Figures like Clinton and Obama are attacked by progressives and conservatives alike, but for entirely different reasons.
When 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset a ten-term incumbent congressman in Queens, New York in a set of Democratic primaries that saw self-proclaimed democratic socialists in the Bernie Sanders mold pick up seats across the country, The New York Times (which, true to its institutional establishmentarianism, didn’t bother to cover her campaign) predicted that her victory would “reverberate across the party and the country.”
That was June 26th.
Now the Times’ fellow elitist rag The Washington Post is reacting to another round of Democratic primaries. This time it Hillary Clinton-like centrist-corporatists did well. “Signs of a Tea-Party-like movement in the Democratic Party that would throw winnable races to far-left candidates appear to be fading,” concluded David Weigel on August 8th.
Has the political world changed that much in six weeks? Of course not.
As Donald Trump said about something else entirely: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
What we’re reading and what is really happening is a big wet dollop of the freakouts we see from American pundits incapable of placing current events within a historical context. After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution overthrew the czar in Russia, many Americans experienced “a mounting fear and anxiety that a Bolshevik revolution in America was imminent — a revolution that would change Church, home, marriage, civility, and the American way of Life,” Murray Levin remembers in his book “Political Hysteria in America.” After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Francis Fukuyama made bank selling his book “The End of History,” arguing that neither communism nor any other alternative to capitalism would ever be viable again. He said we had arrived at “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Both were alarmist and wrong: both capitalism and the communist ideal remain and will survive into the foreseeable future.
Then there’s my editor at Time magazine who, following 9/11, informed me that no one in America would ever be interested in humor or satire in any form ever again.
It’s OK to be shocked by big events. But things usually get back to normal.
For decades the normal within the Democratic Party has been a schism between left progressives (George McGovern, Howard Dean when he ran for president, Bernie Sanders) and centrist-corporatists (Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton). As I wrote in my essay for the Wall Street Journal, “Civil War in the Democratic Party”: “DNC-approved ‘mainstream’ presidential prospects have adopted left-leaning positions on a variety of issues. Yet the populist left doesn’t trust them, and for good reason. [Kamala] Harris was caught fundraising in the Hamptons; [Cory] Booker is too close to bankers; [Kirsten] Gillibrand may have vested too much in #MeToo; [Oprah] Winfrey is a billionaire arriviste. They’re all silent on the working class.”
The same dynamic is taking place in local races, where corporate Democratic candidates are adding some Bernie-like policy promises to their campaigns in order to attract the party’s leftist base. “The party’s establishment has embraced ideas like expanding the Affordable Care Act, shrinking the space between its leaders and its disrupters,” Weigel wrote. He quoted Washington Governor Jay Inslee: “Trump has been the great doctor, stitching up our scars and healing us organically.”
I doubt it. The evil Trump can’t heal what ails the Democratic Party. Though I noted in a different Journal piece the possibility that outsider attacks against the left by Republicans like Trump and James Comey might prompt centrists to defend them, leading to Democratic détente, what Weigel is describing is not coming together under a big left-leaning tent but rather the old 1960s conceptual tactic of co-option.
What the DNC and the centrist-corporatists who control it still refuse to accept is that anti-Republicanism — even anti-Trumpism — is not now, nor will it ever be, enough to lure the progressive populist left to the polls. Against history, against the 2016 election results, they assume that the default mode of a left-leaning voter is Democratic.
In fact, the natural state of a left voter — and of all American voters — is not voting. Most Americans do not vote. Most registered voters do not show up to most elections.
Voters go to the polls when they have an affirmative reason to do so: something to believe in. Someone to hate leaves them cold and they stay home. Centrist-corporatists liked what they saw in Hillary so they showed up in November 2016. Leftists and progressives did not so between three and four million Democrats who voted for Bernie in the primaries stayed home rather than vote for Hillary. Remember, primary voters are fanatics!
When they don’t vote, they mean it.
The cure for the Democratic civil war is simple: get behind and consistently push for, major progressive policies.
Jail the banksters. Restore Glass-Steagall. Bring home the troops. A $20/hour minimum wage. Free college tuition. Interest-free college loans. Medicare for all.
The DNC hires pollsters. They conduct focus groups. They analyze social media. They read exit polls. They must know why progressives aren’t that into them.
The fact that corporatist Democrats refuse to give progressives what they want leads me to an uncomfortable conclusion: they’d rather lose to the Republicans than govern as partners with progressives.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
One year after Donald Trump took office and the Women’s March supposedly marked the rise of a new anti-Trump Resistance, it is crystal clear that the Resistance amounts to nothing more than a campaign to elect more Democrats to high office. The only trouble is, Democrats never push for liberal, much less progressive or left, politics once they get into power. The Democratic Party is where the American Left goes to die…and Trump hasn’t changed that.
If I were Trump, I’d fire Robert Mueller.
If I were advising Trump, I’d tell him he should fire Mueller.
I know: this directly contradicts conventional wisdom. Which is fine. If I’ve learned anything from this life, it’s that if you don’t have a clue about anything, do exactly the opposite of what the crowd does and you’ll come out ahead in the end.
If you follow the pseudo-liberal opinion writers at corporate media outlets who dictate conventional wisdom in American electoral political commentary, you know that the one thing that they are confident the president wouldn’t dare do is fire the former FBI director/special counsel.
Trump may be enough of a wild card to describe neo-Nazis as very fine people.
Trump might use his Twitter account to provoke a nuclear war with North Korea.
But fire Mueller? That would be crossing a very russet line.
At this writing, Trump says he has no plan to can the investigator. But that official White House line comes straight out of the CEO propaganda playbook: “has no plan” (present tense) isn’t the same thing as “will not decide to” (future tense). Future tense might be never, might be next week, might be tomorrow morning. The one thing we can all be sure of is that very few things would make Trump happier than ridding himself of this particular meddlesome priest.
The self-declared Democratic “Resistance” to Trump is warning that playing the Archibald Cox card would take the president and his administration a bridge too far, past his Rubicon, beyond the Pale, into unchartered territory that would provoke so much rage that it would mark the beginning of the end of his unlikely reign.
“ABSOLUTE RED LINE: the firing of Bob Mueller or crippling the special counsel’s office. If removed or meaningfully tampered with, there must be mass, popular, peaceful support of both. The American people must be seen and heard – they will ultimately be determinative,” tweeted Obama attorney general Eric Holder.
First let’s remember what happened to Nixon in the aftermath of the Saturday Night Massacre. Cox complained, the media freaked out, Congress was outraged, and for the first time since the Watergate break-in a plurality of Americans told pollsters they favored impeachment. But Nixon survived another year, and no student of history believes the outcome would have been much different had he not fired Cox. Firing Cox turned out to be just one of a series of drip-drip-drip outrages that ultimately led to the president’s resignation.
Besides, there’s a huge difference between that Republican president and this Republican president. In 1973, Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate. Now it’s the opposite.
Look, I think it’s really cute that Eric Holder (who, if I could get past his failure to resign over Obama’s refusal to close Guantánamo, I might kinda respect) thinks the streets are going to fill up with angry mobs if and when Trump dumps Mueller. But here’s a reality check for his ABSOLUTE RED LINE: there was an actual radical left in 1973, the antiwar movement was a serious force in politics, both houses of Congress were controlled by Democrats, yet the only thing affected by getting rid of Archibald Cox was the size of the next morning’s newspaper headlines. If no one protested then, you can be damn sure no one will take a day off work to attend a Mueller-themed Day of Rage.
Never mind Holder’s fantasies. There is no Resistance.
What there is instead is a lot of self-delusion.
For example, progressive writers point to the Trump Administration’s inability to repeal Obamacare as a key victory attributable to this so-called resistance. Yet Republicans “essentially repealed” the ACA by eliminating the individual mandate in their tax bill — just as Trump is gloating. Anyway, wholesale ACA repeal failed due to John McCain…not the Resistance. Some win.
After the Women’s March on January 21st, there was just one more major street protest against in Trump, a spontaneous uprising at airports that helped slow the implementation of Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban in February. But that was pretty much it for the Resistance. And on December 4th, the Supreme Court upheld the travel ban. Another defeat.
No protests then.
Actual resistance requires actual organization. It requires actual people getting off their actual butts into the actual streets every actual day and occasionally throwing actual rocks at actual policemen. Revolution isn’t a dinner party and Resistance doesn’t spring up spontaneously like a weed in the crack between two slabs of sidewalk. We don’t have actual organizations ready, willing, or able to organize actual resistance; without those there can only be sporadic, unfocused political tantrums, like the Occupy and anti-WTO protests and the Women’s March, that fizzle out in the face of police brutality or the passage of time. We haven’t even begun to think about what a real resistance movement would look like, much less build one.
That’s why, if I were advising President Trump, I would tell him he has little to nothing to fear by firing that annoying special counsel.
Nothing would happen.
Post-Mueller, people would simply shrug their shoulders and go to work. Maybe there’d be a march — but only one march. Not two. And it would be 100% guaranteed peaceful — and thus 0% threat to the powers that be.
And the president and his corrupt cronies could go back to the nation’s their business: lining their own pockets.
Tell me: why wouldn’t Trump fire Mueller?
(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” co-written with Harmon Leon. His next book will be “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Many progressives are stupid. Unless they get smart soon, “The Resistance” to Donald Trump will fail, just like everything else the Left has tried to do for the last 40 years.
Stupid progressive thing #1: letting yourself be shocked by Trump.
Far too many lefties still can’t believe that the Orange One won the election, or that as president he’s so stupid and mean and right-wing.
Know the cliché, “if you’re not angry you’re not paying attention”? If you didn’t see Trump’s victory coming, you weren’t paying attention to the anger of your fellow citizens — and neither was the Democratic Party. NAFTA cost a million Americans their jobs. Since the 1970s automation has put 7 million people out of work. Democrats marketed themselves as the party of Joe and Jane Sixpack, but Bill Clinton pushed for and signed NAFTA, a Republican idea. Neither Clinton nor Obama lifted a finger to save the Rust Belt; as a candidate Hillary Clinton didn’t care either.
For those who opened their eyes to see, every aspect of Trump’s “surprise” win was visible in plain sight.
Democratic disunity was another big factor. But the schism between Hillary Clinton corporate Democrats and Bernie Sanders progressives directly paralleled the 1980 split between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy.
Shocked by Trump’s radical anti-intellectualism? That his only qualification for the nation’s highest political office was celebrity? Don’t be.
Trump is merely the logical culmination of a trend that goes back at least to celebrity politicians John Glenn, Clint Eastwood, Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura and Al Franken, all of whom exploited their celebrity to defeat more experienced public servants. Though George W. Bush and Obama both had legislative experience, neither man accomplished much before running for president. Both famously adjusted their voices and accents to come off as dumber than they were.
Trump wasn’t a surprise. He wasn’t an anomaly. American politics won’t get nicer or smarter after he’s gone. He’s crazy and mean and dangerous — but he’s not a bizarre departure from the American norm.
Stupid progressive thing #2: viewing Trump’s politics as significantly more dangerous or extreme than, say, Obama’s.
Worried that Trump will pull a Greg Stillson (“the missiles are flying”) on North Korea? Me too. But please get real. Trump’s needlessly bellicose rhetoric and gleeful overuse of the war machine hardly represent a radical shift in foreign policy from his predecessors. Obama gleefully ordered a political assassination (Osama bin Laden), financed civil wars that destroyed Libya and Syria, slaughtered thousands of civilians with drones and joked about it. All Trump did was alter the tone of U.S. propaganda from fake they-made-me-do-it to his more honest I-like-it.
Stupid progressive thing #3: always reacting, never acting.
Benghazi wasn’t a real issue that Americans cared about. Fox News zeroed in on it, pimped it, and pounded away at Obama-Clinton’s alleged responsibility for the deaths of American diplomats in Libya until it gained traction and ultimately became a Thing. Republicans know how to alter the playing field.
Contrast that to issues progressives actually care about, like Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. Aware that his decision would be controversial, Trump released the news late Friday — a classic media dump. Not only that, Hurricane Harvey was about to hit Houston. The Arpaio story got swept away by a flood of Houston headlines.
It’s so easy to play progressives.
Weekends pass. So do hurricanes. Why didn’t progressives schedule some big anti-Arpaio/Trump demonstrations for late the following week? Just put a reminder into your phone! Because they’re used to reacting. Progressives will never win unless they steal a page from the GOP playbook and start setting the agenda — and pounding away at it relentlessly, lack of reaction be damned.
Stupid progressive thing #4: never learning from past mistakes.
Fighting the last war — fixing the mistakes you made last time without anticipating the challenges of the next encounter — is a classic error of strategy. But progressives aren’t even good enough to make that error. They don’t even learn from their previous screw-ups.
Inspired by Tahrir Square, the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement suffered from its lack of centralized leadership, a lack of formal demands, its welcoming of the homeless and mentally ill and a rift between revolutionary and reformist wings. But OWS’ biggest mistake was calendrical.
They occupied public parks. Parks are outside. OWS began in the fall. The weather got cold, occupiers drifted away, morale turned sad. By the time Obama smashed the encampments with federally-coordinated violent raids, there wasn’t much of a movement left to destroy.
Here we go again.
Refuse Fascism has a plan to get rid of Trump. “On Saturday, November 4—approximately a year after President Donald Trump’s election—members of the Resistance will descend on America’s major cities,” reports The Politico. “They’ll march and demonstrate, as they have in the past, but this time, say organizers, they won’t go home at the end of the day. Instead, the plan is to occupy city centers and parks and not leave until, and only until, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have fallen.”
It’s cold in November.
I know, I know — it’s easy to criticize. Which is why I chose criticism as a job. So let me offer a concrete suggestion.
Starting in November? Occupy indoor spaces.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Campaign Ad: Paul Ryan for President 2020.
Speaker Ryan speaks into the camera.
“Impeaching a president from my own party wasn’t an easy decision,” Ryan says, looking sober as footage of disgraced former president Donald Trump departing the White House for the last time appears.
“Sometimes principle” — he pauses for a half-beat — “comes before party.”
A full beat.
“Country always comes first.”
Narrator: “He stood tall when America needs him most. Ready to make the tough decisions when they matter most. Paul Ryan for President.”
Trump-haters want Democrats to push for impeachment. Setting aside the Dems’ congenital cowardice and the arithmetic — a minority party can’t impeach anyone — the real danger to Trump is his nominal Republican allies.
On the surface, Congressional Republicans appear to have been shocked and awed by the president’s surprise victory and ideologically aligned with a Trump Administration whose hard-right cabinet is prepared to grant every item on the GOP’s wish list. But you don’t have to look hard to see that the pre-November split between the party’s old guard (Ryan, John McCain, Mitch McConnell) and the Trump insurgency remains.
The Donald struts the marbled corridors of the capital, his head held high like Caesar. Beneath their togas, the senators’ sharp knives await.
This is speculation, but I bet Republicans with presidential ambitions — Ryan, Rubio, Cruz, Paul — have already grokked that Trump’s days are numbered. Odds makers agree. Whoever takes credit for bringing down a feared and reviled leader will rid themselves of a rival and reap rewards up to and including the highest office in the land.
Barely one month after taking office, Trump’s approval ratings are tumbling into territory historically belonging to presidents mired in scandals and unpopular wars. Voters tell the latest Quinnipiac poll Trump is dishonest and doesn’t care about people like them. Trump’s numbers are within a rounding error of Richard Nixon’s during Watergate.
Right now, Donald Trump is constitutionally impeachable over his temperament and his brazen violations of the emoluments clause. But nothing will happen until he’s politically impeachable. Trump would have to commit a crime or mistake so colossal and irredeemable that mainstream voters of both parties would find him repugnant.
If I’m Ryan or Cruz or some other crafty GOPer, I’m thinking to myself: every president screws up eventually. But this guy Trump will definitely screw up big. Given his manic pace, his Waterloo will occur sooner rather than later.
Whatever form it takes — provoking a war, crashing the economy, corruption, one authoritarian move too far, conspiracy and obstruction of justice — the inevitable Trumpian disaster leaves House and Senate Republicans with a stark choice. Defend him or stand back silently, and Trump drags the Republican Party along with him as he flames out. Or they can throw him under the bus.
Remember, they never liked him in the first place.
Plan B is far more appealing. Becoming the party of impeachment at a time when impeachment is popular transforms crisis into opportunity, allowing Republicans to cleanse their Trump-era sins (trying to repeal the increasingly well-received Obamacare, paying for the Great Wall of Mexico with deficit spending, etc.) and seize the moral high ground in one swoop. Vice President Mike Pence takes the helm, steadies the ship, promotes their right-wing agenda with more grace than his former boss, and Ryan and his buddies prepare for 2020.
As for the Democrats, this scenario leaves the party even more damaged than it is today. If they leave the task of deposing a wounded Donald Trump to the Republicans, they’ll likely never recover.
Still seething over the DNC’s shabby treatment of Bernie Sanders, the progressive base would consider the party completely discredited and hopelessly moderate for failing to lead the charge against Trump. Swing voters, and not a few Democrats, will give Team Ryan credit for their integrity in taking down one of their own. I can imagine the Warren wing forming a new Progressive Party, leaving the Democrats at less than half its current level of support.
Dems could dodge this looming catastrophe by declaring all-out war against the president. For example, Democratic lawmakers could shut down Congress, and thus deny Trump his entire agenda, by denying a quorum — i.e., failing to show up until the president agrees to resign. There are many ways to obstruct. But creating a constitutional crisis would require balls — something in short supply among Congressional Democrats.
(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Progressives repeatedly warned center-right Democrats that Hillary Clinton was more likely to lose to Donald Trump than Bernie Sanders, that abandoning the progressive base to court Republicans (as Hillary did) was electoral suicide, and that the #BernieOrBust contingent would sit home on Election Day unless Hillary made significant concessions to the party’s leftist base. They were ignored and insulted and snubbed. Now, incredibly, center-right Democrats are blaming the progressives whose support they did everything to deride for Trump’s victory. If progressive support was important enough to cost Hillary the campaign, why didn’t she act like it?
So this is how American political parties are supposed to unify at the end of the primaries: everyone is supposed to vote for the winner, even if that winner is anathema to everything most members of that party believe in. Best system anyone ever invented, eh?
Even after the Assocation of American Editorial Cartoonists issued a formal statement calling for an investigation of the LA Times’ firing of me as a favor to the LAPD because I criticized police brutality, I found it difficult to get support from, well, everybody. Because one of the defining aspects of satire is that, eventually, you end up making fun of everyone. Who end up hating you.