Dear Ms. Maddow,
I have watched and enjoyed your show for some time now. You obviously work very hard at it, and you just as obviously have a deep and passionate commitment to the point of view that you present. I am a well-educated and liberal professional, and your point of view almost always accords with my own. Thank you for all of that.
Now I have a request: stop it. Stop being the anti-Fox. Stop the ridicule and the demeaning and the contempt for those whose views differ from yours (and mine). Stop laughing in the face of those with opposite views. Stop the Olympian pronouncements, the haughty demeaning of those who see the world in an altogether different light.
Why? Because, I put it to you, that approach is pretty much what brought us Trump. You are scoffing at, laughing at, hurling insults at the views of the sixty million people who voted for Trump. And they hear you, and they don’t like it, and, far, far more importantly, they don’t deserve it.
Those sixty million, and likely many more, live in a country that has failed them, ignored them. They have listened for years to you and yours promote the interests of the poor, the uninsured, the oppressed. They have heard you so vigorously defend African-Americans and Hispanics and Asians and gays and lesbians and bisexuals and transgenders and other minorities. They have closely inspected your list of the needy, and they have found that they, and they alone, are missing from your list. And they, rightly or wrongly but in either case quite logically, conclude that it is them at whom you are laughing.
I don’t lay this blame at your feet alone. Note that I said I have watched and enjoyed your show. We liberals have this annoying habit of pontificating, of making paternalistic dictates about how the world should be run. We moralize from our lofty perch, make Solomonic fiats about health care and environment and discrimination. And all the while we ignore the poor schlep who is just barely making it and for whom even a modest setback is a disaster. That poor schlep heard, and felt deeply, your ridicule and your scorn, and he took his resentment of you to the polling place. Ergo Trump.
Yes, I know that, hiding behind these sixty million good people are a bunch of self-serving, greedy vultures who would parlay the grievances of the sixty million into great profit to themselves, all likely at the cost of the rights and interests of those very same sixty million. No doubt Trump sees his victory as a chance to pull a Putin, to turn American political power into a gigantic fortune for himself. Trump and his ilk deserve every bit of derision that you have heaped on him. But the guy in Oshkosh, with the wife and three kids and a mortgage and credit card debt that makes even hamburger a treat — that guy and his wife and his children do not deserve that derision and that scorn. They deserve the praise merited by their survival and their plowing on through every economic downturn and every illness and every need of their children for food and clothing and education that makes them wonder how they will get to the next paycheck.
You and I need some humility about this. We know a lot of stuff. We know fancy terms like “casus belli” and “the emolument clause.” We have read Gibbon and Manchester and Friedman. We can speak the language of Wall Street. We have walked Harvard Square. We have so, so many charming and witty friends. And we have swigged the Koolaid that we are a breed apart, brilliant and apart and pretty much all-knowing. That vanity has taken us away from the American ideal every bit as much as Trump’s narcissism has taken him. We need to go sit at the table of the West Virginia coal miner who, albeit dying of black lung, vows that he would do it again if that is what it takes to protect and provide for his family. We need to go listen to the folks at the Waukesha Republican party meeting who, good and decent as they are, praise the work of Ryan and Walker and Sensenbrenner, and we need to understand why they praise them.
Most of all, we need to stop laughing at these good folk. They are our brothers and our sisters. We need to be a part of them. We need to listen to them, ask their advice, accede to their wishes where we can and urge our own wishes, respectfully and understandingly, on them. We are a union, a union paid for in much blood. We ignore and belittle the sixty million at the risk of losing that union. If we are to promote our views, we can only succeed by bringing those sixty million along, or perhaps better said, by promoting views that accommodate and honor those sixty million.
So, in the words of our amazing president, cut it out. Stop laughing. Start listening. Start showing that you understand the views of that coal miner, that guy in Oshkosh, those nice people in Waukesha. Then, when Perry wrecks energy, when DeVos wrecks public schools, when the policies of the Trump presidency give the lie to all the promises he made to the sixty million, you can speak about facts, and you can speak respectfully to the sixty million. And they will listen.
Seriously, thanks for all the hard work and passion you bring to us. I hope my little observations make that hard work and passion even more effective.