Thursday, August 09, 2018

#WalkAway: Wow, Am I Still On Yahoo?

yahoo  |  On Nov. 8, 2016, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States — and Brandon Straka, a gay man and artist living in New York City, posted a video of his reaction to Facebook. “I was devastated. I voted for Hillary, and I was one of those people who was going on social media, crying, making videos,” says Straka.

Almost two years later, Straka posted another video that has since gone viral and spawned a movement. “I became a liberal because I am against racism, I’m against judging people based off of their sexual orientation or their gender. But what I started to see happening more and more all the time were these very same behaviors sort of in the reverse of what is stereotypical.”

It was this disconnect that led Straka to create the #WalkAway campaign in mid-June of 2018, a social media movement that encourages lifelong liberals and Democrats to “walk away” from their party and explore conservative politics with an open mind.

For Straka, the left practices tolerance and diversity in a superficial way, with no regard to individual thought or personal belief: “If you express an opinion that’s outside of what is their ideology, there is no tolerance and there is no diversity.”

“I don’t think that being hostile towards heterosexual people helps gay people,” he says. “I don’t think that being hostile towards men empowers women. I don’t think that being hostile towards white people empowers black people.”

Having grown up in a small town in Nebraska, Straka knew a lot of people who voted for Trump. “I was really on a quest to try and understand why did they vote for this man who was a racist, who was a bigot.” A friend who is a lifelong conservative contacted him, sending a link to a YouTube video titled “Debunking That Trump Mocked the Disabled Reporter.” Straka was skeptical: “I almost still sort of had that liberal rage inside of me, that sort of thought, ‘I can’t wait to watch this and then tell her how stupid she is for being brainwashed by this idiocy.’” The video was a compilation of footage of Trump performing the same flailing hand gestures and rambling voice that he had enacted when imitating a disabled reporter. Brandon was shocked. “It became clear to me that he didn’t mock that man’s disability whatsoever. Yes, the man was disabled, but what he was really doing was making fun of the fact that this person who happened to be disabled was caught in a lie. You know, it blew my mind.”