On Progressive Politics: Bad Teammates
Political ideas that have no real shot at being implemented are worthless. This doesn’t mean grand, idealistic policies shouldn’t be discussed and worked towards. What it does mean is they need to be treated for what they are-wishful things that need to be worked towards often one step, one inch at a time with the realization due to uncontrollable variables and circumstances, the ideal may never be attained.
When I was much, much younger, I wanted to play professional basketball. It was my dream. It was my passion. I practiced 4-6 hours every single day, 365 days a year from the time I was twelve until I was nineteen. I turned out to be a pretty good basketball player. Unfortunately, there were thousands of others my age who were much better than me who got college scholarships. No matter how much I wanted it or how hard I worked, playing in the NBA wasn’t a realistic dream. However, I was able to use this dream to make myself, a musically gifted, non-athletic kid, a pretty good basketball player who could hold my own with a lot of college players. As much as I wanted to play pro, let alone college ball, I am not disappointed that I didn’t reach my goal because I know I got the absolute most out of my talents as was possible. I moved the bar as far forwards as was possible.
If I would have had the mindset of many progressives, I would have quit playing ball in middle school and/or would be bitching and moaning today about how I was denied my dream. It doesn’t matter how unrealistic the dream. It doesn’t matter the context or circumstances or limitations, if the ideal cannot be reached and reached RIGHT NOW, it is okay to give up, make bad choices, pout, whine… anything other than doing whatever you can to make the most out of the hand you’ve been dealt (yes I know I’m mixing basketball and poker metaphors.)
Progressivism is about striving towards ideals. The very definition of ‘progress’ is: forward or onward movement toward a destination. Notice the definition isn’t: reaching a specific destination. It is moving forward, towards a desired destination. Sometimes political progress is quick and large but it is mostly slow and small. As long as progress is being made that is what really matters. Even when progress is set back, it is important to look at the big picture and not a single snapshot of a particular moment in time. Think about how many political setbacks happened before women got the right to vote, before the Civil Rights Act was passed, before the Obergefell versus Hodges decision granted gays the right to marry. If people gave up because things weren’t progressing like they wanted or because of setbacks, none of these progressive causes would have happened.
Working towards and seeing the big picture is what real progressives do. They don’t get too down after a setback and certainly don’t give up. They don’t abandon the process and apparatus that was responsible for past progress. They sure as fuck don’t attack the people who have dedicated their lives, given their hearts, sometimes even given their blood for progress because whatever their dreams happen to haven’t been reached. A true progressive honors those how fought the battles before them picks up the battle where it was left off and fights on regardless of the stage of the battle. They also aggressively defend ground already won through the sacrifices and hard work of others.
I cannot even begin to count the number of people I know who claim they are dyed-in-the-wool progressives who spent the last year violating every single quality it takes to be progressive. I witnessed them attack progressives like Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, John Lewis, Barack Obama… people who have spent a lot of time and energy fighting for progressive values. I listened to them go through mental and linguistic gymnastics that would make a Cirque du Soleil performer blush in order to rationalize their atrocious positions and strategies. I watched them be more than willing to allow decades of hard-earned progress on women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, voting rights, the environment… be cast aside because they felt progress wasn’t happening fast enough and in the EXACT ways they wanted it.
Context didn’t matter. How government actually works didn’t matter. History didn’t matter. Nothing mattered to the bitchy progressives who didn’t get the ponies they didn’t do a damn thing to earn but demanded they get. The fruits of the participation trophy generation are rancid, poisonous, and unbelievably stupid. People whose total political effort is being a keyboard commando on social media are churning out ill-conceived and re-damn-fucking-diculous things they know nothing about to the point where the theory an infinite number of monkeys typing will replicate the works of Shakespeare has been disproved. They don’t turn out Shakespeare. They turn out hot takes.
If you don’t understand this, don’t want to understand it or deny it, I really cannot consider you a progressive. At best, you are “progressive-lite.” You might talk the progressive talk but you aren’t walking the progressive walk. Staying home during elections will NEVER FUCKING EVER move things forward. Voting for third-party candidates who have zero chance of winning and even if they did have no political clout will NEVER FUCKING EVER move things forwards. Every single person who believes not voting or voting third-party will lead to progress, let alone significant progress is either grossly misinformed, completely ignorant or arrogantly stubborn. What they aren’t is progressive.
Making decisions based on the political system you WANT instead of the one that EXISTS is being a bad citizen and a horrible progressive. We don’t have a parliamentary system where minority parties can have an influence on policies through aligning themselves with other parties. Like it or not, we have a bicameral system where two major parties exist and fight for elections and policies. WANTING this to not be the case will NEVER FUCKING EVER make it true. Teddy Fucking Roosevelt was one of the most popular presidents in our history but when he ran as a third-party candidate in 1912, all he did was divide the Republican vote and hand the election to Woodrow Wilson in a landslide. The only thing Ralph Nader and Jill Stein and their supporters every accomplished politically was to hand the presidency to George W. Bush and Donald Trump. The only thing so-called “progressives” ever accomplished was allowing a demographically limited party of conservatives take over the majority of state governorships, state legislatures, Congress, and the White House. This is where I stand up, sarcastically slow clap, and say, “Bra-fuckin-o.”
You don’t vote for a candidate for the system you want but for the one that exists. To do otherwise is a sign of political ignorance and/or stunning selfishness. This doesn’t mean your voice shouldn’t be heard. There is a time and place for this-before and during the primaries. Primaries are when everyone gets a seat at the table to express their opinion about who they want to represent them and why. However, once the primaries are over and a candidate has been selected, your individual voice takes a backseat to the wants and needs of the whole. To be upset your preferred candidate didn’t win the nomination is absolutely no reason to not vote or vote third-party. You know who will NEVER FUCKING EVER move the progressive bar forward? People you don’t vote for and people who will never win and never have any power if they do. You know who will NEVER FUCKING EVER move the progressive bar forward? Conservatives who win elections because too many “progressives” are politically naive, ignorant or stubborn.
Arguing against this, throwing temper tantrums about it, wishing it would be different will NEVER FUCKING EVER make it not true. What doing these will accomplish is keeping progress from happening and if done enough, will ensure past progress is lost.
This should be very easy to understand but the fact I have to constantly point it out to people who adamantly tell me they are “progressive,” is disheartening and tells me a lot about why we are in the current state we are in. Conservatives are not the only ones who can’t pass basic civics. I expect conservatives to not give a damn about how government works because they believe the government is a bad idea except when it comes to having a military. I sure as hell expect people who believe the government is not only important but necessary for the betterment of its citizens to have a third-grade level grasp from how government works and elections occur to how laws are made.
Progressives keep telling me we need to be “united” against Trump and the Republican Party but many of the ones telling me this are the very same people whose direct actions are responsible for the situation we must all now “unite” in order to fight. We are in this position because they failed to be good progressives and they refuse to admit their ignorance and culpability. Instead, they are doubling down on their horrid political takes and strategies demanding the rest of us have to follow in order to have political success. Mind you these are people who haven’t won a damn thing, wield no political power, have never shown any ability to win county drain commissioner but the entire Democratic Party must yield to their political “expertise.”
You know who did know how to win elections and hand conservatives their political asses? Barack Obama. With a working majority for less than a couple of months out of eight years, he was able to move the progressive bar forward a great deal. Every Democratic President since FDR tried to get major health care reform passed. They all failed. He expanded LGBT rights, environmental rights, consumer’s rights… and progressives rewarded his efforts by pouting and sitting out the 2010 midterms which led to a GOP takeover of the U.S. House and many traditional blue state governments. It led to them doing the same in 2014, this time giving Republicans control of the U.S. Senate which ultimately ended up costing progressives a Supreme Court justice. Instead of following Obama’s lead and heeding his pleas, too many progressives decided they know better how to win elections and get progress accomplished. So far, their record since 2010 is a whopping FUCK TON and zero. Yet, despite showing absolutely no ability to win county animal control officer, this group of progressives are adamant they know better than President Obama. It is unfuckingbelievable and insulting as hell.
For all the excitement and energy many progressives exuded for Bernie Sanders, none of it has translated into any political wins. Not for Bernie. Not for Bernie supported candidates. Not for Bernie-aligned candidates. It’s not like he is batting .500 or even .300. So far this wing of progressivism hasn’t gotten a single hit. They are 0 for a lot. There are ball and towel boys in Single-A with better hitting stats.
Anyone willing to step away from their emotional attachment to Bernie should be able to see that his “movement” isn’t a political movement, it is a cult of personality. For whatever reasons, Bernie is able to attract a lot of attention and devotion. Personally, I have no idea how or why but I don’t deny it happens. What is true is this devotion starts and ends with Bernie. Neither he or his supporters have been able to generate any meaningful energy and votes for anyone other than Bernie. That many progressives either don’t or won’t see this flaw is very troublesome to me. What is even more troublesome is these very same “progressives” are blaming the progressives who have devoted their lives, efforts, and blood to get the progress made the past fifty years for our current situation. Sorry, but the only response I will ever have to these people is, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!”
There should be one and only one goal right now for anyone claiming to be a progressive-MAKE SURE CONSERVATIVES DON’T WIN ANY ELECTIONS FROM HOMECOMING KING/QUEEN TO THE PRESIDENCY. ANYTHING less than this, ANYTHING that takes attention away from this, ANYTHING other than this should be completely ignored. ANYONE who claims differently should be viewed suspiciously, their progressive cred seriously questioned, and progressive ID confiscated until further notice.
For most of my adult life, Republicans have done everything they can to make government not function properly. In many ways, they have succeeded. However, the real damage they’ve done isn’t to the government itself but to attitudes about government. People are jaded and upset about how the government has failed them. They don’t blame those responsible for fucking up the system. They blame everyone in the system. The media is guilty of helping Republicans create this image. When Republicans fail to do something that polls strongly, it is never portrayed as “Republicans failed to do_______.” It is always, “Congress failed to do_______.” This portrayal is mimicked by the public, including progressives, to the point where it becomes gospel and is the impetus for most of the “Democratic Party has abandoned___,” “Democrats have forgotten____” stupid fucking hot takes.
If progressives want a better, more functional government, all they need to do is make sure conservatives are the minority. If they want a very functional government, they need to make sure progressives have very large majorities. In order to accomplish these things, progressives need to do the following:
1-Get out and vote in every election for the progressive who has the best chance of winning regardless of your personal feelings about the candidate(s).
2-Never allow conservatives the opportunity to undo progress already fought for and won.
3-Learn how government actually works.
4-Stop parroting right-wing talking points about anything but especially about fellow progressives.
5-Understand voting is a personal responsibility but with societal consequences (it isn’t about you.)
6-Come to terms with the fact our entire system of government was intentionally built to prevent quick, massive changes in policies.
7-Learn how to place blame where it belongs.
8-Realize progress can’t be judged by looking at a single moment in time but rather by seeing long-term trends.
9-Understand we have a bicameral system and the only way progress be achieved is through one of the two parties.
10-Stop placing purity tests on candidates, especially ones in districts, areas, states…whose elections won’t impact you.
11-Remember the worst progressive is always preferable to the best conservative by a wide margin.
12-Quit using terms like “establishment,” “pragmatism,” and “cooperation” as pejoratives.
13-Realize fake news isn’t just something conservatives fall prey to.
14-Stop claiming that addressing economic issues will resolve racial ones.
15-Be a true ally of those are members of your base, especially people who are most vulnerable to conservative policies.
To me, this list is pretty self-explanatory, commonsensical, and easy to do. Because I view it this way, I am having a real difficult time dealing with people who claim to want and value the same things I do, who argue and fight against this especially when the stakes are so high and the damage done by allowing conservatives to have power so devastating to the very things they claim are important to them. I’m having a really hard time being lectured about politics and political strategy by people whose entire political experience is bitching about it on social media. I’m having a hard time listening to people with no sense of self-reflection bitch about consequences that came about because of their action/inaction. I’m having a hard time listening to people tell me they are progressive but seem willing and sometimes eager to allow past progress to be rolled back. I’m having a hard time watching the hard work of progressives past be cast aside so easily by conservatives while so-called progressives myopically demand their pet progress be immediately addressed.
I am having a really difficult time listening to people who told me for months that using the undoing of The Affordable Care Act, the seating of a conservative Supreme Court Justice, the allowing of the Dakota pipeline, the unraveling of Dodd-Frank, the screwing of Dreamers… as reasons to oppose Trump and vote for Hillary, turn around and bitch nonstop as these easily preventable consequences are becoming realities. Maybe a bigger person can overlook this. I’m not that person. I’m fifty-six years old. My entire life has been dedicated to doing whatever I can to help this country live up to its ideals of justice and equality. In my lifetime, I’ve gone from watching Civil Rights activists beaten and firehosed to the election of the first black president. I’ve gone from it being illegal for whites to marry blacks to gay marriage being the law of the land. I’ve gone from women not being able to have their own credit card to earning the most votes, by 3 million, in a presidential election. As great as all these progressive things and more have been, they could easily have been more if progressives had an ounce of fucking common sense and political acumen. Come back full circle to basketball, being a progress is like being on a team with the best coach and the best players but too many of the players are prone to unforced turnovers and are more concerned with their personal stats than the team’s accomplishments. I hated having this type of player on my team. I still do.