So the Dems, after a long, public and tortured process, and yet surprising no one, elected Tony Perez as chair of the Democratic National Committee. Forgive me for saying so but I predict history will show that it was at this juncture that the world’s oldest political party (1828 – ~2018) began its free fall into oblivion.
Now, many people don’t believe there is much of a difference between Keith Ellison or Tony Perez. They say that they are both Progressives of comparable strength, one, Perez, more accomplished, the other, Ellison, perhaps more promising, but roughly equal overall, and so we have to accept that there’s always going to be a certain amount of corruption and anyway the main theme is to stop Trump. What these people miss, just as they did last November 7, is that unless and until the Democrats establish an alternative vision to what Trump is promoting, the sheer message of stopping Trump will not be enough. The message of the Democratic Party as it stands today is officially insufficiently compelling to get people to the polls and galvanize any kind of real resistance.
Trump has a narrative that is working, and it is working for a real, if bizarrely cobbled together, constituency. His program of what Bannon has as of yesterday termed Economic Nationalism is preceding full force. But it’s the fact that this program is tied to a kind of National Socialism if I may call it such a thing that is what we should be most concerned about. While we debate whether it’s race politics or economic self-interest feeding his engine, Trump knows that people don’t work without proper motivation, and if he can conflate people’s money fears with minority fears or immigrant fears, the flames of hate he stokes will keep his engine running.
For as concerned as we should be about Trump’s economic policies, and we ought to be mightily concerned, it is the danger his social policies represent in comparison that are the true undermining of basic American values. I have never seen this nation as Under Siege as we are today.
How did we come to this? We stopped listening to the people. The issue of the day, at least before it was co-opted by Donald Trump Republicans, was the growing disparity of wealth between rich and poor and the lack of social justice as it pertained to America’s role in creating a Level Playing Field. The issue was and is that the rules of the game are rigged. This was the year that no matter what, the Deep State, perceived or real, was going to lose at the polls. Establishment Politics was going to be questioned to such an extent that any candidate seemingly representative of same was going to lose.
Bernie Sanders gave voice to this opposition and made it a mass movement and brought it (along with Occupy and a few other fringe elements) into the mainstream. He got people excited about the opportunity that real change was possible. But through the craven and myopic greed of members of his own party, he and we all got T-Boned on the way to the Primary. He lost even though he should have won. Bernie was running against the Global Elite Power Structure of the Democrats, and when he was cut out, Trump picked up the ball perfectly and began pretending to run against that same structure… as a Republican! Which given the way the Democrats had been acting since Bill Clinton suddenly didn’t seem crazy. It was a cynical but brilliantly executed aping of Bernie’s campaign, and it worked. But it only worked because the Democrats decided to sell themselves out. So now we have for the first time in American history a true and admitted strongman, a real bigot, in the White House.
There has not been one single act of terrorism on US soil from any of the people of any of the countries that Trump has banned travel from or to. The fact that he has stated that it’s a Muslim ban and that that has been proved means that our country really is at war with Islam. It’s just hard to believe, but we are now seeing for the first time ever our United States, a country literally founded on religious tolerance, ban a whole group of people based on their religion. It is the most unAmerican thing on the level that it is being done on that this country has ever done.
You could say the Trail of Tears or the Japanese Internment Camps, but the early 1800s were a wholly different time, and we were far more ignorant, and some forgiveness must be allowed based on these factors (not a lot, but some). And at least during WWII when we took our West Coast Japanese people and put them in camps, we were literally at war with Japan, a country that had attacked our country. I’m not defending either of these examples. Both were Shameful Acts. And Howard Zinn is my hero. But there’s a better explanation even for those acts of shame than for this.
As horrible as all the things Trump wants to do are though, he has a story, and he’s telling it well, and though the facts that support it are in the minority, quite outweighed by the lies also in the story, he’s making them line up. He speaks these lies (and truths) and delivers his narrative direct and unfiltered — straight from his Id using Twitter as a pea shooter to deposit them directly into our collective brain pan. He’s got a story and he’s sticking to it, and he’s sticking it into us.
People are wringing their hands wondering what can be done to stop Trump. The answer is to not let his reality stay real. At the end of the day, the answer must be for us to not do those things that we are attacking him for. For example: We don’t like that Trump dehumanizes people and takes our national dialog into the gutter. Then guess what? We can’t do it. But it’s so fun to rip him apart, it’s our right, and anyway he does it, and we’re so pissed off, and waaah! I know honey. It hurts not to punch back, but there’s too much at stake now, and it’s the only way to beat him. Do not do what he does. Even back to him. Yes, it’s hard to sacrifice the feel goods for the what-it-takes-to-win good. But if we knocked it off, the silence would be deafening, and it would drive him insane.
So that’s the plan. We don’t like that he’s a fascist? Then that means we have to be willing to not be fascists. We have to tolerate, and even accept differing views far better than we currently are. And mainly, we have to return to a trust in democracy. Simply put, now is the time for us to be utterly scrupulous and impeccable in our own behavior. I’m talking Quit India or anti-Apartheid levels of integrity here folks. We may have not wanted to receive this moral upgrade, but it is being forced on us.
The only way Trump can be opposed is with an alternative story. And the story has to be better. It has to show a different vision for America. And the delivery does too. To oppose Trump, the delivery of our story has to come from the gut and be just as off the cuff and it must use a thinking brain to deliver it. Maybe Al Franken can do it; otherwise I don’t see a person yet who can handle the job. Without an alternative story that’s better, that has a higher truth to lies ratio than Trump, and has as good or better delivery, I honestly don’t think any opposition will amount to much. We need to know what we’re fighting for, not just what we’re fighting against.
So what is this story, vision and delivery mechanism? It is a bomb of truth that is bigger than his bomb of mostly lies. The only bomb bigger than his Fascism Bomb is a Democracy Bomb. Nothing less than doubling down on democracy is going to work. If we continue the cynical back room politics of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Nancy Pelosi and Tony Perez, if we continue to so flagrantly abandon what makes us who we are, then even little victories like a temporary setback for the Muslim ban are pyrrhic. The Dems thought the stakes were so high we had to cheat to make sure Hillary won because the threat of Trump was too great to leave it to democracy. But that “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” mentality is exactly how we gave the election to Trump. We turned on ourselves, and worse, we did it by turning on our core values.
So back to the results of this very important election that just happened for the head of the DNC, trying to find out if the Democrats can own what they’ve done to any extent, clean house to any extent, and open their arms to that giant group of people that is fed up with Politics As Usual to any extent. Did our party learn anything from why this election was such a botched affair? No. Apparently they did not. They are seemingly adamant in their refusal to listen. To. The. People.
At the end of all this horror, it is the people that matter. The people, who have been disenfranchised, on both sides, are who we should be thinking about. We don’t really need new leadership. We just need to let the people back in! Ellison represented new blood, a willingness to confront past mistakes, a sign of bravery that we are selecting a Muslim, a real shot across the bow. And he was a much better leader (and a far less squirmy, slimy one – have you heard Perez speak?) for the people. If the DNC had gone for him, I myself and all the Bernie people would have jumped back in. And the Hillary people would have stayed.
People say there is no reason to relitigate the past. But there had to have been an honest reckoning. The fact that the party establishment refused to see that we needed a reset simply reinforces my and my colleague’s desire to disassociate. The Dems chose to return to the scene of the crime, to return to a failed strategy.
The coup de grace was the letter sent Friday, the day before the election, from the American Jewish Committee to the Democratic leadership. It said the election of Ellison, who is Muslim, would be threatening the stability of the United States and “threaten the relationship between America and our ally Israel” because Ellison follows Islam. It warned the Dems that with Ellison they will anger and alienate Israel and create a very dangerous and pernicious situation with our national security. And even though it looked as if Ellison had a chance, this 11th hour race baiting stunt yielded its desired result and Ellison lost. Sad!
Lo and behold, never underestimate the Democratic Party’s ability to co-opt and destroy the left. The Democrats heeded the warning that we better not put Ellison in because he’s a Muslim and we will be alienating that part of the world – and obviously by implication that part of America – that hates Muslims. I don’t think it has hit people yet that this threat to not associate with Muslims is no different than the worst of what Donald Trump has said to threaten America to do the things he wants.
It’s not the men, Perez v Ellison, per se. This was a question for the politics of meaning. The reason Perez had to lose was because by capitulating to the threat and the rotten status quo that generated it, we now live in a United States where both the Democrats and the Republicans are demonizing Muslims. Trump has won yet again. The Democrats are now, and Perez’s victory is now, a beneficiary of the same racism that is supposedly the reason that we were supposed to be opposing Trump!
If the party leadership of the Democrats can’t give the progressives who are part and parcel to it some respect, after what the elites at the DNC have done to this country, if they can’t respect and acknowledge the monumental failure that just happened and their role in it, and even more, what that failure has wrought, a neo Fascist president, and finally, if they can’t own their own unDemocratic behavior, if they can’t be democratic when the rallying cry we need – and the only rallying cry that is going to work against Trump – is to truly be democratic, then there is nothing there. There is no life in the Democratic Party as we know it. It’s gone. The rapidly splintering constituency has finally been split. I guess the Dems learned one lesson from so-called Radical Islamic Terrorism: If you can do it to yourselves the message is even more powerful. And we are all learning the corollary: The enemy wins when he makes us like him.