Why We Lose

Unlike many other white liberals, like the unicorn progressive types, I am prone to ask the question, why do we fail so often?

I mean, it doesn’t make sense, does it? We know somewhat instinctively, that most voters are, or should be on our side, politically. We want everyone to have a great life. We want them to have clear air to breathe and clean water to drink. We want people to get healthcare when they get sick or injured and we don’t want to force them into bankruptcy court if some guy who walks by on the street coughs on them and makes them sick. What we know instinctively we are for is exactly what the average American wants to see happen. Like us, most Americans want children to have a better education. They want the workplace to be more egalitarian. They want the markets to be open and free and they want everyone to have the opportunity to do something great for themselves and their families. We all want every family that works to be paid fairly, at a wage that allows them to live without stressing over such things as how they’ll pay for food or a place to live.

And yet, we lose most of the time. How could anyone be against us? Unfortunately, the answer is too simple. There are two viable political parties in this country and the loudest and most visible component of the progressive movement – led by white liberals – is always facing off against the wrong one. The Democratic Party is the only entity capable of bringing progressive values to government. Yet, those who claim to speak for us spend all their time trashing Democrats and insinuating that both major parties are the same.

The same? If you look at every major progressive achievement in the last 130 years or so, and they have all been put forth and turned into reality by Democrats. Though the professional left likes to whine that the Democratic Party is “no longer the party of the people,” the actual record shows just the opposite. Look over the generalized Democratic platform for 2018 (Source) and compare it to the usual Republican “God, Guns, Gays and Abortion” platform they’ve perpetuated for years and it’s clear why we lose elections. Between the two parties, only the Democrats subscribe to most of the above, and yet, they have only controlled the government for two two-year periods since 1980. How is that possible? Why isn’t the progressive message catching on? 

It’s because there is no progressive message. We actually believe that mentioned above, but we really don’t talk about it. The liberal blogs; most of the time, they are engaged in expressing their disgust over the Outrage of the Day™; right now, all we’re hearing is Kavanaugh and women’s rights, when that isn’t what most voters are concerned about at all. Most voters are against Kavanaugh, but it’s because he’s a childish dick. The professional left and unicorn progressives in general don’t care about that, however; they only care about abortion rights. Those are important, of course, but more important is our loss of standards and the possibility that Kavanaugh could prevent any sort of Trump accountability for bringing our democracy to the brink of oblivion. 

Unicorn progressives, who are virtually all white liberals with means require everyone to show outrage over the Outrage of the Day™, or they are not a Real Progressive™. If any liberal or progressive demonstrates indifference at the Outrage of the Day™ or suggests that the blogs perpetuating said Outrage of the Day™, they are branded Centrists™ and banished from progressive-land forever.  As if the 5-10% of the population who qualify as a Real Progressive™constitute enough votes to push progressive programs forward. We focus on a version of issues that have no basis in reality and dismiss everything else.

In what way is the far left not just like the far right again? 

We also have to have more to sell than not being right wing. What kind of message do we really send when someone on the right says something profoundly stupid, and we react to it and focus on that message? I’m not saying you don’t mention it, but unless you mention it within the context of the Republicans’ overarching ideology, mentioning it only amplifies it. And unless we spend a sufficient amount of time propagating a progressive alternative message, we’re wasting our time even mentioning it. When someone says something stupid, “no, it’s not” is not a cogent message that people can hang their hopes on.

It’s important and necessary to remember the concept, nature abhors a vacuum. When there is an informational vacuum, especially one created by Republicans for their own nefarious purposes, we should be the ones to fill it, not the GOP Media Machine. In order to do that, however, we have to understand something very basic…

Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Sara Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and any of 1,000 other people I could name (and bore you to tears) are not the problem. They are symptoms of a much larger ideological construct that has to change if we are ever to make political progress and create a progressive country.  When are we going to get this, my fellow liberals? How many of these people do we have to get rid of before you realize that getting rid of a series of individual right wingers doesn’t actually fix anything? Remember Newt Gingrich, Jerry Falwell, Dick Armey, Trent Lott, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Tom Delay and countless others like them? How about Dennis Hastert, who raped young boys and had his Republican colleagues cover it up for years. When we only get rid of bad apples and replace them with more bad apples, especially when the new bad apples are worse than the old ones, we have gained exactly dick. Know how did got the Tea Party? Because white liberals attacked Blue Dogs for not being “progressive enough” and purged them. Teabaggers filled the vacancies. Was that somehow progressive? Over two elections, 2010 and 2014, we purged about 45 Democrats from Congress, solely because a few far left white liberals targeted them for not being “progressive enough.” There was no consideration of the makeup of their districts and states, and the purge essentially replaced Democrats who voted with their own party 70+ percent of the time with teabaggers, whose entire ideology is about “owning libs” and voting against Democrats. I’m sorry, but how is that progressive? 

We have to change what’s acceptable for everyone to say and do, and we do that by changing hearts and minds. Ironically, we’re doing exactly that with the concept of gay rights and marriage equality. The rules of debate have changed on that subject because we are making people see that they already know gay people, and that the law is unfair to people they know and love. It’s no longer acceptable to be anti-gay, precisely because we changed the parameters of the debate. It’s also now happening with the #metoo movement. 

We need to change the debate on energy to “where’s the downside to switching to solar and wind power and electric cars?” instead of constantly screaming about massive budget cuts on social programs every goddamn day, why don’t we tolerate the Blue Dogs of this world and work to change the debate to something we can win, like, “Why should people be working 60-80 hours a week and making too little to pay the bills?” or “Why are any working people on welfare?” Instead of constantly getting into it with morons who want to kill Obamacare, transform the debate to “Why should anyone lose everything they’ve worked for all their lives because someone at the supermarket sneezed on them and got them sick?”

Again, the overall question that should infuse everything we discuss (and I mean discuss, not scream about) is,

What do we want our country to be?

Stop obsessing over individual politicians, events and issues, and spend more time trying to change the mindset of the American people. And the only way to do that is to present an alternative that is more acceptable and to let that fill the vacuum. The problem isn’t Donald Trump; the problem is what Donald Trump and the GOP Congress that’s enabling him stand for. The problem isn’t right-wingers, it’s the right wing’s basic philosophy, which is morally and ethically bankrupt. They have far too much influence on the electorate. They get to make policy and laws, and we cede ground to them by focusing too much on whatever gets other liberals outraged enough to click on an article. What we need to oppose isn’t them, but what they represent. It does absolutely no good at all to obsess over Caribou Barbie (Sarah Palin) and her Facebook page, unless we are also promoting our own agenda and message and going after why what she says is bad news.

Changing hearts and minds is very doable. Beginning with the 1932 elections and going for nearly a half-century, we did exactly that, by working with Democrats and not against them. During that period of time, we changed this country for the better. Then, suddenly, beginning with the 1972 election, progressives seemed to forget everything we once knew and we started focusing on individual people and issues, and the country has suffered as a result. And since 1980, when we allowed Ronald Reagan to be elected, look at what’s happened to us. We have descended into the Hellmouth and it will be a long climb out. But our future depends on us making it. 

About Milt Shook

A writer with more than 45 years in the political game (and let's face it, it is a game). I am a liberal because facts have a liberal bias, and I really like facts. If you like facts, you'll like this blog. If not, you'll have a hard time.

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