Being a Liberal in a Red State

1482397_10152071034787489_627239736_nDespite what people in California, New York and other “blue states” think, there are liberals in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and other “red states.”

In fact, there are millions of us.

For me, being a liberal in a red state is often very frustrating. Sometimes I ask myself, “Does thinking I’m the last sane person on the planet actually make me insane?” Not because I’m the only liberal I’ve met, but you just feel so overwhelmed by conservative rhetoric that you can easily feel isolated from reality.

As for me, I live in Texas – Austin to be exact.  Usually when people who follow me on Twitter or my Facebook find this out they either say it gives them hope for Texas or they ask how in the world can I stand being a liberal in such a red state. Trust me, it’s not always easy.

First let me tell you, Texas is not lost.  In fact I live with the belief that Texas is our best hope to ensure a Republican never sees the White House again. It wasn’t that long ago Texas had a Democratic Governor, Ann Richards. Not just a Democrat, but a female at that. Imagine, a female Democratic governor of Texas. But like he would do to the rest of the country as President, George W. Bush ran her through the mud and became governor in 1995. Gerrymandering soon followed and Texas has been “strongly Republican” ever since. We do, however, have a strong and growing liberal base.  Austin, one of the fastest growing cities in the country, is very liberal, and our Latino population (which leans Democrat by a wide margin) is growing as well.

But for now, it’s a red state, and I’m doing what I can to fix that.

During the 2012 and 2016 elections I didn’t put Obama or Clinton bumper stickers on my car for fear my car would get vandalized. My friend had one on hers and she often got flipped off and cussed at while driving because of it.

I rarely saw any Obama or Clinton yard signs all election season. I had mine, though I was actually shocked it didn’t get destroyed like it did in 2008.

I have sometimes worn a political shirt, which often got me dirty looks from people.  But being 6′ 215 pounds and built like an ex-linebacker does have its advantages — it often keeps people from saying too much. Though I did have one guy tell me that Obama was going to destroy this country.  I told him it was too late, Bush had already done that. I don’t think he liked that answer — nor did I care.

My Facebook is filled with conservative friends and family. I swear, some of the stuff I’ve seen them share is so laughable it’s sad. And I’m not exaggerating, at least 90% of it is completely untrue.  Not ideological differences, not debatable issues — just completely made up right-wing bullshit. Which has only gotten much worse since Donald Trump’s rise to the top of the GOP ladder.

I have people who don’t know my political views often approach me and start yapping about the evils of Obama, Clinton, Democrats and liberals everywhere. For the most part I just let them rant, usually because my rebuttal to their nonsense would probably just go right over their head. It’s hard to have a reasonable discussion with someone who opens with, “Obama’s destroying this country with socialism.” Especially when it’s said by someone who appears to be collecting Social Security and Medicare, all while enthusiastically declaring their love for a moron like Trump.

I often feel isolated on an island of crazy. I simply assume everyone is a conservative, and when I do meet a fellow liberal (not that it’s rare, it’s just not nearly as common as a conservative) I’m usually surprised.

I believe living in a red state does make someone much more jaded about conservatives than if they were living in a state that was more of a balance between liberals and conservative. The seemingly constant repulsive things I’ve heard from many of these people has been nothing short of shocking.

I’ll say this much — you can’t tell me race had nothing to do with the hatred for Obama.  Hell, most of these people here still think he’s a Muslim and, trust me, many still don’t believe he’s an American citizen. Over the years, I’ve heard him called any number of derogatory words for African Americans more than I’ve heard his actual name or “the President.”

If you go anywhere that has a waiting room and a TV, it’s almost always on Fox News. Which probably explains why most of these people can’t name even a handful of factual statements about much of anything politically.

Oh yeah I wanted to get this out there, please don’t think Texans liked that imbecile Rick Perry who now the Secretary of Energy — they didn’t, not even Republicans. But the fact he was our longest serving governor in Texas history does show how sheepish conservative voters can be. In 2010, his last election, he refused to debate his challenger Bill White. Yes, you read that correctly, an incumbent refused to debate his challenger. Not only that, he did a complete media blackout with local Texas papers. Despite all of this, he still won re-election. It’s a talking point I use against Republicans when they try and attack Democrats: You voted for a man who said he had nothing to hide, bragged about his record – then refused to talk to local papers and wouldn’t debate his challenger before the election. Knowing that, it’s easy to see how a con man like Trump managed to become so sucessful.

While I hold my tongue for the most part when faced with right-wing ignorance, my urge to actually use facts and talk about reality gets the best of me from time to time.  This never goes well. When debating a Republican in these very “red” states many have quite literally been indoctrinated to say what it is they’re saying, so using facts to support your argument doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. It’s why I really view the GOP as more of a cult than an actual political party. Maybe this is less true for Republicans from swing states or more liberal states, but from strongly conservatives states (at least in my experience), they treat their political party and religion very similarly.

In fact I call it Republicanity, a mixture of Republican and Christianity. It’s some kind of strange mix of political ideology and faith. The terrifying part of this is faith doesn’t require facts, yet your political beliefs are supposed to. When you start treating your political beliefs like religion, you create something that’s much more dangerous. Climate change has become a hoax, evolution became debatable, history is suddenly fiction and reality is now liberally biased. Hell, anything that isn’t “right-wing approved media” is liberally biased — even international news reporting. Yes, I’ve seen conservatives refer to the BBC as “liberally bias,” seemingly unaware that it’s not an American news network.

But I’ll say this, the advantage to being a liberal in a red state is I see first hand the ridiculousness of the Republican Party. It solidifies my dedication to being a liberal activist, standing against their ignorance and fighting for my cause. Their ignorance is what I use to fuel my drive against their hypocrisy. There are times I’m completely exhausted, beaten down and worn out, then I hop on Facebook or see some inflammatory bumper sticker driving and suddenly I feel re-energized.

I say this to liberals in red states (and all liberals really), keep fighting. I’m not alone, you’re not along — we are not alone. Make your voice heard, make your presence felt. I truly believe that the only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

And these issues we face as a nation are too important for us to sit back and do nothing.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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