Blinded by Bread and Circuses
Liberals who want to govern must get serious and get to work.
I hate to rain on liberals making a parlor game of Trump’s Final Days, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Conservative British journalist Louise Mensch, citing unnamed sources, paints a wild scenario on her Patribotics blog: Vice President Pence and Speaker Ryan are excluded from presidential succession due to their own wrongdoing, leaving Orrin Hatch as President Pro Tem of the Senate to succeed a toppled Trump. Another scenario making the rounds assumes Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker by the time Trump and Pence are forced out. She will become President, then name Hillary Clinton as veep and resign in her favor. I am totally down with the Sisterhood, but this makes House of Cards look like Washington Week in Review.
Granted, the President has provided plenty of fodder for liberal fantasists. His firing of FBI Director James Comey brought comparisons to President Nixon. The difference is that Nixon was smarter and better prepared as president. Trump’s blundering Oval Office meeting with Russian diplomats, in which their cameras were welcomed while American photojournalists were barred, appeared as trolling by a headstrong man heedless of consequence or disrepute.
Trump’s efforts to shut down the Russiagate investigation do not suggest innocence. But there is no reason to expect his exit any time soon short of a stunning revelation not yet in evidence. Yes, his uninformed, impulsive style had him telling The Economist that he invented the well-worn phrase “prime the pump.” His insults and threats cement his image as a wannabe dictator.
But who will slay the dragon? Conservatives, bent on clinging to power at any price, circle their wagons while liberals resume their circular firing squad. Funny memes will not regain control of the House. There is a lot of old-fashioned electoral work to do, amid a leftist undertow that could help keep the right in power.
An example is the attack on D.C.’s Capital Pride by radicals whose insults are about as well-aimed as a drive-by shooting. Demands that Pride expel police and corporate sponsors, while extreme, are not the biggest problem the controversy reveals. In the name of queers, trans folk, and people of color, radicals employ an abusive tone that demands rather than engages. Even those who have long worked productively across lines of race, religion, and gender identity are treated as collaborators with the enemy if we object to unrepresentative zealots packing a meeting to take over a community-based organization.
These destructive tactics suggest that mainstream liberals must contend with their left flank, not just the right. A divide-and-conquer strategy was used against progressives by the FBI in the 1960s. Whether the latest internecine strife is caused by government-paid agents provocateurs or spoiled millennials hardly matters if the result is the same.
Maximalist dogma from the left is as off-putting as it is from the right. Without respecting diverse views, there is little chance of crafting progressive policies or electing majorities to pass them.
Across America, LGBT battles are a mixed bag. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the California ban on conversion therapy for minors. On the other hand, the Supreme Court of West Virginia ruled that anti-gay assaults are not hate crimes. A bill passed the Texas House of Representatives allowing faith-based discrimination in adoptions. On another front, Trump signed an executive order creating a voting integrity commission to justify voter suppression.
Washington is an establishment town that draws career-minded, pragmatic people; but it also has many universities and think tanks. Discussions that recall 1960s coffeehouse theorizing about “the revolution” ignore the concerns of those not in the room: voters who stayed away.
The world roils while American leftists malign their allies. Chechen police have been ordered to hunt gays. The plight of gay Ugandan refugees in Kenya grows worse. A murderous wave of violence targets trans women in El Salvador. Meanwhile, Jeff Sessions is still Attorney General with his racist, sexist, nativist, and homophobic impulses intact. Betsy DeVos is still Education Secretary despite being dissed by Bethune-Cookman grads. And so on.
We have a long slog of organizing ahead. Chanting slogans at a rally may rouse you, but please do not mistake it for the hard work of coalition.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. Email Richard