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The Religion of Politics

Recently, Medium writer Karlyn Borysenko crafted a very interesting article about Donald Trump.  It quickly vaulted to the top of the Medium feed. It now has over 23K claps and 750 comments. And some of those comments got hundreds of claps. Why, of all the scores of Trump articles on Medium, did this Trump article get so much traction?

Ms. Borysenko used to be a 20-year member of the Democratic Party. I didn’t get the impression that she spent much time in the backrooms organizing events and working on campaigns, but she did come out to vote in internal party elections. She seems to be a soft D supporter.

In a social media forum with nothing to do with politics, she got trolled by vile and vicious alt-left commentators because she questioned herself being associated with the politically left movement. She recently changed her voter registration to Independent—and then she went to Trump rally just to see.

What she saw at that rally was something frightening to many anti-Trumpers. She found many Trump supporters just to be ordinary people! Wanting the same things out of life that she wanted.

Ms. Borysenko is quite aware of the flaws of Mr. Trump. She is quick to point out that most of the Trump supporters are also aware of the flaws. Despite the flaws, they believe he is the man who “has their back”—and thus more deserving of the presidency than anyone the Democrats seem to be proffering. Although Ms. Borysenko did not say it, it seems she will be voting for Mr. Trump in November.

For an article to acquire a high Medium readership, a good hook sure helps. As a Medium contributor trying to get some attention for my alternative system of governance, I’m interested in how to construct a good hook. Ms. Borysenko's article has done well, so I tried to analyze her hook. She used: “I think those of us on the left need to take a long look in the mirror and have an honest conversation about what’s going on.” This is good, but I’m not sure why this hook worked so well. But it did.

Beyond the hook, the power of this article is its brute honesty. Ms. Borysenko is fully displaying her inner conflicts as she travels down a road to help her understand “the other side.” This is a road not taken by too many American voters these days, and we should commend her for sharing her journey with us. Her article will help Americans far better understand America than anything from CNN or Foxx News or Facebook.

In reading the article, I could not help but feel the similarities to what when one goes through when changing religions. To change from, say Catholic to Protestant, or say Christian to Muslim, requires an immense shift in life values. First the individual must overcome the immense ties that have defined the individual’s past. It is very difficult to reach the conclusion that a former religion is no longer right, especially when much of one’s social and family circles are of same religion or have accepted your previous religious position as part of your character. Abandoning your religion often means losing respect from important people in your life. And then there is the jump to a new religion, which has the risk that it might take a year to understand that it too is not right for the individual. Then comes the choice to abandon again or to rationalize staying. I saw Ms. Borysenko undergoing a similar conversion process with her change in politics. Such personal changes do send shock waves through one’s psyche.

I am a former Catholic. Occasionally I do foray into a Mass at a Catholic church. When the congregation is doing its communal “The Lord’s Prayer” right, the unified voices with unified commitment send shivers down my neck. Religions are good at setting the stage for conversions of potential members who are questioning their current values. And religions are also good at setting the stage to re-affirm values of current members so that they are less likely to question them: for example, like being part of a spiritually uplifting communal Lord’s Prayer.

Politics is not that much different. Political rallies use lots of emotional techniques to re-affirm the supporters and to sway those people on the borderline. If done right, the audiovisual effects set the right tone. Then the collective of the listeners and the pulpit of the main speaker feed neck-shivering vibes into each other. The listeners get their values re-affirmed because the speaker is already saying things they agree with. The speaker is re-affirmed because so many listeners are still listening. Everyone is comforted into continuing to believe in the rightness of the values they currently hold. Everyone goes home happy. Logic and rational thinking seldom play a part in these events.

It was interesting reading the comments on Ms. Borysenko’s article. Some were insightful and could help us further understand why we are where we are today. But too many were not. There were lots of comments from the conservative lurkers on Medium who do not have the courage to post their own Medium article to explain why they think what they think. These commenters praised Ms. Borysenko for finally understanding the “Trump light,” which is so obvious to anyone with a minimal intelligence. And then there were the far-left commenters who chastised Ms. Borysenko for even thinking about going to a Trump rally, even when she explained to them that the rally was really not full of fascists. Both groups are missing the point of the original article. And unfortunately, both groups have far too much influence in the direction of the USA.

To Ms. Borysenko and others questioning American politics these days, I say let’s look beyond the two religions of “Democrat” and “Republican.” Let’s put trust in ourselves to build a new system of governance, just like the founding fathers of 1789. Maybe it is time for a new political religion: a religion where we learn how to get along a lot better.

Published in Medium 2020

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