How We Save Democracy

There are two things we can’t afford to do as Democrats, progressives or liberals:

We cannot lose hope.

I know this is a tough time for anyone who loves this country, or human beings in general. The complete pile of shit we have to wade through on a daily basis is daunting and ultimately exhausting. I am also aware that speaking from my perch of white privilege is ultimately meaningless in some ways. Still, hope is an important ingredient of any political movement. it was the key to getting the first black man elected president of the country. Remember how hopeful we were that day ten years ago, when he won election? Remember how elated we all were on the day of his inauguration? There was a reason so many people showed up for his inauguration and why almost no one showed up for Donald Trump’s. Hope is a powerful thing, and it is truly the only universal motivation for voters of all stripes.

The fact of the matter is, my friends, the Trump regime will end at some point. We will get beyond this, and we will have to adopt a strategy to make sure it never happens again. That such a strategy will not be complete for the next decade or so means we have to grab onto hope and hang on for dear life as long as we possibly can. It’s essential. However, unless you feel positive we can get through this and come out better on the other side, we all have to have a huge helping of hope. If we don’t have hope, we have nothing, since nothing can work unless you… well… believe it can work.

We cannot be complacent, ever.

This is just as important as hope.

Face it; the progressive movement has been a loser for a half-century now. And the primary reason for that is our tendency to believe so much in the wisdom of our ideas, to the point that we simply assume everyone else will be on board with them.

Of course, this isn’t the fault of all progressives. As always, it is the unicorn progressives and the professional left who bear the responsibility for our current status as “losers.” Our parents and grandparents were smart enough to banish the Republican Party from government beginning with the 1932 election, and they largely kept them out. They let them sneak back in once, during the 1950s, but after four years, they tanked the government and caused a recession and they were banished again. Eisenhower was a Republican in name only, and Nixon was kept in check by a Democratic supermajority Congress. Unlike the current Congress, they took their oversight responsibilities seriously.

However, since 1980, Republicans have dominated federal and state politics. In nearly 40 years, Democrats have controlled the federal government twice; in 1993-1994 and 2009-2010. That’s it. the only major political party that isn’t completely crazy, and progressives keep letting them win. And the way they manage to help is infuriating because they stoke a sense of voter malaise that prevents people from showing up at the polls. It’s not a coincidence that, when Democrats dominated the politics and we got so many great things, like labor reform, the social safety net and civil rights reform, voter turnout was always above 60 percent in presidential election years and 50 percent for mid-terms. Now, turnout in presidential years is usually just below 50 percent, and mid-term turnout is usually in the the high 30s.

Make no mistake; Republicans don’t win because they are more popular. They won because they are successful at driving down turnout. And the main reason they are successful is because progressives help. Voters generally do not like what they hear from Republicans. However, what they hear from our “progressive” media (what I refer to as the “professional left” often mirrors what voters hear from the right side. The primary messages from the “Liberal blogosphere,” as Arianna Huffington coined the term, are as follows:

  • Democrats are as bad as Republicans
  • Democrats are “corporatists” who are beholden to “corporations” (“corporations” and “corporatist” are used as if they have a static meaning as  a pejorative.
  • Democrats are wimps and losers.
  • Democrats are no longer the “Party of the People.”
  • There is no actual difference between Democrats and Republicans.

Not only are all of the above messages lies on their face, but they encourage complacency and apathy on the part of voters. Imagine you are a single mother with a couple of kids, and you are struggling to make ends meet. You don’t have time to pay attention to politics and the election, so the information you have is the overall chatter you hear in the normal course of things. In addition to deciding who to vote for, you also have to decide whether you can afford to vote. Your typical day is really busy. You have three jobs, and the one you go to on Tuesday requires three buses and would take two hours off work to go to vote, IF there is no line. So imagine if the overall impression you get from the chatter is, “it doesn’t matter who you vote for because both parties are the same.”

Add to that the additional chatter coming from the professional left, implying that voter suppression is so bad, there is a good likelihood you won’t be allowed to vote and you can see why voter turnout is so low these days. Our professional left is not the only reason turnout is low – hell, suppressing turnout has been a major strategy for the GOP for the last century or so. That’s why their rhetoric is so hateful and disgusting; they are actively trying to encourage people to stay home. However, it is shameful that our side too often helps in the effort.

We have to stop helping with that. We must combat voter apathy and we cannot be complacent. We can never assume that every voter and every person in this country is with us just became we know we’re right. We have to spread a coherent and relevant message to every corner of this country. We can’t just assume we’re right and dismiss people who don’t agree with us. We have to adopt the Democratic Party and we have to support them and defend them. The Democratic Party IS “the Party of the People.” Still. It always has been. The only group of people who support the GOP exclusively are rich white men. Democrats include Blacks, most Latinos, most LGBTQ, most women (except white women in red states) and most first- and second-generation immigrants. The only thing that’s changed in the Democratic Party is that white liberals no longer get their own way. Of course, that was a choice; white liberals decided 50 years ago to walk away from the Democratic Party and become Independent, and to work against the Democrats.

And the result has been almost total disaster. Republicans have been able to destroy most of the social safety net and much of what we liberals used to fight for is being destroyed, piece by piece.

President Obama gave us a model. He excited voters and for two presidential elections, we learned how to avoid apathy and complacency. We have to give people hope and we have to project a sense of support and confidence that we can do better. the whole ‘we can do better because we ARE better” thing isn’t working, unicorn lefties, because you’re too small a minority in the electorate and no one knows what white liberals stand for anymore.

Also published on Medium.

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