One of the biggest problems with the progressive movement is that a great many voters don’t like us very much. Now, for some of the unicorn types and the professional left, who see “popularity” as a synonym for “selling out,” being unliked is seen as a badge of honor. However, for those of us with a working cerebellum, that fact should make us sad. I mean, we are LIBERALS. We are the ones who supposedly care about people. We are the ones who supposedly want everyone to be treated well and have the right to healthcare, clean water and air and a living wage. Who is against all of that, if they’re being honest?
Unfortunately, caring about people and feeling strongly about an issue doesn’t transform us into political successes. If that’s not obvious after watching neocons dominate our political discourse for nearly 40 years, then turn in your “political junkie” membership card.
You will find the following statement on my Twitter Feed hundreds of times:
“Issues can be personal, but politics cannot be personal.”
And every time I make that statement, I get pummeled, primarily by reactionary unicorn progressives who, well, react to everything without thinking about it first. That statement should be non-controversial. It’s common sense. However, some liberals are so emotional, they need to be reminded of that once in a while.
That statement is absolutely true. It’s called “Political Science” for a reason. Politics is not about issues, it’s about devising a cold calculating strategy for Getting things done. There is politics in every aspect of life. You may not like the new boss, but if you need the job, you have to consider strategies for dealing with him, and those co-workers who may be just like him. That’s politics. I once worked for a guy who was a hard core right winger who . He baited me fairly regularly, and one day, I calculated that it was a crappy job, anyway, so I said (and this is a direct quote), “You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
That was bad politics, if I wanted to keep that shitty, low-paying job. However, I didn’t, so it was a way to get him to get rid of me so I could collect unemployment for a few weeks. I didn’t, because I got another, better, job a few days after, but I calculated just what my response would cost me and I acted in it. That is politics. It wasn’t me telling him what I did, it was the calculation that I could afford to do so. This is the problem we progressives have far too often. We spend so much time “refuting” the right wing, we don’t have the time make our own case. Do we want to feel good, or do we want to get the most people behind us and win elections? Too often, when I talk to liberals about politics, I get a ridiculous response like, “My conscience is clear; I voted for Bernie (or Stein),” or something equally nonsensical.
I understand that people get emotional about issues, and I understand the racist, misogynist and homophobic history of this country. But that’s not “politics,” that’s society. Politics is about strategizing to put in place the right people in government to make sure the right policies are enacted. Politics is not about righting all of society’s wrongs, it’s about making your case to people to get them on your side, doing what you need them to do.
Liberals have to play better politics, but unfortunately, some “progressives” have to learn what politics actually is first. The way to do that is to ask yourself if what you’re doing, politically speaking, will lead to better government. That’s the politics.
Do you want to know why Republicans are taking such hard stances against us on so many issues? It’s because it’s politically expedient to do so. Do you really think Paul Ryan and the Republicans want to kill Medicare? Of course they don’t. Do you really think the GOP wants to ban contraceptives altogether? Do you think they really hate blacks, Latinos, women and gays? Of course not. It’s obvious they don’t really care about the deficit or the debt, as evidenced by the fact that they don’t seem to know the difference between them. if they cared about the above, they would be attacking them mercilessly. Instead, they keep proposing bills that are destined for failure. Why is that?
It’s a political calculation. They push their agenda rhetorically because they’re trying to do two things. Actually, one thing, but there are two components.
One; they strive to energize their looney tunes base, which is what they have to do. If they don’t get at least 90% of the right wing nut jobs out to vote, they have no chance of winning anything in most places. But Even if they succeed there, they also have to drive down turnout In the rest of the electorate to even have a chance. If turnout is high, they literally cannot win. If turnout is 60 percent in presidential years and 50 percent in midterms, Republicans, quite literally, cannot win. Forget gerrymandering and voter suppression; if we just get more people to show up, we would have a progressive government.
And let’s be clear about something here; every time you respond to a right wing smear, you help with both of those things. There is nothing a right winger loves more than pissing off a liberal. If you act pissed off, they get wood. They love their Republican politicians even more. At the same time, most centrist/moderate voters already hate the right wing, but when we act the way they do, it makes them more likely to see their vote as pointless, which keeps them home. This country is NOT “polarized,” it’s depressed because the loudest voices on the fringes on both sides are bitching at each other and not solving their problems.
Do you have any idea how many political points Republicans score every time they simply drive liberals crazy? The rank-and-file wingnuts LOVE to watch us pissed off. They feed on it. They’re like the Blob; the negative energy from us emboldens them and makes them stronger, politically. But more than that, all of our “War on Women,” “War on Gays,” “Climate Wars” and other silly rhetoric helps them in their main goal, which is to depress turnout in November.
It’s important important to understand is that those who actually decide elections are IN THE CENTER of the electorate. If you want to know why your adoration of Bernie Sanders doesn’t translate to support from the center, it’s because Bernie is always playing to HIS base nd says nothing they can relate to. The people who decide elections don’t sit and stare at the television or computer all day. They listen to what their friends, family, co-workers and passers-by have to say about candidates. They’re not news junkies; their decision is about whether or not to vote and it is based on the overall meme. They don’t care about left/right; their biggest concern is competence, and a feeling that the candidate has the ability to solve problems, and is less likely to mess things up. They want to vote FOR something and failing that, they’ll stay home. Constantly complaining about every single thing that pisses us off doesn’t give voters something to vote for.
Again, politics is not personal, it’s about employing strategies to get the most people behind you. Politics in government is no different than politics in other aspects of life. If you want the government to address a specific issue, you have to make sure the right people get into office to make it happen. If you are advocating for universal health care, doing things that help Republicans win is the opposite of what you should be doing. And you should understand that screaming at everyone is not attracting others to your cause. And make no mistake; if you’re not attracting people to your cause, you’re not progressive. Being “progressive” can NOT be about having the “correct” stance on issues. The root is “progress, and you can’t make progress in government unless you win elections. Constantly harping on “single payer” doesn’t make you “progressive.” Actively working to protect the ACA and improve it until it become a universal health insurance system does make you progressive. Yes, that means the people who worked hard to pass the ACA, even though the GOP stripped the public option out of the bill makes them more progressive than the numbnuts who suggested killing the bill because it didn’t have a “public option.”
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advocate for the issues you care about. I feel passionately about a lot of issues and I work as hard as I can to make them happen. But I also realize that screaming at my Congressman or County Commissioner and calling them racist morons probably isn’t going to move my advocacy forward. Diplomats play politics, as well. Imagine how many wars they would start if diplomats used the same rhetoric with other countries that pro and unicorn “progressives” do in their daily arguments with right wingers.
By the way, if you continue to argue with right wingers, stop now. It’s a waste of time, and it’s killing the cause, politically. If you think you’ll get them to see things you’re way, you’re delusional. Also, it contributes to the “polarization” meme that results in low turnout. And Republicans love nothing better than low turnout. That’s how Trump won. it wasn’t because “so many” voted for him, it was because so many people stayed home.
Liberals simply have to play politics better.