No, Liberal Resistance, You Do Not Need to Worry About Alienating Conservative “Allies”
If we are to believe a number of pieces making the rounds these days, liberals need to get their acts together, watch their language, ensure nobody on their side misbehaves, and surrender on a number of fundamental progressive issues in order to court the Reasonable Conservative or Regretful Trump Voter, lest the resistance movement fail miserably and forever.
Consider two examples of the Blame Liberals for the Abject Moral Failure of the GOP genre, Sabrina Tavernise’s “Are Liberals Helping Trump?” in yesterday’s New York Times, and David Frum’s “What Effective Protest Could Look Like,” in the Atlantic on February 6.
If we are to believe Tavernise’s article, progressives must roll out the red carpet for Trump-voting conservatives who feel kind of icky about a couple of Trump’s issues, or they are failing. Nonsense. If the moderate right has a problem with Trump the moderate right can start an organization or movement to resist Trump. It is outrageous to say that the left — who won the popular vote — are supposed to abandon basic ethical principles and foundational positions in order to possibly pick up a few allies who were fine voting for this catastrophe a couple of months ago.
Check out this telling bit from that article:
“[Trump voter] Bryce Youngquist, 34…works in sales for a tech start-up in Mountain View, Calif., a liberal enclave where admitting you voted for Mr. Trump is a little like saying in the 1950s that you were gay.”
No, supporting Trump in California is not like saying in the 1950s you were gay. Being gay is ethically neutral. It harms nobody, yet people were attacked for it, jailed for it, and had invasive pseudoscientific “therapies” forced on them for it. By contrast, this piece of work supported a pussy-grabbing white supremacist who is dismantling the very foundation of our country and thinks that nobody should speak poorly of his decision, even when apparently he himself is having second thoughts.
David Frum, a former speechwriter for Bush II, offers advice to progressives about how to effectively block Trump. His article reads as a disenchanted Republican facing the fact that his party has been taken over by monsters but is feeling kind of icky climbing into bed with progressives, so coming up with a playbook for how to turn the progressive resistance into what the Republican Party was a couple decades ago.
I’ll address his main arguments one by one:
1) Liberal protests are expressive, not persuasive.
He seems to think that because the protests don’t persuade your Infowars uncle they are not persuasive. Nothing persuades your Infowars uncle except culture change that phases out his worldview. It is a fool’s errand to try to persuade him directly.
On the other hand, expression can be persuasive. Not in the short term — nobody sees a particular sign and thinks, “Oh, I guess I need to rethink my whole political platform.” However, over time, as those expressions become more and more normative, they are persuasive.
Consider the lunatic gun fringe. Could anything more embody absurd, seemingly unpersuasive expression than a knuckle-dragger carrying an AK-47 in Applebee’s? Yet the more we have been inundated by these scenes the more we have had to accept that this is a cultural flank, a reality in our political debates with which we must contend. If people regularly hear that a lot of people believe a particular assertion, they give that assertion more consideration over time.
2) Progressives don’t police radical fringes, such as “black blocs,” and then the fringes become the guiding narrative in the media.
No shit we don’t police black blocs. Even the police can barely police black blocs. Those people are often anarchists willing to commit violence. Do you think they are in Pantsuit groups taking directives from PTO moms about how to protest?
Now, as for them becoming the narrative — that depends on who you ask. In what I consider to be normal circles, everyone knows that antifa groups are their own fringe thing that show up and do what they are going to do. They get limited attention. However, if you take a trip into Breitbartville, where this author apparently resides part time, yes, the antifa black blocs get outsized attention. And? Who the hell cares? It is literally impossible, not to mention undesirable, to police every instance of misbehavior out of existence. If you have hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets, somebody is going to throw a rock or wag a dick at a camera. It is fawning servility to the fact-averse, immoral opposition to worry about this or to wring your hands that the narrative has been hijacked. To hell with Breitbart and worry about the people making an honest accounting of what happens.
3) The left polarizes opinion against them and empowers their targets.
Again, only if you are living in the universe of the devout Trumpster, who as a matter of faith reveres Trump and his cronies. Those people are unreachable through reason and it is folly to make reasonable persuasion of them your objective. Mobilize the left and change the middle.
4) “You want to scare Trump? Be orderly, polite, and visibly patriotic.”
No. You want to scare Trump? Be hundreds of thousands of pissed off motherfuckers on the streets. Let some of us be orderly and polite. Let others make it clear that we are past order and politeness. As for visible patriotism, many of us are visibly patriotic already. Others think patriotism is a problematic ideal when your country went from owning you to segregating you to mass imprisoning you and they do not need a Bush II staffer who sent many of them off into a fabricated war to tell them to be patriotic.
5) “What is Angela Davis doing there? Where are the military women, the women police officers, the officeholders? If Planned Parenthood is on the stage, pro-life women should stand there, too. If you want somebody to speak for immigrants, invite somebody who’s in the country lawfully.”
Oh, for the love of all that is holy, where to start with this horseshit. What is Angela Davis doing there? She is there to talk about the oppression of black people and women. Where are the police officers and officeholders? Well, I wager there were lots of them at different marches, but I think what he really means is “Why aren’t people who are worried about police violence and mass incarceration more deferential to the institutions of law and order?” and the answer to that is obvious. As for pro-life women being there, yes, I bet many were in the crowd, but given that their position on this topic is one that the fascist regime uses to control women’s bodies and keep them from birth control and mammograms, they do not get the mic on the one day we come together to empower women.
5) Progressives need to focus the message on specific policy objectives.
Yes, in general I agree with that. But the women’s march was on the day after Inauguration. Which specific Trump policy — besides his positions on abortion and women’s health, which apparently are not valid to this author — should the women have mobilized against at that point, pray tell?
6) “Here are a few useful tests [for formulating successful demands]:
a) Could this demand be achieved by a law passed through Congress?
b) Can I imagine my Rush Limbaugh listening brother-in-law agreeing with it?
c) Can I tweet it?
If so … good.
d) Would I still be upset about this if Marco Rubio were president now?
If so … bad.”
Is this a joke? Let’s get this straight: Liberals are only supposed to go after policy objectives that Rush Limbaugh fans would agree with? And they can only go after conservative policies that are unique to Trump, but nothing that another Republican might have enacted? This truly sounds like the exact definition of a conservative resistance movement.
7) Protests are one thing, but they are not enough, and we should follow up the protests with other actions. You should form FB groups and organize against stuff.
Yes, we were already doing that. Thank you, Bush staffer, for the sage advice.
Memo to regretful conservatives: if you dislike Trump but still believe that guns should be everywhere, women’s bodies are yours to regulate, war is the answer to everything, black people should be hyperpoliced, immigrants should be vilified, the environment is yours to plunder, healthcare is for rich people, and trickle-down economics are the answer, you need to come to terms with your own objectives and formulate your own movement. Those are basic deviations from the moral platform of the left and it is jaw-droppingly presumptuous to suggest that the platform should be burned down to please fools with buyer’s remorse.