This country must stop the contentious bickering that constantly occurs in our politics. It’s time to put aside minor differences and get back to building this country into what we all know it can be. It may take a while in the wake of the Trump debacle, but we have no choice. One reason he’s there in the first place is because we are all too easily distracted. And while it doesn’t seem like it at times, it is progressives who have to make the changes happen. It all starts with learning how to ignore the shiny keys.
I started this blog almost 13 years ago because what Arianna dubbed the “progressive blogosphere” (I call it the “professional left” now, because a lot of people seem to only be “progressive” because it pays. And this portion of the movement, along with the unicorn wing of the “progressive movement” is killing us. The professional left loves to scream about everything, in part because it drives clicks, but also because they seem to have convinced themselves that voters’ strongest motivation is outrage. They imagine that every voter is as pissed off as they are, and they imagine millions of pissed off people marching to the polls and voting against… what, exactly? They don’t know, and we sure as hell don’t.
The problem is, most of the ire produced by the Pro Left’s “Perpetual Outrage Machine™” seems directed at Democrats, who are closer to our natural allies. Republican atrocities tend to be ignored in favor of a magnification of some minor gaffe that a small number of Democrats may have made.
Professional Left pundits skewer Democrats for the crime of being imperfect, while Republicans are hardly discussed at all. Right now, if you peruse the far left blogs, you will discover that Joe Biden is practically the devil, while Trump is essentially just as bad. This is not a new phenomenon, if you think about it. Consider how we got here. In 2016, the same blogs and “progressive” pundits said they could never vote for Hillary Clinton based on made-up charges brought against her back in the 1990s. In fact, whenever the Perpetual Outrage Machine™ grouses about the vote on a bill, they focus their ire on Democrats, even when the Republicans are in the majority. Their obsession with Democrats is such that they rarely even mention the Re[ublicans, even if one of them wrote the awful bill and other Republicans push it through Congress to make sure it becomes law. They have tended to ignore the 232 Republicans who voted in lockstep to pass the bill, in order to talk badly about the half dozen or so Democrats who may have voted with Republicans. Those few Democrats are treated as traitors, even though the bill would have passed/failed regardless of how they voted.
That’s the “shiny keys” effect. Have you ever tried to stop a baby from crying by pulling out your shiny keys and waving them at him/her? Well, as far as the professional left is concerned, we’re the babies, and we are too easily distracted by them. Much of what they publish is not “the truth,” it’s a distraction. And the GOP loves it when we get distracted like that.
It is simply a fact that Republicans rarely win elections. Instead, we lose them because our progressive media is too often intent on focusing on the “shiny keys,” and not what’s really happening. There are so many examples of this. In 2010, for example, we should have gained 2-3 seats in the Senate, which would have given Democrats a filibuster-proof supermajority. However, instead of rendering the Republican strategy of “Filibuster Everything” completely moot, the professional left focused on the “Blue Dog Democrats,” and lied about their record and labeled them DINOs and much worse. In other words, the “shiny keys”were Blue Dogs; Democrats who represented red states and districts and occasionally had to vote with Republicans to keep their jobs. As a result, pro lefties essentially gave Congress back to the GOP, thus essentially stifling Obama’s progressive agenda.
Following the 2010 debacle, I did an analysis and found that all members of the Blue Dog caucus except one voted with Democrats more than 80% of the time. The one who didn’t voted with Democrats about 70% of the time. No Blue Dog ever blocked a Democratic bill, and not one of them blocked cloture. Not one. On the other hand, even before 2010, Republicans were blocking everything they could. They blocked 375 Democratic bills during the 11th Congress, and not one was blocked by a Blue Dog. They were not a problem, Republicans were. The professional left focused their ire on Blue Dogs because they were “shiny keys.” And many progressives followed their lead because we have a knack of looking at what progressive “experts” tell us what;’s what, even as they go after the easy target, even if it’s not addressing the actual problem. Much the same “strategy” killed Democrats in 2014, when we suffered our worst mid-term defeat in history and gave Rep[ublicans their largest Senate majority since 1928.
By focusing on the Blue Dog “shiny keys,” instead of getting 2-3 Senators and giving the most progressive president in our lifetime a Congress he could work with, we returned the House to the Republicans and replaced the Blue Dogs with the Tea Party Caucus, a small but demanding group of Republicans who lacked the common sense to ever act in the interests of Americans at large. The teabaggers were easily the dumbest people to occupy Congress, and that’s no small feat. Sadly, the professional left continued the same tack in 2014, and Democrats also lost the Senate. Then, in 2016, they actively acted against Hillary Clinton, which allowed Trump and his Russian handlers to squeeze their way into the White House with a technical victory. And here we are, in 2020, and they have once again chosen Bernie Sanders and they’re attacking Joe Biden in service to that, thus giving Trump a tiny window int a second term, which this country certainly cannot afford. Why do they continue to sabotage Democrats and denying voters a viable alternative to the batshit crazy Republican Party? By attacking Democrats, they are giving voters a greater incentive to stay home. The “liberal cognoscenti” is not giving anyone what they want.
If you, as a liberal, want to see Democrats “beat up” Republicans, you should know the vast majority of voters want bipartisanship. Real bipartisanship, not the Republican version. They want to see politicians reach across the aisle to the other side, and they would be very interested if they knew the other side was constantly rebuffing them. But they don’t hear about that from progressive media, because they would rather spend inordinate amounts of time criticizing Obama and Democrats for their imperfections. Many pro lefties seem to believe they sound “smart” by talking about politics this way, but given the lasting damage that has been caused by Republican majorities everywhere in the country, they actually sound clueless. They also think being a “Democrat” who criticizes other Democrats gives them more credibility, but they’re wrong about that, too. Most voters know the Republicans are poison to good government, and they know the GOP is generally crazy. The professional left thinks voters are stupid, so they write clickbait they think is designed to inform the general public to the “reality” that there is little difference between the two major parties. Which is a lie, of course.
We cannot spend all of our time in progressive or social media trashing Democrats and talking about Republicans as if they’re little more than lovable buffoons and expect that to have no effect. The meme builds on itself. “Republicans are idiots and scumbags, but Democrats are as bad as they are” is not a strategy that will get more voters to the polls.
That’s the crux of the problem right now. It’s not voters who keep the GOP in power, it’s non-voters. And they’re non-voters, at least in part, because they know Republicans are idiots and scumbags, but then”progressive blogosphere” largely tells them Democrats are pretty much the same.
And please save me the “we need another party” bullshit. In a winner-take-all system, more than two viable parties is damn near impossible. There are currently 132 “third parties” registered in the United States, which renders the fantasy of a “third party” to be little more than another set of “shiny keys” we fall for too often.
Only 24% of the electorate identifies as Republican. That means 76% of the electorate doesn’t. You can’t turn that 24% into a permanent majority, no matter what you do. Republicans have tried hard to game the system and they have largely succeeded, to the point that we elected a complete idiot as “president of the United States.” And what is the reaction of the “progressive blogosphere”? To attack Joe Biden incessantly, or doing the same with any Democrat with a chance of getting the nomination, is purely short-sighted and shows an obsession with “shiny keys” clickbait. It also shows they learned nothing from 2010, 2014 and 2016. It’s difficult to consider anyone who can’t learn from their mistakes as “intelligent.” It makes you look more like Trump than the policial Albert Einstein..
Republicans win because they’re awful, and that awfulness makes voters want to stay home, which creates a major advantage to the minority party. Voters don’t want the fighting and sniping they see; they want a sense that politicians are taking care of their business in a way that makes sense for them. When Democrats “fight” back they perpetuate the concept that “both sides do the same thing.” Since voters want to progress, in the form of a job with good pay so they can house, feed and bring a good life to their families, our constantly sniping. They want good schools for their kids, and they want the poor to have an opportunity to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They don’t want “fighting,” they want results.
The professional left and their unicorn progressive followers turn off more voters than they encourage voters with their shenanigans, even though high turnout is the only way we can even consider creating a progressive government. Their tendency to personalize everything and attack the personality is poor politics, which is why we’ve been failures in the political arena for many years. We keep getting rid of individual right wing politicians, but we don’t get rid of the ideology, which is the real problem. We don’t need to get rid of Ted Cruz, we have to make sure what Ted Cruz stands for is seen as unacceptable.
Put simply, Republicans play to their base and get them fired up. If we really want to change things, we have to give voters more than a reaction to the manure the GOP uses to win. While there are a lot of differences between left and right rhetoric, voters often see the effect as the same. We can’t be against everything; we have to advocate for what we want to see happen a lot more often. Stop engaging right-wing cranks; instead, we have to use our own rhetoric to return the batshit crazy right-wing to the fringes where they belong.
Keep in mind, Republicans get much of their power from our obsession with them. Fox News is only influential because we obsess over them and repeat everything they say. Likewise, idiots like Limbaugh and Hannity have never really had any influence over anyone who doesn’t already believe their bullshit. At the peak of his power and audience size, Limbaugh’s candidate, incumbent George H. W. Bush, got 38% of the vote as an incumbent. Republicans employ violent and hateful rhetoric to fire up their “base,” but we give them more power when we engage them.
Nothing fires up the Republican “base” than pissing off a liberal, but when the moderates and swing voters, who make up a majority of the electorate see left and right scream at each other, they don’t listen to what we say, they assume both sides are full of shit and ignore everyone Think about it. When you’re walking down the street and see two people fighting each other, do you move closer to hear the details better? No. Most reasonable people will cross the street to avoid it. Even if they’re engaged in the spectacle on a guttural level, they’re not listening.
Progressives must stop emulating the right-wing and stop bickering with them. We have to spend a lot more time advocating FOR issues that we care about and stop focusing on individual personalities. We have to become more positive about everything. We have to become their polar opposites. If we’re seen as just as negative as the right-wing, we’re depressing people and perpetuating the climate in which most voters don’t like liberals any more than right-wingers. They perceive us as a bunch of negative whiners.
To win in politics, we must change hearts and minds to a new way of thinking, and we no longer do that. Instead, we constantly react to everything the right says and does. Our method of discourse has to change. We are all in this together, and we have to start charting a positive course for a change. Stop fighting with these idiots. Ignore them and started plotting our own course. Stop fighting against them, and for something.
In other words, we have to train ourselves to stop looking at the shiny keys and start looking at the big picture. And the big picture is this: “There is no one in the current Democratic Party who isn’t preferable to the best Republican. The GOP needs to go.”