Considering my long, Left-wing history as a New Deal Democrat and my minor political activism in the 60’s and 70’s, against American Racism and the Vietnam War, some would think that I am loathe to call myself a patriot. They would be wrong. Even as I decry the examples of how our America has failed to live up to the ideals of the American Dream, emotionally I dearly love the country of my birth and the fact that I am an American. In the years since the end of World War II, Republicans and conservatives whose programs are aimed at benefiting the most wealthy among us, have worked to paint those of us on the Left as unpatriotic because we are not warmongering jingoists. They have done this because they represent programs and ideals that are harmful to most Americans and so they must find ways to get people to vote against their own self-interests. These purported patriots have sent American troops out to die and be maimed, in wars that never should have been fought and yet they pretend that they Honor Our Troops. It is time that we on the Left take back the mantle of American Patriotism from those who have really dishonored and disgraced our country, in their greedy need to serve their oligarchic masters. We need to stop bringing Knives to Gunfights.
Despite all the attempts by some on the Democrats to try to put a bright face upon last year’s election debacle, any words of comfort ring hollow. Republican’s control the 3 branches of our Federal Government and a majority of our States. The Supreme Court now has a new justice that makes Antonin Scalia look like a democratic socialist in comparison. Along with the attempts to rally the Democratic Party and the Left, we have been bombarded with dueling postmortems on the reasons for this awful loss. The results of this loss are already devastating for so many of us not shielded by wealth. At this time, the most important accomplishment that we of the Left can attain, is to organize countrywide at the grass roots level for the 2018 congressional election. At the same time we must work hard at the local and State level to regain control of these localities and that is indeed an awesome, nearly impossible task.
From my perspective, we need to simplify our analysis of what happened to US this time and distill it down to its’ essence. The battles that have been fought over the soul of this country, have been waged in earnest by the representatives of aristocratic and corporate wealth since the Goldwater loss in 1964. They represent a well-funded strategy to disseminate propaganda undermining a sense of national community and perpetrating Right Wing mythology to such a degree that it eradicates history and becomes accepted as fact. While the issue of a small federal government and an antipathy to taxation have be recurrent themes in American History, it took the would be oligarchs fed up at Goldwater’s debacle, to hire some of the best advertising and merchandising minds to craft the mythology of “evil liberalism” coupled with the accusation that the minorities without power were inexplicably in control of everything. With Trump’s election, this strategy has reached almost complete fruition.
However, even more important in the battle between the American Right and Left Wings has been the tendency by Liberals, Progressives and Left Wing radicals to be hoisted on their own petards of pretense. That pretense has been that America is a Democracy under a semi-divine Constitution and that if only the country can follow the forms laid down by our Founding Fathers all will be well. I’ve written many times, in many different ways that this is an illusion that has little to do with the real state of affairs in our country. I’ve also written about the false narrative of history that we on the Left have incorporated into our psyches to such a degree that most of us also function in a “bubble” of diminished comprehension.
Following that false narrative causes too many in the Democratic Party to rely on institutional wishful thinking like the Rule of Law, that dictate we play by the “rules of the game“. Yet for many of us that means existing in a psychological state of denial, because deep down we Know, or we suspect the truth that this battle is a war for the well being of the many, versus the autocracy of a few. A brief look at past history confirms the fact that the other side plays dirty, while we stupidly play by the “rules”.
- Nixon won election by secretly interfering with the Paris Peace Talks and prolonging the Vietnam War.
- The Watergate Scandal came to light when Nixon attempted to “bug” the Democratic Party
- The un-elected Gerald Ford made a deal to pardon Nixon in order to become President
- The findings of the Church Committee that the Intelligence community was interfering in the political process were ignored.,
- Reagan partisans interfered with Jimmy Carter getting the hostages released by promising arms and other benefits in what became The Iran Contra Affair.
- Bill Clinton was maneuvered into confessing adultery, after first perjuring himself by an elaborate, well financed sting operation.
- George W. Bush became President after dubious Florida voting tactics run by his brother Jeb, the Governor and a SCOTUS decision unprecedented in our history.
- George W. Bush won re-election based on voter suppression and voter fraud in Ohio and John Kerry’s refusal to fight on.
By dint of a combination of voter suppression, Russian Interference, FBI corruption, overt racism and the “Big Lies” of Trump, we have elected perhaps our country’ most malevolent President. As his cabinet is formed from some of the worst elements of corporate greed, aristocratic elitism, and anti-democratic fascists, most of us are threatened economically and socially. Trump and the Trump Cohort are in effect making war upon an overwhelming majority of Americans. Yet for many in the Democratic Party establishment, their response to this dire threat is to maintain the belief that in the end reason will win out over the doings of a narcissistic, pathological liar abetted by a Party all to willing to ignore his Russian treason.
Of the many flaws I observed in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, perhaps the most damning was the belief by her political strategists that all they had to do was to emphasize the historical nature of her candidacy and counter point it with Trump’s sexism and misogyny. They overlooked the fact that this country is for the most part sexist (why the wage disparity?) and that many Fundamentalist Christian women believed only a man should be President. Meanwhile, this putrid Billionaire, whose money comes from selling a boorish upper class brand, was allowed to position himself as the economic savior of the middle class. Virulently untruthful Republican campaign ads were met by too cleverly bland and obviously ineffective Democratic ads, mainly showing Trump contretemps, racism and misogyny. Never once did it occur to the Clinton Team that in truth a sizable minority of this country is sexist and racist. The appeals to people’s higher natures fell upon deaf ears.
The sad irony of all of this is that Trump ascended to the lead in the nomination battle by appealing to the racism and sexism of the Republican base. With the nomination secured, Trump actually adopted the message that Bernie Sanders had such success with, that many in the media disdained as a “populist” message. You see just as Bill Clinton’s winning mantra was “‘it’s the economy stupid“, so Sanders had identified that the key issue in this election was exactly the unfairness of the American economic situation. Hillary, belatedly moved towards Bernie’s position to secure her nomination, but then in the giddiness of positive polling numbers, began to retreat to her comfortable “Centrism“, incorrectly believing she could reach out to that non-existent political cadre, the oxymoronic Republican Centrists and the even more non-existent “undecideds“.
My upshot is this. I see the battle for political power as a war between the “haves” and the “have nots“, over the resources of the country. We all know instinctively that when it comes to human affairs, “money and power” are fought for by warlike means, with no holds barred and the understanding therefore that all tactics are acceptable as long as they result in victory. Most Left Wingers, myself definitely included, see the human condition as a need for harmony and community. This is the thrust of most of our political action. However, when you are fighting a war against an enemy of implacable fortitude; contemptuous for the normal rule of law; and without qualms or compassion for the innocents hurt as collateral damage; to respond to that enemy, you mustn’t allow yourselves to be bound by chivalrous behavioral norms.
We can’t win a war with the antediluvian Conservative Corporatists by dint of weaponry, or violence, because they are already fairly violent and well armed people. The battle to be fought is with the deadly weapon of propaganda and in Trump’s peculiar case ridicule. This “war” needs to be fought by creating effective memes and by crafting a mythology that makes people despise our enemies. The motto of my college was “the truth shall make us free”. While that is a noble aspiration, we have seen in this election that the “truth” is malleable to pathological liars and that “love does not conquer hate“. My take on this, though many might disagree, is that “when they go low, we go lower“. If we lose the battles to come in the next four years, we will inexorably lose this country to a Fascism every bit as virulent as that practiced by Hitler and Mussolini. The stakes are high and they’ve got the guns. I have to believe though, that we’ve got the intelligence and the wit to prevail in the “War of Ideas“, but we need to unleash it ruthlessly, without regard for the niceties of comity.
A metaphor for my mindset is this iconic movie clip below and the surprise ending, that really shouldn’t be a surprise. Let’s be sure we’re the ones bringing a better gun to the gunfight of the next three years.