Editor’s Note: I wish I had never written this thing, but it’s here and some people have responded and so now I feel I’m stuck with it. It’s incredibly patronizing and I’m embarrassed by it. Still, for the public record…
I’m finding this presidential election cycle to be incredibly difficult to navigate. The fear mongering from every corner of our political landscape is deafening. Totalitarianism reigns supreme no matter what one’s political predilections may be. Racist xenophobes or corporate puppets, our choices seem lackluster at best.
As I’ve kept up with current events, two recent articles (both opinion pieces) caught my attention and I wanted to share them with you. First is from the Miami Herald.
Today's column is for the benefit of one Dr. Benjamin Solomon Carson. He shouldn't need what follows, but obviously…www.miamiherald.com
This quotation captured my attention.
Then there is this little snippet of progressivist political philosophy from Chomsky.
Noam Chomsky, the renowned scholar and MIT professor emeritus, says that the rise of Donald Trump in American politics…m.huffpost.com
Of course, pulling out these two related threads grossly oversimplifies what is an incredibly complex rearrangement of American power structures. Yet, on-going demographic shifts with the economics of global Neo-liberalism means that the quintessential blue-collar “white” American [male] is shit out of luck. From Anaheim to Anchorage to Birmingham and suburban Chicago we are seeing an incredible display of frustration. This is why Trump's rhetoric is so persuasive for many.
Persuasive is the wrong word. It’s evocative. Trump is not persuading anyone of anything. He’s just tapping in to what already is.
Xenophobia. Racism. Sexism. It’s all there. It always has been. So too has economic insecurity and an oft deaf Progressive power elite missing an opportunity to live into the heart of our political world view.
Yes, there are white supremacists who are supporting Donald Trump. The support is terrifying and his apparent ideological hospitality is also terrifying. But most of his supporters that I know are people who are simply frustrated. Frustrated with the economy (Stagnation for everyone! The same damn chicken from the last age.), education, and cultural shift that comes with the demographic shift of the last half century.
These folk do not wear racism on their sleeves like David Duke. If you ask them they would say they have nothing against their black or brown neighbors. If they are guilty of racism, they are guilty of enjoying the same systemic racism that I am. But they are pissed.
What they are frustrated about, however, has everything to do with Progressives like myself and our insistence on defining Progressive in such a way as to exclude those who simply lack “privilege.” We often define economic or educational privilege as necessarily progressive and everyone else as regressive (Secular and religious also break down on a similar line, but that’s the subject of another nonsensical post.). Of course, this bifurcation does not hold up to any scrutiny.
Privilege cuts across class, race, or creed. There is such a thing as white privilege. I enjoy it. There is also such a thing as economic or educational privilege. I enjoy that as well. The mistake is conflating privilege and Progressivism. This we do with great alacrity.
As we have lauded STEM approaches to public education. We have also removed the arts from public education. We Progressives deplore this, of course. We’re all up in arms about this. Yet, are Progressives talking about how we also removed home economics and the vocational arts from the curriculum of public school? Home economics and vocational arts are not nearly Progressive enough for us.
Teach my kid how to play the violin but please don’t teach her how to wire her own house. That’s tacky. Also, blue collar folk are conservative and I don’t want my kid to be a conservative. That’s also tacky.
Much of my Progressivism is based in classism that has its roots in pre-Civil War politics. Again, a post for another day, but do recall that in Virginia, for example, landless white men did not get the vote until the middle of the 18th century. As a card-carrying member of the landed gentry, I figured I should say something ab.
No politician today stands behind their lectern and espouses the virtues of the apprenticeship model for learning how to be a plumber. Silicon Valley has erased that vocabulary from our political lexicon. We Progressives were glad to see the language go, too.
<snark>We all know that plumbers are under-educated regressive white supremacists. Unless they happen to be Mexican. Then they are hard working people just trying to do better for their kids who they would hate to see become plumbers.</snark>
If we want to avoid the rage politics of demagogues like Donald Trump, we will have to do better at including everybody in the conversation. Even plumbers.
When a presidential candidate wins the election with 51% of the vote but only 28% of the electorate turns out to vote, we have an enormous problem on our hands and it has nothing to do with being “Progressive” but with how we have deluded ourselves into thinking that ongoing demographic shift is the same thing as progress. We have convinced 72% of the electorate to stay home, that their opinions do not matter, that their vote will amount to nothing.
Such Progressive strategies birthed The Religious Right. They helped to birth Trump, too. Between the Tea Party/GOP Frankenstein and the Democratic/Progressive leadership, we are getting just what we created.
I am still a Progressive. This is by no means an attempt to turn in my card. And I will argue toe-to-toe with those whom I disagree. I also need to own some degree of culpability for what passes as politics this electoral cycle. It takes two to tango…even with Trump.