Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Now, What's Left?

Now, What's Left?

We know what is going on with the Right.

We have come to the understanding (which I and other progressive writers came to 10 years ago) that the authoritarian personality - the core Trump supporter - is not amenable to persuasion, argument or even fact; that they make their political decisions based on the belief that a 'strongman' will keep them safe and it is the bad 'others' who are the real problem. We know that right-wing authoritarians have a much lower threshold for tolerating fear and uncertainty than those who identify as liberal or progressive.

In my book "The Price of Right: How the Conservative Agenda Has Failed America (and Always Will", written while George W. Bush was president, I stated that my biggest worry was what would happen if our right-wing authoritarian populace, activated and intensified by 9/11, were to come into contact with a real social dominator. Bush was an authoritarian, but not a social dominator or even a double-high authoritarian (those who would score high on both authoritarian and social domination scales) although he was surrounded with quite a few double-highs, such as Cheney and Rove. But a real social dominator is without even the vestige of conscience or core intellectual ideology that drives a Cheney.

My fear has come true 10 years later.

A social dominator is the ideal attraction for the authoritarian personality and can command the utmost loyalty and obedience from his followers, and this is why Trump is unassailable as far as his base is concerned. There is nothing that makes an authoritarian feel safer and stronger than being led by a social dominator. They are both completely submissive to their accepted leader and highly aggressive towards anyone that leader dislikes.

As we have seen, this is a complete 'alternate universe' in which we cannot even agree on a set of basic facts, much less have a substantive debate on them.

But as the backlash to the Trump regime is building momentum, and Democrats are increasingly improving the possibility of winning back a majority in the House and Senate, I find myself wondering what the Dems are going to do to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as we always do.

We play by two completely different set of rules, and we get snookered every single time.

When Bush was in power, Democrats did their best to 'play fair', supporting the President and being willing to compromise, hoping that if we give some, that the other side will give some as well. What we got for our pains was a kick in the teeth.

What the left sees as fairness - both sides being willing to compromise in order to move forward - the right sees as weakness and a willingness to betray one's beliefs. To their mind, if you compromise your principles, then you must not have very firm ones to begin with and therefore you don't deserve respect.

So when Democrats came into power and we had a Democratic president who tried to include Republicans and sought out bipartisan solutions, the Republican answer was to completely stonewall everything the President tried to do - shockingly, not just by action but explicitly and in so many words, including the willingness to shut down the government and cripple our global credit rating and stealing the President's Supreme Court nomination. Obama's efforts to reach across the aisle engendered only contempt from the Republicans, while at the same time they accused him of tyranny if he made the only decisions he could with the Republican refusals to engage or participate. They saw him as weak and ineffective at the same time they accused him of being an imperious tyrant.

And now, of course, when the Republicans are back in power and are in complete charge of everything, somehow it's the absolutely powerless Democrats who are responsible for the failure of the Trump agenda.

We're in that same old familiar cycle of Repubs creating huge deficits by wealth redistribution - taking from the middle class and poor and giving it to the rich - and then justifying cutting the social safety net because there's no money left.

And we're in that same scenario where when we try to set an example of sticking to our values, we get screwed, as the Al Franken debacle showed once again. We stand up against sexual assault, they defend their child molesters and sexual predators, and when one of our own is principled enough to accept responsibility for their behavior, we pillory them - yet Repubs excuse their own on the grounds that they do not admit wrongdoing. And we lose a great, honest Senator.

(And I'm sorry to not toe the Dem line here, but I believe that Al Franken should not have lost his seat immediately. I believe that he was, indeed, set up by Roger Stone et al, and that there should have been an inquiry into the circumstances before asking him to fall on his sword to make the point that Dems are principled. And I will also say that if it had been a Republican accused of the same thing, I would feel the same way.)

So - we don't need to figure out the Right any more. We know exactly what's going on with them and why.

We need to figure out the Left and we need to do it now.

And I am really at a loss here.

Why do we keep giving in? Why do we keep rolling over? Why don't we stand up for what we believe in just as strongly as the Right does?

Why aren't we proud to call ourselves liberal in the way that the right is proud to call themselves conservative?

Why is the media afraid to be accused of 'liberal bias'? Why do we let them move the goalposts and work the refs?

Why does the conversation go like this:

    *Some hateful thing by the right*

    Dems: that is hateful

    Repubs: nuh-uh, it's YOU that's hateful

    Dems: well if we did something hateful, we're sorry and won't do it anymore

    Repubs: See? YOU'RE the hateful ones, not us.

    Dems: OK

    Rinse and repeat.


We try to meet their lies with honesty and we always lose.

We need to figure this out and we need to figure it out RIGHT NOW.

The midterms will come up, and we will - maybe - take back the House and/or Senate - or not. There is no way of telling what could happen between now and then.

But these are not normal times, with normal politicians in office. We don't have the luxury of sitting back and hoping something different will happen. The danger that this unhinged, unfit maniac in the White House presents worsens every day - to the tune of possible nuclear war. And if Dems cannot figure out why we act the way we do, we can't figure out how to change it. And if we continue the way we always have in response to right-wing aggression, we will lose even when we happen to be in power.

We need to pursue the research into the same psychology, genetics, social science and neuroscience that has been used to understand right-wing thinking and motivation. Many decades of study have gone into understanding the right.

We do know that progressive ideals have had power in the past. It is not impossible. It can be done. It has been done. The United States itself is a progressive, liberal ideal - the idea that We the People can be our own authority instead of being ruled by an autocrat.

So, what needs to happen in order for us to assert and stand up for our own democratic beliefs and principles the way the Right does? To respect our own values the way we respect the values of others?

We had better figure this out in a hurry. We're running out of time.