Look at the Big Picture

I’ll get into this to a greater degree in a separate post, but we are not really as “polarized” as the media likes to claim. What we actually have is two really loud extremes; the right wing has both a short-term and a long-term goal of “winning,” while the far left wing has plenty of long term goals, but seem to have no idea how to get there. Both extremes are peddling outrage for the same purpose; because they believe outrage fuels their cause. The problem is, since their overall goal is to depress turnout because it helps them, this strategy actually works against us.

The end result of this nonsense is that we end up with a “debate” that is enormously contentious and never actually deals with anything important. For example, The number one issue in any election is jobs and the economy. In 2016, we had both sides of the debate portraying the economy as if this was still 2008 and perpetuating the idea that jobs were leaving the U.S. in droves.  Over the past decade or so, the “debate,” such as it is, has been dominated by right and left factions over two absolutist versions of the Constitution that don’t really exist. On the one side, we have right wing idiots who think the Second Amendment allows anyone to own and carry any type of weapon they want and far left geniuses who think the Second Amendment needs to be repealed because it’s no longer relevant.

If we are actually progressives, how are we supposed to make progress on the gun problem when the “debate” is between those two factions? How is this country supposed to make progress on voting if the only thing anyone can talk about is abolishing the electoral college, which is never going to happen. If you think it is, then you’re part of the problem. In order to get rid of it, you have to amend the Constitution. Congress would have to vote to abolish it by a two-thirds vote and then 37 states would have to ratify it. Not happening. This and the Senate are the only two things that keep small states in the game, from their perspective. if you don’t think you can find 13 states to reject such an amendment, you have a hell of an imagination.

The reason we often seem so divided is because we are always conducting arguments and “debates” over Libertarian and Tea Party notions of an absolutist Constitution that doesn’t exist, and because we get into gainsaying exchanges with right wingers whose only goal is to get people discouraged enough to stay home on Election Day. Uninformed opinions from both extreme sides of the spectrum weigh too heavily these days. While most liberals are level-headed and reasonable, many of our pundits – whom the Obama Administration rightly dubbed “The Professional Left” (yes, it came from them – we didn’t make it up) — have a lot of pointed opinions that are designed to appeal to their readership, but which fail to articulate anything except outrage at whatever issue they’ve dubbed “important” that particular day. The pro left and unicorn progressives in general are incapable of looking at the big picture. They have shown themselves to be incapable of considering the political repercussions of  their constant demands.

We have to stop being so reactionary, and think more about the consequences of the demands we make on government and the electorate, but especially Democrats. The Republican Party has as its primary goal obstruction of anything progressive, so they don’t even need a majority to meet their objective. On the other hand, for us to meet our objective, which should be passing laws and policies that encourage social progress and justice, we have to make sure the obstructionists don’t win. That means our side has to sound completely different from their side, which means opening up and looking at the big picture. We have to learn to deal with what is, and stop basing our politics on what we think should be.

President Obama is smarter than we are, politically speaking, and he’s proven it over and over. He’s also left us with a template. In his two election wins, he drew the highest turnout since 1968 and he did so by appealing to everyone’s better nature. Obama was successful because he is able to look at the big picture, something the professional left seems incapable of. Even when Hillary Clinton and the Democrats warned of shenanigans by the Russians and even after we knew about CrossCheck and the terrible effect it may have on the electorate, especially Democrats, they continued to paint Clinton in negative terms. Hell; many of them continue to do so; the worst Bernie Stans are still claiming she lost because she was “too beholden to Wall Street” and they insist Sanders would have beaten Trump in a walk, a contention for which there is no evidence.

The professional left does this a lot. They demanded that Obama just ignore Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), which would have meant a lot of troops would have been able to stay, but the law would still be in place for Trump to abuse. Not to mention, could you imagine setting a precedent in which a president could just ignore any law he didn’t like? That wouldn’t be custom-made for Trump, would it? And he was asked by the pro left to issue an executive order to “kill” the Defense of Marriage Act, Instead, he looked at the big picture and now DOMA is over and done with.

Once more, it’s to look at the entire playing field and stop demanding things we can’t have and, if we do want something, we have to work toward putting the personnel in place in government to make that happen, or at least stop letting people be elected who only want to obstruct. And we must also stop being wedded to what we see as “the only solution” to problems because there is almost never a single solution to any problem and certainly no solutions that are free of consequences. For example, we should certainly provide more assistance to the poor, but we should also crack down on fraud and abuse. We should cut the defense budget and a lot of weapons systems, but we have to replace them with something. The same with fossil fuels. Yes, we should use less coal, oil and natural gas, but we have to replace those jobs with something. Instead of just threatening miners, build wind turbine plants in coal country, for example. A lot of people depend on jobs in the defense and energy industries and we can’t just cut them off with nothing because we hate weapons and oil.

And for God’s sake, when we complain about corporations, we need to be more specific about which ones and what they’re doing, since most corporations are actually quite small and do good things for people. The person who owns your favorite pizza parlor or vintage clothing store is probably incorporated, and including them in a generic diatribe about corporations in general is probably unfair. Before you just join in when some professional left pundit whines about something, investigate the facts and consider the consequences of the solution the pundit recommends. In most cases, the second part is easy, because these folks rarely offer solutions. Take a deep breath before you react to something you hear, and take a wide view of the situation.

And for Chrissakes, folks, stop trashing Democrats. ANY Democrats. For most of the last 40 years, Democrats have been a functional minority, and complaining about what a functional minority has done in the political arena is remarkably silly. It’s really this simple. In the big picture, everything good and progressive we can point to has Democrats at the heart of it and everything the Republicans do is to block progress and/or to dismantle whatever they can. In the big picture, we will get no progressive legislation passed until we get Republicans out of the majority. There is nothing to be gained by attacking any Democrat, especially since they’re not in a position to get anything done, anyway. Frankly, if a bill passes with 230 Republican votes and the pro left focuses on the 5-6 Democrats who may have voted for it, the pro left looks downright psychotic.

Focus on the BIG PICTURE, which means getting rid of Republicans at all levels.

2 comments

  1. Highly important concept, Milt. Forty years ago the Republicans made a series of cynical political calculations. Chief among them was that cranking up the anger would split the country and leave the Republicans with the larger block of votes.

    This calculation has proven to be (sort of) correct over the long run.

    The Progressives (for lack of a better word, and we really do need to clarify our terminology on this as there is not overly Left about these people – beyond their pretensions, of course) appear to have made a similar cynical calculation and decided that cranking up the anger would split the Party and leave them with the larger block of votes – a majority within the minority, if you will – and that all good things would flow from their control of the party machinery.

    At long last, all candidates would mouth the proper slogans and armies of selfless progressive activists would spring up as from dragons’ teeth to do battle with the armies of darkness.

    Just like they did for Bernie.

    Except that they didn’t, not for Bernie, because all that hot air was just a self congratulatory fairy tale. And Clinton won the election, proving that the Democrats really are the majority party after all, except that structural relics in the Constitution leave it difficult for the majority party to vote its candidates into office. Putting the crazed minority in charge is not going to move a jot or a tittle to fix that set of problems – no matter how confident and enthusiastic they might feel.

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