The Unlikable Left

Continuing my rant… Part Four. (I wish I knew how many parts there will be, but there’s a lot to cover.)

There are two overarching problems that largely prevent progressives from leading progress in this country.

One is, we don’t actually articulate a progressive message that most Americans can relate to.

The other is, most people don’t really like us very much. In fact, too many people think we’re dipshits to ever create a functioning progressive majority.

Let’s talk about the second one in this column. I’ll get to the other in the next column.

I want you to imagine, if you will, that a highly qualified and honored woman is running for president. This is a woman who has been voted “Most admired woman” in both the United States and the world multiple times and who has an unparalleled resume, to boot. Now, imagine that she wins the Democratic nomination for president, but the man she beat orders her around and demands that everything he talked about during his losing campaign be part of her Democratic platform? Better yet, imagine if the (mostly male) fervent followers of this losing candidate were all over social media and elsewhere trashing this “most admired woman” and trashing the democratic process that chose her over him.

Wait! You don’t have to imagine it. That’s exactly what’s happening. Hillary Clinton, who was a progressive darling when she was running for the Senate in 2000, is suddenly in the way of their male presidential candidate and preventing him from essentially stealing the nomination for them. For Crissakes, people; the only thing we haven’t heard from the Bernie Stans is “Go to the kitchen and make Bernie a pot pie, Hillary!” I suppose there is a limit to their sexism. I mean, imagine how you would react if a woman you knew was being blamed for her husband’s affair, or charged with a crime her husband committed. Yeah, it’s that appalling.

The thing is, while their fealty to the “cult of Bernie” is probably the worst and most obvious example of them adopting right wing-style tactics, it’s actually quite a longstanding and persistent problem. The loudest and most visible segment of the progressive movement is almost completely unlikable. And the problem with that is – as should be obvious to everyone – that we live in a democratic system and need the most votes if we want to make actual progress.

Just yesterday, I asked a question on Twitter that should be simple to answer, at least for anyone with a functioning brain. I asked, “Who is more progressive? Someone who works for concensus and gets 55% of what we want or someone who demands 100% and consistently gets 0%? If we’re being honest, the only thing that matters is the result of your actions, not the actions themselves. Well, some “progressive” twit chimed in and declared that “people like that” are “settlers” because they settle for less and don’t believe we can have everything. Now, I understand idealism, I really do. I’m at heart a rank idealist myself. However, labeling someone, ignoring a simple point and dismissing them is why we can’t have nice things.

It’s why people don’t like liberals. The loudest of us have a tendency to refer to anyone who doesn’t have the exact same position as they do as “stupid” and to dismiss them outright, without even listening to what they have to say. They have a strong belief that everyone you disagree has to become “the enemy” and that you have to dismiss them, or you are “condoning” what they believe in. If you look at the records of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders objectively, you will find that the differences are almost minuscule. However, because people like this believe that “passion” means trashing your enemy, Hillary was the subject of a right-wing-style barrage of insults and declarations that couldn’t possibly be supported by facts.

We see this in election after election, since the early 1970s. I blame this style of progressives for nearly 40 years of Republicans having outsized influence in the government. In 1976, Jimmy Carter, arguably the most outwardly liberal president in history, was attacked by the far left, and he barely won against Gerald Ford. Then, in 1980, they latched onto Ted Kennedy, who couldn’t even articulate why he was running, and they went off in a snit and refused to support Carter against Ronald Reagan, of all people. Same with Mondale and Dukakis. And don’t get me started with Gore and Kerry in 2000 and 2004.

Our biggest problem isn’t that Republicans win. It’s that Democrats lose. And they largely lose because of low turnout. And the low turnout is because a lot of people who are making the choice about whether to vote or not see two distinct sides both telling them Democrats suck. Not only that, but look at the way they talk about people who don’t vote. I see this kind of thing damn near every day, when some self-righteous PUB or professional lefty calls out people who are “too lazy to vote.” These are often the same people who constantly lament attempts to suppress voting or to disenfranchise people. TOO LAZY?

You want to know why people don’t like liberals? There you go. Imagine you’re a poor single mother of two young kids who is working two jobs just to scrape by. Imagine you don’t have a car, so you rely on the bus to get everywhere, and it takes three buses to get from your second job to the polls. Not only that, but imagine you have to take three hours off to vote, and losing that pay means you’re short of child care for that week. And that liberal asshole, who claims in one breath that he wants you to have a better life and wants to solve your income problem, then refers to you as LAZY? What’s to like? Liberals like me are always calling out Republicans for the way they treat the poor, but really, how do you think we look when we call poor people lazy because they can’t manage to find the time to vote?

And it’s not just that. Imagine someone is trying to decide whether or not to vote. They hear insane shit coming from the right side of the aisle, of course. Who doesn’t? So they don’t want to vote for Republicans because they have good sense. So, with the far left side constantly attacking Democrats, where is their incentive to show up at the polls and vote for anyone? I mean, if you know one side is batshit crazy but other people who pay attention tell you that the other side is just as batshit crazy, who the hell are they supposed to vote for?

If the progressive movement is ever going to make any actual progress, we have to win elections. It’s really that simple. But to do that, we have to become popular enough to win and win consistently. We don’t accomplish anything by being completely unlikable, which means it’s time for reasonable progressives to drown out the PUBs and pro lefties who are preventing our success. No one likes a know-it-all. No one likes the self-righteous. No one likes someone who thinks their brand of “principle” is the only one that matters. No one likes those who think anyone who thinks differently is “stupid.”

No one like us, and for good reason.

Tomorrow, I’ll expand upon this and talk about progressive messaging, which is non-existent right now.


The Unlikable Left — 1 Comment

  1. Gday. I’m from Australia. How’s things?

    Here’s the thing, me old mate. These crazy far-left ideas that you dismiss as pixie dust are bog-standard orthodoxy just about everywhere else besides the US. Single payer healthcare, for example, is accepted as normative by not just the Labour Party in the UK, but by the Conservative Party as well.

    In perfectly objective terms, that means that Barack Obama (who has maintained all along that he does not believe in the merits of single payer healthcare) is to the right of the UK Conservative Party. Call that a racist conceit if you like (and I have no doubt that you will, it seems to be your stock response to everything) but it makes it not a jot less true.

    But what’s that, I hear? You actually support single payer healthcare, but just don’t think its possible so you don’t waste your time on it? Well good for you! Wherever would the working classes be without your support?

    Try and digest this analogy, if you may. Many voters in the 2008 Democratic primary claimed to support Obama but declined to vote for him, fearing that the country was not ready to elect a black President.

    Were those voters racist? Arguably not. But they may as well be. A person who acquiesces to racism may as well be a racist.

    By the same token, people who claim to nominally support healthcare reform but who refrain from actively endorsing it might not actually be upper-middle-class, pearl-clutching, avaricious, self-righteous, greedy money-grubbing fuckers.

    But they might as well be.

    Toodle pip.