It’s the oldest debate within the Democratic Party: what to do about a progressive insurgent candidate? Whether it’s Ted Kennedy’s challenge against Jimmy Carter in 1980, Howard Dean against John Kerry in 2004 or Bernie Sanders against Hillary Clinton, moderates and centrists always say the same thing: in order to win, you need those swing voters. That means you have to pick the moderate choice. The problem with that argument is that it never really works out in the general election. Kennedy and Dean’s voters stayed home in November. 3 to 4,000,000 Bernie Sanders primary voters never showed up for Hillary Clinton. Now the same argument is being floated again, this time in favor of Joe Biden.
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.)
Democrats occupied the floor of the House of Representatives to demand that people on the federal “no fly” list be denied the right to buy firearms. But the no fly list is maintained by the incredibly incompetent TSA. Why should they get to decide whether you have your Second Amendment rights?
Hey Bernie supporters: Hillary has a talking point for you.
Confident that she has the Democratic nomination pretty much locked down and turning toward a general election contest against Donald Trump, Secretary Clinton’s surrogates and paid Internet trolls are targeting Sanders devotees via email and seeding comment threads on political websites with a low-key sales pitch.
It goes like this: We’re not asking you to vote for Hillary in November. We are asking you to work for and donate to “down ticket” Democratic candidates for Congress, governor, state rep and so on. Oh, and if you could kindly hold your fire against Hillary — because those attacks help Trump — that would be awesome too, thanks.
Like all things Clinton, this tightly scripted DNC-approved don’t-vote-for-me-vote-for-other-Dems argument carries more than a whiff of triangulation, big data analytics and well-managed focus groups. It also reeks of desperation.
At this stage in a presidential campaign, the likely nominee normally wants to unify the party by convincing voters who voted against her in the primary to see her as next best, good enough, and enough of a champion for some of her defeated opponent’s ideas to justify supporting her with some enthusiasm. I can’t recall, even following the bitter Democratic primary fight in 1980, Jimmy Carter telling Ted Kennedy’s acolytes not to bother with him but to please pull levers for Democratic state senators.
Hillaryites are sweating the progressive #BernieorBust movement — a recent poll of Sanders voters found one out of four swearing they won’t vote for Clinton in November, no way, no how. Like Miley Cyrus’ pledge to leave the U.S. if Trump wins, these promises are more hot air than statements of serious intent. But it’s not like that 25% drops to 0 by November 8th. Some Berners will stay home on election day. Disaffected Sanderians will give Jill Stein’s Green Party the biggest surge it has ever seen. (That’s probably how I’ll roll.)
And yes — despite the opinions of the center-right pundits who have been wrong about everything all year long — a significant number of liberal Democrats will defect to Donald Trump. As a friend told me, “I always vote Democratic. In this race, Donald Trump is the Democrat and Hillary Clinton is the Republican.”
If Hillary wins the nomination, she’ll need as many votes from former Berners as she can get. So why is she giving up on them already?
There are two answers.
- She doesn’t think she can convince Sanders’ supporters that she’s a good-enough second-best.
- She doesn’t want to try.
She may be right about the first point. Stretching back over more than two decades, Clinton’s public record in national politics is too long and too consistent to make a credible case that she has a left-of-center bone in her body. From Hillarycare to NAFTA to welfare reform to the crime bill to Iraq and Libya and Syria, she’s always sided with neo-con war profiteers and corporations over people. (Hillary’s folks claim that she was secretly against NAFTA, in private, before she came out in favor of it, in public. But secretly doesn’t count in politics.)
Hillary’s refusal to make concessions to Sanders’ surprisingly successful democratic-socialist insurgency is highly illuminating about who she is and where she stands.
Clinton and Sanders are now tied in national polls. Does anyone doubt that if he were as well known when he began his campaign last year as he is now, that he would have trounced her? Given Sanders’ popularity and the real threat he presented to her, a smarter and/or less pigheaded candidate than Hillary would have co-opted the man, his ideas and his supporters. But there’s zero sign that she’s considering him as her vice president or a cabinet position. She has stolen many of Sanders’ topics. But she hasn’t adopted any of his major ideas.
At one of the debates she misleadingly implied that she supports Bernie’s national $15/hour minimum wage. Actually, she supports a Scroogesque $12. (If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be over $22.)
She still doesn’t want to make public college tuition free, as Bernie Sanders does. Nor would she lift a finger to replace the insurance profit protection racket that is Obamacare with the universal healthcare available around the globe.
In Hillary Clinton we have a right-wing Democrat who campaigned as a right-wing Democrat and who will now tack even farther right this summer and fall. She’s so far right that she won’t even bother to pretend to throw a bone to progressives, much less bring Sanders or his ideas into an Abe Lincoln-style Team of Rivals à la Hillary.
No one should say they’re surprised when President Hill turns out to a rabid rightie.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)