The Pendulum Swings Both Ways
Not that anyone gives a shit, well, today maybe they do, but I’ve spent the last several hours thinking about what just happened. Some of you know that I am a student of this stuff, studied it extensively in college, and try to read and inform myself each day about all things political/historical. Doesn’t make me smarter than your average bear, but it’s definitely something I love and perhaps can provide a slightly informed $.02. Oh, and I also don’t find any value in feeling sorry for ourselves. That’s pointless and won’t help us navigate either the short-term or the long-term challenges that now face us. Recriminations and blame are largely useless. Coulda, woulda, shoulda doesn’t move the world forward one inch. It’s done. Now what?
So, with that in mind, I wake up this morning with quite a determined point of view and also some thoughts about last night that might buttress all of us on the Left and serve as a battle plan going forward. I apologize in advance for some of the pithy clichés that follow:
1. It’s not four years, it’s two years. That’s what we are playing for. In 2 years, we take back the Congress, just like the GOP did in 1994 and 2010. The essential truth about American politics is that people are wary of one party having too much control. It tends to mobilize the other side. This shit now gets real. And gets local. Street by street. District by district. Legislature by legislature. We take it back. We on the Left have largely ignored the off-year elections. We show up only for the big game. And, as a result, we’ve gotten gerrymandered out of power. It’s been a death by a thousand cuts. Time to wake up.
2. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I’ve read a lot of hand wringing this morning about all the things that are now sure to be lost — Obamacare, LGBT rights, the EPA etc. Those are very real possibilities and should scare us all. But that assumes the GOP is one solid unit that can stay on point and won’t get greedy. They aren’t and they won’t. I promise. No party ever is. Remember in 2008 when the Dems had the House, almost 60 votes in the Senate and won the White House by 10m votes? We BARELY got Obamacare, a watered-down bailout and a mild Dodd-Frank. That’s it. We didn’t get some massive progressive agenda passed. Why? Because not only can the opposition block a lot, but also because of divisions within our own wing. Everyone gets drunk with the possibilities of all this power and has this endless Christmas list of shit they want to get done first. It leads to infighting, over-reaching and power-grabs. You think that isn’t going to happen with Trump-Ryan-McConnell? They could barely stand each other before. Our system is built purposely to withstand this kind of binge eating. I know what people will say — what about Bush-Cheney 2000? We got fooled in 2000 because everything was still hunky-dory. And then 9/11 happened. And Cheney and Rove were shrewd insiders who knew how to work the system. These guys aren’t that. And we won’t let that happen this time.
3. The best offense is a great defense. Remember how disgusted we all were when Mitch McConnell said on the eve of the first Obama term that he was going to make sure that nothing Obama proposed got passed, no matter what? Well, thanks, Mitch, you’ve just handed us the playbook. And, we have a great Defensive Coordinator in Chuck Schumer to run it. He ain’t Harry Reid — he’s a tough New Yorker. He now needs to become the Buddy Ryan of our 46 Defense. NOTHING gets passed. You need 60 votes to get anything through the Senate, including Supreme Court nominees. Good luck, fucktards. Payback is a bitch. Sorry, KKK and angry, white dudes — no soup for you. Remember what I said in #’s 1 and 2 — we can play defense for the next 2 years easily. I don’t care if we have to hook Ruth Bader Ginsburg up to a fucking iron lung and filibuster every court nominee — we do it. The only thing we on the Left have to let go of is this notion of being “fair”. That’s what always gets us in trouble. You don’t have to play nicely with the other side. They have shown that. We have to lose that koombayah, let’s all get along, we are all in this together pleasantness. Tune out all the impending bitching from the Trumpettes. The next 2 years is the goal line stand to end all goal line stands. Everything you believe in is on the line. To quote Jean Luc Picard, THIS far, NO further.
4. Our bench is DEEP. Let’s be honest, Hillary was a pioneering candidate. But she has her flaws. That’s no excuse for last night but let’s not delude ourselves in thinking she was ever a slam-dunk. She had baggage and exploitable weaknesses. Bernie proved that in the primaries. That said, we have an exciting and deep bench — Elizabeth, Bernie, Cory, Michelle, Gavin, Kamala etc. These are all incredibly inspiring Presidential hopefuls for the next cycle. All can easily beat Trump. The GOP has a withered, old bench. Did any of the 17 on their debate stage scare you? Me, neither. Get excited for our future. It’s there.
5. We have to return to our base. This is my biggest takeaway from last night. I’ve been reading a lot of comments from our side about how dumb Americans are and how they are all racists and misogynists. It’s all said in the most condescending tone. While some of that may be true, we need to lose that. To be frank, we on the left have forgotten a large chunk of our base — white, working class people. Look at the numbers. The same amount of Republicans showed up last night as in 2008 and 2012 — about 59 million. But, on the left, 5m fewer voters than 2012 and 10m fewer than in 2008 showed up. We lost the entire rust belt (Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania). Let that sink in. States we EASILY won in 2008 and 2012. It’s not because the racists and pussy grabbers suddenly showed up. There wasn’t some great turnout on their side — they got the EXACT same votes they always have. Think about it — we lost these states by about 600,000 votes total. That’s it. OUR side in these states didn’t show up. That’s the simple truth. And, to be clear, they didn’t show up because we had nothing for them. We really need to be introspective at this point and acknowledge that. Bernie wasn’t wrong about this. Michael Moore wasn’t wrong about this. Our party was built on the backs of working class people. We got outflanked and took our base for granted. We all have fears. One of the most primal is putting bread on the table and having a roof over our heads. What did we have to allay those anxieties? In the absence of a real plan that addressed what these voters were feeling, hatred and division was allowed to fill the void.
Throughout history, that’s what always happens. For all our high-mindedness in the progressive enclaves of the coasts, we have forgotten that for most people it’s a lot more basic. They are worried about their basic survival. Jobs. Bills. Medical care. Retirement. We are in real danger of becoming an elitist party. We have all these wonderful, high-minded ideals about this progressive utopia but have lost touch with the real, everyday concerns of the core of our party. Just being the anti-Trump wasn’t enough and our base stayed home. We talk about the working class in really condescending ways and have lost touch with them, to our peril. As we learned in 1992 and 2008 (our biggest triumphs), it’s about the economy, stupid. Those are the solutions our base wants first from us. We take care of that and we’ll get all our progressive stuff with it. We need a real plan and message that genuinely appeals to both their hopes and fears. A tangible plan to strengthen unions and create jobs in those communities. A plan to assuage their fears of being left behind. And change our entire tone when talking about our base. The middle of this country is hurting and stayed home. We need to get them excited again. Let’s win their votes back.
6. The emperor has no clothes. Trump is a moron. His team are morons. If you think he and his team knows how to govern, I’ve got a Trump property in Atlantic City to sell you. They are petty and small. And I am confident the knives from all sides will now come out. The media isn’t going to play nice with them. They know they got fooled, too. Governing takes real talent. Hell, it’s going to take Trump 3 weeks just to find the john. That doesn’t mean to underestimate him. That’s a mistake. But don’t overestimate him/them either. It takes a lot of skill to get things done in Washington. It also takes a real plan. We know he doesn’t have either. And we have to be BRUTAL in pointing that out. All of these people who he deluded into thinking he has a plan will see the truth if we make them.
7. Keep calm and carry on. The sun came up this morning. Life does go on. Keep this in perspective. We have survived worse. We really have. This loss sucks. It does. We didn’t do enough and our worst nightmare came true. Don’t forget this pain. Don’t lose it. It’s now fuel. Every. Fucking. Day.
To those who voted for Trump, I will not belittle you or demean you. As I‘ve said, I feel our side has become a little too condescending and elitist. I, too, am guilty of that. I will only ask that you look at the people in your life that your new President has openly denigrated — women, gays, African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, the sick, etc. — and tell them openly that you don’t care about them at all. That’s what you said with your vote yesterday. You can delude yourself that you didn’t but you did. Don’t now be bashful. Own that ugliness and selfishness and fear. Own your vote. Enjoy this for a moment. Governing is hard. And we are no longer going to clean up your messes.
The pendulum swings both ways.
It always has. Remember that. Have confidence in it. Don’t hang your head. We learn much more from our defeats than from our victories. We now have a goal. I, for one, am galvanized in a way I didn’t realize until this morning. The fight is on.