 2008 and 2012 — shiny object: Barack Obama; 2016 — special case: Donald Trump was seen both as shiny object to some and viable alternative to a very unshiny object to others, but a net nonshiny object — see 2000 and 2004.
There you have it — much less head-scratching and brow-furrowing than with Berdie’s prognosis. All Democrats have to do in 2020 is find a shinier object than Donald Trump or whoever happens to be the Republican candidate. Democrats should give special consideration to celebrities. Is Tom Hanks a Democrat?
Gene Case, Andover
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Berdie’s opinion piece was excellent. Does he really think his fellow liberals will take his advice? All seven points seem like common sense to me. If not, has he thought about going to the other side?
Timothy Hanna, Cambridge
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What Berdie is saying, basically, is that liberals should become conservatives.
Sara Amaden, Edina
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In general terms I agree with Berdie’s arguments about how the political left needs to make changes in its approach to political issues and the body politic, or else become even more irrelevant in the future than it is today. However, there are some areas of disagreement I would like to briefly touch upon.
Berdie is not the only liberal to promote the false idea that the left is in the center of the political spectrum. He does so several times in his otherwise well-written article. Liberals are fighting an uphill battle lately because the country, with the exception of many large cities, has become more center-right conservative. Thus the need for liberals to misrepresent their positions as the center. Other left-leaning liberals have also tried to perpetrate this misrepresentation.
Liberal misdirection and misrepresentation are two of the attributes of the left that the country has grown weary and wary of. The left’s losing candidate, Hillary Clinton, was a master of both. She could take any side of any issue her audience wanted to hear at any of her quarter-million-dollar speeches to her Wall Street donors and benefactors, and go whichever way the money was blowing. Every time she paused before answering a question, you could just feel new lies were formulating in her head, preparing to leave her lips in rapid fire succession. She has a real talent for avoiding the truth at any cost. Benghazi, “pay for access” and the Clinton Foundation are just a few of her most recent and better-known topics to lie about.
Well, maybe Berdie is right. Putting a softer, more gentle face on liberalism may be necessary. It’s a sure thing that the brash, 24/7 in-your-face approach has failed the ideology miserably and lost it the election.
Russ Prince, Apple Valley
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Berdie did a superb job explaining how the left has driven away many Americas. But he didn’t answer the obvious question. Most people are live-and-let-live, and are capable of making their own decisions. As Berdie demonstrates, those on the left think they know better than everyone else and are eager to impose their particular ideology on us through aggressive social and governmental coercion. Adjusting their marketing strategy for broader appeal is not convincing. It is indeed the values of the left that are the problem. They have already demonstrated their true colors. Why should we expect them to be any different just because they try to change their image?
Dale Vancleave, Minneapolis
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Berdie claims to be a lifelong liberal, but his message sounds more like that of an alt-right, redneck conservative. All seven moves are race-related — basically saying that in order for liberals to start winning again, we have to stop trying to make things better for black people because we are going too far with this and it aggravates middle America. That’s a load of garbage!
Paige Turner, Cedar
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Berdie mischaracterizes several facts. First, he implies that black people are targeted by police because they commit proportionately more crime. Plenty of evidence indicates that when white people are stopped, there is a much higher probability that they will be found to be breaking the law compared with black people. This suggests that whites are questioned only when it is clear they are doing something wrong, whereas blacks are questioned as a routine part of their daily lives.
Berdie also seems to miss the point of discussing white privilege. White privilege doesn’t mean that people don’t experience other disadvantages — they do. What it means is that white people often miss the ways that being white makes life easier. This helps white people recognize that some of the things that happen to people of color are outside of their control.
Finally, I take issue with Berdie’s suggestion that “Black Lives Matter” be changed to “All Lives Matter.” Again, this is missing the point. Berdie implies that the phrase really is “Only Black Lives Matter.” This is not the case. A cursory reading of the group’s website clearly explains that the phrase is “Black Lives Matter, Too.” It’s too bad that the article misses these important points. It is true that liberals need to do a better job of talking to the middle, but it can’t come at the expense of denigrating and lying about people of color.
Kristie Campana, St. Peter, Minn.
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Berdie says that telling his sister-in-law that she was born with “white privilege” would be absurd, because she carries for her entire life the lack of privilege associated with Down syndrome. But what we know about the life expectancy of people with Down syndrome — at least until 20 years ago — shows that white privilege (the societal privileges that benefit people identified as white in Western countries) is also a factor in the lives of those people.
A study published by the Centers for Disease Control in 2001 showed a stark racial disparity in how long people with Down syndrome live. Between 1968 and 1997, the median age at death for white people with Down syndrome was 50 years, while it was 25 years for black people and 11 years for people of other races. The National Down Syndrome Society calls this disparity “tragic.”
Because this information is 20 years old, it’s possible that things have changed — that the lives of all people with Down syndrome have been lengthened and improved by new medical, social and educational interventions. But to say that race has not been an important factor in the life outcomes even of people born with Down syndrome ignores the simple fact that race matters in this country, and to ignore or deny its impact on individual lives is dangerous.
Martha Rosen, Minneapolis