November 5, 2016

Trump's effect on the Left: Revealing true progressives vs. moralistic posers

Democrats are becoming resigned to the inevitability of a Trump administration. Are the progressives among them at least cautiously optimistic about the major gains that could be made in all the areas where Trump is "to the left" of Crooked Hillary? These include:

- Cleaning up corruption

- Ending the revolving door between lobbying and working for the government

- Trade, tariffs, bringing back manufacturing base

- Anti-interventionism, especially in Middle East

- Detente with Russia

- Leaving major entitlements alone

You'd think that the re-alignment under way would bring most of the progressive Democrats over to the Trump side, even if they didn't accept the label Republican or indeed vote for any other R aside from Trump. Hillary and the Establishment Democrats are simply too "far right" on all of these major issues, and are not any better on issues where Trump is not worlds apart from Clinton, such as climate change and environmental policy. (All of the enviro-inspired DNC platform items were squashed in committee by the Clintonites.)

Trump will get about 20% of the Bernie primary voters, but something tells me most of them would not identify as "progressive". What about the Bernie sympathizers who do identify as progressive?

There are a handful of exceptions like Slavoj Zizek and Michael Tracey (cautiously optimistic), and Cassandra Fairbanks (Bernie-to-Trump supporter), but for the most part the progressives are striving to distance themselves from Trump -- and therefore, from the issues where he commands the high ground over the Dem Establishment.

Jordan Chariton and Emma Vigeland from The Young Turks: Politics, the regular Young Turks crew, David Sirota, Rania Khalek, Nomiki Konst, etc. -- I've looked into where they're at, and their general response is embarrassment. They're embarrassed that Trump and the Trump supporters now own their pet issues.

For awhile, they tried to deny that their issues were now Trump's issues, like maybe he wasn't really going to gut NAFTA, or terminate the program of regime change, or demote Saudi Arabia from high-ranking ally to hostile terror state. By now they've accepted that he means to do those things.

Now they're in the bind of a teenager who thinks they're cooler than everyone else, who suddenly learns that their parents are really into the same music they are -- and worse, the prole neighbors are into their favorite bands too! They can no longer maintain their counter-cultural affectation by railing against the TPP, protesting against pointless wars in the Middle East, and decrying how mega-donors and Wall Street lobbyists control the White House.

So just like the try-hard teenager who frantically searches for a new band that their parents and neighbors haven't heard of, suddenly the progressives are 100% focused on climate change, environmentalism, and specifically the Dakota Pipeline and the protests there. Finally, a set of issues where Trump -- and those lowly Trump supporters -- are nowhere to be seen! At last we can relax together in our little progressive purity circle and resume our counter-cultural poses against President Drumpf and his anti-progressive environmental policies.

The fact that just about all of these people are converging on the same solution, without any of them orchestrating it or handing out talking points (or even commenting on it), shows that it springs organically from the mindset of the average progressive.

If their mindset were concerned with certain issues, they would at least be cautiously optimistic. "Sure, Trump may not be great on environmentalism, but at least we're finally going to see an end to NAFTA. Awesome sauce!" They would be treating him as a strategic ally rather than a 100% fellow traveler, but not as an enemy.

No: it turns out their main concern was affecting a counter-cultural persona for status points within their peer group of professional progressives. If the Trump movement champions the existing set of pet topics for progs, they will simply dump them and pick up a new set that the Trumpians will not touch with a 10-foot pole. Right now that means hardcore environmentalism, but if Trump takes that up, too, they'll drop that as well and move on to yet another topic, like opening the prisons -- let's see Mr. Law-and-Order take over that policy.

No matter what, the over-arching stance toward Trump is that he is the enemy, and can never be a strategic ally. These people are not interested in achieving goals, which will usually require allying with others who share those goals, but in maintaining (counter-)cultural purity. It's not ideological purity, else they'd be in the cautiously optimistic mindset.

This divide is longstanding within the progressive / activist / radical world. The most recent polemic to highlight the divide and tell the persona-obsessed side to either wake up or GTFO, was Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm by Murray Bookchin (1995). He was an old-school left-anarchist whose goal was organizing federations of workers' councils, while the '90s flavor of anarchist was more concerned with living the change you want to be.

That meant: Don't work for The Man, don't associate with non-revolutionaries (sheeple), follow a radical diet (vegetarian or vegan), and so on and so forth. It was therefore a movement focused on purity of daily routines and rituals, sealed off from the polluting normal world, akin to the Essenes during the time of Jesus. They changed absolutely nothing, and neither will today's persona progressives, although they might at least leave behind some equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Back in the '90s, it was understandable if neither kind of radical or progressive wanted to support a major political party or candidate. Who was there? Now that Trump is offering them so many of the policies that they have been clamoring for over the last 20-30 years, they can no longer claim that both major party candidates for president are the enemy, and equally so.

Something tells me that if Murray Bookchin were alive today, he would be strategically supporting Trump like Zizek is, without being a hardcore fan of course. Although Zizek is Slavic (pro-Trump) and Bookchin was Jewish (anti-Trump), so perhaps not.

At any rate, I think the progs' gut-level reflex to demonize a Republican president will make them even more irrelevant in the near-to-middle term. For awhile it looked like they might stage their own takeover of their party, akin to the Trump movement taking over the GOP. Then in future elections we would have something like Bernie vs. Trump -- a worthy fuckin' adversary, for both sides.

But if the progs' main goal was just to pose as counter-cultural superiors, they will flee into the desert since the Trumpians have taken over their supposed major issues. In the desert, they will complain about increasingly more radical and off-putting topics, to ensure that the normies never ideologically overlap with them ever again.

Rather than the corporate globalist elitists getting shoved out of the Democrat party, they will more fully take it over. Bernie himself has already surrendered long ago and shilled for everything he stood against. The next tier down are abandoning their major issues entirely. Taking their cues from what the professional progs are doing, the grassroots progs will do anything to keep Trump framed as the enemy. There will be no base for progressive policies in the Democrat party.

That's not to say that it'll stay that way forever -- maybe just 30-40 years, like the original Progressive Era when the Republicans dominated the White House. During that time, the Democrats were still dominated by Tammany Hall -- only when the corrupt Establishment lost a fight against FDR did it disappear.

For the next generation, then, we won't have any business making allies with the average progressive. The ones who are policy-oriented we can work with, and may even convert. But it's being revealed that a larger and larger majority of progs are just persona-oriented posers who view our brand as toxic to theirs.

Hey, that's OK: we're going to Make America Great Again, and we don't need the permission of airheads obsessed with the radical lifestyle.

11 comments:

  1. Thank you for your post. My thoughts were similar but regarded Bill Maher. Always thought he wanted to blow up the system and now he has a chance to pull the pin and he is all in for Hillary. What a wimp.

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  2. No: it turns out their main concern was affecting a counter-cultural persona for status points within their peer group of professional progressives. If the Trump movement champions the existing set of pet topics for progs, they will simply dump them and pick up a new set that the Trumpians will not touch with a 10-foot pole.

    The demobilization of the anti-war movement in response to Democratic Party victory, rather then substantive changes in foreign policy is another substantive example of this phenomenon.

    B.B.

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  3. Yep. The last time the progressives or Democrats turned against their own party re war was the anti-Vietnam War movement way back during the Great Compression. Right at the tail-end of the non-partisan, non-polarized era.

    One of the anti-war leftists in Forrest Gump refers to the president as "that lying son of a bitch Johnson". And of course it was the Democrat Convention that the radicals rioted over in 1968.

    Republicans in the W. Bush years apologized for corporate tyranny and the military industrial complex, a foreign concept during the Eisenhower or Nixon years.

    With the Trump movement's victory over its own party leadership, and unmasking of so many of its leaders as hostile to their own voters (Bush, Romney, Ryan, etc.), and so many white working class Democrats crossing over, we're turning the page on intense partisanship.

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  4. The progs (Vigeland, Bernie's twitter team) are also trying to paternalistically hold onto the working class by saying that Trump supporters aren't racist or sexist, just economically anxious and misguided.

    Translation: if we progs don't endlessly call them racist and sexist, maybe they'll vote for Bernie instead of Trump.

    Too late. Now it's the Trump movement that owns the populist class issues, anti-war / non-interventionist issues, and anti-corruption issues. The progs will have to come to us, not us to them.

    Some will as strategic allies, some will convert as they become more mature and less kneejerk liberal (like me now compared to Nader-voting me in 2000), and the rest will abandon these issues in order to maintain cultural purity.

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  5. I like your interpretation. An interesting grasp for relevance or hedging of bets...
    I believe it is the very first time we've been acknowledged by Bernie and/or his supporters, directly. Paternalistic, absolutely, but couldn't help recalling when we knew about and respecting them and it was unrequited. Ignorant not out of hate, but total lack of interest.

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  6. Random Dude on the Internet11/5/16, 6:20 PM

    I think it is all dependent on how the Democratic party takes the loss. Since the major culprit will be blamed on the pre-2008 turnout of millennials and minorities, I think the Democrats have some avenues to go down and honestly they're all garbage (for them):

    1) No more whitey on the ticket. Cool black friends and wise latinas from here on out. They hope that enough white liberals will stick around. If Democrats want to be the party of non-whites, Democrats lose the remaining chunk of moderate and conservative Democrats and start to lose the SWPLs as well. The SWPLs will likely go green or just drop out, much like what is going on with Europe as young people are leaving the social democratic parties. As a result, Democrats lose the next few election cycles as they play the long game and wait for demographic birthrates to give them the coalition they need to start winning again.

    2) Democrats try the same strategy as in 2016: a white leader (with maybe a non-white VP) who strongly caters to the non-whites while tossing some bread crumbs to moderate and independent holdouts who lean Democrat. This doesn't work because identity/ethnic bloc politics is the name of the game with our new vibrant friends. Democrats keep losing with this strategy until they move on to option 1 or 3.

    3) As you propose, the Democrat platform becomes more like Bernie's and less like Hillary's. They accept that open borders is an increasingly dead end and apply more populist tenets. The leaders will present a left-populist message. Downside here is that the minority vote continues to drop, which means that if white people resonate more with right-populism (which I believe to be the case), Democrats give up states like Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada without much to gain on their end. Democrats lose the next few election cycles until Republicans screw up after enjoying 12-16 years of control.

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  7. Then news that Middle America has much the same views towards economic/foreign policy issues as the Smart Ones is not being welcomed. Wow, to see how good liberals are reacting with either bemusement (in a few cases with the less nerdy/Jewish liberals) or utter hostility/incomprehension/denial (more common).

    The entire basis of elitism is subverted by commoners having a reasonable grasp of how things should work. When strivers had no knowledge of popular opinion, they could smugly act like they were the cool ones who knew the score. But Trump has made popular opinion front and center. Even many ordinary people who don't like his style still agree with him on substance. How else did he get more votes than anyone else in GOP primary history?

    The striving arrogant liberal elites are now panicking because the only ground they haven't ceded is in boutique faddish cultural issues (like Global warming or tranny bathrooms)of which there's diminishing returns becoming apparent since most people don't give a damn.

    How do you posture as superior when the people you're trying to stay above aren't all that different from you? The hubris of the selfish elites; they don't want to sublimate themselves into the wishes and hearts of the teeming masses. Thus, the dehumanizing derision directed at huge chunks of America (low-info, poorly educated, racist, sexist, zealous Xtians, ignorant, stupid, deserving of death, etc.)

    Incredibly, there's almost no discussion of the policy affinity wrt trade/social programs/wars between Trump supporters and Leftist critics of the war-mongering and crony capitalism of the last 40 years.

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  8. Random: changing demographics will mean that shifts aren't going to be quite as stable as they should be. If we had the population demos of 30-40-50 years ago, Trump would win by a greater margin and it would be all the more obvious that the Dems have exiled themselves into the wilderness of niche ideology.

    The GOP was dumb enough to let Plains Christo-zealots and gun-nuts set the tone for 25-30 years(from the late 80's-mid 2010's. Which had the effect of alienating Northeastern/Rust-belt/Pacific whites who don't believe in racial bloc voting (as Scots-Irish Southerners do) and don't care about flaky Western crap.

    The GOP's lack of fire directed at cronyism and cheap labor alienated people in northern states established before 1830. Meanwhile, the bible thumping holier-than-thou stuff alienated the Pacific, much of the rust-belt Midwest, and the Northeast.

    None of this seemed to really concern the GOP elite, since after all, they had their cute little country club that the Chamber of Commerce approved.

    Now it's the Dem's turn to embrace niche crap that only hard-core cosmopolitan weirdos find appealing. Too bad the growing presence of non-whites and immigrants will partly disguise just how incredibly unpopular and clueless the Dems are getting to be among regular Americans. And will continue to be for the next 20-30 years.

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  9. Death to attempted assassins.

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  10. Feryl and others in snowcuckland: Trump rally Sunday in Minneapolis.

    https://www.donaldjtrump.com/schedule/register/minneapolis-mn/

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  11. "The GOP was dumb enough to let Plains Christo-zealots and gun-nuts set the tone for 25-30 years(from the late 80's-mid 2010's. Which had the effect of alienating Northeastern/Rust-belt/Pacific whites who don't believe in racial bloc voting (as Scots-Irish Southerners do) and don't care about flaky Western crap."

    How stupid do you have to be to talk shit about "gun nuts"? Owning guns is a life insurance against darkies and the government.

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