First off, I don’t know if Albert Einstein said this, but he is often credited with defining insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It’s very true, so who really cares who originated it? And the loudest voices in the progressive movement proves this almost every day.
One quote that has been attributed to Einstein is, “A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.” It’s sad that this is something that applies to the professional left and unicorn progressives in general, as well.
I know unicorn lefties don’t notice this, but, as a movement, progressives have been pretty moved in neutral for a generation. We have been on the outside looking in, politically speaking, for far too long, primarily because we keep doing the same things over and over. The unicorn faction, which is the loudest part of the progressive movement, if also the smallest, don’t seem to see winning s important. We know this because they seem to think they keep saying things that are untrue and irrelevant. , For nearly 50 years now, this group of lefties has abandoned both the Democratic Party and 90 percent of liberals, even as they whine constantly that the Democratic Party was moving “too far to the right.”
Gosh; why would anyone not expect a political party to move right when a huge contingent of liberals moved out of the party? Of course, Democrats didn’t really move right. The same time the unicorn left left the Democratic Party, so did Southern Democrats, virtually all of whom are reliably Republican these days. In other words, the claim that the “Democratic Party has moved to the right” is only true if time stopped in 1980. It didn’t. The version of “progressive” that unicorn and pro lefties espouse has never been an integral part of the Democratic Party. All of this crap about Bernie being an “FDR Democrat” is just so much bunk because FDR wasn’t even an “FDR Democrat” by the Bernie Stans’ definition.
If progressives would like to be taken seriously,, all progressives have to understand some basic truths and incorporate them into the movement. If we don’t understand and acknowledge these basic truths, neocons will continue to dominate the debate, we will keep moving backward as a movement, and the country will regret it.
Truth – In a winner-take-all electoral system, two viable major political parties is a rarity and should be treasured. Three is a fantasy.
You can’t name a democracy that has three functional and viable political parties at any given time. And yes, that includes the vaunted “parliamentary” systems, which unicorn progressives maintain have dozens of parties. Look at what happened in the UK a couple weeks ago. In order for either party to actually take power, it will have to work with a minority party. If you want to get technical, we have 134 political parties in this country. Yet, either a Democrat or a Republican will win every time.
It’s not a conspiracy. The “system” isn’t “rigged.” It’s called math. In a democracy, only those with a majority get to make policy and each member of that majority has to receive the most votes. The most votes is a pretty important concept. Three candidates is how Minnesota had to deal with Jesse Ventura for four years. Three candidates is how Maine became stuck with Paul LePage twice. If you think I’m wrong, show me a democratic system in which there are three or more viable parties. What happens when you have more than one is that you end up with a one=party system. And no one wants that.
Truth– Political parties will never try to “attract your vote” by appealing to you. Unless you’re the base. And you’re not.
I know you’ve heard it. “Well, if ‘the Democrats’ want my vote, they’ll have to (insert desired action here). If they don’t (insert desired action here), I’ll vote for (insert the name of some obscure candidate who can say anything he wants because he knows he won’t win here).”
Sorry, but it’s only a threat if you have a majority backing you. And unicorn progressives don’t have a majority of any group. Shit; look at the way they trash “centraists, as if they’ve committed a crime. Besides, to be considered a threat, it would have to come from a group of dependable voters and far left progressives rarely vote for Democrats, anyway. Worse, they don’t even support them. White liberals chasing unicorns gave up their role as the Democratic base about 50 years ago.
If you’re not even registered as a Democrat, and you don’t loyally vote Democratic, you are, by definition, NOT part of the Democratic “base.” If you voted for Nader once or you routinely hold out your vote as a cookie to “entice” Democrats to do what you want, you’re not the “base.” Get this straight; the vast majority of actual progressives are part of the Democratic base, such as people of color, minorities, feminists, LGBT activists, and union members. Unfortunately, the pundits and bloggers and others on the professional left and the unicorn progressives who complain the loudest about Democrats “abandoning their base” are white and think they know everything. What they don’t know is, though… Democrats don’t win or lose because of your votes, only your rhetoric.
Truth – Not all progressives think like unicorn progressives, and their ideas are not the only ones that work.
One of the best things about being a progressive is the diversity of opinion on our side. Right wingers think in lockstep because they can’t tolerate diversity of opinion and they need validation. On the other hand, the vast.majority of progressives can disagree without the disagreement itself becoming a major issue. Demanding that everyone in a group think the same way is a sure sign of weak minds. Unfortunately, an obnoxious number of (white) progressives are far too quick to negatively label those who disagree with them. They don’t listen to differing viewpoints and they are dismissive of opinions that don’t conform with theirs, exactly.
I am constantly attacked by self-described “progressives” because I care more about getting the country where it needs to be than obsessing over how we get there. It’s frustrating. The progressives with the strongest and loudest opinions have become the greatest obstacles to progress. While they tend to blame the right for everything, they should look in the mirror.
Truth #5 – Fighting is overrated. Most voters want discussion and action.
You’ve heard these a lot over time:
“Why doesn’t Obama fight?” and
“Why don’t ‘the Democrats’ have a spine?”
Let me disabuse unicorn progressives of something. Republicans love a fight and they thrive on the red meat thrown at them on a regular basis. But most voters don’t want to see a fight. They hope to elect politicians to get things done; they don’t want to witness temper tantrums and call names. The main Republican strategy is discourage voters from showing up at the polls and the fighting and scrapping is a sure way to do that. When far lefties talk about “fighting” and being just like the right, it’s because they believe that being negative is what wins Republicans elections. However, the only way the minority Republicans can win elections is by making sure their base turns out, while they depress turnout for everyone else.
Truths – We can’t get progressive policies in place without winning elections. and we can’t have a progressive country until we create a progressive mindset.
We live in a democracy. While white unicorn progressives believe that being popular is the same as “selling out,” the fact is, only those who get elected get to make law and policy. That means we have to appeal to a majority and adjust our message to appeal to a broader audience. That means speaking to people in a language that they understand. In short, we must speak to people, not yell at them. We have to teach them why what we believe is actually the best. It’s not enough to teach them Republicans suck. Most know that going in.
There’s a knowledge vacuum, and we don’t fill it with anything. When right wingers say “climate change is a hoax, it’s not enough to say, “no it isn’t.” That won’t get people to ditch their gas guzzlers for a hybrid and put solar panels on their roof. When right wingers say “illegal aliens are taking our jobs,” it’s not enough to simply deny it. We have to offer positive alternate visions of how we can fix these problems. Stop talking to Republicans, and speak to the American people. And, of course, our side must stop calling people stupid when they don’t do what we think they should do.
If we want to get elected and have influence over policy, people have to like us. Voters don’t want us to reiterate all of their problems. They know what they are. Instead, they want solutions. Liberals have a reputation as being anti-everything, and the vast majority of voters want to vote FOR something. To win, progressives have to give them more hope, and stress competence over our petulant positions on issues.
Truth – Proclamations of “voting your conscience” are both meaningless and insulting.
Voting for a third party, or voting for anyone who has no chance of winning election is a waste of a vote. To believe otherwise is irrational. Again, only those who win get to make policy. And when you proclaim that you “voted your conscience,” you need to understand how arrogant you sound and how insulting you sound to others. Most people “vote their conscience,” and that includes right wingers. Anti-choicers are “voting their conscience” just as much as any progressive when they vote. And anti-gay marriage folks are also “voting their conscience,” as they see it, as do those who want to continue and expand the drug war.
Telling people you “voted your conscience” is meaningless, but it also indicates a level of narcissism that makes us look like the Republican Party. When voters hate Republicans, but we act like them, they stay home. that is another reason many people don’t like liberals. What is best for you is not necessarily best for the country. As progressives, we want to see the country move forward, but that isn’t happening when you vote for candidates who can’t possibly win. As a progressive, my conscience pushes me to move the country in a progressive direction – for everyone. Call me crazy, but that precludes me from voting for anyone with no chance of winning. My conscience tells me my vote is better used to support the viable candidate with the best chance of being part of a majority that is most likely to pass legislation and promote policy that helps the most people. Sometimes, that means voting for someone I don’t like. That’s just how it goes. No one said democracy was easy. There is never a smorgasbord of available candidates. You get the two chosen by the democratic process, which will always be a Democrat and a Republican.
Truth – “the Democrats” and progressives and liberals are all on the same side.
We didn’t lose in 2010 and 2014 because voters are “stupid.” We lost because we spent our time complaining because Barack Obama and “the Democrats” didn’t perform miracles. Unicorn progressives have spend eight years whining about “the Democrats” being spineless and not doing everything they wanted and they did so despite the fact that everyone should have known that it would take more than two years to undo eight years of Bush. In reality, 375 bills were passed by “the Democrats” in the House, and kept from being held up for a vote by either 40 or 41 Republicans in the Senate. Yet, the unicorn progressives have denigrated “the Democrats” for eight years.
There’s no such thing as “the Democrats.” Democrats represent all sorts of districts throughout this country, and Democrats in rural Kentucky have different priorities than those in Boston or New York. If you were “happy” when “Blue Dogs” lost, you misunderstand how politics works. At this point in time, it’s impossible to win a progressive majority in Congress and most state houses, which means we have to settle for Democratic majorities containing as may progressives as possible. It is not a good thing when a Blue Dog loses. In fact, it’s a very bad thing. Every Blue Dog the pro let purged lost to a Tea Party member. That’s not progressive. You can’t spin that into anything progressive. That is regressive.
At some point way in the future we may end up with a progressive majority, but not until we change the mindset of the country, so that progressive politics feels natural. For now, we have to deal with what we have, not what we wish we had. That means supporting Democrats, and making sure they always have a majority, at least for a while.
Also published on Medium.