What It’s Like to be a Progressive in a Red State, Part 2

Three years ago at the end of this month, not too long after Forward Progressives launched, I wrote an article titled Being a Liberal in a Red State. It’s always received a lot of positive feedback, and I’ve been meaning to follow up on it for a while. In the three years since I wrote that piece, quite a lot has changed.

At the time I wrote:

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.

With the current state of the Republican party, those words ring truer than ever.

Once upon a time, being a liberal or progressive in Texas wasn’t that big of a deal. While Democrats and Republicans have always differed (sometimes in heated exchanges), there wasn’t the animosity and hatred that exists now.

For those of you who might not know, I am a born and bred Texan. That surprises many people considering I’m a progressive writer. After all, how in the world did a straight white Christian male in Texas grow up to be a progressive?

I’ve actually found being a progressive in a “red state” to be incredibly educational. In fact, it’s made me a better progressive by seeing, firsthand, the idiocy that drives so many on the right. It’s one thing to read it in a comment section or hear about it on television, but it’s quite another to meet someone face-to-face who literally thinks Jade Helm was a “thwarted conspiracy” by President Obama to declare martial law and seize guns.

In the last few years, being a progressive in a “red state” has become a much different world. While I’ve typically avoided talking politics with Republican friends (and still do), I’ve actually lost “friends” for nothing more than the fact that I’m not a Republican. Recently I had a friend of about 6 or 7 years block me on Facebook after I told them they needed to check out Politifact’s scorecard of Donald Trump when they asked me why I didn’t support him. That prompted what equated to them telling me that I didn’t know jack squat and my beliefs were going to destroy the country. Again, they asked me why I didn’t trust Trump, I simply told them to check out Politifact’s scorecard (no attitude whatsoever) and that’s the response I received. I was legitimately stunned they blocked me.

But that’s what the GOP has done to Republicans nowadays – they’ve turned progressives into “the enemy.”

In the past, progressives and conservatives disagreed on issues, but there wasn’t an aggressive and tense animosity between most. But nowadays, if I tell many Republicans here in Texas that I’m a progressive, they look at me with complete and utter disdain. It’s as if they view me as no better than some sort of domestic terrorist, trying to destroy America from within. I would say many rank liberals just below Islamic terrorists.

Then again, why shouldn’t they think that? After all, that’s basically what many Republicans tell them progressives are – enemies to the United States.

When I wrote the first article, I was living in Dallas. While the city itself is somewhat progressive, the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is still very Republican. Now I live in Austin, which is an extremely liberal city. But even in probably one the most liberal places in the South, I wouldn’t dare put a Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on my car. Not too long ago I had a friend who had a Sanders sticker nearly get run off the road, cussed at and flipped off by some right-wing jackass who apparently yelled something along the lines of “communist-loving bitch” as they drove by.

I can’t count the times that people ask me what I do, I say I dabble in politics, and they instantly assume I’m a Republican. They’ll start unloading line after line of anti-progressive/anti-Democrat rhetoric without realizing that I am, in fact, a progressive and a Democrat. When this happens I usually have two choices:

  1. Call them out on the nonsense they just spewed. – or – 
  2. Try to change the subject as quickly as possible.

Typically I go with the latter. When someone is that emotionally invested into a belief, they’re usually not very rational about what it is they believe. It’s rather pointless to try to be reasonable with someone who clearly isn’t reasonable.

Being a progressive in a “red state” also means that it’s very likely most of the people you meet are going to be Republicans. This means, in today’s political world, that any sort of relationship can quickly become contentious. As I said earlier, I had a friend block me for simply referring them to a fact-checking site.

Hell, one of my best friends recently lost one of his other good friends of over 20 years because they made the mistake of mixing politics and alcohol. Ironically, these two were featured in another article I wrote nearly three years ago titled The Conservative March Towards a Society of Sociopaths. The “sociopath” in that story accused my friend of being “brainwashed” by me into being a progressive. Even though, ironically, me and my friend rarely talk politics. Apparently because my friend has chosen to be a Democrat instead of a Trump-loving buffoon, that was enough for his friend to sever a 20+ year friendship.

And that’s what it’s become here lately. Republican rhetoric has become so extreme – so vile – that many on the right really do view progressives as “the enemy.” I’ve had women tell me that they won’t date me because I’m a progressive, which is actually fine with me because I do my best to make sure I don’t date Republicans.

Just… no. 

Though what I said in 2013 still holds true today – being a progressive living in a state like Texas has been fantastic. I get to see up close and personal the ignorance that drives the Republican party. And even though, at times, it’s exhausting, frustrating and maddening to be right in the middle of one of the most conservative states in the country, it’s also a great motivator to keep fighting for progressive causes. During those times when I feel beat down, worn out and even overwhelmed – I just flip on my local news to see what Republicans are doing here and witness with my own two eyes what sort of nightmare awaits this country if we let conservatives completely take it over.

The issues we face in this country, and the millions of people whose lives can be impacted by right-wing ignorance, are far too important to give up and let Republicans win.

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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