If you’re not sick of this shit, I wonder where you’re living. Politics in the United States of America has become a joke, and it’s not entirely about Donald Trump. While he is absolutely the worst President we have ever had, if we are to look at reality over thew past 40-50 years, he’s just the latest in a series of presidencies that may as well have been parodies.
The major jokes started with Richard Nixon, who the American people and the people of California had rejected previously, being elected President in 1968. His election was facilitated by the “progressive” movement of the 1960s, because they thought the best way to get anything done politically was through “protest.” So, in order to “protest” Vietnam, they worked against Humphrey, who was the only viable choice besides Nixon available in 1968. This, despite the fact that Humphrey promised to end the war as much as Nixon did and he actually had the Congress to help him do it. (Democrats had supermajorities in both the House and the Senate, for example, and anti-war sentiment was growing.)
So, we had to suffer through Richard Nixon as president in 1969. Now, Nixon had to work with the supermajority-Democratic Congress, which meant he had to go along with a lot of shit he normally wouldn’t have wanted to do, and that was a good thing. However, Nixon also expanded the Vietnam War, to nearby Laos, Cambodia, and even Thailand, to an extent, even as he significantly cut back on the draft.
At the same time, politics in the United States was changing. The Dixiecrats were abandoning the Democratic Party in droves, and becoming Republican. The sad part of this is, while each party had its deplorable elements previously, beginning with 1968, increasingly they were found inside a single political party, the GOP. As a result, a party that had once had the “Taft Wing” of fiscal conservatives whose focus had been cancelling the New Deal and returning us to their version of “market economics,” they now also had ran increasing constituency of racists and xenophobes; constituencies they now had to cater to, if they were to keep them voting faithfully every election season. That is why the current incarnation of the Republican Party has been so bad for so long. When your “base:” is right wing and economically absurd, that’s one thing. However, when your “base” is also irretrievably stupid, that’s something else. And that’s what the United States has been dealing with politically for a very long time. Both political parties take their “bases” seriously, but only one should.
In 1972, progressives “protested” their way to nominating George McGovern as the Democrats’ presidential candidate. Now, McGovern was a lovely guy and a strong liberal, but he was perhaps the worst presidential candidate in history. (Disclaimer; I worked on the McGovern campaign, although I was 14 at the time. It was like we were all intent on committing political suicide, and we were successful. Then, in 1976, the same group of white liberals, who were now calling themselves “progressive,” even though they were anything but, decided they didn’t like the Democratic voters’ choice of Jimmy Carter as their nominee. First, they tried to jam through Jerry Brown, who was nowhere near ready for the big time, and who had no chance of getting the nomination. Then, in the general election, the same white liberals simply refused to fully support Carter, allowing the election, just two years after Watergate, to be far closer than it should have been. A lot of these “progressives” voted for Eugene McCarthy, who ran as an “independent,” but mostly, they demonstrated complete indifference.
Roughly the same thing happened in 1980, when the same “progressives” refused to support Carter again, and right winger St. Reagan was elected with the largest electoral win by a non-incumbent in history. It would be easy to claim that many white liberals voted for and supported John Anderson, but most of his votes came from what was at the time a dwindling number of liberal Republicans who were dead-set against St. Reagan because he was too right wing.
This shit has kept happening. In 1984, when we should have ousted St. Reagan, white liberals couldn’t get behind Mondale. In 1988, when we finally had a chance to take out the GOP after eight years of Reagan excesses, they couldn’t get behind Dukakis, who was, (ironically?) at least as liberal as McGovern. They put their claws away leg enough to allow Black people to elect Bill Clinton twice, but in 2000, they decided to choose Ralph Nader to get behind, even though he had no chance of winning, and did no twice, thus stealing one election from Al Gore and another from John Kerry. Then, after “allowing” the first Black President to be elected and then undermining him at every turn, we watched the potentially most progressive president in history have to spend the last three-quarters of his two terms working against the largest Republican majority since 1928, even though their stated intentions were to “make Obama a one-term president” and to stop everything he does.”
This has to stop. It’s not good enough to get rid of Trump. If we are to ever be worthy of calling ourselves “progressive,” we have to at the very least stop allowing the GOP from ever winning another election, at least until they reconstitute into a political party that cares about the American people. We have to line up behind the Democratic Party and stop requiring Democratic candidates to hold issue positions that are unrealistic, electorally speaking. We have to stop proudly demanding things that most American voters can’t get behind and start messaging in a way that attracts voters, rather than repelling them. Most voters don’t like liberals very much, and it’s our fault, with our whole “our way or the highway” attitude and our racist attitude, in which we assume we are in charge of the Democratic Party, even though most of us abandoned the party more than 50 years ago.
We can never forget; People of Color are the Democratic Party’s base, not white liberals. And Black people – especially Black women – are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party in 2020 and (hopefully) beyond. When white liberals grumble that the Democratic Party takes PoC for granted, they are showing how out of touch they are, and perhaps a subtle bit of racism.
This is what has to change going forward. We have to stop calling ourselves “progressive,” while continuing to block progress. It’s not very smart, and it doesn’t begin and end with Donald Trump. Voting against a tyrant is often just as important as voting FOR the person who agrees with us the most, and we have to embrace that.
Also published on Medium.