One (I hope) good thing to come of the current political climate is that it shows the limits of stigma or social shaming in changing people or behavior. I've written before about this, but it's still very hard for me to understand why people do it or what they hope to accomplish with it. I can't help but thing it's just an evolutionary quirk that didn't get programmed in my own wiring because seemingly otherwise decent people will engage in outrageous and cruel behavior as long as their target is someone they perceive as being "bad" (in their opinion).
From an Atlantic article entitled "How Stigma Sows Seeds of Its Own Defeat":
In “Too Much Stigma, Not Enough Persuasion,” I argued that the coalition that opposes Donald Trump needs to get better at persuading its fellow citizens and winning converts, rather than leaning so heavily on stigmatizing those who disagree with them. With Trump’s victory in mind, I wrote that among the many problems with relying too heavily on stigma rather than persuasion is that it just doesn’t work.
And one of my readers, Maxwell Gottschall, has a useful coda that applies not just to opposing Donald Trump, but to the larger defense of the liberal project, the constitutional order, and republican government. Sure, he acknowledged, wielding stigma is often ineffective. But even when it does work to achieve ends that liberals favor, like undermining support for racism or authoritarian demagogues, stigma achieves those victories in a relatively weak, dangerously tenuous manner.
As he put it:
Stigmatization of an idea, by design, intends to convert, not persuade, by bypassing reason and going right for our tribal desire to fit in. But I think the rarely noted effect of this conversion happening is that it robs the converted of the tools to persuade others going forward. In other words, if you haven't been persuaded by the merits of a political idea, how do you persuade others? You can't without resorting to the same sort of stigmatizing argument.
This, I think, at least partially explains the left's staleness over the past two years, and the cultural center-left elite's utter shock at the inadequacy of its invincible ascendant coalition. Stigmatization doesn't just turn off perfectly good people who aren't racists but supported Trump (as a blasé example). And it doesn't just make you complacent (which it does). I think it actively contributes to ideological rot.
The problem is that if social shaming is really an evolutionary quirk, all the evidence in the world about its inefficacy is not going to stop people from engaging in it. The problem is not really in getting to see that stigmas can often often be unhelpful or destructive. Every side seems to have stigmas that they think are unwarranted or unhelpful (e.g. stigmas against gay marriage, having children out of wedlock). However, they also have stigmas that they think are absolutely necessary (e.g. stigmas against perceived homophobia, stigmas against having welfare babies).
I'd personally love to have people stop stigmatizing things. That seems to me the cleanest, fairest, most efficient, and most beneficial solution. But that's like saying we should stop war. Given that's not going to happen, I guess the only thing left for us to do is to hide those parts of us that would be stigmatized or try to change minds? I honestly wouldn't blame anyone for doing the former.