Oh, my God, people! Get a grip.
I get it. The prospect of Donald Trump becoming president is scary as hell. I was hoping that the Electoral College would do the right thing, but I wasn’t expecting it. It would have been even more unprecedented than Trump, the most completely unqualified candidate in history, becoming president in the first place. After all, the people who are chosen as electors are, like convention delegates, party faithful. And if there is one thing we know about the Republican Party in this day and age, it’s that they don’t care about anything but winning. So, yeah, I’m worried and I am more determined than ever to do something to change things in the progressive movement. I’m tired of permanently being forced to sit on the outside as the right wing pushes us down the shitter. I am frustrated and I am worried and I am exhausted from holding my breath far too often over the past 40+ years.
But one thing I am not is angry.
There’s no point to anger, especially in politics. I’m not a Buddhist, but one of my favorite quotes regarding anger comes from Buddha:
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”
When was the last time you were moved by someone else’s anger? I’m willing to bet never. We understand anger and we can sometimes relate to it, but we are never moved in a positive direction by it. It’s negative in scope and, frankly, with the current state of the Republican Party, especially under Trump, there is already more than enough anger in politics. Now, you may think the rise of Trump means there is plenty of room for anger in the system, but you would be wrong. Trump barely received more votes than Mitt Romney in 2012 (fewer, if you factor in population change), and he ended up losing by nearly 3 million votes; it’s not like he won because there was a groundswell of support for his angry persona. The “Fuck You Caucus” didn’t put him over the top, the number of people who stayed home because they hate the anger and vitriol once again prevented the Democrats from gaining seats. In other words, because the Republican Party’s main strategy is to depress turnout, anger helps them and hurts us.
It’s easy to figure out why; anger is rarely rational. Did I say “rarely”? In politics, it is never rational. Repeat after me…
“It’s only politics.”
Politics is not life. Issues are not politics. An issue can be emotional, but politics never is. Politics is how you get people into government and it is how you get them to do what we want them to do. Politics is about developing a strategy for getting the best people elected and then strategically getting them to do what is best for all people. Not you, but all people. Anger is emotional, and there is no place for emotion in politics. In fact, it’s the number one reason progressives usually lose. Some on the right are emotional, but they temper that with strategy. The far right hates the GOP almost as much as we do, if we’re being honest. However, they put their hatred aside because they know, intellectually, that the Republican Party is their only chance to get people into government who will at least listen to them and do what they want.
That’s right; even the “Fuck You Caucus” has the brains to align with a group large enough to put candidates in office who will do their bidding. Compare that to OUR version of the “FYC,” the people who rant and rave about “the establishment” and express their anger every chance they get, but who do exactly nothing to get more progressives in office. I’m sorry, but if, in a year where Hillary Clinton was up against Donald Fricking Trump, the best you could do is, “Well, I don’t like her, but she’s better than Trump,” you certified yourself as the opposite of “progressive.” You’re angry, not progressive and anger is not a rational emotion.
It’s been quite hilarious, if I’m being honest. Seriously, the consternation and anger and upset on the part of people who spent the last two years trashing Hillary Clinton and now, suddenly they are scared shitless by the specter of a Trump presidency – it’s priceless. They think I’m angry. I’m not. I’m frustrated because I have been warning about this for a really long time now. I spent the 1980s and 1990s working inside the Democratic Party to “fix” things and was constantly frustrated by “progressives” who screwed us over. In the wake of the 2000 election debacle, I actually started another blog and talked about this a lot. Republicans don’t beat us, we beat ourselves. And we do so because, for some incredibly stupid reason, the loudest and most visible of us – the unicorn progressives and the professional left – decided that always being angry was somehow a badge of honor. They hate “the establishment.” They’re angry at “the Democrats” who don’t fulfill their vision of what a “progressive” should be. They are angry at the two-party system. For chrissakes, even now, they’re trying to blame “the Democratic Party” and demanding a fucking “overhaul,” despite the fact that Democrats did nothing wrong in this election season. And I mean, they did everything right. They allowed a challenger, they allowed the Sanders brigade to blow off steam and Hillary Clinton let the Bernie Brigade to control the platform. Unless they can explain for us how supporting every candidate up and down the line to the best of their ability is somehow destructive, you cannot rightfully blame the Democratic Party for anything.
In 2014, the professional left refused to support Democrats because they didn’t sufficiently “embrace” Obama, despite the fact that this same band of idiots spent most of the Obama Administration trashing Obama themselves. Now, two years later, Hillary Clinton kisses their asses and she fully embraced Obama, and this same angry band of morons spends two years trashing her. They even started trashing their idol, Bernie Sanders when he embraced his loss and supported Clinton. Again, what does progressive anger get us, except a Trump Administration. Good JOB!
Being angry at the outcome of the election is a completely wasted emotion. Being angry about the fact that Democrats lost a few seats is also completely wasted, as is being pissed off at Bernie Sanders because he challenged Hillary for the nomination and lost. If you think anger is such a useful emotion, then explain for the class why the progressive movement has stagnated for about 40 years now. From 1932 to about 1970, when we weren’t pissed off at Democrats, we got amazing things done. In the 40+ years since, we’ve watched the safety net disappear and we’ve had to work against the elected government to protect rights for people. If you think your expressions of anger are useful, then explain for the class why Republicans have been winning so often, even though they represent a significant minority in the electorate. The number of voters who identify as Republican has been right around 25% for about 20 years now. Given that we presumably have 75% of the electorate to work with, how can you argue that the anger many unicorn progressives and pro lefties express is helpful? It’s killing us.
If you hate the “two-party system,” then build a new party. If you hate “the establishment,” then change it. If you hate the fact that the poor are getting screwed or that people aren’t getting the healthcare they need, then do something about it. The first step is to stop being angry about the fact that the Democratic Party isn’t performing miracles as a minority party. Screaming at something because you don’t like it is completely ineffective and pointless. Anger has no place in politics, unless you’re a right winger. By the way, that includes the constant pleas I see from many progressives that whine, “What? Are you saying we can’t criticize any Democrat?” Yes, I’m saying that. If there is nothing to be gained from it, there is no point to doing it. And if you cannot imagine not complaining about Democrats, you would seem to have a serious psychological problem, although I’m not qualified to diagnose.
Instead of constant anger, be constructive. Join the 90+% of progressives who work hard WITH the Democratic Party and stop shouting at it. We could use your help.
Don’t be angry, be effective.