Liberal ADD. It’s a problem…
One reason I’ve been quiet the last few days is, I’m trying to develop some articles about promoting a liberal message and getting it out there in time for the election (Which, by the way, is still FIFTEEN MONTHS OFF, so relax a little!) and, in doing so, I was reminded of the biggest problem liberals and progressives face these days; our collective Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD. I say this not as a clinician, because I’m not that, of course, but as an observer of our political ineptitude over many years. It’s funny; we take such great pride in all of the accomplishments we’ve made over the years, but we seem to forget that every one of the accomplishments over the past 40 years or so has been the hard way.
Yes, we’ve made strides, but it’s been like pulling teeth; it’s required us to rely on the Supreme Court (Making Anthony Kennedy, quite literally, the most powerful human in the country) or some lower court to keep the country from sinking into the abyss.
About twice a year or so, I pore through old pieces I wrote over the years, and last night I came upon one about a protest march I went on about eight years ago, to protest our involvement in Iraq. One of the key people there was Cindy Sheehan. We all gathered in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, which actually epitomized our problem; of the parks on either side of the White House, Lafayette Park was the smallest, which meant that, either organizers didn’t expect a crowd, or they expected that the smaller park would make the crowd look bigger. Either way, that event pinpointed for me the problem with the left, and why we simply don’t appeal to most voters, despite the fact that, if you were to bother to listen to them, they pretty much agree with us on everything. Collectively, we may have to have the worst case of ADD in history.
The protest, which was held on September 15, 2007, had been heavily promoted for a few weeks, and it was very clearly supposed to be a protest against the already long, drawn out, poorly planned and overly expensive Iraq “War.” I put that in quotes because one of the problems our ADD causes is that we allow other people (right wingers) control the debate and define terms, when we should be doing that.
In reality, what happened in Iraq was not a “war.” It was a poorly attempted “colonization” to take their oil. It was an “occupation,” not a “war. It’s like calling the fetally-obsessed anti-choice movement “pro-life.” It’s clear they couldn’t give less of a shit about life once a child can breathe air. They take food from children, they vote against school lunches, cut education funding to the point that our children enter their working life with mounting debt and they continue to keep trying to take health insurance from millions. That’s not “pro-life.” For that matter, most Republican idiots also are not “conservative.” Yes, that word has a definition, and the right wing doesn’t fit it, even slightly. We have to stop allowing others to frame the debate.
Okay, let’s shake my ADD and get back to the protest and why it demonstrated liberal ADD…
It was an interesting atmosphere; a lot of people massed in Lafayette Park. It was just about noon and the day was gorgeous. It was fairly well attended; it was highly publicized, with fliers hat had been passed out and posted in windows around DC all week identifying it as a protest of the Iraq “War.” However, the ADD had kicked in big time; while the fliers said one thing, the incredible lack of focus was unavoidable. Though this was a protest of the war, a passerby would have been very confused, because a whole bunch of lefty groups had taken the occasion of the gathered crowd to hawk their own cause. As I wrote at the time, here is a partial list of the causes represented at the protest, and therefore, taking away from the alleged focus of the protest:
- Bush’s shabby treatment of veterans and their families. (no problem, that fits)
- The Democrats’ failure to stop war funding. (It fit the theme, but Democrats were in the minority in Congress, so… you know…)
- Racism (this war is very racist, so okay, that fits)
- Cuban terrorists being allowed to enter the United States.
- A call for an end to Israeli Zionism, and for a Palestinian homeland.
- A call for an end to gun violence in the United States.
- Economic Justice for the poor in the United States.
By the way, that was just a list of the people who spoke on the stage. Ostensibly, these are the people the organizers of the Iraq War march decided to talk about. I don’t disagree with any of the above; it’s all important, but the whole idea is to attract the attention of people for a cause, and if they don’t know what that cause is, and we can’t focus enough to create a single message, how do we ever expect to become more successful, politically. Okay, forget more; how do we expect to become successful, politically? We’ve been flailing for 40 years or more, and one reason is, we lack focus.
That was just the list of causes that was on stage. Milling through the crowd, and carving out their own little section of the park were people excitedly advocating for the Socialist Party of the United States, who were recruiting hard and never once mentioned Iraq. The folks from PETA were passionately trying to convert people to veganism, and the only person they attracted that I saw was a guy who obviously thought one of the PETA vegans was cute because he couldn’t stop staring at… well, let’s just say, he wasn’t planning to give up dairy anytime soon.
There was another group advocating for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and another that was trying to teach people about global warming as if no one had ever heard of it. There was even a Libertarian Ron Paul contingent because he was anti-war, although they didn’t mention that. And of course, it was DC, so there were the obligatory and cult-like Lyndon LaRouche supporters, who show up everywhere and never seem discouraged by the fact that there are probably 3,000 of them in the entire country.
One reason the right wing has been in a position to block progress for the last generation or so is because they’re disciplined. Their followers are mud dumb, but they know what they have to do, and their leadership is incredibly disciplined and capable of focusing like a laser on those issues that its “base” finds important. I’m not saying we go that far at all. I’m not talking about marching in lockstep on every issue. However, at some point, we have to focus on something. Our goal in every protest march or blog article should be to teach people what we believe, which is impossible to do if our views bounce off the walls like a box of superballs.
The problem is, for all of our talk about caring about people, far left liberals these days are far too egocentric, and that’s poison to a movement like ours. We shouldn’t be holding protests and writing blog articles to please ourselves and to make ourselves feel smart; we have to change hearts and minds, and we have to get people to vote en masse again.
Our ADD make the people we need to reach confused. By focusing on one very broad topic at a time, we can hone a cogent political message, become less confusing, and teach more people that we have the answers. More importantly, they’ll know that, even if we don’t have the answers, we care enough to find them.
Do that, and before you know it, we’ll be living in a progressive country again.