Opinion by Daniel Azaria.
I recently read a book that deeply affected how I look at ideological differences. It’s called ‘Moral Politics, how liberals and conservatives think’ by George Lakoff. The argument made in this book is that liberals and conservatives differ in their fundamental worldview, and thus renders differences in a wide range of areas. One of them is in the political vocabulary. One of the arguments made is that liberals understand conservatives less than conservatives understand liberals. Trump’s stupid remarks in Sweden and how liberals and Swedes reacted is a great example of this.
For a brief review, Trump had a campaign rally in Florida and alluded to that some events had taken place in Sweden a day or two earlier. He insinuated something like a terrorist attack or something of that nature. Why I call the statement stupid is because watching fox news, and misunderstanding the news segment when referring to it in a campaign rally is stupid. Right now I am again falling in what I call the ‘liberal fallacy’. I am responding to the claims with an analysis of the actual events, instead of reacting to ‘the spirit’ of the statements.
The spirit of the statement is that Sweden accepts a lot of immigrants, and Sweden is experiencing a lot of problems along with other countries in Europe as a result of this. For many people that spirit is ‘right on the money’. I can even cede the point that this spirit might be somewhat true. Where the liberals and most Swedes went completely wrong in reacting to the statements were that they discussed what Trump actually said.
I suggest a response along the lines of “Yes, Sweden do have some problems, it is by no means a perfect country. But most problems in Sweden are not due to over immigration, they are failures of governances at various levels. Problems such as a failing healthcare system, an underfinanced pension system, and a failing education system, are simply not caused by immigrants.
One may wonder, and justly so, what motivations lie behind blaming these issues on the immigrants. But at the end of the day, it is the median voters that we liberals need to reach out to. It is the reasonable people closer to the center that we need to reach out to. Not the birthers, or the tea party, but the neo-conservatives, the libertarians, the moderate conservatives. Many people are worried about the effects of immigration. If we acknowledge that immigration is a challenge that we need to deal with, but in a pragmatic way, I am sure many will listen.
But someone who voted Trump will not be convinced by saying that his statements are just factually incorrect. It’s been shown over and over again over the past year that Trump is impervious to fact-checks, and so are by extension his voters. Everyone expect him to spew b*llshit. If we don’t react to the spirit of his statements, no one will ever be convinced that Trump is wrong.
The Swedish previous foreign minister is a man I deeply respect who I have been fond of for as long as I can remember. He is as gray as Clinton, but he mustered the sense of whimsy to say ‘What has he been smoking?’ What a great way of only appealing to the people that already know and understand reality, and not the people that think that Sweden is crumbling because of immigration. Liberals need to learn how to speak to people that are on the Trump train.
Daniel Azaria has an MA from Tel Aviv University in Political Science and Political Communications, and a BA in Business Administration from IDC Herzliyah. His writing has been published by Jerusalem Post and he has been interviewed by several Swedish publication such as Aftonbladet and Swedish Radio to comment on current events in Israel and the Zionist movement. He is originally Swedish, but has been stationed mainly in Tel Aviv for the past 10 years.