Last week, I discussed the “progressives” who seem to treat progressive politics as if it’s a special club for only a select few; a kind of “He-Man Woman-Haters Club” for liberals. This time, I want to talk about the damage these members of “Club Progressives” do.
It seems that almost daily, I am told by some long-time “progressive” that I am a “centrist” and not really progressive or liberal, because of something kind of silly, like the fact that I don’t think you can sell the electorate on “single-payer” or that I think selling people on college without massive debt is a winner for most people, but “free college” is probably not. And while I know many people hate the very idea of “selling” in politics, what do you think a political campaign is? It’s a campaign in which a campaign and its supporters try to sell their candidate as the best possible choice for whichever office they are running. Very few average voters will vote the way you want them to based solely on your enthusiasm for whatever you say or the sheer logic you assume your position has. You have to sell it to them.
This is why I say the people who think they know the most about politics make it almost impossible for progressives to win anything. They don’t believe winning is as important as being right, which is the opposite of democracy. If you’re not trying to win, you’re not trying to make progress.
I make it a point to listen to all points of view. Well, except for the far right because I value my intelligence and I don’t want to lose IQ points by subjecting myself to that drivel. The reason I know certain things won’t sell to the masses is because I see what they actually care about. The PUBs and professional lefties who make up “Club Progressive” don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t say anything that doesn’t comport with what they already believe. I mean, really, how can you be successful in a democracy when you treat people who make up the middle – the vast majority of voters – with near-complete contempt? Most voters are not wonky “political junkies” and they are not interested in absolute details. And when you tell them they should be, because it matters to them, they look on you as an arrogant asshole. And frankly, if you bother to think about it – and I mean really think about it – you would understand why. It’s actually logical.
You know how the middle class has been disappearing for years and the heads of families have to work harder and longer just to make ends meet? Club Progressive claims to understand this; it’s the keystone of both the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton campaigns and even President Obama laments the fact that he couldn’t so more about it. Well, ask yourself a simple question; if the breadwinners have to work three jobs at a minimum wage that we all agree is too low, when are they supposed to immerse themselves in the political world to understand all of this wonky crap?
For that matter, while you suggest that not voting is somehow a moral failing, if said three-job breadwinner has to take three buses and lose three hours of pay in order to vote, wouldn’t you agree that they probably need some motivation to show on Election Day? Well, most of these people already know the current Republican Party is batshit crazy; what do you imagine motivates them when you “Club Progressive” folks tell them that any Democrat is as bad as any Republican? When you “Berniebros” claim that Hillary Clinton is as bad as any Republican, not only are you lying, you are also making it more likely that many will stay home this fall, should Hillary become the nominee. Likewise, when Hillary folks basically say Sanders is “just like Trump,” or deride him as a “socialist,” many people will stay home if he becomes the nominee.
Let me explain something to you “Club Progressive” types. You may think you’re a political genius because you’ve been an “activist” for so many years, but I’m here to tell you, you’re not. In any discipline, including politics, if you fail in your mission for 40 years, you’re no genius. Your way doesn’t work and it’s easily provable. In 1970, working with Democrats, progressives held an overwhelming supermajority in Congress and controlled most state legislatures, just as they had for nearly 40 years. After the Great Depression, progressives and Democrats were poised for a permanent majority. In 2016, Democrats have a pretty decent winning streak for the presidency, but since about 1980, except for two election cycles, Republicans, who have been radicalized to the point of driving anyone but far right idiots out of the Party, have held enough of the government to prevent progress. Your rhetoric also handed Congress and most state houses back to the GOP and it gave us two terms of George W. Bush.
The current GOP should be dead. By all rights, they are dead. Yet, the PUBs and professional lefties in Club Progressive” keeps them alive, but assisting Republicans with their main goal, which is to drive down turnout for everyone but hardcore right wingers.
I know you are enamored by your sense of “activism.” You love to march and sign petitions and tilt at windmills. You hate it when anyone says that you can’t achieve your ideals and yet, if we’re being honest, you undermine yourself more than anyone else undermines you. You are so in love with terms like “grassroots” and “building a coalition,” but your actual actions make those impossible. How can anyone take “Club Progressive” seriously when they do something like “Occupy Wall Street” and refuse to allow it to be “political,” meaning no one could endorse a candidate or a party? What’s the point, if you’re not going to try to mold the democracy to your way of thinking?
I mean, you claim you’re populists, but you seem to have no clue what that term means. You can’t be a populist and not understand what motivates people. “Club Progressive” members, who are overwhelmingly white and relatively wealthy, still consider themselves the “Democratic base,” but they haven’t been for decades. They began to surrender that status when they tricked the party into accepting George McGovern as a nominee and then proceeded to largely abandon him in the general election, but they outright lost that status to People of Color and women over time. Look at the Democrats they worked against over the years, just for President: Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Gore and Kerry. And in 2010, with Democrats in the House passing 375 bills that the Republican minority blocked, these “political geniuses” targeted Blue Dogs, giving Republicans effective control of Congress. And to certify their stupidity, they repeated that in 2012 and 2014. Does that sound like “political genius to you? Where is the supposed populism. There was nothing to gain by attacking Blue Dogs and yet, these same people still brag on their “purging” of “ConservaDems.”
Every single Blue Dog who lost was beaten by a teabagger; how progressive do you imagine that is? No, these white, whiny faux “progressives” are in no way the Democratic base; that is just a delusion borne of their white privilege. They rarely show up to vote, and when they do, they vote for whoever says what they have taught themselves to believe, even though they have no chance of winning. And to make matters worse, they actually use that to demonstrate how “smart” they are. Put it this way; if you believe that Democrats have to play to YOU to earn YOUR vote, you are not anyone’s “base.” Take pride in that, if you wish, but stop telling us what a great “Democrat” you are. Really great Democrats don’t whine about Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, they don’t whine because some Blue Dog candidates have to play to a majority in a state that doesn’t like Obama and they support every Democrat, unless they’re extreme right wing or insane.
Like it or not, progressives need to sell candidates and positions, which is easy, if you can manage to take a deep breath and think about it a little. For example, on health care, you have to understand how the average person deals with it before you try to sell them on improvements. No, most people are not really against Obamacare, regardless of what the polls say. The polls don’t ask the right people the right questions. The reality is, the vast majority of those with insurance get it from their employer and have little or no idea how much it cost or what was covered before the ACA. Most people never use their insurance, so they don’t realize that their previous insurance had a high likelihood of denial, whereas the current insurance setup makes denials almost impossible.
Progressives, including the “Club Progressive” crowd, need to employ a massive education program, to make people realize the facts about the ACA. They should know that the reason so many people are still not covered is because a number of Republican-led states have refused federal money to expand Medicaid and to embrace the ACA fully. That is what people should know in order to vote on this issue rationally. Instead, the loudest portion of the progressive movement is always on and on about irrelevancies like “private insurance companies” and “single payer.”
Let me explain why both arguments are ineffective. Like I said, most people (thankfully) don’t use their insurance and they don’t read the paperwork on their policy thoroughly because, well, they have a lot to deal with and they trust their employer. Most employers cover 75-100 percent of the cost of the insurance, so the employee rarely knows or pays attention to the cost, except for their bite. That means they don’t know how much they paid before, so there is no comparison to be made with what they pay now. As for the company, they may have had the same insurance company for 10-20 years and saw no reason to change when the ACA took effect, so they can’t visualize the changes to a great extent.
The constant screaming about “private insurance companies” and “single payer” doesn’t resonate with most people. Why would it? Their insurance company has always been private, they’ve never had to use it for anything but office visits and maybe prescriptions, and they don’t know how much they used to paym even if they know how much they pay now. I worked for large law firms for ten years and I never paid a dime for my premium and I had no idea how much they were paying until they changed a few things and added the costs to my W-2 and listed it on my pay stub.
Education is the key to everything. And the “Club Progressive” crowd, consisting of mostly white PUBs and professional lefties, are too busy yelling at people to actually bother to teach them anything. The key to sales – any kind of sales – is to make people envision themselves with what you’re trying to sell them. You don’t do that by screaming “single-payer” at them and calling them stupid if they disagree with you.
All of their screaming about “income inequality” is, likewise, falling on deaf ears for a very simple reason. I know this will come as a shock to many “Club Progressive” members, but while you’re enthralled with the concept of “income inequality,” the vast majority of Americans really don’t care about it.
Okay, start breathing again. I know you love the phrase and your beloved Bernie couldn’t discuss anything without using the phrase, but the vast majority of the American people really couldn’t care less about it. See, here’s the thing; there’s that whole “American Dream” we have all been sold. And trust me when I tell you, most people are not pissed off at Donald Trump’s or Bill Gates’ wealth; they want to be just like them someday. Here’s a dose of reality; take one dose now and remind yourself of this several times a day, as needed. As long as your parents and grandparents were making enough money to live on comfortably, they gave absolutely no thought to the Rockefellers or the Carnegies. No one faulted Henry Ford for being one of the richest men in the world because he, the Dodge Brothers and all of the other car makers of the day shared the wealth. That’s the key. What pissed people off about Romney wasn’t his railing about the “47 percent.” That pissed off liberals, but most people really didn’t pay much attention to it. He lost because he wasn’t Barack Obama and because he tacked so far to the right in the primaries that he couldn’t abandon that when he ran in the General.
The keys to progressive success:
Talking to people, not at them.
Telling the truth about Democrats, especially that they are NOTHING like the current GOP.
Understanding that, in a democracy, getting the most votes is key, which means selling.
That’s how you sell progressive politics to people. And no matter how you feel about the thought of “selling” something, that’s what you have to do. I don’t care how self-righteous you think you are and how much “principle” you have convinced yourself you have, unless you’re selling the best of the viable choices, you’re not being progressive. You can call yourself that all you want, but I can bark and call myself a dog, too; that doesn’t make me one. Calling yourself “progressive” and actually being progressive are different concepts, and the latter is a million times more important.
It’s time to open up Club Progressive to more people and get them on our side. It’s the progressive thing to do.