SYNDICATED COLUMN: Progressive, Heal Thyself

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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.

2016’s Rust Belt Trumpers were yesteryear’s Reagan Democrats and the “angry white males” of the 1990s.

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.)


  • “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.”
    Damned good advice! 🙂

    • I don’t think so. I do agree we need to set the agenda to win.

      However, Ted needs to pay more attention. Watch some Adam Curtis.

      The Right learned from the Left and got radical. They broke the rules as the left had done in the 1960s. They used culture war as the left had first done. They are copycats, and they have it a lot easier.

      It’s a lot easier to keep Benghazi on the radar when you only have one made up issue to focus on. On the left there are a million issues. A million REAL issues. Refugees, sexism, land ownership, centralisation of power…. I’m not even saying the tip of the iceberg. Who chooses that the celebrity Sheriff pardoning is THE big issue to focus on? Why not standing rock? Why not automobiles in cities? Why not a million legitimate problems where pain is being inflicted now instead of going back to the past to right some wrong that at this point just seems to not matter. Remember, we want to fix problems now, we don’t think that punishment for the sake of punishment is very worthwhile – unlike the right.

      It’s a tragedy of the commons type of problem. It’s a lot easier for one asshole to poison the well than for 1000 people with dozens of good reasons to cooperate and pick up litter beside the well.

      Ted is right that we have to get smarter and control the narrative because story is how we understand and make changes.

      But Ted and so many others have to get smarter, stop focusing so much on individualistic issues, see a bigger picture, tell a bigger story. It’s not easy.

      But it can be done. MLK did it. Others have also. The good news is that we don’t have to defend lies and we can follow a path in the real world instead of trying to Triumph the Will.

      What I’m saying is that the assholes have an easy job in the short term, but in the long term their task is futile. The left on the other hand – if it does follow an agenda of progress – diverse and confused though it may be – have a direction to follow that leads us somewhere that people do want to get to. Hubris does not build allegiance, sincerity does.

      • Nice.

        I’ve commented a couple of times about how our diversity is a weakness as well as a strength.

        OTOH, rage does tend to unify people – even liberals (think of the American & French revolutions)

        Oh, look! We’ve got Louis and Marie in the White House … now all we need is for the FLOTUS to start giving dietary advice to the little people.

  • Good points, but Ted is conflating ‘progressives’ ‘democratic voters’ and ‘The Democratic Party’ a little.

    Most of Ted’s good points are really about the “leaders” rather than the rank and file. The Demoncratic party is rarely named as one of the contributors to Duh Donald’s victory; they backed Hillary and pushed a truly progressive candidate to the sidelines. (the one which actually could have won)

    I suspect that the problem is not that The Left is collectively stupid, but rather that they aren’t stupid enough. The GOP faithful are most definitely stupid – they’re easily duped and much more amenable to believing what they want to believe and facts be damned.

    > Occupy indoor spaces.

    That’s a good idea other than the fact it’s called ‘trespassing.’ What do the occupiers do when the cops show up? Resist? We’re mostly non-violent. Get carried off by the truckload? I don’t see that as helpful, and the coverage by the corporate media would just make them look especially stupid. If weather’s that big a factor, then start in Spring.

    The scenario I’m hoping for is that by the time November 2018 rolls around, the Sheeple will be so disgusted by Trumpism that the dems will pick up enough seats to make impeachment possible – then it’s just a matter of picking which atrocity to try him on. I dunno, maybe he got a blowjob once – that’s impeachable, right?

    • @ CrazyH –

      “The scenario I’m hoping for is that by the time November 2018 rolls around, the Sheeple will be so disgusted by Trumpism that the dems will pick up enough seats to make impeachment possible….”
      You realize that you’re calling for another Civil War, don’t you?

      • Heh, good link.

        Yeah, I’m sure that Bakker still has some adherents, (underscoring my earlier point about conservatives’ stupidity/gullibility)

        I doubt he has enough bakkers to do any real harm. Trump is much closer to being the anti-Christ than the Christian Ideal – but that’s never stopped the “Christians” before. They voted for Bush, after all …

        I will note that there are some good Christians out there. I just fear that they are in the minority.

  • Starting in November? Then set an end date before you start.

    Don’t dwindle and dribble off one by one, cold and dejected like exhausted marathoners.

    Set an end date so everyone can see the end coming and celebrate after making a collective sprint to that goal.

    End on an upbeat note with a cheer and a promise to be back at an agreed time. Show coordination and organization with a unified appearance and departure.

  • Norm Coleman is now a lobbyist and he’s doing fine as the ex-Senator from Minnesota –I wouldn’t lump Franken with the other celebrity politicians here. I do think he has become a capable Senator and has been re-elected.
    I keep saying look at Italian former leader Silvio Berlusconi for parallels with DJT. Italians reacted instead of acting for years. Finally the Great Recession made Italians(or was it mostly ultimatums from the EU?) oust him from leadership.
    I do agree that DJT is not that much different from his predecessors in policy for the most part, the difference is that he does not hide behind polite rhetoric that is the American political tradition. The foreign policy establishment is acting so shocked. But every time he talks of war they say he is being presidential. In the end, the(bipartisan) War Party wins

    • > I wouldn’t lump Franken with the other celebrity politicians here.

      Me, too. Franken was handicapping politics long before being elected, if you read his books you’ll find he is very well informed on the subject. John Glenn actually *did* something notable. Whereas astronauts are hand picked for their intelligence and adaptability the rest are merely actors and republicans. (don’t forget Sonny Bono and Charlton Heston.)

      Franken and Glenn are/were Democrats.

      This again plays to my earlier comment about GOP gullibility. Just as with Trump and the rest, they voted for the parts they played on screen, rather than the real person behind the facade.

      • And don’t forget Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican film star that they were so excited about there was talk of a Constitutional Amendment just to make sure he could also be President. He cooperated with Democrats so he will never serve again.

      • @ jackalope66 –
        “He cooperated with Democrats so he will never serve again.”
        I find it hard to fathom that Schwarzenegger was married to a Kennedy (Shriver). Dinnertime discussions must have been entertaining.

        It’s good to see that he is calling out Trump with regard to various issues. He’s bound to become even less popular with the GOP. He might have to switch parties! (He still can’t become president, though.)

        No two sides

      • Shirley Temple ran as a conservative Repug as well.

        I do have a modicum of respect for Ahnode. Yeah, the Wingnuts voted for him based on his movie persona rather than the real person, but he is a self-made millionaire.

        The Repugs wanted to change the law so that Ahnode could be prez – but then they cried their little eyes out ‘cuz Obama was born in Kenya. I thought conservatives were all about consistency(?)

        Anyway, Svarzenogger isn’t a good enough actor to be president. I suspect that he was handled by the props department in his movies. “Place the big guy on the X, then have all the *actors* do their thing…”

      • @ CrazyH –
        «“Place the big guy on the X, then have all the *actors* do their thing…”»
        Have you ever seen “Hercules in New York”?
        I almost brit a shick watching that piece of trash. His accent was so bad they had to hire someone else to dub his lines. Acting? I think not.

  • I don’t think that the “Resistance” is either leftist or progressive. The “Resistance” is a centrist/media operation intended to manipulate Trump into embracing the neoconservative perpetual war policy and the Wall-Street-fellating policy of the previous two administrations, both of which Trump attacked as a candidate. But Trump’s egomania makes him vulnerable to being herded in those directions in order to get some relief from the vituperative press coverage.

    • I agree, Oz

      • I’m with Oz and Glenn on this one. As to a long-lasting demonstration, consider the so-called Euromaidan demonstrations in Kiev, prologue to the Putsch of 22 February 2014, but that one, according to one of its sponsors, dear Victoria Jane Nuland, cost the US some five thousand million USD together with other initiatives (none of which, of course, constituted interference in another country’s affairs) just up to December 2013. Where would progressives in the United States get that kind of money to fund long-term protests ?…


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