Robert Crohan/Staff Writer
Much of modern political discourse would suggest a country moving left. After eight years of President Barack Obama, a single term for right-wing President Donald Trump, and years upon years of ceaseless progressive activism, such an image has come front-and-center in the minds of many.
But a drive through any state might suggest otherwise.
I just traversed the east coast and live in the Orlando area, both of which are mostly Democratic. However, everywhere I look, I see the usual on cars, clothing, and homes: Trump 2020, Blue Lives Matter, Hillary/Biden for Prison, NRA, the Gadsden Flag, the like. In my town, the former two have practically become a daily sighting, on all different vehicles no less. I have never once seen Black Lives Matter on a vehicle in Florida.
If anything, from this, I would assume a much more conservative nation than the data implies. Even in heavily Democratic Rhode Island and Massachusetts, I saw more than my fair share of conservative paraphernalia.
It makes me wonder: why is the right so vocal? Or better yet, why isn’t the left vocal enough–especially in the Sunshine State?
Don’t get me wrong: there is some level of vocality. I joked that central Virginia represents the boundary between the Biden cars and the Trump cars. In New England, I saw cars promoting Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke,and Deval Patrick for President.
But I would attribute it to general mistrust for the right among Democrats. Some conversations and online posts indicate a fear of making one’s political identity known. Indeed, there have been incidents of road rage tied to political bumper messages, and property damage at houses with liberal flags flying. Rather humorously, a pro-gun control liberal may want to avoid upsetting a gun-toting conservative.
And, in many cases, Republicans are much more excited to vote than Democrats.
Just look at Trump rallies, and the January 6th Capitol Riot. These events had a plethora of flags and signs, in an especially fired up audience, many of which were blatantly racist, homophobic, or both. I would argue, as have others, that Trump’s movement prioritizes publicity and “owning the libs,” a break from past GOP Presidents.
But in order to bring the proper change and send a clear message, it is my view that the left must get more comfortable with making its values heard and known, loud and clear. That includes through protesting, belongings, transportation, campaigning, conversation, and belongings.
I also understand concerns regarding the potential to excite the other side. Indeed, seeing Trump’s promotion makes me fired up to promote Democrats. However, Democrats being America’s “silent majority” might serve no one and confuse many. If anything, this concept may outrage conservatives more.
We must consider the positive effects of advertising, and how this can inform while potentially changing some minds.
Additionally, our country is burgeoning with new arrivals and young people of various racial, religious, ethnic and sexual backgrounds. If most political advertising is conservative, we can only expect more feelings of exclusion and intimidation. I understand that many conservatives are trying to encourage young people to become more hardy and stronger, but promoting potentially offensive imagery is not the way to do this.
Plus, what kind of message does it send to visitors from overseas, or to the rest of the world in general, if the US is mostly promoting “America First” and imagery that many say is passively racist? If we are to lead the global fights for anti-racism, LGBTQA+ rights, and religious tolerance, we cannot do it without making liberal ideas more mainstream, and it starts with local messaging.
In order to strengthen American democracy, many different perspectives must be listened to and considered. With the right dominating much of the local-level dialogue and imagery, especially in Florida, there is little room for liberal input and the consideration of liberal ideas. In areas with little promotion of LGBTQA+ rights, and/or with a history of racism, it needs to be made clear that Black Lives Matter.
Much of the right continues to perceive the left as hateful and exclusionary. These problems may exist, but with more peaceful engagement and basic advertising, these views can be undermined.
And what’s the harm in a little fun competition?
Florida in particular is becoming a haven for conservative principles, as growing communities flourish with out-of-state Republicans. Tallahassee is implementing hard-right policies to restrict voting, protesting, and sexual freedom. Plus, Miami-Dade has gone from deep blue to purple, and QAnon is growing fast here. Therefore, the left absolutely must fight back.
In my conservative Lake County town, I was surprised to see Black Lives Matter protests. But in a place where passively racist imagery has been seen, awareness of the harm of such imagery is desperately needed. This comes as my county diversifies.
Just as many police families display Blue Lives Matter, more LGBTQA+ Americans who are comfortable sharing their identities should wave pride flags, if they feel it will serve the cause.
A supposed swing state should not be dominated by the right to the extent that liberal voices are harder to come across. To help keep Florida competitive, liberals must pressure their legislators and keep up the outreach.
The mere presence of ideas and movements like Black Lives Matter will get people thinking and make liberals feel more welcome to seek public office and spread their ideas. Plus, with enough of a liberal presence in a particular area, the national Democratic Party may look to more investment there.
However, like anything, caution must be taken. Floridians who fled socialism in Cuba and elsewhere may have trauma provoked with left-wing imagery, which is unacceptable. Plus, there are legitimate safety concerns for certain methods of advertisement, like bumper messages on cars. Although the risk is low, it exists nonetheless.
Going forward, the right may have the initial advantage, but with younger generations growing more prominent in the political sphere, things may change. If you’re a liberal, consider an unabashed spreading of your ideas. The country will be better off for it.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community
Photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash