Sunday, June 16, 2024

To Win, You Must First Know Your Enemy


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Harper Lee, author of the legendary To Kill A Mockingbird, writes in her similarly riveting and elusive prequel, Go Set A Watchman, that “A man can condemn his enemies but it’s wiser to know them”. 

It is a Sunday afternoon, forty-five degrees and cloudy. The April 4th elections are set to take place in less than forty-eight hours. My garage has been filled with Daniel Kelley signs for months, and my front yard has had a cherry-red Cody Horlacher sign up in it since January. I’m in a coffee shop trying to do homework when I realize that my “enemy” is right beside me. A group of democratic party volunteers sporting Janet Protasiewicz buttons and anti-Trump literature are sitting in a semi-circle next to me, planning out which neighborhoods they should knock doors in. 

This is a conversation I’ve heard a million times before, which is why it catches my attention inadvertently. The language of different districts and wards, which neighborhoods are hilly or have long driveways, and whether or not it’s too windy to leave informational fliers on doorknobs is all too familiar to me. However, their conversation only truly becomes a point of interest to me when I hear a phrase often uttered by the Republican party leaders I am acclimated to:

“The other side is just not willing to have a reasonable discussion about these issues,” one woman emphatically proclaims. The other democratic party volunteers nod in agreement and offer similar observations. They claim that Republicans aren’t open to conversation about candidates’ platforms. They express their frustration with the influx of attack ads which skew information and instill fear in the hearts of voters. These comments strike a chord in me, and with Harper Lee’s advice about knowing your enemy ringing in my ears, I made a decision.

I wanted to know my enemy. 

I caught the attention of one of the primary organizers, the woman who had first mentioned the lack of willingness for reasonable conversational efforts on behalf of the republicans. She is wearing a pin of support for Jodi Habush Sinykin, the very same woman who put out advertisements bashing my own mother. I asked her if she was a volunteer for the democratic party, and with a friendly smile she told me that indeed, she was. I asked her for a piece of their literature, and she was kind enough to give it to me. Then she proceeded to ask me if I was registered to vote. With a smile, I happily told her that I certainly was. She asked me if I had already voted by mail. 

“I prefer to vote on the day of the election, actually,” I said.

“Me too,” she responded. 

A few other members of the group she was with noticed that we had struck up a conversation, and two more of the volunteers joined us. They brought me more literature and gave me a brief outline of Protasiewicz’s platform at my request. Their three major talking points were that Judge Janet would defend abortion rights, legislative maps, and voting rights. They certainly must have noticed that I was a young woman in her early twenties because the topic they primarily spoke to me about was women’s health. They explained how risky it was to take away a woman’s right to make choices about her reproductive rights. They highlighted that Judge Janet was a key feature in maintaining abortive rights in the state going forward.

Unfortunately for these ladies, this was the wrong topic to utilize to change my mind. As a Christian, I cannot fundamentally tolerate the argument for abortion. However, I listened to them speak about its importance for the sake of determining whether their argument was compelling. It is an important primary feature of democratic institutions that they allow for conversation about controversial topics. Shying away from difficult discussions about controversial issues such as abortion can lead to ignorance. I felt it was important to know what they had to say.

Much to my interest, I found that they were not necessarily making a case for abortion. Instead, they framed the topic of women’s health as a stripping of rights. They told me how important it was for women to have the opportunity to make their own choices about their health. They commented several times that republicans were robbing women by not allowing them easy access to abortions and that this was a severe risk to freedom. 

From here, their argument evolved into a larger scope, one which revealed more about the platform of the democratic party as a whole rather than the individual candidates’ specific agendas. The volunteers passionately spoke to me about how hateful the Republican party was, especially toward poor people. They cited the work that Ron DeSantis has done in Florida as being a threat to our country. They explained to me that too many Republican Presidents had won their victories to the executive office without winning the popular vote, an unfortunate consequence of a supposedly outdated system of elections put in place by our Founding Fathers. Finally, they harped upon the sticking point which Democratic leaders love to obsess over: Donald Trump.

Once Trump’s name was mentioned, all hell broke loose. The group could not resist their inclination to paint a picture of the former President as a tyrant. They called him ‘evil’ and ‘misogynistic’, telling me that he hates women and poor communities. Their laments about Trump had no references to factual evidence about his administration or political ideologies and was staked entirely on hearsay about his personal conduct. They explained that his coming to power had emboldened racists, and allowed them the opportunity to act out their bigotry. They did not make one reference to the economy, the border, or foreign affairs. In fact, there was no mention of the major issues which Trump addressed in his Presidency whatsoever. Every single claim they made in regard to Donald Trump was an attack on his character. They spoke about him as though he was a supervillain, yet never once gave me a reason why he was so evil. Their hatred for Trump was purely personal. 

I thanked the group for taking the time to speak with me. The woman I had originally flagged down asked me my name and where I went to school. Despite wearing my Hillsdale College crewneck, I falsely claimed that I went to UW-Milwaukee, a response which elicited a fair amount of praise from the group (In the words of Ferris Bueller, “They bought it”). Before we parted, the woman asked what my last name was. Her glittering Habush Sinykin button once again caught my eye, and I opted not fork over that I was a Brandtjen. Instead, I offered up my middle name, Caroline, and tried to suppress a laugh. If they knew who they were talking to, this conversation would almost certainly take a very different turn. 

“I only ask because you look very familiar,” the woman finally commented.

“Maybe, I try to stay well-informed with what’s going on in the community,” was the only response I could come up with. The group parted, going out to knock on doors, and I went back to my now-lukewarm latte. 

My reason for speaking with the Democratic volunteers was to hear what they had to say. If their major complaint with the Republican party was that the Republicans wouldn’t listen to them, I wanted to offer them the chance to make the case for their candidates and platform. I wanted to hear their approach to current political issues. I wanted to know what their candidates stood for and why they believed they were fit to serve our community. 

My spur-of-the-moment investigation only led me to this conclusion: they don’t know what their fundamental political principles are. The entirety of their perspective was centered around emotional responses. They cited their hatred for the patriarchy, the wealthy, and the racists. They took ample time to slam both DeSantis and Trump yet made no mention of either Dan Kelly or Cody Horlacher, the two gentlemen who are actually involved in the upcoming races we were discussing. This conversation showed me that the Democratic party does not truly know what its values are. All it can do is recognize an aversion to Republican policy. 

The democrats are running their campaign based on people’s fears. They push an agenda of loss, erroneously claiming that Republicans are constantly attempting to steal something from you. They want you to believe that you are oppressed, and they push this narrative exclusively by playing up to people’s fears. If the Democratic party can keep you stuck in a mindset of victimhood, they think they will be able to scare you into their cult of indoctrination. Their socialist agenda is only feasible if every American citizen believes that democracy and capitalism are inherently evil, and the only way they can make that argument is by pretending that constitutional freedom is dangerous. 

It is important to know your enemy. Understanding the reasoning behind your morals and opinions is an essential part of living in a free society. The only way we can truly claim to know what the truth is comes through an understanding of what is false. It is each person’s responsibility to know why they hold their own set of beliefs. Today I came to know that nothing lies behind the Democratic platform but shadows of a despondent yet radical socialism. 

Brooke Brandtjen
Brooke Brandtjen is a writer, artist, and passionate defender of liberty. She is currently an undergraduate student at Concordia University Wisconsin, where she is majoring in English

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