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.