One of my favorite things I heard Jon Stewart say was that “be reasonable” just doesn’t make a good chant at a protest. And the people who are most fervently behind the desire for our governing officials to be reasonable are the same people who are most likely to pick mowing the lawn over rabble-rousing.
The liberals have spent a long time holding on to the Stephen Colbert quote: Reality has a well-known liberal bias. We tend to trust the lessons of history, the evidence, science, logic, and those items which are verifiable. When examining economic policy, we look at the individual states as test-beds. What works? Jindall ran Louisiana into the ground based on his ideology: tax breaks good, government spending bad. Not that Louisiana was at the top of the heap in terms of states achieving great things, but it is at the bottom now. Walker in Wisconsin. Sam Brownback in Kansas. All solid test cases for GOP/Conservative/Small Government ideology.
How is that working out? Not so well.
And progressives think that should count for something. That ideology should interact with reality at some point and that ideas taken as an article of faith should adjust themselves when proven false in the real world. We point at the ‘repeal and replace’ argument around the ACA, and (rightly) note that they’ve been squawking repeal and replace for six years and no one thought of something to come up with to fill in the ‘replace’ part of that equation? How does that not make the argument ridiculous?
So far, certainly since Newt Gingrich in the 1990’s, we’ve been getting progressively more reliant on the evidence, to no avail. We’ve told ourselves that we’re taking the high road, while we seek consensus, make compromise, and function as the adults in the room. We attempt to persuade with logic, with evidence, with the facts as they are known and understood by a body of experts larger than one guy in a tinfoil hat. Every time, we stand around with this faith in human decency and reason, pointing at the dastardly behavior ever pushing the boundaries of absurd, expecting the general public to give a shit.
The general public doesn’t give a shit. The evidence only matters because we say it matters (and also: those people in Louisiana with the raw sewage bubbling up in their back yards). In other words, the evidence matters to us but to no one else.
So what do we do going forward? Some would have the Dems become as obstructionist and petulant as the GOP. There is talk of a Brietbart for the Left.
What would Lefty Brietbart look like? Righty Brietbart talks about birth control making women ugly and annoying. What is the equivalent? I suppose you could reach into the darker corners of hard-core feminist philosophy and discover an article about how men who masturbate to porn are more prone to domestic violence therefore masturbation automatically leads to assault and battery. Or something like that, except the flip side of the argument doesn’t work, because the evidence thing is built into our philosophical DNA. Somehow, Progressive notions are already radical, like acknowledging that it isn’t an accident that our prison population has exploded, or that a disproportionate number of our prisoners are of color, and that those prisoners are disenfranchised upon release and subject to slave wages while in Prison. Hmm. Plantation becomes prison… And following the cause to effect is already a radical notion because the Brietbart Righty call us Social Justice Warriors, as if that is a bad thing.
So we have Adbusters. And Mother Jones. And all of that rabid lefty talk has produced people who … are still expecting evidence, still want measured reasonable action that takes into account second and third order effects, and still look for consensus and alternative view points.
We aren’t going to win this by out temper-tantruming the GOP. We might make some progress by quitting the game playing. Or starting a new game where we are transparent, we tell the whole truth in plain language, we go out and listen, and we stop spending all our time in fundraising and go back to writing our own laws. Laws in plain English. Clear laws. And pulling obsolete laws off of the books. A sense of humor might help. Stop worrying about test audiences and McCarthy witch hunts into Socialists invading the Democrats. And stop thinking that we’re playing the same game as the GOP. It is obvious to anyone paying attention that the only ideology that counts is power and cash. Nothing else about the GOP guiding philosophy is sacrosanct. They want to win and they want to reward the wealthy with more wealth for the achievement of being born wealthy. That’s it. They’ll offer up a healthy dose of racial resentment to the poor huddled masses, a finger to point in some other direction, and a long speech on the right to life, so long as you’ve never been disconnected from the umbilical cord. But what they care about is shoveling more money up the economic ladder.
God, could you imagine if the Koch brothers (and all the other doners) just put all their lobbying funds into the general tax fund?
Anyway… Going forward, I think we need to be ruthless, but not in the same way as the GOP. If we are ruthlessly committed to speaking plainly, articulating the principles that aren’t negotiable, and re-claiming the authenticity credential… We might get somewhere. Right now, the conversation is defined by the Don and the GOP’s talking points. We aren’t getting anywhere by spending all of our time debunking the metric shit ton of bullshit that gets lobbed at the public on a daily basis, so maybe it is time to stop chasing the GOP tail and start moving forward.