Labels depreciate the value of multi-dimensional humanity, yet we can’t stop clinging to them. Then we tear down the ones that don’t apply to us, forgetting that neither outfits nor people should be defined by a single tag.
Jonathan Van Ness is one of the latest label victims. The Queer Eye grooming guru went to Twitter after the August 14 primaries with a pretty sound idea. Unfortunately, a head-on collision with labels wrecked his train of thought.
Luckily a lot to extreme right people won yesterday, meaning that if we can come up w center left candidates we can take back the house & senate, not to mention many state legislatures. It is so important for the left to not go too left or we are done for.
— Jonathan Van Ness (@jvn) August 15, 2018
Also if you’re upset at a tweet I made leave gurl bai! Being able to compromise is what’s missing from both sides of the American political situation & the sooner we all get to a place of mutual understanding the sooner we will get out of this mess.
— Jonathan Van Ness (@jvn) August 15, 2018
Twitter exploded, with many accusing Van Ness of promoting “compromise” and “mutual understanding” with the enemy, an enemy that, in their eyes, is racist, anti-LGBTQ, misogynistic, and xenophobic by association with President Donald Trump. In other words, if you’ve met one Republican, you’ve pretty much met them all.
Related: Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness under fire for suggesting liberals need to be more tolerant of racists
When things got too heated for 280 characters per tweet, Van Ness elaborated with a video, saying: “Left people are not necessarily inherently evil, and right people are not necessarily inherently evil. And our ability to notice the gray area and to notice what compromise means and how much compromise has led us to where we are is important…. We have to be able to not demonize the right.”
— Jonathan Van Ness (@jvn) August 15, 2018
In a way, the Twitter outrage Van Ness sparked underscored his point. But his detractors were so busy demonizing him for not demonizing “The Right” that they may have missed the irony.
I’ve never watched the Queer Eye reboot, so I know exactly nothing about Van Ness, but I didn’t assume he was suggesting that Democrats (aka “Left People”) should tolerate or compromise with racists or even those “extreme right people” who won the Republican primaries. His tweets made a complex issue a bit too simple by an over-reliance on loaded-yet-meaningless labels.
My take-away was this: Democratic politicians need to find a way to appeal to independents in the ideological middle (so-called centrists, those politically invaluable swing-staters) who might vote for “extreme right” candidates. That would be better accomplished by listening to people on the other side and trying to find acceptable common ground rather than demonizing and dismissing them outright.
I wish Van Ness hadn’t simplified and undermined his argument by narrowing it down to “Right People” vs. “Left People.” Those are tags that we have assigned to Republicans and to Democrats, respectively, but they’re just labels. We need to drop the cheap categorization and the assumptions we make about each other based on party affiliation and listen to each other.
I blame Trump. He has so divided American society that, to many, nuanced thought no longer exists. Republican equals conservative equals right equals racist. Right?
Wrong. Republicans may tend to be conservative and supportive of more traditional values, but there are degrees. A Republican can be fiscally conservative and still support social causes. When many of them cast their votes for Trump in 2016, they did so with their wallets in mind, not blacks or gays or women or immigrants.
That’s why we have President Trump. Yes, by overlooking his stance on race, gays, women, and immigrants because of the benefits he might bring to their bank accounts, they became somewhat complicit in his racism, his homophobia, his sexism, and his xenophobia, but complicity isn’t just a “Right People” crime. How many “Left People” tolerate racist family members and friends? The United States was founded on racism, and it afflicts us all.
But racism is not the only crux of our national conflict. It’s one of many issues dividing the U.S. into “Right People” and “Left People.”
That’s why it’s unfair to conflate Van Ness’s warning not to demonize people we don’t know with Trump’s declaration that there are “very fine people on both sides,” as some did. Trump wasn’t referring to “right” and “left” when he said that but to white supremacists and the people who oppose them.
Van Ness is clearly not a Trumpian, and his point that in order for the Democratic Party to rise again, we need to be willing to listen to the other side and be open to compromise isn’t preposterous. It’s Politics 101.
The only reason Abraham Lincoln was able to accomplish two of the single greatest Presidential feats in history–the Emancipation Proclamation and the slavery-abolishing 13th Amendment, which paved the path to the game-changing 14th Amendment–was because of his mastery of Politics 101. Although he refused to budge on secession, he saw his racist opponents as more than demons (his Reconstruction plan revolved around forgiveness, not vengeance), and used compromise as a means to eventually achieve larger goals.
From women’s suffrage to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to gay marriage, activists and progressive politicians didn’t realize any of the major social strides of the past century overnight and without decades of compromise and vigorous debate. You can’t launch an effective counterargument when you’re not even willing to listen to your opponent.
Van Ness diluted his point not only by using simplistic labels like “Right People” and “Left People” but also by not following his own advice when the debate got heated. (“Gurl bai”?) He focused too much on defending himself and too little on trying to understand why people were upset. Racism likely doesn’t affect him firsthand, so perhaps it’s easier for him to gloss over it. Many of us don’t have that luxury.
Still, it’s important for us not to be ruled by our knee-jerk reactions about the so-called “alt-right”/“far right.” Trump may think some of them are “very fine people,” but that doesn’t mean all Republicans agree. I’ll side-eye everyone I know who voted for Trump until he leaves office (or gets thrown out), but I won’t dismiss them out of hand as being hopeless racists just because they voted for one.
I recently watched an interview with former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush where they talked about the close friendship they’ve forged since leaving office. It was inspiring to see two men on opposite sides of the political spectrum finding a safe common space. It was the first time I’ve ever kind of liked Bush or saw him as a man and not just a collection of labels.
It’s amazing what can happen when you stop using labels to limit conversation and just listen to what the people wearing the ones that you don’t wear have to say. “Right People,” start talking, but when you’re finished, it’s our turn to talk and yours to listen.
Before I listen to any advice from Jonathan Van Ness, he will need to do something about his limp lame hair.
I generally don’t like to jump in on general ad-hominem attacks but I never understood how a guy who has such an awful haircut got the job on the Queer Eye as the grooming expert… He looks awful.
Yeah, the Marcia Brady hair has got to go.
THANK YOU! How the F does this queen get a job as a stylist looking like a homeless reject from Big Brother Season 4?
I’m a gay Republican, so fed up with the constant rhetoric that the GOP is a divisive force, is ‘racist, homophobe, xenophobe, misogynist’…and of course, Van Ness had to throw in that Donal Trump ‘sucks’. Name calling is so infantile, and it indicates that there is no credible alternative argument, perspective or platform other the spewing out derogatory terms. Recall…when I heard Hillary label Trump supporters a ‘basket of deplorables’, I predicted she would lose the election…and she did. Grow up everybody and stop with the ‘group think’
I have a hard time understanding how someone votes against their own best interest. Today you have 12 right wing Republican states trying to make it legal to fire someone JUST FOR BEING GAY. I guess you’re okay with that. If it passes I do hope you’re one of the ones that gets fired.
Hi, just because you’re gay, doesn’t give you the right to approve of Republican racism! Please shut up and piss off!
@Mack, I think you may be assuming that “bobnla”‘s best interest is the well-being of most if not all LGBTQ people, or even gay men. The reality, however, may be that he may see his best interest as his bank account and investment portfolio, and has little problem with anti-gay politicians in the GOP or the anti-gay fanatics they empower, just as he may have little problem with Republican politicians pushing policies that harm the environment, the poor, working-class and middle-class people, etc. I mean, self-interests vary depending upon the person. I have asked some of the allegedly gay conservatives on here if they actively work on behalf of the gay community, let alone LGBTQ people, and the responses are usually radio silence.
It amazes me that people constantly fail to realize that being gay doesn’t mean anything other than the fact that you’re gay.
There are gay liberals and gay conservatives. There are gays who are socialists and gays who are capitalists.
And yes… There are even gays who are tolerant of other people while other gays can be racists, sexist, islamophobic, antisemitic and you name it.
Gays are people. Anything that any person can be – good or bad – a gay person can be.
I always ask the people who are so dumbstruck about the possibility of a gay person voting for Trump –
Do you understand that terrorist attacks tend to get people to rush more towards the right? Because have an understandable (not always logical) fear for safety?
They usually say they understand that some people would be like that.
Then I remind them that barely six months before Trump was elected there was the biggest terrorist attack on a gay club in US history (Orlando).
Gee… I wonder if maybe it’s possible that some people thought that maybe the party that made a bigger deal out of fighting terrorism of this particular sort might serve their interest better?
I’m not even getting to who was a better choice between Trump and Hilary, Frankly I don’t really care (Not an american so can’t vote anyway).
But I’m constantly shaking my head at extreme stupidity that is more commonly on the left that claim to be more liberal yet is incapable of understanding that if a person belongs to a certain group, that’s not all that he thinks about.
It’s just like people were shocked that women voted Trump. So men it seems are “allowed” to consider voting Trump or Hillary but women automatically have to vote Hilary or something is wrong with them? To me that sounds incredibly sexist.
The central core of the Republican party may not be what you’ve mentioned, but those in charge and those vocal minority sure as heck are. I don’t agree with the Republican party on pretty much anything, but over the years they were people you could hammer out a deal with. One that not everyone will be happy with, but that will work. Then this new brand of Republican came into power, and suddenly they’re not willing to cooperate or work together. They point fingers, blame others, elect someone who IS all those things you’ve mentioned, and then cry because no one wants to listen or work with them.
This is not the Republican party I knew, and it’s sure as hell not the one I want to see in power.
@bobnla — “I’m a gay Republican…” Well that’s your first problem.
“…so fed up with the constant rhetoric that the GOP is a divisive force, is ‘racist, homophobe, xenophobe, misogynist’…” It’s not rhetoric. It’s the truth. Which party is responsible for Prop 8? Which party is currently working on legislation to make it legal to refuse service to LGBT people? Which party kowtows to virulently anti-gay members of the Religious Reich? Which party props up members who want to make SSM illegal and being gay a capital crime? Hint: It ain’t the Democrats.
All Republicans are rotten human beings driven by nothing but hate and greed. There is nothing decent or honorable about them. They all support a platform of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. They all support a platform that supports the continued destruction of the environment (hey, anything for a buck, right?) and wages war against poor people rather than a war on poverty. All Republicans ARE deplorables. The sad part is that we live in a country of which these deplorable hillbillies are in the majority.
Charlie in Charge
Yeah it’s kind of lame for you to get to enjoy all the wonderfulness of being in the gay community after you vote for people who actively harm them. You have no loyalty and you want to whine about being mistreated by the gays? What have the Log Cabin Republicans done for us lately?
emotional shithead ness and I’m not a bot (C) (R) (TM) brought to you by Big Corp. trying to increase profits with no conscience
I can’t say that I predicted she would lose but we still have an upcoming election where everyone can show what they’re worth. Kamala Harris 2020 not a shill.
people talking about honesty etc. are a customer I have snake oil to sell to, bridge, etc. people just plain suck. Think of your bad previous boss, etc.
Jonathan, sweetie. Just sit there and make pop culture references. No one cares for your vapid political commentary.
This is an interesting one. As the author says, Jonathan’s first tweet was a “pretty sound idea” or at least a pretty common argument. Whether it’s 100% true is debatable, and maybe unprovable. But you can see that exact opinion in any number of “center left” media such as the Washington Post, the Atlantic etc. More “left” sites like Mother Jones and The Nation will take a different view: that Democrats can safely go further left, and maybe SHOULD do so to boost turnout. Both are legitimate points of view.
I can understand why young people think “if you’ve met one Republican, you’ve pretty much met them all.” It doesn’t look that way here in New England where most of our R’s are penny-pinchers who are rational on the “social” issues. There are occasional exceptions up in the opioid-addicted boondocks (Maine & NH lol), but even there MOST of the Republicans are not nutbags.
I’ve been hoping for a long time that Republicans at the national level would become more like New England Republicans. I’ve been hoping that for a long, long time. Yeah, come to think of it, I’ve spent almost the last 30 years hoping for that (since the 1990 Massachusetts election for gov) but it never happens! The national Republicans just keep getting crazier, and meaner, and stupider, and more & more & more vicious, and things just keep getting worse & worse & worse at the national level. So maybe I should just give up on that hope. Damn, maybe those young tweeters are correct.
I’m astonished at the author’s insane take on U.S. history. Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment by using compromise? With whom? Not the other side. We were AT WAR with the other side and would be at war for another 2 years. If anything, the southern states saw passage of these pieces of legislation as more acts of northern aggression. Also, Lincoln was violently assassinated before the end of Reconstruction – talk about compromise – which is why it failed and we ended up with 100 years of Jim Crow oppression. Please go back to fashion or pop culture or whatever it is you should be writing. Bad history is dangerous.
And the problem with the “listen to the other side” argument is that we keep underestimating the number of bat shit crazy, violent folks who live in this country. I’ll listen to a reasonable counter-argument about the economy or even morality. But someone who doesn’t give a shit about human rights, LGBT equality, racial equality, women’s equality? It’s pointless. I went to church with these people. They’ll never listen to you. They hope you burn in hell. The Queer Eye twit goes on and on about the “left people” but the problem is always with the moderates. The wishy-washies. THEY’RE how you end with Nazi Germany and Bosnia because they say over and over again that most people are inherently good when there’s way too much evidence to the contrary. Folks, we’re inherently bad, inherently selfish, inherently violent and must constantly work to control these impulses.
Famous Lincoln quote: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.” Sounds like a bit of a compromiser!
Yes and no. There was always a sense in which Lincoln was “compromising” with the Emancipation Proclamation. There were four slave states that stayed in the Union — Lincoln’s (& his wife’s) native Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware, and Maryland. The secession of MD would have cut off DC from the country it was desperately trying to stay the capital of. The Proclamation was partly directed at Europeans, to dissuade Britain and especially Napoleon III — who’d already invaded Mexico and installed a puppet regime — from helping the Confederates financially, or worse, sending troops to the Confederates. It only applied to war zones and it was mostly for show at the time, since it didn’t actually free anyone right away, and if the Union had lost most battles after that it would never have freed anyone. It was a psychological act of bravado.
You may be right about the 13th Amendment, which happened several months after Lincoln’s death and it’s debatable whether he would even have wanted it, in that form anyway. But the Union had already won, so maybe. Lincoln’s 2nd term is one of those great “what if’s” of history.
And the “listen to the other side” problem… I often want to give up on the Deplorables, only to recall that a sizable minority of them voted for Obama in 2008. Obama even carried Indiana (!) and North Carolina (!) in 2008 and that seems incredible now.
Having said that, I think a GoFundMe campaign to deliver free opioids to all the hardcore “red” states would be a great idea. But I’m “inherently bad” as you say!
Bush is a war criminal that belongs in prison right along with Cheney. I’m not here for this but rosey — albeit passing — commentary on him as if he is anything other than a war mongering murderer that sent thousands of our servicemen to their deaths while killing thousands of Iraqi and Afghani citizens under false premises.
And I’m also not here for this feckless, center left BS that we Democrats have been engaging in for decades that came to a head under Obama’s presidency. You know what “being moderate” and “compromising” got us? The Tea Party; over a thousand legislative seats lost under Obama; Democrats who care more for corporations than their base who know they don’t need a populist message, just a “We’re not rabid racist and anti-gay Republicans” message.
This compromise crap is for the birds and will be the reason Trump is reelected in 2020, because Democrats are going to put up another establishment candidate that will lose to a man that bleeds corruption as though his carotid artery is severed
I began my political life as a Republican, a card carrying Republican! As I applied my skill as an observer and continued to vote at all elections, I slowly realized that my best choices weren’t Republican choices. I found I couldn’t defend the policies the Republicans espoused, often so violently espoused. I began to tell my friends and followers that I was a situational voter. I took a long look at both party’s positions, looked at the people they supported as candidates, and decided that these Republicans no longer ever represented my considered point of view. I started to carefully examine the platforms and positions the Democrats had adopted in the absence of my scrutiny. I found these Democratic positions more nearly matched my more tolerant mindset and lifestyle. I couldn’t support the more rigid Republican positions on everything that was important to me, and basically were antagonistic to my sensibilities. And so I’m forced to admit that I’m now a card carrying Democrat, no longer a flexible switch hitter. I never like a Republican point of view anymore, and have agonized many Republican pollsters by telling them that I have promised myself that I’ll never vote for another Republican as long as I live. Some of them have hung up on me at this point. I don’t owe them anything when answering their questions. If they want to woo or cajole me, they have to become Democrats, with Democratic points of view.
So I can’t support Jonathan Van Ness’ suggestion that we have to be willing to compromise with the position of the Republicans. They are just plain wrong. I can’t imagine anything they can do to change their policies to match my mindset. So it isn’t going to happen! I’m a happy, contented, self satisfied Democrat… and that’s that! … RobtheElder
WHY the F are we listening to anything Jonathan Van MESS has to say about anything? All he does is say “like” 500x a minute, and the hair and the beard…if he showed up to give me a makeover I’d laugh, say you’ve got to be kidding me and walk away.
He is trying to prolong his 15 minutes of fame I to 20…tick tick. Now its 10
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