Jim Wright, over at Stonekettle Station, writes about increasing progressive turnout. He complains that liberals don’t show up and that if they did, the conservatives would be toast. Late in the long essay, he writes is: “It’s going to require a hell of a lot more work. It’s going to require organization. It’s going to require rational liberals and rational conservatives to work together and find common ground. […] It’s going to require compromise. […] Compromise not with hate, but with fear.”
Yet conservatives have crossed the line to unjust violence — fascism — and people who have done that seldom cross back. It takes strong people to admit to unforgivable sin, and repent. Most never do, never will. Can we bring the Republican Party back, when it has embraced fascism?
The Democratic Party, in the last 30 years, has tried to serve both Mammon and the people. Can't be done, and the Obama administration failed spectacularly at it. No jobs program, no relief for embattled homeowners, no prosecutions for mortgage fraud or servicing abuse. (And if you doubt that, read David Dayen’s Chain of Title.) At least, the Obama administration did not practice the economic destruction the Republicans promise. This made it possible for people to work out a modest recovery. But I do not think there is one of us who does not know someone who has lost their home, or spent years out of work.
Why would people turn out for a party which did that? I have a friend who is represented by Senator Patricia Murray (D-WA.) She made the budget deal with Paul Ryan that cut off my friend’s unemployment benefits on my friend’s birthday. Now (says my friend) my friend voted for Senator Murray during the last election with difficulty. And yet my friend is an educated activist who will determinedly vote for the lesser evil. Someone who had lost their house or had years of unemployment and is not ideological? Why would they vote Democratic? Why would their family, friends, and neighbors? The amazing thing, perhaps, is that turnout was as good as it was.
What turned out enthusiastic liberals in the last election? Jobs, banking, environment,… The socialist program of Bernard Sanders. The socialist Bernard Sanders. And perhaps his proposals did not pencil, likely they could not have been implemented as written. But the process of attempting to implement them would have produced positive results. Likely also Sanders would not have won the general election: the Republicans would have painted him as a misogynistic racist communist traitor and they would have had the help of disappointed Clinton supporters. Yet as much as there was anyone implementing your program of connecting with the opposition, of coming together, Sanders tried. He talked to coal miners and auto workers. He visited Liberty University. When Clinton won the primaries, he turned over his delegates to Clinton and campaigned for her.
But it was not enough.
What will be enough? Well, to begin with, let’s look at the old progressive or liberal or democratic socialist program: jobs, environment, equity, justice. “Vote for us: we bring peace, prosperity, and weed.” What’s not to like about that? (Weed makes me cough. But other than that.) Well, turns out that that means one isn’t allowed to be rapacious in business, that one has to give up the feeling of moral superiority that anti-abortion activism offers, and no racism, no sexism. We have just elected a racist President who brags about the size of his penis! Whose party has a history of rape apologetics. Whose anti-abortion platform protects rapists and child molesters.
At the root of this great reaction is in part threatened masculinity. The other part, I think, is a revolt against modernity. A revolt against the communications technologies which connect us. A revolt against a world where Western culture is one of many.
So we have four things to account for the Democratic loss: racism, patriarchy, a revolt against modernity, and personal economic losses. What will be enough to turn out voters against the Republicans? Perhaps organization of the enormous opposition that has emerged. As I have been writing since 2008, young people and women are mobilized. If they can organize, they can win. Time and Republican failures will work in their favor. Trumpworld is a glitzy place, but also a harsh, corrupt, and unfair one, and the public is likely to hate the reality of fascism; it is much more attractive as a vision than a reality.
But who will organize them? The party that turned people out of their homes and left them to fall into poverty is not going to be easily forgiven. Its leadership does not want to admit error. Charles Schumer, the Senator who most represents the hated financiers of Wall Street, is the Democratic Senate leader. Tom Perez, though personally liberal, was candidate of the losing party establishment for chair of the Democratic National Committee, and has won.
In the clinch, most Sanders supporters stood with Clinton. It is not clear to me if the reverse would be so. I have seen far too much denial of the problems of the Democratic Party from Clinton supporters, and if the Democrats do not change, they will keep on losing.
Our Revolution, which grew out of Sanders campaign, has its own problems. The revanchist Clinton supporters obviously, but also the unpopularity of socialism. Yet the strength and depth of the opposition to the Trump/Republican program is astonishing. If that can organize, it can defeat the Republicans.
2020. Look to 2020. The country will be a shambles by then, but with luck, organization, and leadership an opposition can win in 2020. We can try things in 2018, but by 2020 I hope we are ready.