Unpopular Opinions - II
Continuing the thread of unpopular opinions (I have loads of ‘em) today I will discuss the fallacy that seems to permeate the progressive far left (not as far as the far right though).
In the last two presidential elections, they placed all their hope on the shoulders of Bernie Sanders, an avowed and outspoken socialist. While I will admit that many of the progressive left’s goals are laudatory, and worthy endeavors to pursue, I will argue that their strategy, to focus on the top of the pyramid and once that is captured, some miracle happens, and this progressive manna will float down throughout the country.
I heard all the arguments, and frankly they all sound as absurd as the Neocon’s assertion that once Saddam Hussein was deposed in Iraq, the populace will shower the coalition forces with flowers, and accolades.
But that isn’t the real world. One person can’t be the entire focal point. That means you’ve got to do the work…
Republicans dominate today for several reasons, and not all of them are tied to their gerrymandering and systemic bias.
In 1964, when Barry Goldwater was shellacked in the general the core of the conservative intelligentsia regrouped and began planning. Knowing that they were on their back feet, they focused on recruiting and aiding candidates for local races, like city offices, school boards, and the like.
With patience and determination, over the next few decades, they came to dominate at the local level. And then that local domination filtered up, to state level, permeating the entire political landscape.
All this happened while Democrats had strength and dominance in the house and senate.
When the midterms in the first Clinton administration flipped that script, Republicans took the house, and began their march.
I write this to highlight that it wasn’t a top-down take over, it was an upward, grass-roots effort that took patience, a an enormous amount of effort, and time.
There is no shortcut.
The Task for Progressives
It is not an impossible mount to climb, but there are no shortcuts. The adage that all politics is local is true, and if you want to change the direction of the country, especially as severely as the progressive agenda desires, that you have to build consensus in localities and states.
Alas, had Bernie Sanders been elected, the progressive utopia wouldn’t be a given, and success would have been elusive, regardlessly of how Rose Twitter believes that they have the majority of the population behind them (hint: they don’t, and it is trivial for the right to whip up scary quotes to keep them against the changes you are advocating for.) Getting their agenda enacted will not be quick or easy. Nor will they get all that they want.
True change comes from the grass roots, and not fake astro-turf like the Tea Party turned out to be, but a slow, methodical propagation.
You can’t be dismissive of red states, but instead must work twice as hard to gain a toe hold there to work on. You can’t just focus on the west coast, and the Democrat strongholds in the north east, and assume that it will diffuse across the country. Because it just doesn't work that way.
The chances for success
In convincing enough of the population to agree with their position, the prognosis isn’t great. Sure, you can jump up and down and claim how they (Republicans, and most of the Democrats) are voting against their personal interests, and that they are stoooopid for not agreeing with your superior logic. Your argument of "if they just saw what great we could do for them, they would welcome our message" falls on deaf ears.
I won’t argue that they aren’t voting for their benefit. But that doesn’t matter. People do not like change, and they all know how much worse their life can be, and they don’t want to risk it.
You might think that anointing St. Bernie to push down the benefits of the progressive agenda, and everybody will live happily ever after. But that is wrong. It will not go down like that. First, far too much power is in the hands of people (mostly senators in states that have a paltry total population), and these people have the power to prevent policies from propagating. Second, the general population isn’t ready for these changes. Alas, many of them will not see how they are cutting their noses off to spite their faces.
Change is scary. And that leads to conservative behaviors, a desire to not change rapidly, or at all.
For this level of change to actually happen will require a long game of blocking and tackling, filling out local, regional, and state polities with like minded people, who can slowly, and immovably begin to get these ideas into the main stream.
And that will take decades.
There is no shortcut. It literally took 30 years for the Republicans to flip the tables on the Democrats. It took diligence, commitment, and amazing discipline to get there.
Furthermore, the general view of much of the country that all this free stuff will go to "those people" whom are not deserving is deeply entrenched, regardless of how corrosive and offensive it is.
And Democrats are not that well disciplined. They can’t keep on message, they don’t move in the same direction, they don’t have a natural coalition. And the progressives are a small (but VERY vocal) faction, and they are really good at turning off constituencies that you will need to be successful.
So, I am not too hopeful that this will happen.
Does this mean that the Progressive agenda is doomed?
A little of yes, and a little of no.
The “yes” argument is that trying to do too much, too fast, is very scary to the general population. So much so that a wholesale package is guaranteed to horrify the masses. And thus, they will vote to shut it down.
The “no” argument is that if the progressive wing can begin to infiltrate they lower levels of government, and begin to lay the groundwork for small, incremental steps, showing wins, and benefits, then, and only then, will the progressive agenda expand.
My bet though is that there is neither the discipline, nor the patience to play the small ball game, building a groundswell of support for the less scary aspects. (that is, don’t jump to basic income, socialized medicine (I have unpopular opinions there to share later as well), and other huge proposals)
Hell, I am center-left, and I think many of their positions are folly.
As I have gotten older, I have cemented my left of center position. I would love to see some more progressive policies, but I am a realist. I know that reality, the American psyche, structural racism, and the growing authoritarian curiosity that is prevalent today, and has always been there.
Don’t hold your breath.